Some people are just born victims. Take Zsa Zsa Gabor. “People are always picking on me,” says Gabor, sitting regally in the living room of her $15 million Bel Air home, smoothing her pink chiffon pants. Take last June 14. There she was, tooling down Beverly Hills’ La Cienega Boulevard in her convertible Rolls-Royce Corniche, when up pops a cop on a motorcycle telling her to pull over. Something about expired registration tags. Zsa Zsa did as she was bid—she has been stopped by policemen before. “Usually they say, ‘Zsa Zsa, what’s the matter, are you married these days, do you want to marry me?’ ” says Gabor. Not this guy. Without so much as a sociable “I loved your Pee-wee Herman special,” Officer Paul Kramer ordered an up-close of her license. Well!
Gabor fished it out of her glove compartment, but as it turned out, it had expired. A bad start. One thing led to another, most of which are in dispute, but it seems safe to say that after the two exchanged unpleasantries and had a little road chase, Kramer told Zsa Zsa to get out of her $110,000 coupé. When she did, she slapped him across the face, knocking his regulation sunglasses to the ground. That did it. Kramer arrested Gabor and called for backup to take her to the station. He handcuffed her so tightly, she claimed, she had to cancel a charity appearance because her wrists were an unsightly black and blue. Despite the two broken fingernails—never recovered—she got up the pluck to host a dinner for 36 a few days later. A sheer act of will.
The bruises may be gone, but the skirmish isn’t over yet. This Monday, Gabor squares off with Kramer again—this time in a Beverly Hills municipal courtroom. In The People of the State of California vs. Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Hungarian-born defendant, 70ish, is charged with five offenses: battery upon an officer, disobeying an officer, driving without registration, driving without a license and having an open container of alcohol. (That silver flask of bourbon in the glove compartment belongs to her eighth and current husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, of West Germany. “Sometimes I use it to sweeten my Diet Pepsi,” he explains.)
Zsa Zsa admits that the license was outdated. As for the registration, not only had she paid it (“It gives me a heart attack to write the check”), she had overpaid it, causing a bureaucratic bungle that left her with outdated tags. Of all the luck.
And that disobedience charge is just the result of a cultural misunderstanding. While Kramer was running her license by the folks back at HQ and finding out that her registration had expired too, Zsa Zsa got antsy. After 12 minutes, according to the police report, she shouted, “You are an a——. I’m leaving,” and sped off. According to Gabor, she asked what was taking so long, Kramer told her to “[Bleep] off,” and Zsa Zsa took him literally. “On my word of honor, I thought he meant I should go,” she says. “That’s what they say in London, and that’s where I was raised.”
Zsa Zsa has always had a remarkable knack for self-defense, and what a handy skill it has been. Last January she was removed from a Delta Airlines flight for letting her Shih Tzu loose in the first-class cabin. “He was in a Louis Vuitton carrying case the whole time,” Zsa Zsa maintains. “My dear, the stewardess hated me.” Months before that, she threw entertainment reporter Claudia Cohen (wife of megabucks Revlon chief Ron Perelman) out of the Regis Philbin Show dressing room and marched on-camera calling Cohen a bitch in front of millions of viewers. “I had no idea the cameras were on,” demurs Gabor. In 1982 she made headlines for demanding that a row of handicapped people be moved to the back of a Philadelphia theater where she was performing. It was an usher, she says, who moved what she calls the “paraleptics. The theater owner, a terrible man, wanted me to take the rap.” Victimized again.
Or is it just that Zsa Zsa’s behavior can be a tad, well, strange? Last summer author Jim Bacon was three months into an authorized biography of Gabor when her agent, Al Lowman, said that she wanted the story told through the eyes of her dogs. “In that case,” said Bacon, “I’ll bow-wow out.” Not that Zsa Zsa is without her supporters. Take S.P.A.A.Z.Z., an Orlando, Fla.-based group of six friends who decided to form the Society for the Prevention of Anything Against Zsa Zsa as a protest against her recent traffic arrest. “We’re trying hard to stop the senseless Zsa Zsa bashing that is going on,” declares S.P.A.A.Z.Z. president Paul Spread-bury, who has sold 70 FREE ZSA ZSA, DAHLING kits—including a T-shirt, bumper sticker and banner—for $19.95.
“I like her as a person and think she’s a good lady,” says Larry King, who recently had Gabor on his TV show, “but we all have to get a little older, and Zsa Zsa refuses to see that. Poodles on leashes being walked by doormen is yesterday. I guess it must be very hard on her.”
Zsa Zsa does keep herself busy. “I am a businesswoman,” she says, which is not to be confused with a Beverly Hills bistro-going luncheonaire. “All those [women] do is talk about each other, badly: who had a face-lift, who has a lover, who is too fat, whose dress is not as expensive as Ivana Trump’s. I don’t like that.” Gabor swears that she never had a face-lift. Okay. One chin tuck. “I have no time to think about wrinkles and all those idiotic things,” she says. Except maybe when she’s endorsing her Zsa Zsa mail order face cream. Or her line of Zsa Zsa jewelry that stars a $39 knockoff of one of her own rings and may eventually include a whole “Royal Collection” of Zsa Zsa jewels.
At the moment, Zsa Zsa’s planning a dinner for Barry Humphries, the Australian comedian. “He’s not gay but he wears women’s clothing [onstage],” she explains. The big question is, should Liz Taylor be invited? “She’s such an unfriendly person sometimes,” Zsa Zsa says. And once, Zsa Zsa was disinvited, believe it or not, from a party in Palm Beach because Liz “didn’t want the competition.” No wonder. “Did you see the pictures of her at Malcolm Forbes’s party?” asks Gabor. “At the age of 57, she doesn’t have to be this old-looking.” Liz is off the list.
Zsa Zsa simply doesn’t get old. In fact, she often gets younger. The driver’s license she gave to Officer Kramer had been physically altered to change her birthdate from 6/6/23 (already suspect) to 2/6/28. “You can say I’m full of s—, but don’t say I’m old,” she says.
Zsa Zsa’s traffic court appearance is just one more trial to bear. Slapping Officer Kramer was an intuitive kind of thing. Although he claims that Gabor said, “You are an a——-, you are a f—er,” when he told her to get out of the car, she says he said, “Get out, you f—,” and grabbed her wrist. “It was like Nazi Germany,” says Zsa Zsa. “They killed half of the gorgeous girls. You should have seen the hatred in his eyes.” So she slapped him. “This is a woman’s reaction,” she says. “I admit I have a Hungarian temper. Why not? I am from Hungary. We are descendants of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.” The defense rests.
—Margot Dougherty, David Marlow, Robin Micheli and tee Wohlfert in Los Angeles