LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose 60-year career of playing herself helped paved the way for today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, has died, her publicist told Variety. She was 99.
Gabor passed away at her home Sunday afternoon, publicist Ed Lozzi told CBSLA.
The best known of three Hungarian sisters, she charmed television talk show audiences from the 1950s onward with her fractured English and somewhat risque jokes. She was married nine times, a subject that was often at the center of her humorous lines.
It wasn’t all fun and games — her 1989 assault conviction for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer made headlines — but she and the talk shows she frequented found a way to make light of that.
When reporters asked if she was prepared for a long trial, she said: “I have enough outfits to last a year,” the Los Angeles Times recalls.
She spent three days in jail for the incident.
Gabor’s catchphrase was a Hungarian-accented version of “dahling,” a term of endearment that entered the vernacular of mid-20th century America.
She took her first husband when she was 20 in 1937. She attracted the attention of nine husbands including hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and Oscar winning actor George Sanders.
Her first seven marriages ended in divorce. Her marriage to her eighth husband, Mexican attorney Felipe de Alba, was annulled, reportedly because her previous marriage was not properly ended.
She attended Swiss boarding schools and competed in the 1936 Miss Hungary pageant but was disqualified because, her mother wrote in a memoir, she was under age.
A talk-show staple, Gabor regularly appeared on “The Merv Griffin Show” during the 1960s and 1970s. She also often appeared as herself on the screen, including a memorable role in the 1991 film “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.”
She faced failing health in recent years. In July 2010, her husband Prince Frederic von Anhalt told ET Online that she was having a feeding tube inserted so she can get the nutrients she needs. Gabor broke her hip earlier that month when she tumbled out of bed while watching television, trying to answer a telephone at her Bel-Air home.
Gabor has rarely been seen in public since she was partially paralyzed in a 2002 car accident. She also suffered a stroke in 2005.
She was the last surviving of her sisters. Younger sister Eva, who found fame on “Green Acres,” died in 1995, while older sister Magda was married five times but largely stayed out of the limelight before her 1997 death.
Zsa Zsa had her only child, a daughter, with Hilton. Her daughter died last year.