Newsweek once called me the Zsa Zsa Gabor of Silicon Valley, a backhanded slap of a compliment which meant famous for no apparent reason. I have always loved the whole idea of Zsa Zsa Gabor. First, she was really a spectacular beauty in her day which lasted well in the evening. I’ll bet you can’t name even one of the 47 movies she was in. Nearly everyone thinks that she was on TV as a socialite transplant to a farm on Green Acres with Eddie Albert but that was her sister Ava. What people do remember is that she was married to 7 men 8 times. Like Elizabeth Taylor she started to run out of eligible men and married one twice. The most bizarre part is that after a life of glamour for glamour sake she is best remembered for slapping a cop and going to jail for it.
This was not the first time the people of Earth have tried to bend her to its rules, only to have her retaliate. Once she was in flight and the flight attendant asked her to put her dog back in its box for the duration of the flight. She said something like 3%&((+M#1;;;#@$ She was told that the dog went in the box or she would be told to leave the plane. It should be kept in mind that the plane was flying at 35,000 feet and she figured, correctly, that they wouldn’t dare actually toss her out at that altitude. She must have pushed someone’s hot button pretty hard because not only was she left sitting on a runway in West Palm Beach with all her luggage and her dog but she was promptly sent a bill for several thousand dollars for expenses occurred with an unscheduled landing.
In April of 2000 I began my campaign to have lunch with Zsa Zsa. It was easy enough to find her agent and I called him up. I told him that I wasn’t just a fan I was a Zsa Zsa. I explained that I wanted, really needed, in fact, to have lunch with Zsa Zsa. He thought it very unlikely but he said he would ask her if she would take a call. He called back in about five minutes and he said to give her a call and he gave me her home number. She picked up the phone with a “Hello dahling.” I explained about being more than a fan and asked her if she would deign to dine with me. I promised that I would be sufficiently interesting. She said that she had a lifetime of interesting people and that there was no way she wanted to meet anyone new. I could see my opportunity hanging by a thread so I grabbed the blonde by the horns and told her that of all the stars to have come along in Hollywood she glimmered with the most glorious light. I praised her resilient individuality and I was about to launch into a detailed critique of her hair when she cut me off. She said she, “vod tink about it,” and to call her next week. I called her agent back and told him about the conversation and he gave me her address so that I could send a note and flowers. I also sent him flowers and I think I even sent the florist flowers so keen was I to have this lunch.
I called her the next week and she actually gushed over the flowers but groused at the tackiness of delivery man who had the poor taste to find part of his body in her dog’s mouth. The little terrier on the plane of years past had grown up into a pair of felonious German Shepherds which I could hear barking in the background. I pressed her genially for lunch but she waxed and waffled after a couple of minutes and once again told me to call her the next week. I waited another few days and screwed up my nerve to call her again. For some reason it made me as nervous as a 6th grader at his first dance. I was actually trying to get an 84 year old woman to go out with me. This calling was building a solid foundation for a real relationship even if it was anchored in the shifting sands of camp theater.
One week I would send a miniature shoe adorned with pink fluffy feathers and sometime later follow it with its twin. I sent a theatrical diamond ring the size of a good sided tumor. I sent her a copy of Touch of Evil, the Orson Wells film in which Charleston Heston plays a rather unconvincing Mexican detective and Zsa Zsa has a bit part as a bar owner. Sometimes she would be out when I called and I would woo her machine. The cost in time and trinkets was rising and I seemed to be getting no closer to a face off. We spoke every few weeks; never for more than about two minutes and eventually my interest began to flag. It was hard to believe that I kept this up for nearly a year and finally, in desperation, I told her I could see that I was annoying her and I would have the savior faire to not bother her further. Bingo! I could play hard to get too. I asked her to go with me to the Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel and we set a date on Monday two weeks hence. It’s just down the street from her house and I thought it would remind her of the old days.
I have a lot of cloths but when you are anticipating lunch with Zsa Zsa Gabor nothing seems right. I finally settled my gold silk suit and honeycomb shirt with gold bee buttons. I really wanted to wear my red lizard boots and matching belt but I didn’t want to upstage her so I reined myself in and wore the black alligator. Rudy, the driver, and I pulled up to her home in Bel Air and were buzzed in at the gate. Immediately we were surrounded by a pack of dogs which tried to leap in through the Rudy’s window scaring him so badly that he nearly turned back. “Rudy don’t chicken out now!” I yelled. We have come too far!” The lead dog had left half a dozen gouges in Rudy’s door and the tears were already starting to collect at the corners of the dear fellow’s eyes. I knew that he would be shot down for a dog himself when he got back but we felt like General Gordon surrounded by locals at Khartoum and as I recall it ended badly for the General. We sat for a full ten minutes and no one came to the door. The dogs circled the car looking for weak spot. I assured Rudy that they couldn’t come through the glass although I wasn’t entirely sure of that.
It didn’t look like anyone was going to call of these damn dogs off so I decided to get out and just walk up to the door. I remembered what had happened to the flower guy and he encountered dogs all the time. I hadn’t thought to bring a pistol and whip to a lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel but I’m a dog guy and besides, I thought that there would be worse things then being eaten by Zsa Zsa’s dogs (although nothing sprang immediately to mind) so I opened the door and stepped out. We had initially calculated that they numbered in the dozens but when they stopped moving there seemed to be just two of them. They were momentarily quiet and sitting side by side like nice doggies waiting to see what was going to happen next. I walked toward the house and felt exactly like Rod Taylor must have when he and Janet Leigh were walking past all those seagulls in The Birds.
They tried to hold me with their yellow malevolent eyes but I strode with a confidence I didn’t feel up to the door and pushed the bell damn near through the stucco. A tune chimed which I believe was the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies. I wanted to hear it again but before I could Zsa Zsa herself opened the door and the dogs jumped up as if they had been smoking crack in a puddle of gasoline. They streaked toward her and she bent them around her with an oath so ribald as to deafen all the seamen as high as top gallants. She didn’t seem to see me at all but continued to excoriate the dogs. They ignored her and ran into the house.
She then looked at me through her impenetrable sunglasses and asked, “Are you the one from San Francisco?” I said that I though I was and she told me to “Wait a minute, Dalhling,” and she snatched a handbag the size and appearance of a padded of a toilet seat. And taking my proffered arm we preceded to the car. What followed was an encounter so perfectly bizarre that I’m considering inviting every glamour queen over 80 to lunch in the future. From the moment she sat down she talked on and on about the “brigands and scoundrels” she had known. I had been worried that conversation might stall as it has on the phone more then once but I could not said a word in nor did there seem any point in doing so. This girl was wound up I just sat back and took it all in. She told me that she used to date Kermal Ataturk. I looked him up. He founded Turkey! She went on and on about how wonderful Tyrone Power was. She said he was much better looking then me. I told her that Errol Flynn was better looking then me too but, like Tyrone, he was still dead and I was buying lunch.
We pulled into to the Hotel and Zsa Zsa was still going on about how even Noel Coward was better looking then me and he was gay. In Beverly Hills there is a studied disregard for movie stars but several people noticed us as we got out. If they recognized her they certainly had no idea who was. I recognized no one and the crowd was pretty thin. It turns out that the in crowd left about a generation ago for Wolfgang’s. We were shown to he best table in the joint and finally someone walked by that I recognized. It was Mike Myers and I looked at him with the drop-jaw wonder I reserve for anyone who has made a career out of playing a jerk. He saw me gawking and nearly tossed me a dismissive sneer until he saw who he took to be Zsa Zsa Gabor. He came up tentatively and I introduced Miss Gabor to Mike. She said in her perfect impersonation of herself, Call me Zsa Zsa dahlig,” extending a withered paw.
I like the place because it is owned by the most unlikely characters imaginable, the Sultan of Brunei and his brother Prince Jefri. The Sultan is the one who bought what I think was the old Barrymore estate on Sunset Blvd. It sported some pretty fantastic reproductions of famous European nude sculptures in the front yard. When the Sultan bought it he let the house fall into ruin but he painted the statues with florescent paint in the most delightfully graphic fashion. He and Jef built an ocean-going yacht named Tits which was unfinished but still cost several hundred million dollars. It had twin speedboats called Nipples I and Nipples II. Jef spent $5 million on ten identical watches that, on the hour, show a couple copulating. They are different guys. In 1984 alone they bought over 2,000 limos and they have blown through 3/4 of the 40 billion daddy left them. All this an I had Zsa and they didn’t
We were installed in the best table in the joint but it was late and the thin crowd was growing thinner. Finally someone walked by that I recognized. It was Mike Myers and I looked at him with the jaw dropping gaga I reserve for anyone who has made a successful career out of looking like a jerk. He saw me gawking and was about to dismiss me as a tourist until he saw me with Zsa Zsa Gabor. He came up tentatively and I said, ” Mike, Jamis MacNiven, just the pancake guy and this is Zsa Zsa Gabor.”
Mike was tremendous and he told he loved her and she nodded and smiled. When he left she asked me, “Who vas that baby, dahlin?” Before I could answer the photographer I had hired strode up to the table. Now I knew that I would have to be quick. They really frown on paraparazzi in the Polo Lounge.
This would be the culmination of a year of hard work. We were finally in the stadium the crowd was roaring and coming to its feet. Actually it was Zsa Zsa who was roaring and coming to her feet. I made the mistake of asking if we could have our picture taken and she immediately clouded up and started with the thunder and lightning. She said something like 3%&((+M#1;;;#@$ and more. She marched out front where the vigilant Rudy spotted her and pulled the car over. I was just coming out after having dug out about a pound of cash and emerged just as the car was pulling out. I stood there in my silk coat with a napkin in my hand. Mike had seen the whole thing and he said I was lucky she didn’t slap the crap out of me
Rudy was back in a few minutes and his black ears seemed to have turned red. She gave him a taste of the whip on the way back and when she got out she actually told him to slam the door of the car for her. Hey, Zsa Zsa, you left me at the restaurant.
I road up front with Rudy back to the airport and we agreed that things had gone pretty well except for the deep gouges in the sheet metal. When I got out he asked me for my autograph. I swelled up with the well earned pride of a Hollywood insider and I flashing him my most winning smile and he handed me a pen to sign the time for the limo rental.
I’ll never eat lunch in that town again.