Since she first came into public view 42 years ago in Budapest as the ravishing runner-up in the Miss Hungary contest, Zsa Zsa Gabor has married and divorced Burhan Beige (1940-41), a Turkish diplomat; Conrad Hilton (1942-48), the millionaire maître d’hôtels; George Sanders (1949-54), the parsimonious actor who used Hilton’s wedding ring to solemnize their marriage ceremony; Herbert Hutner (1964-66), a Beverly Hills investor who sent her two dozen roses every half hour on her birthdays, and Joshua Cosden Jr. (1966-67), a Texas socialite who was discarded after nineteen months. Between and during her marriages there have been scores of romantic encounters with men like Henry Kissinger, Rafael Trujillo and, most notably, Porfirio Rubirosa, the late Dominican playboy. According to Zsa Zsa, he was “the only man who really satisfied me in bed, present company excluded, because that was his profession, how to make love.”
Present company is 48-year-old Jack Ryan (1975-??), Zsa Zsa’s sixth mate who, unlike all of the marrying Magyar’s previous husbands, is younger than the bride. (It is true that Zsa Zsa listed her age as 46 on their marriage license last January, but she must have fibbed, for otherwise she would have been Miss Hungary runner-up at 4 and Mme. Beige at 11.)
Ryan is no mere marital statistic: a Yale graduate, electronics engineer and inventor, he helped develop the government’s Hawk and Sparrow III missile systems and a precursor of the transistor radio. His greatest claim to fame, however, is the Barbie doll, which he invented during his 18 years with Mattel, Inc. He also fathered Chatty Cathy and the company’s other talking toys, during which time he got rich.
Ten years ago, Ryan decided to make up for all the fun and games he had missed during his years in the lab. He bought the five-acre, 18-bathroom, seven-kitchen estate of silent actor Warner Baxter on a hilltop in ritzy Bel Air and transformed it into a pleasure pad that was Hugh Hefner out of Kubla Khan. Guests ate lavish meals without benefit of utensils in the tapestry-laden Tom Jones Room. By dialing certain combinations of numbers on the 150 telephones in the house, Ryan could activate a waterfall, illuminate the tennis court, close the front gate, turn on the stereo system or order caviar for eight in a sumptuous tree house with a crystal chandelier and a panoramic view of Los Angeles.
Ryan hired a press agent to ballyhoo the 182 parties he gave in a single year, peopled with jugglers, fortune tellers, handwriting analysts, calypso musicians, go-go dancers, rhyming minstrels, harpsichordists and faceless guests he hardly knew and rarely met. Hordes of starlets and actors bounced drunkenly on an outdoor trampoline and offered martinis to the ducks, geese and the Shetland pony belonging to Ryan’s young daughters. While his estranged (subsequently divorced) wife slept in a separate wing of the main house, Ryan cuddled under a wolfhound fur coverlet in the mirrored guest room with a variety of girlfriends.
Ryan first encountered Zsa Zsa eight years ago, when she lived just three doors away, at a dinner party he gave for neighbors. She was enchanted with the talking toy lions used as centerpieces on the dining tables. At Christmas, Ryan gave her two life-sized marble lions to guard the entrance to her new, one-bedroom house. When their golden collars are pulled, they growl, “Grrr…I’m a friendly lion…I love children…Grrr…I’ll protect you…Ooh, I just scared myself!”
Last winter friendship ripened into love, and love into a two-month courtship. Ryan moved in with Zsa Zsa and her menagerie of seven Shi Tzu dogs. “Not once did we really go out during those two months,” the aging beauty confessed. “And usually that is the biggest pastime for me. I love to put on diamonds and beautiful evening gowns and make my girl-friends upset. It’s a wonderful feeling.” Instead, she cooked Transylvanian goulash, served up with sausage and sauerkraut, which they ate on a living room coffee table.
“The food was a little heavy,” Ryan recalled. “Nonsense,” Zsa Zsa replied. “Every boyfriend who ever ate it here loved it. It’s the world’s greatest. I only cook when I’m in love.”
Ryan’s mother and brother now occupy his Bel Air home, along with a half-dozen UCLA students who keep house in exchange for room and board.
As a wedding gift, Ryan gave Zsa Zsa a $48,000 Rolls-Royce. He is now supervising the construction of a miniature bistro on the roof of her little house. It will be called the Moulin Rouge, after Zsa Zsa’s most memorable film, and will be highlighted by a transparent dome, illuminated by lights bouncing off silvered facets in the shape of a giant diamond.
As they sat together on a sofa, holding hands, Zsa Zsa and Ryan fondled Cho Cho San, a Shi Tzu puppy that wriggled between them. Why had he married again? Ryan shrugged. “There’s only one Zsa Zsa. She’s led a very, very interesting life.”
“All the famous, beautiful women—like Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth—we can have almost any man, at least in bed,” Zsa Zsa observed. “But that’s not what we really want. The feather in your cap is to get a man you love who’ll marry you.” Suddenly her strident Hungarian voice filled the room. “Don’t do that, pig!” she shouted, pushing the little dog to the floor. Cho Cho San had wet the couch.