The scandal seems just too good to ignore.
One sister has a series of love affairs and a much-discussed pregnancy. Another sister’s relationships are shaky, while a third battles a secret past, and Mama hovers over it all with her 2- cents worth. The Kardashians? Nooope. Read the new book “Finding Zsa Zsa” by Sam Staggs, and take your thoughts back a few more decades.
Remember the Gabor sisters?
While most people would recall Magda, Zsa Zsa and Eva as being constantly swathed in furs and gems, that was only part of a story of conflicts to explain lives of construct, as Staggs shows. The truth, maybe, is that the sisters were not-so-rich at times. They were famously Hungarian but also claimed Mongolian heritage, Gypsy forebears and Russian blood. They were Jewish, but probably Catholic.
As children, the girls were fiercely loved, raised to be resourceful, and given lessons in the arts; the two eldest, Magda and Sári (later known as Zsa Zsa), were educated at private schools because their mother wanted them to have social skills and fluency in other languages. Though neither Magda nor Zsa Zsa had overly-fond memories of boarding school, being there had to have been of some relief, since their parents fought constantly.
And so did the sisters, through the years: Zsa Zsa alone had nine marriages and one child; her sisters were also serial brides, and one of them may have been bisexual. Not only did they fight with the men in their lives (battles sometimes facilitated by Jolie), there was fierce rivalry between them as well, often because of their careers.
Relationships aside, the Gabors had other troubles: Zsa Zsa and Eva were in America when World War II broke out, while the rest of the family was left in the path of the Nazis; Magda worked for the underground during the war and was in constant danger, but rarely spoke of it, years later. There were broken hearts and illnesses; fading opportunities; dementia touched them; and in the end, the family was ripped completely apart…
One thing’s for sure: “Finding Zsa Zsa” is a little too much.
It opens with author Sam Staggs’ opinion on the five most important days in the Gabors’ lives, then jumps into a genealogy that feels as though it’s been put in a blender and poured on paper. Happily, the storytelling gets better and easier to grasp; once we’re into the raison d’être for the book, it’s readable, humorous and even exciting, although it can occasionally feel tabloid-like and peripheral details sometimes upstage the show. Staggs also claims that “Green Acres” predicted the rise of Donald Trump, and he likens the show to Dadaism, both claims that may leave readers scratching their heads.
Still, this isn’t a terrible book; it’s just not for everyone. Its audience is likely patient and older, or obsessed with Old Hollywood, though even fans of Eva Gabor’s most famous role may be sometimes befuddled here. And yet, if you remember the sisters well, “Finding Zsa Zsa” may be just too good to ignore.