LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Larry Birkhead's whirlwind romance with
Anna Nicole Smith took off at the Kentucky Derby in 2004. Now he's
in daddy mode on a return visit that has the looks of a longtime
Birkhead brought his and Smith's 3½-year-old daughter,
Dannielynn, to the Kentucky Derby Museum this week as part of a
Derby week homecoming trip to Louisville - which also included
plans to attend the Derby parade and the Run for the Roses at
Their first stop at the newly renovated museum was a fashion
exhibit featuring a pink, sequined V-neck dress that Smith wore to
the 2004 Derby when their relationship blossomed.
Birkhead, a 37-year-old Louisville native, held his squirming
daughter as she reached out with her tiny fingers to touch her
mother's dress - one of two that Birkhead loaned to the museum.
Birkhead later called it a bittersweet moment.
"This is where I met Anna, and I never dreamed I would be back
here with my daughter and without her," he said quietly in an
interview with The Associated Press.
Smith, a model and actress, died of an accidental overdose of
medications in February 2007 at a Florida hotel. What followed was
a paternity battle that set off a media frenzy. Birkhead, a
little-known photographer when he met Smith, eventually proved his
claim that he was Dannielynn's father through a DNA paternity test.
Birkhead was an attentive father at the museum, playing an
interactive horse racing game with his daughter. Later, they
ventured outside to feed a miniature horse on display. The little
girl, wearing a pink and lime green dress and clutching a purse,
chattered to her dad, who patiently answered her questions.
"She's really outgoing," he said. " ... There's some times
when I see just the mirror of her mom - some of the faces that she
makes, the way she carries herself."
Birkhead said he's comfortable with his role as father, but
acknowledged it's hard at times because "I'm a father under the
He said his daughter's inquisitiveness sometimes extends to the
subject of her mother.
"She sees all her friends with mommies and she sees all the
cartoons with mommies," he said. "I try to keep it child
friendly. I used to say, `Mommy's in the clouds.' Now we've
graduated to "Mommy's in heaven."
Father and daughter live in California, where he has business
interests, but they soon expect to be setting down roots in
Kentucky as well. A new home in the Louisville area is nearly
complete, he said, and Birkhead has reserved a spot for Dannielynn
in an area preschool, starting in September.
"I can build my life around what's best for her, and I think
it's best for her to be here for school," he said.
Birkhead said he's been dabbling in real estate, investing in
Louisville-area property. He's also starting an all-about-Anna
Nicole merchandising business - "little things that fans can
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)