Sunday, December 18, 2016

Zsa Zsa Gabor Dead at 99

Zsa Zsa Gabor died on Sunday, December 18. She was 99, and had persevered despite years of health setbacks.

The title of Gabor's 1991 memoir said it all about the jet-set lover of Frank Sinatra, President Richard Nixon, and a few more: "One Lifetime Is Not Enough."

Gabor lived the posh life in the Bel Air section of L.A. She had a catchphrase — "darling," pronounced "dah-ling." She married well, and she married a lot — she had eight (or nine) husbands by popular estimate, including Conrad Hilton, the hotel magnate and great-grandfather of Paris Hilton. Above all, she invented herself.

“They have always lived with no reality,” gossip maven Cindy Adams said of Gabor and her headline-friendly family in Vanity Fair. “There was never any truth to anything.”

Gabor is reported to have been born February 6, 1917, in Hungary, and crowned a beauty queen, Miss Hungary, as a teenager.

In the early 1940s, she moved to the United States, already a divorcee from a Turkish politico, and soon bound for her next marriage, to Hilton.

Gabor went Hollywood in the 1950s. While she acted in A-list films, such as John Huston’s Moulin Rouge and Touch of Evil from Orson Welles, she appeared in enough B-movies, including cult favorite "Queen of Outer Space," to warrant induction into the B-Movie Hall of Fame.

Zsa Zsa Gabor on the set of As the World Turns with
actor Anthony Herrera, who played James Stenbeck.
In 1981, Gabor guest-starred on the CBS daytime soap opera As the World Turns. She played Lydia Marlowe, sister to Miranda Marlowe (Elaine Princi). She joined a lineup of celebrities that made appearances on the soap in the early '80s, including Celeste Holm, Dina Merrill, Henny Youngman and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Gabor's immediate family was famous, too. Younger sister Eva, who died in 1995, starred on the sitcom Green Acres. Older sister Magda, who passed away in 1997, made headlines for her marriage to Zsa Zsa's third ex-husband, actor George Sanders (All About Eve). Among the three of them, the Gabor sisters said "I do" roughly 20 times.

Most sources list Gabor as having had nine weddings, though Gabor told Vanity Fair she had 10 husbands. Two of Gabor's marriages, to Berhan Belge and Felipe de Alba, respectively, were annulled. Further confusing things: press reports always count Belge as a husband, while some don’t count Alba. In fairness, the latter didn't last a day. The 1982 union was nixed because Gabor wasn’t yet divorced from her previous husband, Barbie doll designer Jack Ryan.

Frederic von Anhalt, who wed Gabor in 1986, and who survives her, counted himself as Gabor's lawful eighth husband. Von Anhalt, a tabloid figure in his own right, was definitely Gabor's longest-tenured husband.

For all the confusing marriage math and numerous dalliances, Gabor had one child. Daughter Francesca Hilton, by her marriage to Conrad Hilton, died in 2015 at age 67. She had spent years feuding with von Anhalt over her elderly mother's care.

Long dubbed "explosive" by the press, Gabor always seemed to be engaged in a spat or scandal. In 1983, she made headlines for allegedly refusing to continue a dinner-theater performance until a group of handicapped audience members were moved to back tables. In 1989, she made even bigger headlines for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.

In 2002, she was partially paralyzed in a car accident, and retired from the public eye. She sued her driver, who was also her hairdresser.

More trouble followed. She reportedly lost as much as $10 million in the Bernard Madoff investment scam. In 2010, Gabor fell from her bed, and broke a hip. The accident led to surgery, a slew of complications, and the amputation of her right leg. As her world got smaller, Gabor put her seven-bedroom, Bel Air mansion on the market. It sold for $11 million in 2013, Curbed LA reported.

"She had a great run," her publicist John Blanchette said as Gabor’s health declined… She knew five presidents. She knew kings and queens, celebrities.

In 2012, von Anhalt hosted a 95th birthday bash for Gabor. The invitation made a joke of her habit of editing her age. "Over the years I may have overlooked a year or two (or 20), but not this year," it read.

Through it all, Gabor kept things simple. Well, simple by Zsa Zsa standards.

As she observed in her first memoir, 1960's "Zsa Zsa Gabor: My Story," "You can wear only the simplest frock if you cover yourself with gems."

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