I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house. ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor
Born Sari Gabor on February 6, 1917, in Budapest, Hungary, Zsa Zsa has been a celebrity and socialite for decades mostly for being herself. She’s acted in films with Fred Allen, José Ferrer and Orson Welles. Her television resume includes Gilligan’s Island, Batman, The Love Boat and countless talk show appearances.
Zsa Zsa (Sari) Gabor was the middle daughter of Vilmos Gabor, a soldier, and Jolie Gabor, the heiress to a European jewelry business. Gabor and her two sisters, Eva and Magda, lived a life of luxury, which included a staff of servants, extensive vacations and stints at expensive boarding schools. Sari started referring to herself as “Zsa Zsa” during childhood.
At the age of 13, Gabor was sent to Switzerland to attend boarding school. While finishing her studies at Madame Subilia’s, Gabor was discovered by the famous operatic tenor Richard Tauber, who invited the teenager to sing the soubrette in his new operetta Der singende Traum, or The Singing Dream. After spending three months at the Vienna Acting Academy, Gabor made her stage debut. In 1936, Gabor was crowned Miss Hungary, though she was later disqualified as she’d fibbed about her true age. In 1937, she married her first husband, 35-year-old Turkish government official Burhan Asaf Belge, to whom she proposed. In celebration of the engagement, Gabor’s parents gave their daughter a 10-karat diamond, among other lavish gifts.
Gabor’s marriage began to deteriorate and by 1941 Gabor and her husband agreed to go their separate ways. That same year, Gabor’s parents also began the process of divorce. Gabor and her mother decided to head to the U.S. to join Eva, who was already living in the country with her new husband. Zsa Zsa applied for an official divorce shortly after she was on American soil.
Not long after her arrival in the U.S., Gabor met hotel magnate and recent bachelor Conrad Hilton. The couple began flirting at an upscale club and, according to Gabor, the millionaire offered Zsa Zsa $20,000 to go with him to Florida that night. She refused. Four months later, on April 10, 1942, the two married. They had one child together, daughter Francesca. According to Gabor’s 1991 autobiography One Lifetime Is Not Enough, her pregnancy resulted from rape by then-husband Conrad Hilton. She was the only Gabor sister to have a child.
Zsa Zsa’s good looks and charm landed her a film career in Hollywood, and in 1952 she made her big-screen début in Lovely to Look At. That same year, she also had a part in We’re Not Married! with Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen, and a starring role in Moulin Rouge with José Ferrer. Gabor later appeared in Death of a Scoundrel (1956) and had a small role in Orson Welles’ classic Touch of Evil (1958).
Over the years Gabor worked in television as well, making guest appearances on such shows as The Life of Riley, Playhouse 90, Matinee Theatre, Burke’s Law, Gilligan’s Island and Batman. Vivacious and humorous, Gabor was also a popular guest on talk shows and celebrity game shows.
What audiences seemed most interested in, however, was Zsa Zsa’s personal life. To many, she appeared as an icon of European glamour, luxury and self-indulgence. Often portrayed as a wily seductress, she frequently appeared on television as an alluring, witty and sometimes challenging guest who had a habit of calling nearly everyone “darling.” But as a vivacious and dramatic personality, Gabor quickly became tabloid fodder, more famous for her marriages and conspicuous wealth than for her acting abilities.