French rocker’s will tears fam­ily apart months af­ter death

The Sentinel-Record - - ARTS, ETC. - ELAINE GANLEY

PARIS — The first chap­ter of a le­gal drama over the in­her­i­tance of French rock star Johnny Hal­ly­day ended Fri­day with a French court rul­ing that gives each side a par­tial vic­tory in a case that is tear­ing his fam­ily apart.

Hal­ly­day, whose given name was Jean Philippe Smet, was dubbed the French “Elvis” for his glit­tery suits, pump­ing pelvis and reper­toire of Amer­i­can hits belted out in French. He died of lung can­cer in De­cem­ber at age 74 at his sump­tu­ous home out­side Paris.

Af­ter Hal­ly­day — known sim­ply as “Johnny” to the French — was laid to rest in De­cem­ber on a Caribbean is­land, his two old­est chil­dren be­came locked in a bit­ter dis­pute over his com­plex will with his 43-year-old wi­dow and fourth wife, Laeti­cia Hal­ly­day, who along with their two school-aged chil­dren get ev­ery­thing.

A court in Nan­terre, out­side Paris, put a tem­po­rary freeze Fri­day on sev­eral of Hal­ly­day’s es­tates in France — as his two old­est chil­dren who were left out of his will re­quested. But the court re­fused a role for them in the prepa­ra­tion of a not-yet-re­leased post­hu­mous al­bum of their father, rul­ing in fa­vor of his wi­dow and their adopted daugh­ters.

The rul­ing is the first in what is sure to be a long le­gal bat­tle over the 2014 will, writ­ten in Cal­i­for­nia un­der U.S. laws that don’t ap­ply in France — where all chil­dren get au­to­matic in­her­i­tance rights.

De­cid­ing whether French or U.S. law is ap­pli­ca­ble is at the heart of the case, since Hal­ly­day and his wife lived most re­cently in Los An­ge­les.

The drama has been prime fod­der for French me­dia, with lawyers and fam­ily mem­bers of Laeti­cia Hal­ly­day and for the chil­dren — them­selves en­ter­tain­ers with moth­ers who are stars — spar­ring pub­licly.

At one point, Hal­ly­day’s 34-year-old daugh­ter Laura Smet, whose mother is the French movie star Nathalie Baye, touched many with a let­ter ad­dressed to “cher Papa” say­ing, “I have cho­sen to fight. I would have pre­ferred this to stay in the fam­ily, un­for­tu­nately, our fam­ily is like that.” She said she wasn’t even left a gui­tar.

David Hal­ly­day, 51, whose mother is French singer and ac­tress Sylvie Var­tan, has re­mained mostly silent.

The lawyer for Laeti­cia Hal­ly­day said he was con­tent with the rul­ing Fri­day be­cause it doesn’t af­fect the cou­ple’s Amer­i­can hold­ings, in­clud­ing their home, and re­spects “the wish of Johnny Hal­ly­day” re­gard­ing the al­bum he was work­ing on be­fore his death. Ar­da­van Amir-As­lani said he was con­fi­dent “the last wishes of the artist” would be re­spected.

Days be­fore Fri­day’s rul­ing, Laeti­cia Hal­ly­day spoke di­rectly for the first time about the fam­ily dis­pute with the newsweekly Le Point.

“They’re steal­ing my griev­ing,” she said. “They’re pum­mel­ing me.”

Still, she said she was ready to for­give one day be­cause “we’re a fam­ily.”

“I only want peace, but re­spect the mem­ory of my hus­band,” she de­clared.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

LE­GAL DRAMA: French rock star Johnny Hal­ly­day's wife Laeti­cia, left, his daugh­ter Laura Smet, and son David Hal­ly­day, right, ar­rive at La Madeleine church on Dec. 9, 2017 for Johnny Hal­ly­day's fu­neral cer­e­mony in Paris. A court out­side Paris on Fri­day to put a tem­po­rary freeze on the vast es­tate of Hal­ly­day, who died in De­cem­ber, as his two old­est chil­dren left out of the will re­quested. But the court re­fused a role for them in the prepa­ra­tion of the post-hu­mous al­bum of their father, rul­ing in fa­vor of wi­dow Laeti­cia.

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