Friday, March 02, 2007

Anna Nicole's "Over-the-Top" Farewell

After three weeks of anticipation and what will be just two days of preparation, Smith will finally be permitted to rest in peace, with friends and family working hard to ensure that her final send-off incorporates elements of the woman herself: beauty, celebrity and a whole lot of "over-the-top."

Smith's Bahamian burial was given the green light Wednesday, when a Florida appellate court rejected a challenge lodged by Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, who was seeking to gain custody of her daughter's remains and bury them in Texas. Following the ruling, Arthur announced she would file no more appeals in the Florida courts, paving the way for a memorial service and the long-awaited burial of Smith.  [For a guide to all the major players, check out our Anna Nicole Cheat Sheet.] As announced earlier this week, the funeral is set for Friday at 10:30 a.m., at which time Smith will be buried in Nassau's Lakeview Memorial Gardens & Mausoleums alongside her late son, Daniel.

However, late Thursday reports surfaced that Billy Wayne Smith, Anna Nicole's first husband and Daniel's father, had petitioned a Bahamian court to have Daniel's body exhumed and returned to the Smiths' native Texas. There was no immediate word on whether such a motion would hold up Friday's proceedings.

Barring any eleventh-hour snafus, Smith's body is expected to be removed from the Broward County medical examiner's office, where it has spent the past three weeks in refrigeration, at 5:25 a.m. Friday, when local law enforcement will escort the hearse to a private plane.

The plane is expected to touch down in Nassau at 9 a.m., at which point Smith's remains, accompanied by Broward medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper and court-appointed custodian Richard Milstein, will be taken to the Mount Horeb Baptist Church for a memorial service. About 300 guests are expected for the service, to begin at 10:30, and an hour later a more intimate party of just 30 family members and friends will go to the cemetery, where Smith will be interred. Details of both ceremonies are already falling into place.

Patrik Simpson, a friend of Smith and the partner of Pol' Atteu, who designed more than a dozen dresses for the late model, including her burial gown, told E! News that both the memorial service and private funeral would go down in typical Smith style. "It's going to be a very Anna Nicole event and she was larger than life," he said. "It will be over-the-top, because it's Anna Nicole." "No matter what, we have to get through it with class." Per Simpson, Arthur, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead will each be allowed to invite 100 guests. Their respective guest lists, however, must be submitted to Milstein in advance.

Unlikely to appear on the list, according to Simpson, is the nearly six-month-old Dannielynn. "I wouldn't bring my daughter," he said. Included on the guest list is a well-known artist, set to perform during the memorial service, though whose identity is being kept under tight wraps. While Simpson, a 38-year-old model talent scout, said that the singer would be a "big star" and someone Smith had always been a fan of, he told E! News that not even he was aware of the person's identity. "I was told to reserve a space for one name, plus two," he said, adding that the performer was bringing "several bodyguards" along.

As for the service, Simpson said that mourners can expect plenty of pink, Smith's signature color. "Anna loved pink. The ceremony is going to be very Anna," he said. "That's all I'll say." Atteu has already designed the custom dress Smith will be buried in, though Simpson declined to describe it, saying the public would likely get a chance to see it "when the time was right." He did note that Smith's "very elegant" casket had already been chosen and that, despite noise having been made from all sides about being able to view the body, the casket will likely be closed.

Meanwhile, preparations are also underway at the cemetery, where workers have already begun erecting large green tents to shield the funeral party from media and other onlookers. Smith's body has been refrigerated in the Broward County medical examiner's office for exactly three weeks, since her sudden death Feb. 8. The cause of her death remains under investigation; on Wednesday, Perper, who conducted Smith's autopsy, said the results of her toxicology tests could take 10 more days. Perper also expressed doubt whether Smith's body would hold up to a viewing, due to its faster than expected decomposition, but he remained hopeful the remains were "in such condition that a second viewing will be possible." At a break in last week's Florida court hearings, Arthur, Stern and Birkhead were taken to the morgue to see Smith's body. Perper also said that embalmers would begin the process of preparing Smith's body for shipping later today.

E!'s live coverage of the Anna Nicole Smith funeral begins Friday at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m PT.

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