Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why Zsa Zsa is Not Paris

I've always felt a certain loyalty to Zsa Zsa Gabor, mainly because she and my grandparents both emigrated from Hungary, and her accent, aside from the "dahlings" that she sprinkled liberally over her conversation, was reminiscent of the accents of my Hungarian relatives. Zsa Zsa and her sisters Eva and Magda were quite a force in Hollywood for a while. Zsa Zsa has the biggest filmography, and worked steadily; Eva is most famous for being "Mrs. Douglas" in the show Green Acres. Magda didn't act, but was often on TV talk shows, merely introduced as "one of the Gabor sisters." And so the Gabors have been defined as women who were "famous for being famous." (Magda and Eva have both died).

Zsa Zsa parallels Paris Hilton in some ways. Both were famous for no particular reason, and people both love and hate them for their ostentatious wealth, their excesses, their beauty. Both have served time in jail; Zsa Zsa famously slapped a policeman back in 1989. Both women have had very public and plentiful love affairs. Zsa Zsa had a head start, and has racked up nine husbands; she is still married to the ninth, although he is openly unfaithful to her.

I suppose we can look at them and say that they are the worst sort of social evil, people playing with their wealth and fame while others starve and die. But, for all her sins, or perhaps because of them, Zsa Zsa is a Hollywood legend, and somehow I want better for her than to be in a wheelchair, carted to court because her husband is accusing her only daughter, Francesca, of "elder abuse." Francesca, in turn, is accusing him, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, of abusing her, as well. Poor Zsa Zsa. Even the mighty fall, and Paris, too, like all of us, will one day have to address her frail humanity.

Despite the parallels, I see some differences between the two women. Zsa Zsa's legend, for whatever reason, has lasted; I doubt that Paris's will. Zsa Zsa's was invested with a glamour that Paris' generation simply cannot achieve. And though Zsa Zsa did not come from a poor background, she did come from a place of revolution; she also lost family members in the Holocaust, which means that she understood pain and suffering, and perhaps that explains why she was so grasping.

In the final assessment, I might be defending Zsa Zsa out of nostalgia, or because I find her current state sad. She is said to be different, more quiet and withdrawn, since her sisters have died. Together they were a force, but Zsa Zsa alone has lost some sparkle, and she is almost ninety years old.

Still, I know that Zsa Zsa spirit is still there; I hope her life isn't as bad as it seems.


Anonymous said...

being 100% magyar born in hungary in the 50s came to canada with my parents in 1956 i have strong hungarian values and can relate to zsa zsa gabor and paris hilton as my family name is nemeth i can relate to joe namath who changed his spelling my family including myself all have strong sports background and our facial features are the same

Julia Buckley said...


Great to hear from you! My grandfather was a Joe Namath fan and always reminded us that he was Hungarian. :)

Jeff said...

One thing that will always make Zsa Zsa cooler than Paris is that her name is Zsa Zsa!!!!!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great posting, Julia. I remember as a child how the Gabor sisters lit up the tube everytime one of them was on TV. And how exciting it was to read about them.

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Sue Ann. I'm guessing we're from the same generation, then. The good old days, right?