Zsa Zsa Gabor, Often-Married Celebrity ‘Dahling,’ Dies at 99

  • One of three Hungarian sisters who sought fame in Hollywood
  • Insisted she always married for love - but kept the houses

Zsa Zsa Gabor, the bejeweled actress and celebrity hostess who greeted everyone as “Dahling” and appeared in movies, on Broadway and in nine marriages, has died at 99, less than two months short of her 100th birthday.

Gabor died around 1pm Sunday at her Bel Air mansion in Los Angeles, said Edward Lozzi, her friend and former publicist. The cause of death was heart failure following an extended decline, he said. In 2011, part of the actress’s right leg was amputated to halt the spread of infection, one of a number of health conditions she experienced.

“Zsa Zsa Gabor was one tough cookie,” Lozzi said. “Her beautiful lips and mouth would also be her worst enemy when and if she turned on the verbal machine gun.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1956.

Source: Bettman via Getty IMages

Gabor in the 1950s and 1960s was akin to a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton of today: a person who made herself a celebrity through sheer self-exploitation. She also happened to be kin to the latter: Paris’s step-great-grandmother by marriage to Hilton’s great-grandfather, hotelier Conrad Hilton, in 1942.

Gabor flaunted her blond hair, jewels and clothes and, in her native Hungarian accent, was outspoken about her many marriages and real and alleged affairs.

“I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back,” she said. Also: “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house.”

Gabor wasn’t alone in her frolicking lifestyle. Her two actress-sisters -- Eva, who died in 1995, and Magda, who died in 1997 -- were also recognized first for beauty, then for talent.

Dripping Diamonds

Their well-covered feuds added to the publicity around which Zsa Zsa built her career. Eva, known as the “Good Gabor,” had five husbands; Magda had six. Eva played the scatterbrained wife in the 1960s TV series “Green Acres” alongside Eddie Albert.

The Gabors earned a reputation for dripping in diamond jewelry -- gifts from their many admirers and ex-husbands. Zsa Zsa said the favorite piece in her extensive collection was a blue diamond and red ruby bracelet, a gift from heiress Doris Duke’s ex-husband, Latin playboy Porfirio Rubirosa.

Asked why she called almost everyone “Dahling,” she confessed: “I don’t remember anyone’s name.”

She was born Sari Gabor in Budapest on Feb. 6, 1917, though at one point she insisted she was much younger, born in 1928.

She won the Miss Hungary beauty pageant in 1936, she said, and came to the U.S. in the early 1940s. Her film career included “Moulin Rouge” (1952), and the campy cult-classic “Queen of Outer Space” (1958), in which she played an anti-war faction leader.

Parade of Husbands

Gabor also appeared on Broadway and was a frequent talk-show guest. Cameo appearances included the film “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear” (1991), and “The Beverly Hillbillies” (1993).

Gabor’s first husband was Burhan Belge, a diplomat who at 38 was almost twice her age when they married in 1937. Then she married Hilton, followed by actor George Sanders in 1949. (After their divorce, Sanders went on to marry her sister Magda.) In 1962, Zsa Zsa wed financial consultant Herbert Hutner.

She married businessman Joshua Cosden Jr. in 1966; Jack Ryan, an inventor, in 1975; and her divorce lawyer, Michael O’Hara, in 1976.

In 1982 Gabor married a Spanish-born count and real-estate lawyer, Felipe De Alba. After their nuptials turned out to be invalid, because her divorce from O’Hara wasn’t final, Gabor called off a planned second ceremony. “He bored me,” Gabor explained. “He’s a playboy, and I’m a hard-working actress.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor and Prince Frederic Prinz von Anhalt in 1995.

Photographer: Peter Bischoff/Getty Images

In 1986, at 69, she was married for a ninth time, to then-43-year-old Prince Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, earning the title Princess von Anhalt, Duchess of Saxony. This marriage stood the test of time, among other challenges.

In 2007, Von Anhalt was one of the men who came forward to claim they were the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, days after the buxom millionaire celebrity’s death.

‘Marry for Love’

“If my wife wants to divorce me then it’s up to her,” von Anhalt told the Associated Press at the time. Results of a paternity test revealed that Larry Birkhead, Smith’s former boyfriend, was the baby’s father. The Gabor-von Anhalt union endured to her death.

Gabor once defended her many divorces by saying, “A girl must marry for love, and keep on marrying until she finds it.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor and daughter Constance Francesca Hilton in 1947.

Photographer: New York Daily News via AP Photo

In 2005, von Anhalt and Gabor filed suit against Francesca Hilton, her daughter from her marriage to Hilton, alleging multiple claims, including embezzlement, which the daughter denied. A Los Angeles judge dismissed the case after Gabor didn’t show up for court hearings. Francesca Hilton died in January 2015 at age 67.

Romantic Claims

In her 1991 autobiography, “One Lifetime Is Not Enough,” Gabor made many claims about her romantic life. Among them: she went on a date with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; was propositioned by Frank Sinatra, Warren Beatty, Marlon Brando and Sean Connery; and went out with President John F. Kennedy, who she said was “far too promiscuous for my taste.”

She also said that President Richard M. Nixon asked her advice about U.S. foreign policy on Hungary.

Gabor tangoed in and out of the lives of other celebrities. While married to Conrad Hilton, she said she had an affair with his son Nicky, who was then married to actress Elizabeth Taylor, who later married Richard Burton, with whom Gabor also claimed to have had an affair.

Gabor with Conrad ’Nicky’ Hilton and Natalie Wood in 1957.

Photographer: Bruce Bailey/Getty Images

Gabor lost as much as $10 million to Bernard Madoff’s huge Ponzi scheme, her lawyer, Chris Fields, said in January 2008.

In her 1970 book “How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man,” she instructed women on the subject she knew best: “The best way to attract a man immediately is to have a magnificent bosom and a half-size brain and let both of them show.”

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