Zsa Zsa Gabor, a Hungarian-born socialite who was one of the first celebrities famous for being famous, died of a heart attack on Sunday. She was 99, and had been in poor health since falling and breaking her hip in 2010. "We tried everything, but her heart just stopped and that was it," said husband Frederic von Anhalt. "Even the ambulance tried very hard to get her back, but there was no way." Gabor had been partly paralyzed since a 2002 car accident, suffered a stroke in 2005, and had most of her right leg amputated in 2011 due to gangrene.
Born Sari Gabor in Budapest in 1917, Zsa Zsa (a family nickname) was the second of three sisters, all of whom became famous; Eva, who starred in the TV show Green Acres, died in 1995, and sister Magda died in 1997. Zsa Zsa married and divorced Turkish diplomat Turhan Belge, the first of her eight husbands (nine counting a very brief, maybe never legal 1982 shipboard marriage), while still in Hungary. After emigrating to the U.S. around World War II with her mother and sisters, Gabor gained fame in 1942 by marrying millionaire hotelier Conrad Hilton, with whom she had her only child, Francesca Hilton, who died in 2015. Her other husbands included actor George Sanders, businessman Herbert L. Hutner, and prolific inventor Jack Ryan.
Gabor played minor roles in movies and TV shows, but she was mostly famous for being herself, a wealthy, quick-witted socialite who was not afraid to be in on the joke. "The great aunt of Paris Hilton and a spiritual matriarch to the Kardashians and other tabloid favorites, she was the original hall-of-mirrors celebrity, famous for being famous for being famous," says The Associated Press. You can get a taste of her buoyant self-deprecation in this Late Show video from 1994, in which David Letterman and Gabor drive around Los Angeles eating fast food:
For more on Zsa Zsa through the ages, you can watch this brief AP remembrance. Peter Weber