This is the story of a beautiful woman who married eight times mostly to older men for fortune and favors, plus a ninth husband who was 27 years younger and gained fame and fortune by marrying her. She wrote several autobiographies, including the 1970 book, How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man. She was also an accomplished horsewoman.
Zsa Zsa was a Hungarian-American actress who gained fame in film, television and radio and as a book author, where she told of her road to fame and riches by having nine husbands and many more lovers, such as Prince Aly Khan, billionaire J. Paul Getty and actor Richard Burton. She appeared in more than 30 films. In 1952, she was fumbling her lines so badly in the film, Moulin Rouge, that director John Huston told her, "Zsa Zsa, forget about acting. Just make love to the camera."
Bob Hope introduced her by saying: “You can calculate Zsa Zsa Gabor’s age by the rings on her fingers.” Here are some examples of her advice:
• Husbands are like fires. They go out if unattended.
• I want a man who is kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?
• I knew very little about acting but a great deal about making love.
• I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house.
• There is nothing wrong with a woman encouraging a man’s advances, as long as they are in cash.
• A girl must marry for love, and keep on marrying until she finds it.
Her Early Life and Marriages
She was born in 1917 to a father who was a Hungarian cavalry officer who later sold diamonds, and a mother who was an actress and directed her three daughters into show business. Zsa Zsa went to a Swiss boarding school and at age 19 she was crowned Miss Hungary. She and her two sisters had at least 18 marriages between them; her older sister Magda had at least five husbands, while younger sister Eva had at least four.
Husband #1 – Burhan Asaf Belge ((married 1937, divorced 1941). In 1936 at age 19, she proposed to and married 49-year-old Burhan Belge, a former Turkish ambassador to Hungary. He saved her life. Zsa Zsa's parents were both Jewish and her mother and her two sisters had left Hungry before the Nazi occupation. In 1941, Belge helped Zsa Zsa leave Nazi-occupied Hungary to join her mother and sisters in the United States. She rewarded him by divorcing him. Her mother started a successful jewelry business in New York and traveled in high society and encouraged her daughters to meet famous people. In 1953, the three sisters were a regular featured nightclub act in Las Vegas.
Husband #2 – Conrad Hilton (1942 – 1947). Soon after arriving in New York, she met and married multi-millionaire and hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. He wrote that the marriage was "like holding a Roman candle; beautiful, exciting, but you were never quite sure when it would go off. Glamour, I found, is expensive.” Zsa Zsa claimed that she had had sex with her stepson Nicky Hilton while she was still married to his father. Nicky become the first husband of Elizabeth Taylor who was married twice to another of Zsa Zsa's lovers, Richard Burton — the revolving door of love.
Zsa Zsa claimed that Hilton was the only husband she had married for money. She received a divorce settlement of $35,000 plus $2,500 a month until she remarried. Her only child, Francesca, was born after they separated. Zsa Zsa claimed in her 1991 autobiography, One Lifetime Is Not Enough, that her husband raped her during that separation and that her daughter was the result of that rape. In 2005, Zsa Zsa filed a lawsuit accusing her daughter of larceny and fraud, claiming that she had forged Zsa Zsa's signature for a $2 million loan guaranteed on her mother's Bel Air house. She was the only Gabor sister to have a child, and that child was so estranged from her fabulously wealthy father that she inherited a paltry $100,000 from his estate. In 2015, at age 67, Francesca died of a massive stroke and Zsa Zsa's husband at that time never told her about her daughter's death.
Husband #3 – George Sanders (1949 – 1954). Zsa Zsa claimed that actor George Sanders was the only husband she ever loved. She divorced him because, "He wanted to turn me into a little hausfrau." After she divorced him, he married her sister Magda in 1970 to become Magda's fifth husband. In 1972, he committed suicide, leaving a note that said he was bored.
Husband #4 – investment banker Herbert Hutner (1962 – 66); #5 – Texas oilman Joshua S. Cosden, Jr. (1966 – 67); #6 – Barbie designer Jack Ryan (1975 – 76); #7 – attorney Michael O’Hara (1976-83) and #8 – attorney Felipe de Alba, who lasted for only one day in 1983.
Husband #9 – Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt (1986 to her death in 2016). Anhalt was 27 years younger than Zsa Zsa and a former masseur who gained royalty in 1980 at age 36 by paying the aged German Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt to adopt him. By marrying Anhalt, Zsa Zsa became royalty with the title of Princess von Anhalt, Duchess of Saxony.
Her Last Thirty Years
Zsa Zsa spent the last 30 years of her life in failing health and misery. In 1989, at age 72, in Beverly Hills, California, she was accused of slapping a police officer, driving without a license, having expired license-plate tags and possessing an open container of alcohol in her $215,000 Rolls-Royce. She was acquitted of disobeying a police officer when she drove away from a routine traffic stop. She claimed she never hit him, but was sentenced to pay fines of $12,937, to spend three days in jail, to perform 120 hours of community service and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She served the three days in jail but refused to do community service.
On November 28, 2002, she was sitting in the front seat of her Rolls-Royce convertible when her hairdresser drove the car into a light pole. The accident left her partially paralyzed and needing a wheelchair to get around for the rest of her life. In 2005 and 2007, she survived major strokes and had additional surgeries. In 2010, she broke her hip and had to have a hip replacement. Later that year she was admitted to UCLA Medical Center and received last rites from a Catholic priest. She did not die but remained on and off of life-support systems for the rest of her life.
In 2011, she developed a rapidly-spreading infection and to save her life, her doctors had to amputate her right leg. She was also hospitalized several other times for other conditions. At this time, she was severely demented and not able to speak, see, write or hear and spent most of her time lying in bed in her mansion or a hospital and being fed through tubes in her stomach.
On February 8, 2016, at age 99, she was rushed to a hospital with severe shortness of breath from a lung infection caused by regurgitation of food up her esophagus and into her lungs. She had to have her feeding tube removed. On December 18, 2016, she died of a heart attack at her home in Bel-Air.
Lessons from Zsa Zsa's Life
Being rich, famous and beautiful does not guarantee happiness. Her life showed a pattern of ever increasing misery, as she was never able to establish and maintain relationships. Happiness comes from pursuing goals that allow you to enjoy relationships and activities that are pleasing to you.
Read the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792- 1822)
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.