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Leo C. Wolinsky

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Zsa Zsa Gabor Still Big: It's The Pictures That Got Small

Posted: 08/15/11 06:36 PM ET

For those who think old Hollywood can't draw a crowd, Zsa Zsa Gabor would like to take issue with you.

But it might not be the crowd you expect.

Last week I wrote about the Hollywood legacy of the one-time actress and Hungarian beauty queen as she approached her 25th wedding anniversary to her ninth husband, Frederic Prinz Von Anhalt.

Trying to counter those who say the press never follows up, I forced myself into my car and drove up Sunset Boulevard to attend her party, past the ornate West Gate of Bel Air to her mansion on a promontory high above the city.

The festivities were well under way by the time I arrived. The yellow and copper-roofed Hollywood Regency style manor was festooned with umbrellas and a velvet red-carpet. Outside, reporters lounged and drank champagne in the media tent.

Entering the vestibule, I was surrounded by a knot of party-goers lining up to greet "the prince." One by one, important friends of Zsa Zsa were escorted into a private bedroom for a brief audience with the 94-year-old, who has been plagued by health problems and is bed-ridden.

More than 50 guests milled about the house. Frank Stallone, actor/songwriter and the younger brother of Rocky originator Sylvester, cat-napped in a chair, undeterred by the din. Nearby, famed record producer Quincy Jones, a long-time friend and next-door neighbor, held court with a crowd of admirers. Standing head-and-shoulders above the crowd was Julie Newmar, television's original Catwoman, who at 78 and 5'11," remains thin and statuesque.

As I moved about the house, I was cornered by a pre-teen model, who began to perform a rap. Next to her, an aspiring actress showed off her calendar photos. A Beverly Hills rabbi high-fived guests and a jeweler, who supplied gems to Zsa Zsa, stood by awed by the scene that surrounded him.

The mansion itself is a relic. Zsa Zsa has lived there for about four decades and the decor looks like it was frozen in the late 50s.

Gazing about, I felt like I was caught in a noir dream of silent screen-star Norman Desmond's deteriorating Sunset Boulevard mansion -- with "the prince" playing the part of Max, her dutiful husband/servant.

All around on the wood-paneled walls were images of Zsa Zsa. Zsa Zsa in a movie. Zsa Zsa in a play. Zsa Zsa on the cover of an ancient Life Magazine. Zsa Zsa in oils. Zsa Zsa in black-and-white photos.

In one corner of the living room, a decadent, canopied daybed stood awkwardly, an echo of Zsa Zsa's days as a femme fatale.

The real surprise was sitting at the piano, next to the daybed. It was Robert Blake.

The Baretta star has kept a very low profile since his acquittal on charges of murdering his wife. But this day he was here to celebrate Zsa Zsa. Wearing dark glasses and a hat pulled over his forehead, Blake broke into a duet with Elaine Corrigan, a 50s TV and movie actress (The Beach Girls and the Monster) and the ex-wife of Western star Crash Corrigan.

Their song: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Yes, the crowd came.

Hollywood was again in full swing. And outside the mansion, "the prince," who has been criticized for making a spectacle of Gabor's declining years, was ready for his close-up.

"People attack me for this," said the 68-year-old. "They say, 'how can you do this with a sick woman?' Look, my wife is 94 years old. She should have everything she wants and everything large... It's 25 years with Zsa Zsa Gabor and I made it. So many husbands made it only a year or two...So I must have done something right."