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What the world already knows of Prince Frederic von Anhalt reads like a tabloid writer’s dream: eighth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, lover (never confirmed) of Anna Nicole Smith, self-proclaimed member of European royalty.
The flamboyant socialite says he’ll add a new title on Wednesday: California gubernatorial candidate.
Von Anhalt and his attorney said they will file his candidate papers in late morning at the secretary of state’s office in Sacramento.
If he follows through, von Anhalt would be the only independent in a field that includes Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner and the presumed Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown.
He already has a platform (titled “Return the Good Life to California”) that is sure to win favor with a certain segment of California’s electorate. He wants to lift the import ban on Cuban cigars, then tax them, and reduce vehicle-registration fees, making up the difference in part by taxing “bad drivers.”
He also is offering what he says are realistic proposals that will have an immediate effect on California’s $20 billion budget deficit.
One proposal is a “sin tax” on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, as well as marijuana and prostitution, which, under his platform, would be legalized.
“Marijuana is a big industry already,” von Anhalt said in a telephone interview from his home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air, where he cares for his 93-year-old wife. “Let’s legalize it, tax it, make some money and put less people in jail.”
A statewide initiative to legalize and tax marijuana is likely to appear on the November ballot.
He also favors repealing the ban on gay marriage, which voters wrote into the state constitution in 2008.
“I believe in marriage between men and women, but I am also a defender of the constitution, which says equal rights for all,” he said in his platform. “Let them be as miserable as the rest of us.”
His 1986 marriage to Gabor is his seventh.
The candidacy of a tabloid fixture such as von Anhalt would be reminiscent of the 2003 gubernatorial recall election that brought Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to power.
That election captured worldwide attention in large part for its distinctive cast of characters. In addition to Schwarzenegger, the campaign featured actor Gary Coleman, Internet entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, porn star Mary Carey and a performance artist dressed hat-to-boot heel in blue.
Von Anhalt was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg and claims to have grown up poor in Germany, son of a policeman.
In the years before he met Gabor, he worked as a bank clerk, screenwriter and sauna manager, acquiring the royal title along the way. After his parents died, he said he was adopted by a German princess, who gave him the title of Prince Frederic von Anhalt of Munich, the Duke of Saxony.
Some British news reports say he merely paid for it.
However he came to have the title, von Anhalt said all that matters now is turning around the nation’s most populous state, which he said has been on a decade-long decline.
His decision to run was motivated in large part by “watching the mistakes” of the current governor.
“I’ve watched him very carefully over the years. And he promised so much, but he didn’t do very much,” von Anhalt said. “He let the people who voted for him down.”
Schwarzenegger, a former Hollywood action star and bodybuilder, “had no more experience than I do” before taking office in 2003, von Anhalt said.
The governor’s office declined to comment.
Unlike most politicians, von Anhalt said he does not make promises he can’t keep. He does, however, have a history of making headline-grabbing claims he can’t always back up.
In 2007, he claimed to have had a decade-long affair with former Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith and declared that he may be the father of her baby daughter. Paternity tests later disproved that.
That same year, police found von Anhalt naked behind the wheel of his Rolls Royce Phantom after he claimed that he was mugged by three women.
Another time, he sued the maker of Viagra, saying the treatment for erectile dysfunction left him unable to perform unless he took the drug. He later dropped the case.
“I went through lots of things, lots of scandals, but that was yesterday, that’s old news,” he said. “Look at what Bill Clinton did in the White House. That was bad, but he got away with it. America gives you a break.”
Von Anhalt said Gabor, who is in a wheelchair after a 2005 auto accident left her partially paralyzed, “likes the idea” of his bid for the governor’s seat.
He said he will fly to Sacramento with his attorney, Chris Fields, to make his candidacy official. Fields said he has represented von Anhalt for about three years and confirmed that the pair planned to file the papers Wednesday.
Afterward, von Anhalt will begin advertising and raising campaign money, said John Blanchette, Gabor’s publicist.
Von Anhalt is registered to vote in Los Angeles County under the name “Frederick Prinz von Anhalt,” but identifies himself as “Prince Frederic” on his campaign Web site.
Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said she did not yet know whether that title would be allowed on the ballot.
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