Love, loyalty and loss – Larry Birkhead and Anna Nicole Smith were truly Hopelessly in Love

The father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter spoke with DStv about the craziest two years of his life, and the woman he calls the love of his life in the new Lifetime (131) documentary, Hopelessly in Love.

After living a relatively quiet life (by Hollywood standards) since being awarded custody of their six-month old baby daughter Dannielynn after her mother’s death from a prescription drug overdose in 2007, Larry Birkhead sits down with Lifetime (131) for their new documentary series Hopelessly in Love to tell his side of the tragic love story that gripped the entire world. With exclusive never-before-seen footage and photos, viewers will be swept up in the unfolding drama – from their first meeting at the prestigious Kentucky Derby to personal photos, phone calls and the heart-breaking footage of a father’s first meeting with his baby daughter.

Starlet in the making

Before the likes of Jessica Simpson and the Kardashians, Anna Nicole Smith was the original reality television sensation-slash-train-wreck; a striking, larger-than-life platinum blonde bombshell who did and said exactly what she wanted to as the world got a front-row seat to her completely bonkers daily life.

Having started out as a small-town stripper who caught the eye (and hand in marriage) of a rich but much older oil magnate, Smith went overnight from appearing on the cover of Playboy magazine to featuring in an iconic international Guess Jeans campaign. But when her 90-year-old husband J. Howard Marshall passed away without including her in his will, the ensuing drawn-out legal battle for half of his estate that he was supposed to have promised her, sent the model into a downward spiral of prescription anti-depressants, painkillers, alcohol abuse and weight gain.

“I hope what people will take away from this documentary is that, yes, this was a crazy time in our lives, we were crazy but not that crazy. We weren’t burning houses down or anything. And maybe they’ll be able to see a bit of themselves in the way that Anna Nicole and I fell in love and tried to make it work.”

Larry Birkhead

But the budding star managed to snag a coveted deal with weight-loss programme TrimSpa, allowing her to shed her excess weight and even further increase her star-power, something that was cemented when E! Entertainment created her very own reality show in 2002. Enter Larry Birkhead, a shy yet good-looking Louisville photojournalist who was the man on the job when the Anna Nicole show rolled into town to film the model’s attendance at the Derby’s annual ball and reception.

Time to tell his side of their story

When asked why he chose this opportunity to talk about their ill-fated relationship after so many years, he responds in his soft southern accent that although he’s had numerous requests for interviews and tell-alls over the years, he thought it was finally time to tell his side of the story: “Because most people thought Anna fell pregnant on a random one-night-stand, that I lucked out on some genetic lottery,” he ruefully states.

In fact, the two had been in a relationship for just under two years – with Birkhead’s role in her life kept from the public in order to preserve the star’s available, hot-bombshell image, but also because Smith had lingering trust issues and was reluctant about appearing in public with a committed boyfriend. Birkhead moved to Los Angeles to live with Smith but the relationship was, in Birkhead’s words “challenging and tumultuous” right from the start.

Living with Anna Nicole

To start with, Smith’s lawyer and friend Howard K. Stern was also living with the starlet in her LA home, something which made it quite uncomfortable for Birkhead at times. Stern was later implicated in providing Smith with the over 10 different prescription medications, most in his name, which contributed to the overdose that killed her. “She also had severe paranoia from what she went through in the court case,” Birkhead continues. “She constantly thought she was being followed and that her phone calls were being traced.” Smith was also incredibly jealous, and what was supposed to be a happy vacation and meet-up with many of Birkhead’s friends and family back in Louisville, ended abruptly when Smith accused Birkhead of flirting with a blonde Marilyn Monroe lookalike. “That [trip] went downhill fast,” he admits.

But the couple shared many happy times as well. Birkhead reveals that Smith was actually quite a homebody, and in between big public appearances they could be at home for two months at a time. Time would be divided between jumping on the indoor trampoline in her living room and competitive painting. “She loved painting, everything from cartoons to self-portraits, and was always very competitive. We’d paint and then have the others [in the house] come in and judge our work. She always won, though it might have been because it was her house,” he laughs. He goes on to share about the one time he did outdo her with a Wonder Woman piece that won the general vote, but her competitive nature and sense of humour saw her scrawl “Don’t come back” over his masterpiece. “I didn’t paint that much after that anymore,” he laughs.

On what one single special moment stood out for him during their time together, he touches on the one time when Smith broke her own protocol and showed the press and fans that he was the one for her while out at a public event. While attending a New Year’s Eve event at a Las Vegas night club, he was sitting at their table while Anna Nicole was on stage for the big count-down. “As everyone shouted, ‘Happy New Year!’ she suddenly jumped off the stage, ran over to me and kissed me – I was not expecting that at all because she was very guarded and it was hard for her to trust, so it meant a lot to me.”

“It was always a struggle for me to be recognised as her boyfriend, so for [Anna Nicole] it was big to let the world know I was her boyfriend.”

Larry Birkhead

Her father’s daughter

As the conversation switches to his daughter, his voice immediately relaxes. “Sometimes it feels as if [those two years] never happened, it all went so fast. But then I look at my daughter,” he says happily. While many people comment on the striking resemblance between Dannielynn and her late mother, Birkhead almost bristles at the idea and confirms that “there’s a lot of me in her, definitely, people just want her to look like Anna Nicole.” Dannielynn is enjoying a pretty normal upbringing, with the pair’s annual attendance of the Kentucky Derby being their most public outing. Birkhead confirms that he’s shown her clips of the documentary while it was being edited, and she was the typical teenager grossed-out by footage of her parents kissing to which she reacted with a loud “yuck!”. But he goes on to admit that: “I’ve seen her sneak a peek at the screen when she thinks I’m not looking, so she’ll watch it in her own time.” He reveals that he does see himself as a kind of historian for his daughter, charged with preserving the memory of Dannielynn’s larger-than-life mother.

“I’ll put [the documentary] in a box for Dannielynn, and when she watches it, she will see our love story.”

Larry Birkhead

Watch Hopelessly in Love on Saturdays on Lifetime (131) at 20:50

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