JHOWARD MARSHALL II WOULD SPIN in his grave—if only he were in it. Since the Texas oilman died on Aug. 4 at age 90, leaving an estimated $500 million fortune, his widow, Playboy model and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult actress Anna Nicole Smith, 28, has been feuding with Marshall’s son Pierce. The two have hired lawyers and rallied their supporters. And that’s just to arrange the funeral.
So far, the only clear-cut winner is the Houston funeral home that got to bill the Marshall estate for two separate memorials. Smith staged a 25-minute ceremony Aug. 7, at which Marshall’s casket was decorated with teddy bears and mourners were treated to melon balls—not to mention the sight of Smith wearing a white gown with its neckline at half mast. Last Sunday came Pierce’s turn; his solemn service lasted two hours and featured Marshall’s first wife, Pierce’s mother, Eleanor, who married the deceased in 1931 and divorced him 30 years later.
Though Smith was reportedly invited, she skipped the ceremony and rested on the ranch near Houston that Marshall had bought for her use. “She really did love this man,” says her friend and hairdresser Debbie Hopkins. “She will go into deep sorrow with a trauma like this. She needs time to regroup.”
By last Monday, Smith had rallied sufficiently to go to a court hearing wearing a modest black dress and minimal makeup. The subject was Marshall’s remains: Pierce Marshall had planned to have his father cremated; Smith objected, explaining (perhaps sincerely, but incorrectly) that her newfound Catholic faith forbids the practice. What seemed really at issue, though, was which of Marshall’s heirs would gain the legal upper hand for control of his millions. This first skirmish ended in a settlement: Marshall would be cremated and his ashes divided between the two sides. “I think it’s fair,” Smith said. “I’m glad it’s over.” But with the money not yet divvied up, the battle has really just begun.