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article imageRow over French rocker Hallyday's will reveals family at war

By Fiachra GIBBONS (AFP)     Feb 12, 2018 in Music

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 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 rights to the 110 million records he sold will eventually go to Jade and Joy, the girls he adopted in Vietnam with Laeticia.

Smet's lawyers said her half-brother David Hallyday was also contesting the "rewritten" will, which was made in California, where Hallyday spent much of his later years.

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

In an open letter to 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 added.

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.

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..."

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's lawyers earlier told AFP in a statement that she was "stupefied and hurt to learn that her father's will leaves all his wealth and rights to his wife Laetitia, using California law."

Smet -- a talented actress who reportedly attempted suicide after her father nearly died in 2010 -- was left without even "a souvenir -- one of his guitars or motorbikes, not even the sleeve of the song 'Laura'," they said.

Laura Smet and her half-brother David Hallyday at the funeral ceremony in Paris
Laura Smet and her half-brother David Hallyday at the funeral ceremony in Paris

The mother of her half-brother David Hallyday, 1960s pop star Sylvie Vartan, was the singer's first wife.

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

The fanatical biker's funeral cortege 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.

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