WARDROBE, JEWELRY, MEMENTOS REFLECT GLAMOROUS LIFESTYLE OF HOLLYWOOD LEGEND
Zsa Zsa was the most popular and accomplished of the Gabor sisters, the “Bombshells from Budapest” who arrived in Hollywood at the height of Tinseltown’s reputation for international glamour and romance.
“Among her many self-defining quotes,” People magazine reported upon her death in 2016, “Zsa Zsa – whose Bel Air-home was … built by Howard Hughes – once adamantly insisted: ‘I am not a name-dropper. I can’t help it if everybody I know is famous.’”
Gabor left Hungary for the United States in 1941, gaining fame for her charm and grace. One of her finest film roles came early in her career when she portrayed Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s model in 1952’s Moulin Rouge. In directing her, the Los Angeles Times reported, John Huston reportedly said, “Zsa Zsa, forget about acting. Just make love to the camera.”
Outside her acting career, Gabor was known for her extravagant Hollywood lifestyle, her glamorous personality and her many marriages. When she passed away, she left behind an expansive mansion filled with personal items, being offered by Heritage Auctions on April 14 in Beverly Hills.
“There are more than 425 lots, ranging from designer clothes, costume jewelry, and 18th and 19th century French furniture to decorative arts, fine arts and silver,” says Carolyn Mani, West Coast director of Heritage Auctions’ Trust & Estates department. Among the treasures is a gilded Steinway piano previously owned by Gabor’s third husband, actor George Sanders. “They painted it gold after he won the Academy Award in 1951 for All About Eve and she got possession of it again after he passed away.”
And, of course, there was the wardrobe. Gabor needed several rooms to hold more than six decades of outfits, including the checked shirt with a pussycat bow she wore at her 1989 trial for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer who had pulled her over for a traffic violation.
“Every so often, she’d still put [her outfits] on in the house, just lie in bed and watch television and then take them off again,” Gabor’s widower, Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, tells The Wall Street Journal. “She had a handbag for every day. Elizabeth Taylor took her shopping in Paris and they bought everything they could buy.”
“Zsa Zsa,” adds Mani, “had a small mountain of monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage that she traveled the world with.”
A carved mahogany chaise lounge sofa and the Oscar de la Renta gown Gabor wore to a White House dinner with President Ronald Reagan are among the offerings.
In addition to that luggage, the auction includes pieces by Chanel, Dior, Valentino and James Galanos. Several of her Hermès handbags also are being offered. “We want to focus on the things that her fans will find most interesting,” Mani says. “For example, I found a two-handled silver horse trophy from 1907 that belonged to Reginald Vanderbilt, who was Gloria Vanderbilt’s father. It was hidden in the bar, then all of a sudden here’s this fabulous sterling trophy.”
More personal items include portraits by Hungarian artist Pál Fried and a sketchpad Gabor used while on trial for the 1989 incident. “The pad is filled with drawings of people in the courtroom, including that police officer,” Mani says.
Women’s Wear Daily reports that in spite of Gabor’s expensive taste (she once quipped, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and dogs are a man’s best friend – now you know which sex has more sense”), the auction will have something for everyone.
Gabor married Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt in 1986, and they remained married until her death in 2016.
This story appears in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.