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Zsa Zsa Gabor, Actress and Glamour Icon, Dead at 99

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Zsa Zsa Gabor, Actress and Glamour Icon, Dead at 99

Zsa Zsa Gabor died on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 99. The cause was heart failure, her longtime publicist Edward Lozzi said. Ms. Gabor is survived by her husband, Mr. Prinz von Anhalt.

Born Sari Gabor in Budapest in 1917, Gabor always gave a birth date of Feb. 6 or 7, but not the year. Her publicist confirmed on Sunday that it was 1917. Ms. Gabor grew up in relative prosperity, the second of three daughters of Vilmos and Jolie Gabor. Raised for stardom, the sisters attended private schools and were chauffeured to acting, dancing, music and fencing classes.

On the eve of World War II, Ms. Gabor, her mother, and her sisters emigrated to the United States, and by the 1950s the Gabor sisters had become as well known for their love lives as for their careers.

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Zsa Zsa Gabor and her two sisters, Magda and Eva

Magda, who acted on radio briefly and helped her mother operate a chain of jewelry boutiques, died in 1997, as did her mother. Eva, who was best known for her role on television’s “Green Acres” in the 1960s, and whom the public sometimes confused with Zsa Zsa, died in 1995.

Zsa Zsa, who divorced seven of her eight husbands, was first married to Burhan Belge, a Turkish diplomat in Budapest, from 1937 to 1941. Her second marriage, to Mr. Hilton, lasted from 1942 to 1947. Their daughter, Francesca Hilton, an actress, was Ms. Gabor’s only child. She died in 2015.

Her other marriages were to Mr. Sanders (1949-54), who later married Magda Gabor; the investor-industrialist Herbert L. Hutner (1962-66); the oil magnate Joshua S. Cosden Jr. (1966-67); Jack Ryan, an inventor and toy designer who helped create the Barbie doll (1975-76); Michael O’Hara, a lawyer (1976-82); and Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, whom she married in 1986.

Mr. Prinz von Anhalt, often described in the news media as a prince or the Duke of Saxony, was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg, the son of a police officer in Germany. He changed his name to include what sounded like a title after Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, the Duchess of Saxony, adopted him in 1980 as an adult. The adoption, widely reported to have been a business transaction, conferred only an illusion of nobility, reinforced by the name change.

“A girl must marry for love, and keep on marrying until she finds it.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

She was arrested in 1989 for slapping a police officer who had pulled her over for a traffic violation and found that her license had expired and that she had an open vodka bottle in her car, a Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible. The judge gave her 72 hours in jail.

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Gabor in court for assaulting a police officer

During the trial, Zsa Zsa Gabor expressed severely homophobic views claiming that the officer she assaulted only arrested her because he was a gay man. She said, “Don’t you know, a gay would not like a woman like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Why would he? I marry all the men he would want to have.”

She also reportedly said that she feared being sent to prison because the lesbians there would pose a threat to her. Morris Kight, one of the founders of the modern Gay Rights movement, called out Gabor on her homophobic words back in 1989 saying, “Yes, there are lesbians in custody, along with unknown numbers of non-gay women. They have troubles enough with survival, and search for justice under day-to-day conditions, without Ms. Gabor trying to worsen their situation.”

Ms. Gabor appeared in more than 60 television movies and feature films, though critics said her best roles were early in her career, in “Moulin Rouge” (1952) and “Lili” (1953). She also appeared as a nightclub manager in Orson Welles’s 1958 classic “Touch of Evil” and, the same year, as a sexy alien in “Queen of Outer Space,” a camp favorite about virile American astronauts landing on a planet populated by scantily clad women.

From the 1950s into the ’90s, she was also on scores of television programs: talk shows, game shows, comedy specials, westerns, episodic dramas. On the 1960s series “Batman,” she played the gold-digging Minerva, whose mineral spa fleeced swells by extracting secrets from their brains. “A real vicked voman,” she described the character in her Hungarian accent.

Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1959

In addition to her steady appearances in movies and on television, Ms. Gabor operated a mail-order cosmetics company. She once offered $1 million to anyone who could prove she had had a face-lift. Her clothes closet measured 30 feet long, 12 feet deep, and 14 feet high. It contained 5,000 garments which were given to charities and replaced with a new wardrobe from time to time. All except her personal favorites, of course, Dahlink.

In early 2009, Ms. Gabor discovered that she had joined a long list of celebrities who were victimized by Bernard L. Madoff, the financial swindler whose worldwide Ponzi scheme that cost investors tens of billions. Her lawyer Chris Fields said she lost at least $7 million and possibly as much as $10 million.

Zsa Zsa Gabor had been in and out of hospitals for years. She suffered head and other injuries and was hospitalized for a month in 2002 after a car driven by her hairdresser struck a utility pole. The accident confined her to a wheelchair causing her to retreat from the spotlight. Later, in 2005 she suffered a stroke and had surgery for a blocked carotid artery. In 2007, she again underwent surgery to treat a leg infection and after effects of the stroke. In July 2010, she underwent hip-replacement surgery after a fall at her home in which she also suffered a concussion. Released from the hospital in August, she was readmitted two days later for treatment of unspecified complications. In January 2011, her right leg was amputated above the knee after an infection proved resistant to antibiotics. Doctors said the operation was necessary to save her life.

Two months later, shock over the death of her friend Elizabeth Taylor sent her to the hospital with high blood pressure, and Ms. Gabor’s publicist, John Blanchette, quoted her as saying she feared she was next. In November 2011, she had emergency surgery after blood began flowing through a feeding tube inserted in her stomach.