The Gabors Flee Europe
World War 2 created flux and turmoil in Europe. It was a time of change and disorder; families were uprooted, homelands abandoned and for some, a chance for new beginnings in strange lands. Amongst those uprooted and thrown into flux, were sisters Zsa Zsa, Eva and Magda Gabor who, with their parents Vilma and Jolie, made their way from Budapest, Hungary, after the Nazi invasion, to America, sometime in the mid 1940's.
In Budapest, the family had been relatively well-heeled and the girls well-educated; they spoke several languages. In addition, Jolie Gabor, who was a kind of Hungarian Mrs. Bennett, saw to it that her daughters were well-versed in the essential charms a woman needed in order to catch a suitable husband.
Glamor and the Gabors
The girls were quick learners and fast workers; Eva had already secured herself a doctor husband, whom she had met while on holiday in America some time before, Magda was also married and before 1946 was out, Zsa Zsa managed to snag Hilton Hotel chain magnate, Conrad Hilton and had produced a daughter, Constance Francesca Hilton, who would prove to be the only offspring of all the Gabor sisters.
Conrad Hilton was Zsa Zsa's second husband, as she had been married before to the much older Turkish foreign affairs minister, Jan Bychowski in 1937, although she swore the marriage had never been consumated.
Once in New York, the glamorous Gabor sisters were lured by the promise of Hollywood stardom and all that that sparkling Emerald City entailed. Magda had already appeared in a few films in Budapest, Zsa Zsa had been Miss Hungaryin1936, (though Eva too, claimed to have won that title) and it wasn't long before the ultra-feminine threesome established themselves as professional celebrities. They played the game well and with a certain European aplomb; flirting, flitting like butterflies, being seen at the right places, meeting the right people and running up large bills that they somehow avoided paying for themselves.
Career-wise, Zsa Zsa's first big break came in the John Huston film Moulin Rouge, in 1952 playing Jane Avril opposite Jose Ferrer as Toulouse Latrec. She was well-suited to the role and her performance was well-received, although Zsa Zsa would, in the end, be more famous for her husbands than her acting.
I want to choose the man. I do not permit men to choose me! ~Zsa Zsa
Eventually the marriage to Hilton grew a little tiring (he had her on a strict budget) and while still wed she spotted a suave actor on stage one night and declared "he will be my next husband". Thus the fate of the Hilton pairing was doomed, though the couple remained on amicable terms and Conrad Hilton did in fact offer her a lifetime of cheap rate at all his hotels.
"The Love of my Life"
Actor George Sanders was a debonair, cosmopolitan sophisticate, who's dry personality seemed on the surface, a mismatch with the professionally vapid, vampish Gabor but the two managed to tie the conjugal knot in 1949 - Zsa Zsa it seemed, always got her man.
As fond of Sanders as Zsa Zsa claimed she was - having once described him as '"the love of my life", this did not prevent her from having an extra-marital affair with Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa.
Of course the marriage didn't last and eventually George went the way of her previous husbands and dissappeared from Eva's marital orbit. Oddly, Sanders married Zsa Zsa's sister Magda in 1970 but that too, was shortlived. Sanders later comitted suicide, citing a 'boredom with life' as the cause, though those who knew him noted he was in serious debt at the time.
Zsa Zsa's acting career teetered along in no particular direction; she appeared in a few quirky films and scored a few cameo roles on televison,. However hercalculated have-as-many-husbands-as-you-can plan was right on track. There were nine in all, too many too explore here in any depth:
- Burhan Belge Turkish diplomat, married in 1937, divorced in 1941
- Conrad Hiltonhotel founder, m.arried 1942, divorced in 1947,
- George Sanders(actor, married in 1949, divorced in 1954
- Herbert Hunter, financial consultant, married in 1964, divorced in1966
- Joshua S. Cosden, Jr. oil heir, married in 1966, divorced in 1967
- Jack Patrick Ryan Barbie doll designer, married in 1975, divorced in 1976
- Michael O'Hara , attorney, married in 1977, divorced in 1982
- Felipe De Alba, Mexican actor, married. 1982, annulled, lasted one day
- Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, married 1986, still going...
Reputedly Zsa Zsa has a strong, volatile personality which has landed her in hot water from time to time. Some very public incidents include: slapping a bellboy, being removed from a plane after it came to light that, among other convenient memory lapses, she had left an upaid bill behind, drunk driving and suing her own daughter for fraud. Controversial to the end, it was reported in the tabloids recently that Zsa Zsa, having already lost a leg to illness and now in her nineties, (although her birthdate, like everything else, is murky) and her sixty-seven year old husband, were last heard trying to have a baby via any means possible. Never say die.
The Eternal Celebrity
In many ways Zsa Zsa was a precursor to the kind of 21st century vacuous celebrity to be found via the likes of her niece, Paris Hilton - infamously famous for being infamously famous. The Hungarian/American glamor queen personified a certain type of woman through the ages - she was a Hollywood Queen, a courtesan, a socialite, notorious husband hunter, a pampered princess and most of all...a priceless treasure in the annals of the kitsch, rich, society beauty sphere.