Zsa Zsa Gabor forced to sell $28-million Bel-Air home to pay medical bills, debt, husband says
Medical bills, meager savings and crushing debt have pushed the husband of ailing actress Zsa Zsa Gabor to put their Bel-Air mansion on the market for $28 million, he said Tuesday.
Frederic Prinz von Anhalt said he made the decision Saturday when Gabor returned home from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after having most of her right leg amputated.
"I just want to settle my wife's debts and keep her comfortable," von Anhalt said Tuesday during a tour of the home he gave to the news media. "The upkeep alone per month on the house is $35,000. It gives me a big headache, and I cannot afford to keep paying it."
Gabor, 93, has no health insurance besides Medicare, bringing her monthly medical bills to $21,000, he said.
"She partied with the rich and famous, flirted and sometimes got married," von Anhalt said. "She did not think of the future."
Von Anhalt described his wife's condition as "not very good." Although her leg is healing, Gabor is suffering from mucus in her lungs, liver problems and sporadic fevers, and she cannot talk or recognize her surroundings, he said. The "Moulin Rouge" star will likely never recover enough to get into a wheelchair.
Clad in a natty wool jacket, alligator loafers and gold jewelry, Gabor's ninth and longest-lasting husband gave a tour of the spacious 28-room, 12,000-square-foot mansion built by Howard Hughes and once inhabited by Elvis Presley.
In the pastel-colored living room dotted with oil paintings of a younger Gabor smiling regally, von Anhalt pointed to an olive satin canopy bed Gabor prizes as the site of "all her love affairs, starting with [John F.] Kennedy."
"I joked with her that for each lover you put a pillow down, but do you know which pillow is for which lover?" von Anhalt said, shaking his head at his wife's legendary romantic exploits. "She would not want me to sell it."
Also not for sale is the mirrored dining room table that has been the site of many a dinner party graced by political and Hollywood elites: Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Henry Kissinger, Elizabeth Taylor and both former Presidents Bush, he said.
Von Anhalt said he has already been inundated with calls from interested buyers, many from China and Russia, who are interested in owning the house for the investment and bragging rights. But the one condition of sale is that Gabor be allowed to live in the house for the rest of her life, he said.
"I will not misuse my power of attorney," he said. "Whatever I do, I do in my wife's favor. Whatever comes in will go into her account."
John Blanchette, Gabor's longtime publicist, said von Anhalt's devotion to his wife won him over after initial skepticism.
"Every night he will watch 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' with her," Blanchette said. "And read her the rags because she likes hearing what's going on in the tabloids."
The Hungarian actress, long the darling of tabloids herself, suffered several health problems in recent years, including a stroke in 2005 and a fall last year requiring hip surgery. Earlier in January, doctors amputated her right leg above the knee to stem an infection that had taken root in the bone.
But during the tour, von Anhalt preferred to reminisce about his wife's feisty nature. During their honeymoon in Munich in 1986, he recalled, Gabor threw away her passport because she wanted a new one that included the title "Princess."
And after her fall last year, Gabor kept her wits enough in the emergency room to shave 13 years off her age.
"She always wanted to be a princess," he said. "And that is OK. Women are like that."
On the terrace, which has views of downtown Los Angeles and Catalina Island, von Anhalt broke his stern demeanor and pointed out two toilets nestled in the foliage on the side of the house.
The toilets, he said, were put there to taunt a former neighbor who took issue with their Latino groundskeeper because of his race. Von Anhalt suggested his groundskeeper place the toilets there so the neighbor could have something new to look at.
The house should sell fairly quickly, von Anhalt said.
"The economy doesn't mean a thing in Bel-Air," he said. "The prices of houses just go up."
But, he added, that does not mean he and Gabor are wealthy.
"I am sick of hiding behind two words: Rich and famous," he said. "We may be famous, but we are not rich."
-- Shan Li in Bel-Air
Photo: Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images