Glamorous American Jewish-Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, possibly the original celebrity who gained her status for merely being famous, died Sunday at age 99.
Gabor was born in Budapest in 1917 as Sári Gábor, the middle of the three daughters of Vilmos and Jolie Gabor (née Janka Tilleman). She was named after Hungarian entertainer Sári Fedák. Her elder sister, Magda, was a socialite, and her younger sister, Eva, was an actress and businesswoman.
Jolie escaped Hungary after the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944 due to her daughter Magda’s connections with the Portuguese Ambassador. Gabor’s maternal grandmother and uncle hid in Budapest and died during an Allied bombing raid. Zsa Zsa’s three maternal aunts survived.
In 1959, Author Gerold Frank described his impressions of Zsa Zsa Gabor: “Zsa Zsa is unique. She’s a woman from the court of Louis XV who has somehow managed to live in the 20th century, undamaged by the PTA … She says she wants to be all the Pompadours and Du Barrys of history rolled into one, but she also says, ‘I always goof. I pay all my own bills. … I want to choose the man. I do not permit men to choose me.'”
In keeping with the above statement, Gabor was married nine times, divorced seven times, and one of her marriages was annulled. Among her more renowned husbands were Conrad Hilton (divorced), George Sanders (divorced), Barbie Doll inventor Jack Ryan (divorced), and German-American entrepreneur Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, who outlived her.
Zsa Zsa was the only Gabor sister to bear a child, Constance Francesca Hilton, whom her mother claimed was the result of being raped by Hilton. In 2005, Mother Zsa Zsa sued Constance Francesca for forging her signature on a $2 million loan against Zsa Zsa’s home in Bel Air. Francesca Hilton died in 2015 from a massive stroke.
In 1989, a California jury convicted Zsa Zsa Gabor of slapping a police officer, driving without a license and possessing a flask of Jack Daniel’s in her $215,000 Rolls-Royce.
In 2009, the AP reported that Gabor had lost $10 million in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but a later WSJ report showed Federal Bankruptcy Court in New York did not list Gabor as a Madoff victim.
Gabor died of a heart attack in her Bel-Air home in Los Angeles, after living on life support for five years. Her 1986 marriage to Prince Frederic von Anhalt entitled her to pass on as Princess von Anhalt, Duchess of Saxony.