Row over French rocker Hal­ly­day’s es­tate re­veals fam­ily feud

Global Times - - Life - Page Ed­i­tor: xuli­uliu@ glob­al­times.com.cn

The daugh­ter of French rock le­gend Johnny Hal­ly­day caused a sen­sa­tion Mon­day by chal­leng­ing his will af­ter he left ev­ery­thing to his fourth wife Laeti­cia, who was 32 years his ju­nior.

Ac­tress Laura Smet laid bare the ten­sions in­side France’s first fam­ily of show­biz, re­veal­ing that she had long been forced to call and meet her fa­ther in se­cret.

Hal­ly­day’s death in De­cem­ber of lung can­cer plunged France into mourn­ing, and brought hun­dreds of thou­sands of his fans onto the streets of Paris for his fu­neral in scenes not seen since the death of Edith Piaf.

Smet said she was “stu­pe­fied and hurt” af­ter learn­ing that she and her half-brother David – the singer’s only two bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren – had been left noth­ing by the “French Elvis.”

In­stead all of Hal­ly­day’s wealth and the re­main­ing rights to the 110 mil­lion records he sold will even­tu­ally go to the girls he and Laeti­cia adopted in Viet­nam, Jade and Joy.

In a state­ment to AFP, Laeti­cia said that she had “learned of the me­dia furore around her hus­band’s es­tate with dis­gust.”

In an open let­ter seen by AFP, Smet, 34, ex­ploded the myth of the “united front” that Hal­ly­day’s ex­tended fam­ily man­aged to main­tain for the huge “peo­ple’s trib­ute” of his fu­neral, where French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron called him a “na­tional hero.”

She also strongly hinted that Laeti­cia, a 42-year-old for­mer model, pre­vented her from see­ing her fa­ther be­fore he died aged 74.

“It is still killing me not to have been able to say good­bye to you, Papa – do you know that at least?” Smet wrote.

“So many ques­tions with­out an­swers. All those times when we had to hide to see and call each other,” she said.

Yet “I found out a cou­ple of days ago that you have rewrit­ten your will to to­tally dis­in­herit David and me,” Smet wrote.

Heart-rend­ing let­ter

“It was only a few weeks ago that we were hav­ing a meal to­gether and you said to me, ‘So when are you go­ing to have a child?’

“But what can I tell that child about you, some­one whom I have ad­mired so much?” she asked.

Re­spond­ing to the storm, Laeti­cia added that she was “calm and will not stop de­vot­ing all her en­ergy to en­sur­ing the work and mem­ory of her hus­band are re­spected.”

Smet’s lawyers said David Hal­ly­day, whose mother was 1960s pop star Sylvie Var­tan, was also con­test­ing the “rewrit­ten” will which was made in Cal­i­for­nia, where Hal­ly­day spent much of his later life, un­der the Amer­i­can state’s law.

Un­der French law, a wife does not au­to­mat­i­cally in­herit all of her hus­band’s es­tate, and gen­er­ally must share it with his chil­dren.

In the heart-rend­ing let­ter Smet, whose mother is the ac­tress Nathalie Baye, said her fa­ther comes to her in her dreams ev­ery night. “You are hand­some, with no tat­toos, you are fi­nally free...”

‘I love you Papa’

Hal­ly­day be­gan get­ting tat­toos in the 1990s around the time he met

Laeti­cia in Mi­ami, mar­ry­ing her just af­ter she turned 21 in 1996.

“I would have pre­ferred if all this had stayed within the fam­ily,” Smet wrote, “but un­for­tu­nately, in our fam­ily this is how it is. “I am proud to be your daugh­ter. I love you Papa,” she added.

Smet – who re­port­edly at­tempted sui­cide af­ter her fa­ther nearly died in 2010 – was left with­out “a sou­venir – one of his gui­tars or mo­tor­bikes, not even the sleeve of the song ‘Laura,’” her lawyers told AFP.

Two other gi­ants of French mu­sic, com­poser Mau­rice Jarre, who wrote the score for Doc­tor Zhivago and Lawrence of Ara­bia, and Madonna’s mu­si­cal ar­ranger Michel Colom­bier, also dis­in­her­ited their chil­dren.

Later both Jarre’s son, elec­tronic com­poser Jean-Michel Jarre and Colom­bier’s older chil­dren, lost their bids in French courts to chal­lenge the wills.

But Smet’s lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur told AFP said both men had long bro­ken their ties with France, whereas Hal­ly­day “had a home in France, sang in France un­til his last breath and had a na­tional fu­neral presided over by the pres­i­dent.”

Although Hal­ly­day was never taken se­ri­ously abroad, he was by far the best-known rocker in France.

The fa­nat­i­cal biker’s fu­neral pro­ces­sion through Paris was es­corted by hun­dreds of leather-clad mo­tor­cy­clists, and oth­ers fol­lowed the cof­fin to his burial in the Car­ib­bean is­land of St Barts. Born Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, he took his stage name from an Amer­i­can rel­a­tive and men­tor, Lee Hal­l­i­day, who in­tro­duced him to rock ‘n’ roll.

Pho­tos: IC

Johnny Hal­ly­day’s wife Laeti­cia (se­cond left), his daugh­ters Jade (left), and Joy, Laura Smet (se­cond right), and son David Hal­ly­day In­set: Johnny Hal­ly­day

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