Vivacious actress and socialite, Zsa Zsa Gabor was famous for her take no crap attitude and numerous marriages.
Born in Budapest, Hungary on February 6, 1917, Sari Gabor was the middle daughter of Vilmos and Jolie Gabor. Jolie was the heiress to a European jewelry business and a Vilmos was a soldier. She had two sisters, Eva and Magda, and they all lived a luxurious life in Budapest complete with servants, vacations and expensive boarding schools. Sari began calling herself “Zsa Zsa” at an early age, and the pet name stuck. She and her sisters were all blonde, lovely and known on the social circuit. They were rather like the Kardashians of the early 20th century.
After a stint in a Swiss boarding school, Zsa Zsa was discovered by operatic tenor Richard Tauber. He invited the 13 year old Zsa Zsa to sing in his new operetta Der Singende Traum or The Singing Dream. From there she spent time at the Vienna Acting Academy and made her stage debut. There was some controversy as in 1936, she was crowned Miss Hungary. Her crown and title were taken away as it was found she had lied about her age. Not long after she married the first of her nine husbands, Burhan Asaf Belge. Unusually for the time, Zsa Zsa proposed to him. However, the marriage was not meant to last and the couple broke up in 1941.
In 1941, the Gabor sisters hit the US. Eva was already there living with her husband and soon Zsa Zsa and her mother joined them. There she met hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton, and the two embarked on a passionate affair. Zsa Zsa would claim later the millionaire offered her $20,000 to go to Florida with him the night they met. Is that what the kids are calling it these days? Zsa Zsa refused that indecent proposal, but the pair were married four months later on April 10,1942. This marriage didn’t last either and the two split in 1946 after having a daughter, Francesca.
Marriages came and went in the glamourous Zsa Zsa’s life. She once quipped, “I’m a great housekeeper — every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.” She also quipped, “I have learned that not diamonds but divorce lawyers are a girl’s best friend.” When not getting married, Zsa Zsa was also reported to have had affairs with Porfirio Rubirosa, the Dominican playboy, and with Rafael Trujillo Jr., the son of the Dominican dictator. Other affair rumors include dalliance with Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and even Henry Kissinger.
In between marriages and affairs, she did have an acting career making her movie debut in 1952’s “Lovely to Look At”. She also appeared in “We’re Not Married!” with Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen and in “Moulin Rouge” with Jose Ferrer. She even appeared in Orson Welles noir classic, “Touch of Evil”. She also appeared as a villain in the 1960’s version of “Batman” and in “Gilligan’s Island”. However, she was mainly famous for being famous as the saying goes. Zsa Zsa’s name became synonymous with the jet setting lifestyle as she appeared with jewels, purse dogs and a habit of calling everyone “dahlink”. In the 1963 song “Donna the Prima Donna”, Dion sang “She wants to be like Zsa Zsa Gabor.” Everyone knew that meant Donna liked the high life.
Her multiple marriage and dramatic personality put her in the papers for more than just high living. Zsa Zsa had her share of scandals. There was a long standing feud with actress Elka Sommer. Sommer later sued Zsa Zsa and her current husband for comments they made to a German publication and won damages. Thank God there was no twitter at that time. The most infamous incident was in 1989 when she slapped a police officer during a traffic stop. She was sentenced to three days in jail for the assault. Proving that she did have a sense of humor, Zsa Zsa parodied the incident in the “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear,” the film version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.
Her last husband was Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt. This guy is a story in himself. He claimed to be a prince or Duke of Saxony, however, the New York Times reports he was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg, the son of a police officer. He changed his name to mirror the title of Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, the Duchess of Saxony, after the lady adopted him as an adult. Zsa Zsa and Frédéric were married in 1986, and the two were together until the end of her life. Together the tw
o of them fought with Sommer again as well as Zsa Zsa’s daughter, Francesca Hilton. They accused her of larceny and fraud. Sadly, Zsa Zsa lost a significant portion of her fortune in the Bernie Madoff scandal in 2009.
Her later life was plagued with ill health. She had a car crash and numerous falls resulting in broken bones and even a coma in 2002. Then she had a stroke and a blood clot and had to have her leg amputated. She finally passed this week of heart failure at the age of 99.
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