Larry Birkhead's Derby Diary

Larry Birkhead's Derby Diary
Larry Birkhead with his daughter Dannielynn (Photo courtesy Larry Birkhead)
Larry Birkhead with his daughter Dannielynn (Photo courtesy Larry Birkhead)

Editor's Note: Here is Larry Birkhead's Derby Diary, as told to WAVE 3 News anchorwoman Shannon Cogan.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) -- It is hard to think of just one favorite Kentucky Derby memory because there have been so many.

One of them would be from the year 1998, when I was just recently out of college, having studied journalism and photography.

I had the opportunity to photograph the Kentucky Derby Festival's Great Steamboat Race, aboard the Belle of Louisville. Riding the boat that year was actress Gloria Stuart, fresh off her star turn in the the movie Titanic.

The irony of it all was that the Belle of Louisville had just been restored after it had partially sank due to vandalism, and was barely complete for that year's race. I was joking with Gloria about whether she was scared about another boat possibly sinking, but she gave me a great quote: "I am not worried. I am sure the water is warm."

She then went to the front of the boat, spread her arms and recreated Leonardo Dicaprio's "King of the world" pose. I nervously grabbed my camera, snapped the shot and it landed on the front page of USA Today. That photograph launched my career as a photojournalist.

+ Annie Moore's Derby Diary (is a painful one!)
+ Bobby Flay's Derby Diary
+ John Boel's Derby Diary
+ Jody Demling's Derby Diary
+ Shannon Cogan's Derby Diary
+ Kent Taylor's Derby Diary

Parlaying my success there, I went on to cover many Kentucky Derbys, but my most favorite Derby memory of all is meeting Anna Nicole Smith at the Barnstable Brown Party in 2003, then seeing her again at the 2004 bash.

Anna was dressed in a long black dress and stopped the crowds in their tracks. People just were clamoring to be around her that evening. Shortly thereafter, I started working as Anna's personal photographer and we started dating. We went on to have a beautiful daughter named Dannielynn.

The Barnstable Brown Party does so much for the community by raising millions of dollars for diabetes research, however, it changed my life in so many other ways. For that, I am forever grateful and continue to support the event and the charity.  I now make it a tradition to take my daughter back to the Derby every year and make new family memories and share in the excitement of the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Copyright 2017 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.