Zsa Zsa Gabor once said: “Husbands are like fires. They go out when unattended.”
Her flamboyant husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, says he did more than just go out. He claims he carried on a decade-long affair with Anna Nicole Smith and may be the father of her baby daughter.
Von Anhalt’s lawyer Chris Fields said his client would file court papers tomorrow seeking a paternity test.
Von Anhalt’s assertion has been met largely with disbelief and boosted curiosity about the man who, the British press reports, may have paid a bankrupt princess for his title. He denies those reports.
Von Anhalt is also known for making outrageous statements about the advantages of being rich, laying claim to a German castle and suing Viagra for leaving him unable to have sex unless he takes the drug. He later dropped the case.
Even his age has been questioned. He says he’s 59; the German press puts him in his mid 70s.
Since making his claim the day after Smith died, von Anhalt has appeared on a number of news shows. Speaking in a thick German accent and wearing a ring that resembles a crown, he sometimes played it coy and other times gushed with details.
During an appearance yesterday on the Fox News Channel, von Anhalt agreed to Bill O’Reilly’s request that he come back and take a lie detector test on the show.
Bonnie Stern, the sister of Howard K. Stern, who is listed as the father of Smith’s baby on her birth certificate, calls von Anhalt’s assertions “nauseating.”
“She didn’t even know him,” Bonnie Stern says.
Ronald Jason Palmieri, the attorney for Gabor and von Anhalt, says: “I believe the odds of him ending up to be the parent of this child are remote to none.”
Palmieri, who isn’t working on the paternity matter, also says he spoke to Gabor about the situation.
“She said, ’Ron dahling, do you believe this? It’s so embarrassing,”’ the lawyer recounts, mimicking Gabor’s famous Hungarian accent.
Born Hans Robert Lichtenberg, von Anhalt says he grew up in a poor German family and was abused by his policeman-father and pushed to become a military officer. Over the years he worked as a bank clerk, screenwriter, sauna manager and soccer player.
“I had a very hard childhood,” he says, recalling how he sought escape in movies and newspaper articles about Hollywood celebrities, including Gabor, then a sex symbol.
To hear von Anhalt tell it, he gained his royal title through an act of kindness in the late 1950s, when he became good friends with the son of Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt. When her son died in a car accident, von Anhalt comforted the princess.
His own parents dead, he says she adopted him in 1980 and gave him the title of Prince Frederic von Anhalt of Munich, the Duke of Saxony – or Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, as he is also known.
He acknowledges making millions of dollars by passing the family title to at least 10 other people.
“If someone offers you 2 million dollars, you do it,” von Anhalt says.
He says Gabor was as intrigued by the promise of gaining a title as he was about being tied to Hollywood royalty. The two were married in 1987. She now goes by Princess von Anhalt and Duchess of Saxony.
“We didn’t marry for love,” he says. “It was a friendship, but when you’re with someone over a certain time you fall in love.”
After Gabor was convicted of battery for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer in 1989, von Anhalt said the rich were entitled to better treatment.
“They bring the money into Beverly Hills,” he said at the time.
In the 1990s, title and celebrity in tow, von Anhalt tried to lay claim to the von Anhalt family castle in Germany. He enticed the town mayor with a personal note from Ronald and Nancy Reagan and sent jewels later found to be glass and aluminum. He says it was Chanel costume jewellery.
Von Anhalt says he and Smith met in the 1990s when Smith was still married to elderly oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II.
Asked how he managed the alleged affair, he claimed they met in hotels in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, even though he takes care of his 90-year-old wife. She uses a wheelchair after being partially paralysed in a car accident in 2005.
“You can have an affair in 10 minutes,” von Anhalt said.
Then he contradicted himself.
“I never talk about my private life anyway,” he said. “They will never know because I don’t talk.”