Zsa Zsa: a star on Hollywood Boulevard, a museum in Budapest
The permanent exhibition is housed in the Origo Studios and pays tribute to the larger-than-life flamboyant Hollywood personality who died of a heart attack at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on December 18, 2016 at the age of 99. She had been on life support for the previous five years.
In April 2016 it was reported that her widower, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, had been arranging to move with her to Hungary in time for her hundredth birthday in 2017, in accordance with her wishes that she return to her homeland to spend the rest of her life.
Zsa Zsa was born Sári Gábor in Budapest on February 6, 1917 to a wealthy family. She had an elder sister Magda and younger sister Éva, and they all became known for their shapely curves and passion for well-heeled men. Zsa Zsa began her stage career in Vienna and was a beauty queen, being crowned “Miss Hungary” in 1936.
The family moved to the United States five years later and she became famous in Hollywood for her roles in a number of films and popular television shows. Gábor was among the few Hungarians to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard.
The Budapest museum was opened in late May by von Anhalt. They had been married since 1986, making it by far the longest of her nine marriages, which included hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. Another ex, fellow actor George Sanders, earned the distinction of being married to Zsa Zsa from 1949 until 1954 and then to Magda in 1970 in a union that lasted only 32 days, after which he reportedly began drinking heavily. Sanders committed suicide in 1972.
Von Anhalt said, pointing to the exhibition at the opening in late May: “Now Zsa Zsa is alive again, she is right over there. People ask me why am I giving away things that she left to me but I know they are now kept in a good place; she should be celebrated.
“So I am giving her stuff back to her. I lived with her for 35 years, everything is in my heart, every picture, every dress, I will never forget them as long as I live.
“Zsa Zsa was the world’s first real celebrity; wherever she went around the world the doors were opened for her. It’s wonderful there is a museum for her now.”
One of the dresses on show was worn by the actress when she was arrested for slapping the face of Beverly Hills police officer Paul Kramer in June 1989 when he stopped her for a traffic violation. A jury convicted her of this offence plus driving without a licence and possessing an open container of alcohol in her $US215,000 Rolls-Royce. She served three days in jail.
In her heyday Zsa Zsa embodied the film industry’s platinum blonde ideal, and her resumé included her debut in “Lovely to Look At” (1952), “Moulin Rouge” (1952), “Lili” (1953) “Touch of Evil” and “Queen of Outer Space” (both 1958), “The Road To Hong Kong” (1962) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987). Although her film career slowed, she was in demand on television game shows and talk shows into the 1990s and appeared in such hit series as “Gilligan’s Island”, “Bonanza” and “Batman”.
However, her persona as a beauty and a socialite had outstripped her reputation as an actress by the 1960s and her roles frequently required her to play a more or less dramatised version of herself. In one such appearance, in “The Naked Gun 21/2: The Smell of Fear” (1991), she appeared in a scene that lampooned her conviction for assaulting the policeman. She co-wrote such books as “How to Catch a Man”, “How to Keep a Man”, “How to Get Rid of a Man” (1970) and “One Lifetime Is Not Enough (1991).
However, she was equally famous for her romantic conquests and sometimes scandalous behaviour. And her strong Hungarian accent was parodied, particularly the way she called everyone “darling” — or “dahlink” as she pronounced it. “I call everyone ‘dahlink’ because I can’t remember their names,” she explained.
“I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back,” she once famously said.
And: “I was always a good housekeeper. Whenever I divorced I always kept the house.” And: “How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?” Actor Bob Hope said: ”You can count Zsa Zsa Gábor’s age by the rings on her fingers.”
Zsa Zsa spent most of her career in Hollywood and her ashes were brought back and buried in Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest in July 2021. Von Anhalt said a statue is in the works to honour her and possibly a biographical television series and film.
1151 Budapest, Felsőkert utca 9.