Former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, who is suing for half of her late 90-year-old husband’s billion-dollar estate, wept in opening arguments at the lawsuit today as her attorney told a Texas jury she was not a “gold digger” who took advantage of a sick, old man.
Smith, 32, repeatedly brushed tears from her eyes and put her face in her hands as attorney Tom Cunningham spoke of her late husband J. Howard Marshall’s love for his young wife. They married in June 1994 when she was 26 and he was 89 after meeting at a Houston topless bar where she was a dancer.
“Mr. Marshall called her ‘my precious package, my lady love, the love of my life,’” he said. “He loved his wife and wanted to take care of her.”
Marshall, who made his fortune in the oil business, died in August 1995 at the age of 90. Smith and Marshall’s eldest son, Howard Marshall III, have been fighting ever since for a share of the $1.6 billion estate, currently in the hands of younger son Pierce Marshall.
Smith has said Marshall promised her half of his money to marry, but Pierce Marshall said she was in none of the six wills.
Last week, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge presiding over a federal version of the Texas lawsuit said Smith, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Marshall, was entitled to $450 million. The ruling will be appealed, Pierce Marshall said.
A Search For Love?
His attorneys, who were to make their opening arguments Tuesday, have said that Smith was a gold digger who took advantage of a sick, old man.
But Cunningham said Smith brought comfort to Marshall at a time when he was depressed because his wife and mistress—the latter also a topless dancer—had died and his sons were fighting over money.
“Mr. Marshall was adrift because his family was at war and he had nobody to love,” he said.
The old man, who by this time was wheelchair-bound, began going to topless bars in search of consolation, and there, at Rick’s Cabaret in 1991, he met Smith.
Marshall lavished her with jewels, cars and houses and began peppering her with marriage proposals that Smith resisted for two years, Cunningham said.
“They will say she is a gold digger, but gold diggers don’t wait,” he said.
In the end, Smith, who was Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1993, married Marshall in a secret ceremony on June 27, 1994, in Houston.
Lifesaving Tale Brings Tears
Pierce Marshall, 61, so opposed their matrimony that he posted armed guards in his father’s bedroom to make sure Smith never stayed more than 30 minutes, Cunningham said.
Smith, a blonde bombshell from Mexia, Texas, wept hardest when Cunningham recounted the story of how in January 1995 she saved Marshall’s life with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when he choked on chicken soup as she spoon-fed him.
Smith, who is not expected to testify until late October, told a Houston television station last week, “No one ever took care of me in my whole life, and this man did and I loved him for that.”
Howard Marshall III, 63, is suing his brother in conjunction with Smith on grounds that he was excluded from the will after Pierce lied to his father during a 1980 business dispute.