It was a beautiful, terrible thing to be Zsa Zsa Gabor. One of the most stunning women of her century, Gabor wore Hollywood like a skin-tight dress, languishing in its glamour, its galas, and its dark side. Through her incredible nine marriages, she found out—and aired—some of the dirtiest laundry in Tinseltown. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have secrets of her own…
Zsa Zsa Gabor Facts
1. She Came From A Beautiful Family
Zsa Zsa actually came from a family of drop-dead beauties. Born in Hungary as Sari Gabor, her sisters were the future socialite Magda Gabor and fellow actress Eva Gabor. But although her siblings earned a ton of notoriety for their own scandalous love lives, it’s their middle sister Zsa Zsa who has become synonymous with Hollywood infamy—and for good reason.
2. She Was “Discovered” Young
When Zsa Zsa was just 17 years old, her entire life changed in the blink of an eye. According to Gabor, she was walking the streets of Vienna, Austria, on a vacation when the opera singer Richard Tauber spotted her from across the road. Tauber, who dabbled in film roles, knew a superstar when he saw one, and invited her to join him on stage for a show. It was the beginning of her fame, and Zsa Zsa knew exactly what to do with it.
3. She Was A Teenage Bride
Within the year, Zsa Zsa’s name was on everybody’s lips. She won the Miss Hungary competition in 1936 when she was still a teenager—and then she took it up a notch. In 1937, just barely out of her teen years, she married the Turkish politician Burhan Asaf Belge, feeling that his prestige matched her ambitions. Yet like so many youthful decisions, this was a big mistake.
4. She Rebounded In A Strange Way
Even this early on, Gabor was developing her most infamous habit. She hated staying put, and she especially hated staying put with one man. By the early 1940s, Zsa Zsa’s first marriage was over. On the rebound, she and her sisters thought it was high time to leave Hungary behind for the United States. The Gabors packed up their trunks, and suddenly started popping up in parties from New York to Hollywood. And boy, did they make an impression.
5. She Was Stunning
By this time, Zsa Zsa had developed from a coltish, promising girl into an unforgettable bombshell. She had a glass-cut jaw, full lips, and dark, intelligent eyes. It helped that her sisters Magda and Eva were (almost) as beautiful. As television host Merv Griffin remembered their appearance on the scene, “They burst onto the society pages and into the gossip columns so suddenly, and with such force, it was as if they’d been dropped out of the sky.”
Unfortunately for Zsa Zsa, she was about to meet the man who would be her downfall.
6. She Had A Sugar Daddy
In the early 1940s, Gabor was just out of her first marriage but seemingly none the wiser when it came to her love life. Because when she met and started courting the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, Sr. (yes, that Hilton), she didn’t seem to care that he was three decades older than her, or that he had a cutthroat reputation around town. No, Gabor only cared that he had money, and lots of it—so she ignored some HUGE red flags…
7. Her Boyfriend Was Messed Up
For one, although Hilton was a very rich man, he was also a damaged one. In his first marriage, he had been a devout Catholic raising three young boys. But then his wife left him for a football coach, sending him into a Bacchanalian spiral that threw him into Zsa Zsa’s world of nightclubs and loose morals. Yeah, it is not a good idea to date a man in the middle of his mid-life crisis, but that was just the beginning of the nightmare.
8. Her Husband Deprived Her
In 1942, Gabor and Hilton married, and the budding socialite must have thought she’d struck gold when he put the wedding ring on her hand. She couldn’t have been more wrong. The Conrad Hilton who had so lavishly courted Gabor was actually nothing more than a miser in his personal life, which certainly wasn’t what she signed up for. And as time went on, the cracks grew deeper.
9. She Was Trapped In Her Marriage
In the heady early days of her marriage to the tycoon, Gabor realized she had made a horrible mistake. Hilton wasn’t just cheap, he was also cold and cruel. Quickly annoyed with Gabor’s taste for the finer things in life, Hilton kept her on a meager budget and tracked all her spending. More than that, he forced her to sleep in a separate room from him. He had a more personal insult to come, however.
10. Her Husband Tried To Change Her
While married to Gabor, Hilton changed her name to “Georgia,” claiming he couldn’t and wouldn’t pronounce her Hungarian first name. Zsa Zsa later commented that this move “symbolized everything my marriage to him would eventually become. My Hungarian roots were to be ripped out and my background ignored.” But just when she thought it couldn’t get worse, it came to a disturbing finale.
11. She Played Nurse
According to Hilton himself, the killing blow in his marriage to Gabor happened one day in 1946, when he and Zsa Zsa were staying at his hotel, The Plaza. That day, Conrad was sick with the flu, and he made Gabor stay with him and be his nursemaid. As a result, the unhappy couple was stuck in their (admittedly fancy) suites for the day. This did not end well.
12. She Was Vain
Although Gabor was indoors with Hilton, she also wanted to look her best for her husband. Accordingly, she changed every couple of hours for breakfast, then lunch, then tea time, and finally dinner. Her husband’s response was chilling. Instead of appreciating this, Hilton was apoplectic at her gaudy show. His next move was heartless.
13. She Went Through A Brutal Breakup
In the end, it was Hilton who initiated the split from Gabor, citing this seemingly innocent fashion parade as part of his grounds for divorce. He also screwed her right over, refusing to give her nearly anything in the settlement and barely anything in the way of alimony. For a girl like Zsa Zsa, Hilton intended it as the ultimate punishment. But she was about to throw a curveball.
14. She Had An Ace Up Her Sleeve
Throughout the entire court proceedings of her divorce, Zsa Zsa was hiding an enormous secret. She was actually pregnant with Conrad Hilton’s child, a daughter she had in March 1947 and named Francesca. In the end, Gabor raised Francesca entirely on her own, not even asking for child support. Yet as we’ll see, Gabor was hiding more secrets about her marriage to Hilton, and it would take her years to reveal them.
15. She Used Her Own Daughter
Although Gabor didn’t ask for child support, she did use Francesca as a pawn in other, crueler ways. Gabor kept the girl with her on the set of films and in a series of hotels, but if she ever needed to contact Conrad for anything, she would dangle Francesca in front of him as an excuse to keep the communications open, often dropping into his life for surprise visits long after their split.
16. She Was In A Hostage Situation
Unfortunately, Gabor’s newly single life took a terrifying nose dive almost immediately after Francesca was born. One evening while baby Francesca was sleeping in bed, a burglar broke into Gabor’s house. He then tied up the socialite and her maid, threatening to kill her little girl unless Zsa Zsa told him where her jewelry was.
Not even Zsa Zsa loved baubles more than her daughter, and she gave them up immediately. Whether or not this terror made Gabor think twice about living alone, she did rebound fast.
17. She Got A Revenge Husband
After Gabor finally got free of Conrad Hilton, she threw herself right back into the fire, taking up with the actor George Sanders, a distinguished, upper-class Brit known for playing well-bred villains. His flame with Zsa Zsa, however, was anything but sophisticated. Although he had been married for nearly a decade to another woman, in 1949 he pushed through a divorce and married Gabor instead.
The third time was supposed to be the charm…but Gabor had no such luck.
18. She Became A Screen Siren
To be fair, Gabor started off her nuptials to Sanders with a bang. Although she hadn’t really starred in Hollywood productions before, she now dipped her feet into acting and got work in films like Moulin Rouge within just a few short months. Most of these parts weren’t exactly starring roles, but Zsa Zsa and her adoring fans didn’t care. And the closer she got to the spotlight, the further she got from George Sanders.
19. Her Ex Slept With Her Sister
By 1954, Gabor had enough of Sanders, and the couple divorced. But there was one final, stunning twist. Some years and several wives later, Sanders actually married Zsa Zsa’s older sister Magda. Whether he just missed the good times with his first Gabor or not, this marriage lasted a paltry 32 days, and drove Sanders to the brink of alcoholism. Zsa Zsa always comes out on top.
20. She Was In A Cinema Classic
Zsa Zsa may have shaken herself free of George Sanders, but she hadn’t shaken off the acting bug—and she knew just how to get the most plum roles. In 1958, she snagged a cameo appearance in Orson Welles‘ classic Touch of Evil. How? Well, producer Albert Zugsmith wanted her on set as his special friend. Still, this was Zsa Zsa, so she was on to the next man soon after.
21. She Tried To Settle Down
In 1962, Zsa Zsa married a man named Herbert Hutner—and while wedding bells were a familiar sound to the actress, Hutner was unusual in one way. Namely, he was normal. A private investment banker, he still had healthy coffers (of course), but otherwise led a quiet life. For the first time in her life, Gabor was happy. Which meant it ended horribly.
22. Her Husband Almost “Annihilated” Her
We always let the good ones go, but that goes double for Zsa Zsa Gabor. She and Hutner called it quits by 1966, and looking back on her fourth (yes, fourth) marriage, Gabor admitted that Hutner’s “kindness and generosity” toward her “almost annihilated” her drive to succeed. Instead, she wanted excitement. Oh, and she got it.
23. She Was A Maneater
The next years of Gabor’s life were a blur of failed marriages; by 1986, she tied the knot a whopping four more times, bringing her husband total up to eight. Most of the unions didn’t even last two years. Her marriage to character actor Felipe de Alba, however, lasted just one day—the regretful couple annulled it immediately after signing the papers. Somehow, though, Gabor still had one last scandalous marriage to come.
24. She Married A Prince
In the mid-80s, Gabor married Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, who started out the decade as a regular German businessman named Hans Lichtenberg, but had managed to become a prince in a very weird way. In 1980, Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt adopted Frederic when he was a ripe 36 years old, likely for some kind of monetary gain. If this guy sounds shady, that’s because he was.
25. Her Fairy Tale Was A Lie
Zsa Zsa’s daughter Francesca was immediately on guard about Frederic, and it only got worse as Gabor’s marriage went on. Soon, Francesca accused the “prince” of intentionally limiting her time with her mother and isolating her in general from her other friends. As Francesca once quipped, “My mother wanted to be a princess, so she married an evil queen.”
But well, if we believe Francesca, that was the LEAST of the prince’s control of Zsa Zsa.
26. She Wanted To Have Another Child At 94
During Gabor’s marriage to Frederic, the actress gave a series of incredibly bizarre statements. When she was 94, she even claimed that she wanted to have another child, and wanted a surrogate to carry the baby. No, really. Francesca blamed this circus squarely on Frederic—but Gabor’s beau bit back in a terrifying way.
27. Her Husband Betrayed Her Daughter
Gabor’s relationship with her daughter Francesca Hilton was rocky at the best of times, but it went from fragile to horrific. In 2005, Frederic sued Francesca, claiming she was trying to defraud her mother. There was just one problem. When Frederic brought the papers for Gabor to sign, she refused to sue her own daughter, and the courts kicked the suit out.
Even so, there were sinister changes happening to Gabor.
28. She Was In An Infamous Hollywood Feud
Like many Old Hollywood celebrities, Gabor got into some scandalous feuds, but her spat with starlet Elke Sommer was downright disastrous. The feud began after the two women appeared on the annual television special Circus of the Stars. Reportedly, Sommer made comments about Gabor’s weight: When Sommer watched Gabor mount a horse, she muttered, “Poor horse.” But that was just the warning shot.
29. She Dealt Her Rival A Cruel Insult
As time went on, the feud only got more and more bitter. Eventually, Gabor and her husband Frederic Prinz von Anhalt gave a shocking interview. In it, they insulted Sommer for looking like a balding, “100-year-old grandmother.” Gabor also added that the actress was so poor she “had to sell her house in Hollywood and now lives in the worst section of Los Angeles.” Only, words have consequences…
30. She Had A Perfect Comeback
Eventually, the feud—and this series of colorful comments—landed Gabor and Sommer in libel court in 1992. As it turned out, Gabor’s rival won, and the court awarded Sommer a nice $3.3 million in damages. Gabor’s reply was perfect. Upon hearing the verdict, Gabor immediately announced her intent to appeal, stating bitterly, “I’d rather see her starve to death than give her one single dollar.” Ouch.
Zsa Zsa was in a downward spiral, and she had much further to drop.
31. She Assaulted A Policeman
On June 14, 1989, officer Paul Kramer pulled Gabor over while she was driving a Rolls-Royce in Beverly Hills. Not only was she driving without a license, but there was also an open alcohol container in the car. Oh, but it got so much worse. Instead of admitting any culpability, Gabor slapped Kramer in the face and drove away from the traffic stop. Did she get away with this? Absolutely not.
32. She Went To Jail
No amount of charm or Hollywood pedigree could get Gabor out of this one, especially when law enforcement and the press got a hold of what she’d done. Three months later, a judge convicted Gabor of slapping Kramer. She had to pay a hefty fine and serve three days in jail for her bad behavior. That’s right, in 1990, a 72-year-old Gabor went into the slammer.
33. She Got Into A Horrible Car Crash
Gabor lived an incredibly long life, and she was relatively healthy well into her 80s. However, in 2002, a horrific tragedy struck. Driving on Sunset Boulevard, Gabor crashed while in the passenger seat. She was never the same again: Her injuries partially paralyzed her, and she needed a wheelchair to get around. And when it rains, it pours.
34. Her Body Fell Apart
After her car accident in 2002, Gabor suffered multiple strokes, and very nearly lost her life between 2010 and 2011, when she underwent various emergency surgeries. One of the riskiest ones was an amputation of her right leg above the knee after an infection ravaged her body. Still, that’s just the physical issues. She also had darker personal problems…
35. She Lost Her Daughter
Tragically, Gabor actually outlived her only child. Francesca Hilton died on January 5th, 2015 at the age of 67 after suffering a massive stroke. Even sadder, at this point Francesca had been living out of her car, having received almost nothing in her inheritance after her millionaire father Conrad Hilton died. As for Zsa Zsa’s reaction to the news? This is where it goes from tragic to heartbreaking.
36. Her Husband Kept Something Crucial From Her
Incredibly, Gabor’s ninth and final husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, didn’t tell Zsa Zsa about her daughter Francesca’s death. He claimed that since Gabor was in such a fragile physical and mental state, he feared the knowledge would destroy her. She never did find out the truth; when the time came, Gabor died never knowing that her daughter was dead.
37. She Had A Famous Habit
Gabor became famous during her lifetime for calling everyone “darling,” which her Hungarian accent turned into the drawling “dah-ling.” But there was a little-known reason for this. Gabor wasn’t just keeping up her elegant socialite persona. During one of her many TV interviews, she admitted that she called everyone “dah-ling” because it was much easier than actually remembering people’s names.
38. She Knew How To Tell A Joke
Gabor was famous for her razor-sharp wit, penchant for one-liners, and self-deprecating humor. On one occasion, when talking about her notorious love life, she quipped, “A girl must marry for love and keep on marrying until she finds it.” In a reference to her many divorces, she later joked, “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house!”
39. She Had A McMansion
In 1970, still wanting the best luxuries money could buy, Gabor bought a vast Bel-Air mansion done in the classic Hollywood Regency Style. However, this was no run-of-the-mill mansion. Howard Hughes had originally constructed the building, and none other than Elvis Presley once lived in it. In short, it was a palace fit for Zsa Zsa.
40. She Was An Original Real Housewife
Despite her film roles, Gabor’s most consistent career was in reality television and talk shows, leading many to hail her as the original Kardashian. Among the many TV personalities with whom Gabor interacted were Joan Rivers, Johnny Carson, and even Howard Stern, the original shock jock himself. We can only imagine Zsa Zsa approved.
41. She Turned Down A Major Role
Believe it or not, Gabor did sometimes say no. In 1949, producers offered her the chance to star in the film adaptation of the book Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel infamous for several steamy and very explicit intimate scenes. Despite her obvious experience with men and her scandalous persona, Gabor refused to court controversy this one time and turned the role down.
42. She Almost Became A Superstar
Even though Zsa Zsa didn’t often star in films and generally just traded on her glamorous personality, things could have been much different. Gabor was one of the final choices to play the role of Miss Casswell in the 1950 classic All About Eve, but she lost out to Marilyn Monroe for the part. If you have to lose to someone, I guess it doesn’t hurt to lose to Marilyn Monroe.
43. She Was A True Diva
In 1986, Gabor was going to make one of her frequent appearances on The New Hollywood Squares to lend the show her signature wit and charm. That night, though, producers had to delay the taping a lengthy 45 minutes. The emergency that caused the delay? The great Miss Gabor had broken her fingernail and needed the time to compose herself. Legendary.
44. She Was A Modern Royal Mistress
Today, Gabor has a reputation as a maneater—and that’s exactly what she was. She took inspiration for her bad bedroom deeds from an unusual source: royal mistresses of old. Gabor claimed she wanted to be “all the Pompadours and Du Barrys of history rolled into one.” Or, as she put it elsewhere, “Men have always liked me and I have always liked men.”
45. She Was A Polyglot
Say what you will about Gabor’s career or her romantic life, but she was an extremely formidable woman. In fact, she had a prodigious gift for languages. Aside from her native Hungarian tongue, Gabor also spoke English, Italian, German, and French. Of course, these skills are also very useful when wining and dining with handsome, rich European men.
46. She Was Best At Playing Herself
Because her celebrity eventually eclipsed her acting career, Gabor frequently played herself in films or television shows rather than any fictional character. Examples of this include The Beverly Hillbillies, The Naked Gun ½: The Smell of Fear, A Very Brady Sequel, and Smart Alec. Who needs fiction when you’re Zsa Zsa freaking Gabor?
47. Her Name Has A Little-Known Origin
So where did Zsa Zsa get her iconic name from? We can’t be sure, but in her feature film debut Lovely to Look at, Gabor plays a character named “Zsa Zsa.” The jury’s out on whether she took her stage name from this character or vice versa.
48. She Died With A Whimper
On December 18, 2016, the ailing Zsa Zsa Gabor passed from cardiac arrest. Only, that’s not the whole story. The press reported her passing in mournful tones, but very few people knew the truth: Gabor was in a coma and on life support for a full five years before passing just 50 days away from her 100th birthday. Still, once she did go, she went in style.
49. She Had A Last Wish
Although von Anhalt buried Gabor’s ashes shortly after her passing in a Los Angeles cemetery, this wasn’t her final resting place. Before passing, Gabor said she wanted to move back to Hungary to live out her final days, but she never got the chance to do it. So, five years later, in the summer of 2021, her surviving spouse von Anhalt came up with a genius send-off.
50. She Went Out With Style
Five years after her death, von Anhalt paid tribute to Gabor in the most Zsa Zsa way possible. He bought a first-class seat for most of Gabor’s ashes and flew them to Budapest. Only, a first-class seat wasn’t enough; Gabor also got all the luxuries. As von Anhalt said, “She was first class, she had her own seat and she had her passport, everything there. It was her last trip, she always used to go first class. She had her Champagne, caviar.”
51. Her Husband Tested Her
Just in case you thought that Gabor’s marriage to Conrad Hilton wasn’t icky enough, hold onto your hats for these next few facts. As it turns out, their relationship didn’t even start out well. When Gabor first met Hilton, Conrad might have been in lust with the voluptuous starlet, but he also had his suspicions about her interest in his money. In response, he came up with a now-notorious test…
52. She Got An Ultimatum
Since Hilton thought Gabor was only into him for his money, he took it upon himself one night to present his prospective bride with two jewelry boxes. In one box was a gaudy, absolutely massive ring fit for a queen. In the other, however, was a smaller yet more tasteful piece of jewelry. Looking at them, Gabor made a split-second choice.
53. She Made The Smart Choice
Zsa Zsa Gabor may have been a gold digger, but she was a darn smart one. Instead of reaching for the ring she really wanted in the enormous diamond, she picked the smaller one she knew Hilton was hoping she would go for. With this test passed, Hilton went forward with his courtship of the socialite, for better or (as it happened) for worse.
54. She Revealed Her Darkest Secret
In 1991, Gabor released her autobiography, One Lifetime is Not Enough. As you might imagine, some of the claims in the book are incredibly scandalous, but one is the most harrowing revelation of all. In one chapter, Gabor confessed that she conceived her only daughter Francesca after Conrad Hilton forced himself on her during their marriage. Then again, she got a perfect revenge.
55. She Slept With Her Stepson
Gabor still had time for scandal during her union with Conrad Hilton, and one day, she got back at him for all the pain he caused. In the same memoir, Gabor also claims that, while married to Hilton, she had an affair with his eldest son Nicky, who was not only her stepson at the time but was also nearly a decade younger than her.