|Died||1 April 1997
Palm Springs, California
|Occupation||Jewelry entrepreneur, memoirist, socialite|
(1914-1939; divorced); 3 children
Howard Peter Christman
(1957-1989; his death)
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Jolie Gabor de Szigethy (30 September 1896 – 1 April 1997) was a Hungarian-American entrepreneur, jeweler, and memoirist, best known as the mother of actresses and socialites Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva Gabor.
Born as Janka Tilleman in Budapest, the youngest daughter and third of four children, born to a Jewish couple, Jona Hersch Tilleman, and his wife, Franceska (née Reinherz), both born in Galicia. The Tillemans were prosperous jewelers who owned a jewelry shop called “The Diamond House”. After the death of Jona Tilleman, Franceska briefly remarried, to Dr Miksa Kende, a medical doctor and general physician.
Gabor’s friend, Cindy Adams, who helped with Jolie's memoirs, once recalled one of Eva Gabor's weddings, at which the bride wore a cross, "They would lie about everything ... When I wrote my book about Jolie, Eva was getting married to her 44th husband, and the wedding gown was very décolleté. Between the fleshly hills of Gabor was a cross larger than St. Peter's Basilica. The Gabors were Jewish, so I said to Jolie, 'What's with the goddamn cross?' Jolie said, 'Eva's new about-to-be-husband hates the Jews, so in this book you make us Catholic.' They have always lived with no reality; there was never any truth to anything."
Jolie's purported birthname "Jansci" is usually used for males in Hungary: "My parents were so eager to have a son they named me Jancsi, which translated comes out Little John or Johnny", Gabor would claim later in life, although her birth certificate indicates her birth name was Janka. She had two elder sisters, Janette and Dora; a younger sister, Rozsika (aka Rosalie), and a younger brother, Sebastian. The fate of her three sisters during the Holocaust remains unclear. Jolie was an aunt to Annette Tilleman, wife of Hungarian-American congressman and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos. Annette was the daughter of Sebastian Tilleman, Jolie's only brother — who was killed in a bombing raid during World War II, along with their mother.
The year of Gabor's birth is murky. She claimed to have been born in 1900 and once jokingly said she had lied so much about her age she didn't remember her actual birth date. Her obituary in The New York Times gave a birth year of 1900. On a passenger manifest dated 30 December 1945, however, Gabor gives her age as 45 years and two months, which would mean, if true, she was born in 1899. Published accounts of her third marriage, in 1957, have Gabor stating her age as 54, which would mean a virtually impossible birth year of 1903. (Her first marriage took place in 1914, and her first child Magda was born in 1915.) Author Dominick Dunne stated, in 1995, perhaps in jest, that Jolie Gabor was believed to be 109, which would mean a birth year of approximately 1886. The 1987 edition of Biographical Dictionary, however, states that Gabor's birthday was 29 September 1896, as does the 1959 International Celebrity Register.
Her mother's family, the Reinherzes, had established jewelry shops in Vienna, and an uncle of Franceska Tilleman helped his niece and her husband to open The Diamond House, located at 54 54 Rákóczi utca.
In the 1930s, Jolie Gabor opened Crystello, a shop selling crystal and porcelain in Budapest, as well as Jolie's, a handmade-costume-jewelry shop at 4 Kígyó utca in Budapest; she also established another branch of her eponymous shop in Győr. Eventually there were five such shops in the Budapest area. The firm's jewels also incorporated semiprecious stones and were admired for their old-fashioned settings and workmanship. "Just like Bulgari is known in Rome, that's how well-known I was in Budapest", Jolie Gabor stated. "Jolie's did so well that at holiday time they were standing outside in line waiting until somebody goes out from the inside." The rise of Nazism in Germany forced her to curtail her retail business, Gabor recalled, "Everybody told, 'Jolie is crazy to go now to Berlin and Leipzig for jewelry.' I never went again."
She was forced to close the stores when Hungary was occupied by the Germans, at which time she and other family members fled to Portugal. They were assisted by Dr. Carlos Almeida Afonseca de Sampayo Garrido, Portuguese ambassador to Hungary — Gabor's daughter Magda reportedly was either his aide or his mistress — who provided safe passage to many Hungarian Jews in 1944. As an article in Vanity Fair stated in 2001, "[It] was under [Sampayo's] auspices that the family, which was partly Jewish, had been spirited out of the country. (The girls' grandparents and other family members were killed by the Nazis.)" Her brother, Sebastian, also a jeweler, spent part of the war in labor camps, beginning in 1942, until he and their mother, Franceska, were killed in a bombing raid during World War II.
Gabor arrived in the United States on 30 December 1945. She opened a successful costume jewelry business (called Jolie Gabor) in New York City in 1946, with $7,200 borrowed from her daughters. It later moved to 699 Madison Avenue. Gabor also established a branch of the firm in Palm Springs, California. Among the company's designers were Elsa Beck and Stephen Kelen d'Oxylion, as well as her own daughter, Magda. One of the saleswomen was Evangelia Callas, mother of future opera diva Maria Callas. In 1953 the store introduced ornamental metal fingernails studded with rhinestones. In 1975, Gabor signed with the Keene Lecture Bureau as an inspirational speaker on the subjects of beauty and personal empowerment.
The jewelry stores were sold by Gabor in the late 1980s to Madeleine Herling (née Magdalena Steingisser), a Hungarian-born businesswoman and philanthropist. Born in 1919 in Budapest and later a resident of São Paulo, Brazil, Herling was a daughter of Sigismund Steingisser and his wife, Frederica (née Pollachek).
Gabor lent her name to two books:
- Jolie Gabor (Mason Charton, 1975), an as-told-to memoir co-authored by Cindy Adams, a newspaper columnist and family friend. Gabor approached Adams to write the book in 1972, even though Gabor fretted that her daughters would dislike the publication. "I am sure it will be a Hungarian tragedy when they read what I have said", she told Adams. "My husband will throw me out and my daughters won't speak to me." Regarding the book, Gabor told another reporter, "Always [a woman] can do something. She makes a new hairdo, she makes a new make-up. If the nose isn't good, she fixes it. That is why I write the book. It's never too late for a new look, a new business, a new husband or lover. When we think life is over, it's always ready to begin".
- Jolie Gabor's Family Cookbook (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1962), which was written with Jean and Ted Kaufman, and contains more than 300 traditional Eastern European recipes.
In 1957, Gabor appeared as a mystery guest on the show What's My Line?.
She was married three times:
- Vilmos Gábor (1881–1962), a Hungarian army officer, who achieved the rank of colonel; they married in 1914 and divorced in 1939. He later became a real-estate investor in Budapest and married, as his second wife, a woman named Magda.
- Howard Peter Christman (aka Peter Howard Christman; born 22 May 1894 – died 19??), a New York City restaurant manager; they married in 1947 and divorced in 1948.
- Odon Szigethy (12 July 1912 – 30 September 1989), a Hungarian refugee, also known as Odon Szigethi and Edmond de Szigethy; they married in New York City, New York, on 3 March 1957. The bride wore a gown by Rumanian-American fashion designer Livia Sylva. "He's a moneymaker", she said of Szigethy in a 1976 interview. "He takes care of me, he takes care of my business, my three homes in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. When I marry him, darling, he looks younger than me, but now, he looks older".
Jolie Gabor was preceded in death by her youngest daughter, Eva, although she apparently was never told of Eva's death. She died less than two years later, in Palm Springs, California on 1 April 1997, at age 100. Two months after Jolie's death, her eldest daughter, Magda, died. She had one grandchild, Zsa Zsa's daughter, Francesca Hilton.
- Jolie Gabor, by Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975; ISBN 0-88405-125-0; ISBN 978-0-88405-125-1
- Jolie Gabor's Family Cookbook, by Jolie Gabor, with Ted & Jean Kaufman, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1962.
- Gaborabilia, by Anthony Turtu and Donald F. Reuter, Three Rivers Press, 2001; ISBN 0-609-80759-5
- Date of birth was 30 September 1896, although most sources cite 29 September, but the 30 September date and and her name at birth as "Janka" not "Jansci" are supported by her birth certificate (see image)
- Some sources have incorrectly indicated 1894, such as Dictionary of Women Worldwide. 25,000 women through the ages (3 volumes; edited by Anne Commire). Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 2007
- The Tilleman family's Jewish descent was also cited by a surgeon, Dr Lazslo Tauber, also Jewish, and a family friend and neighbor of the Gabors in Budapest, in Forbes Magazine, volume 134, October 1984, p. 40.
- Dr Kende (Jolie's stepfather)'s name and the correct spelling of his surname cited in "Em lékkönyv a Királyi magyar természettudományi társulat" (Magyar Természettudományi Társulat, 1892), p. 792
- Bennetts, Leslie (September 6, 2007). "It's a Mad, Mad, Zsa Zsa World". Vanity Fair.
- Jolie Gabor, by Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 3
- Jolie Gabor's name on a ship manifest in 1945 en route to the United States lists her as "Johanna Gabor".
- Elder sisters cited in Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 3
- Jolie's brother, Sebastian Tilleman, was referenced in Zsa Zsa Gábor: my story, written for me by Gerold Frank, World Publishing Co., 1960
- Epstein, Edward (1 January 2007). "Lantos the master storyteller, communicator". San Francisco Chronicle.
- The Jews of Capitol Hill by Kurt F. Stone (Scarecrow Press, 2010, p. 371) states that Annette Tilleman Lantos was a first cousin of the Gabor sisters, which would make her Jolie Gabor's niece. Annette Lantos's mother was Mary (née Seidner) and her father was the aforementioned Sebastian Tilleman.
- Warner, Joel (10 July 2008). "Denver's Own Royal Tenenbaums". Denver Westword. p. 3.
- Jolie Gabor gives Tilleman as her maiden name in her autobiography, co-authored by Cindy Adams, using it as a chapter heading on page 23; she gives her mother's maiden name as Reinherz. And Publisher Weekly's review of the memoirs says, "Jolie Gabor, nee Jancsi Tilleman, fills every page of this zany life story with her Hungarian ebullience."
- Social Security Death Index entry under the name JOLIE DESZIGETHY
- "Jolie Gabor, Eva and Zsa Zsa's Mother Dies.". The New York Times. 3 April 1997. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- According to the 30 December 1945 manifest, accessed on Ancestry.com (30 December 2011), a Johanna Gabor arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Estoril, Portugal claiming to be 45 years old.
- Dominick Dunne, "The Two Faces of O.J.", Vanity Fair, November 1995, pp. 124-.
- Biography Almanac (Gale Research, 1987), p. 2366
- Cleveland Amory, International Celebrity Register (Celebrity Register, 1959), p. 277
- Jolie Gabor, by Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 4
- "The Mother of the Gabor Girls", San Antonio Light, 26 February 1950, p. 16
- In her own memoirs Zsa Zsa Gabor uses the spelling Franceska.
- Zsa Zsa Gábor: my story, written for me by Gerold Frank (World Publishing Co., 1960), pp. 25, 126
- Art Buchwald, Art Buchwald's Paris (Little, Brown, 1954), p. 148
- Sen Sahir Silan, I Do Not Regret (Vantage Press, 2005), p. 62
- Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 126
- Jolie Gabor, as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 216
- Zsa Zsa Gábor: my story, written for me by Gerold Frank (World Publishing Co., 1960), p. 160
- "The Most Wives Club". Palm Springs Life. December 1996.
- Magda as aide cited in Zsa Zsa Gabor: My story, written for me by Gerold Frank (World Publishing Co., 1960), p. 161
- "Glamour and Goulash". Vanity Fair. July 2001.
- Information about Sebastian Tilleman cited by his daughter, Annette Lantos, in Mark Seliger, Leora Kahn, and Rachel Hager's When They Came to Take My Father: Voices of the Holocaust (Arcade Publishing, 1996), p. 96
- "Jolie Gabor Jewels". www.imageevent.
- According to a ship manifest dated 30 December 1945, and accessed on ancestry.com (on 30 December 2011), Jolie Gabor (using a Portuguese passport with the name Johanna Gabor and giving her birthplace as Budapest), arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Estoril, Portugal. Use of the name Johanna on a passenger manifest or passport does not indicate accuracy, necessarily, however. Given the turmoils of wartime Hungary and Portugal, another name might have been used for the sake of camouflage or expediency.
- Witchel, Alex (4 January 1998). "The Lives They Lived: Jolie Gabor; Mother Dahling". The New York Times.
- "The Mother of the Gabor Girls", San Antonio Light, 26 February 1950, p. 17
- "Vilmos Gabor Dead", The New York Times, 11 July 1962
- Stephen Kelen d'Oxylion's name is properly spelled, per various published sources (including several books about Zora Neale Hurston), although Gabor spelled it as "d'Oxylian" in her autobiography.
- Gael Greene, Don't Come Back Without It (Simon & Schuster, 1960), p.15
- "Metal Fingernails Offered", The New York Times, 13 March 1953
- Marian Christy, "Mama Gabor: Ageless Mother of 3", Newport Daily News, 17 February 1975
- "Madeleine Herling, Philanthropist, 75", The New York Times, 13 April 1995
- Herling's maiden name and former married name cited in Diário Oficial da União (dated 7 December 1968).
- Cindy Adams, "My Jolie Gabor", The Lowell Sun, 5 October 1975
- Ellie Grossman, "Accent on People: Jolie Gabor", The Times-Standard, 11 March 1976
- Christman's 1917 draft card gives his birth name as Howard Peter Christman" and his birthdate.
- "Mama Gabor Altar-Bound", The Miami Daily News, 27 February 1957, p. 15A
- Szigethy is sometimes referred to as Count Edmond de Szigethy but his title cannot be established. His "first" name was spelled EDMOND, according to the signature on his naturalization form, accessed on ancestry.com on 30 December 2011, as well as his grave marker, accessed on Find-A-Grave online.
- "Mrs. Gabor To Rewed; She Will Be Married to Odon Szigethy Here on Sunday", The New York Times, 27 February 1957. According to the same newspaper report, Szigethy was previously married to Katalin Ronay.