September 30, 1896
|Died||April 1, 1997
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Jewelry entrepreneur, memoirist, socialite|
(1914-1939; divorced); 3 children
Howard Peter Christman
Count Odon Szigethy
(1957-1989; his death)
Zsa Zsa Gabor
|Relatives||Constance Francesca Hilton (granddaughter)|
Jolie Gabor de Szigethy (September 30, 1896 – April 1, 1997) was a Hungarian- born American memoirist and socialite, best known as the mother of actresses and socialites Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva Gabor.
Born as Janka Tillemanin Budapest, Austria-Hungary (present-day Budapest, Hungary), the youngest daughter and third of four children, born to a Jewish couple, Jona Harsch Tilleman, who later took the name "Josef", and his wife, Chane Faige (née Reinherz or Reinhartz), who later adapted the name "Franceska", both of whom were born in Galicia. The Tillemans were prosperous jewelers who owned a jewelry shop known as "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 "Jancsi" 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", she would claim later in life, although her birth certificate indicates her birth name was Janka. She had two elder sisters, Zseni ("Janette") and Dora; a younger sister, Rozalie ("Rozsika"), and a younger brother, Sebastian. The fate of her three sisters remains unclear, although this extract seems to indicate that they survived the war. 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 Reinherzes, had established jewelry shops in Vienna, and an uncle of Franceska helped the Tillemans open "The Diamond House", located at 54 54 Rákóczi utca.
Gabor 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 December 30, 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, cites Jolie Gabor's birthdate as September 29, 1896, as does the 1959 International Celebrity Register.
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 December 30, 1945. She opened a successful costume jewelry business (called simply 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? In 1950, Gabor made a cameo as a jeweler in Black Jack. In 1955, Gabor appeared in The Colgate Comedy Hour. In 1960, Gabor appeared in The Mike Wallace Interview.
She was married three times:
- Vilmos Gábor (died 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 May 22, 1894 – died 19??), a New York City restaurant manager; they married in 1947 and divorced in 1948.
- Count Odon Szigethy (July 12, 1912 – September 30, 1989), a Hungarian refugee, also known as Odon Szigethi and Edmond de Szigethy; they married in New York City, New York, on March 3, 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 April 1, 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 September 30, 1896, although most sources cite September 29; September 30 date 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.
- Also spelled Tillemann by other branches of the family, i.e. Annette Tillemann Lantos.
- 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 (January 1, 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 Tillemann Lantos is a first cousin of the Gabor sisters, which would make her Jolie Gabor's niece. Annette Lantos's father, Sebastian, was Jolie's only male sibling. Annette's mother was Mary (née Seidner) Tillemann.
- Warner, Joel (July 10, 2008). "Denver's Own Royal Tenenbaums". Denver Westword. p. 3.
- Jolie Gabor, by Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams, Mason Charter, 1975, p. 4
- "The Mother of the Gabor Girls", San Antonio Light, February 26, 1950, p. 16
- In her own memoirs Zsa Zsa Gabor uses the spelling Franceska.
- 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 the review by Publishers Weekly of the memoirs enthused that "Jolie Gabor, née Jancsi Tilleman, fills every page of this zany life story with her Hungarian ebullience."
- Social Security Death Index entry under the name JOLIE DESZIGETHY, ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com; accessed February 28, 2014.
- "Jolie Gabor, Eva and Zsa Zsa's Mother Dies.". The New York Times. April 3, 1997. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
- According to December 30, 1945 manifest, accessed on Ancestry.com (December 30, 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), pg. 2366
- Cleveland Amory, International Celebrity Register (Celebrity Register, 1959), p. 277
- 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 December 30, 1945, and accessed on ancestry.com (on December 30, 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 (January 4, 1998). "The Lives They Lived: Jolie Gabor; Mother Dahling". The New York Times.
- "The Mother of the Gabor Girls", San Antonio Light, February 26, 1950, p. 17
- "Vilmos Gabor Dead", The New York Times, July 11, 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, March 13, 1953.
- Marian Christy, "Mama Gabor: Ageless Mother of 3", Newport Daily News, February 17, 1975
- "Madeleine Herling, Philanthropist, 75", The New York Times, April 13, 1995
- Herling's maiden name and former married name cited in Diário Oficial da União (dated December 7, 1968).
- Cindy Adams, "My Jolie Gabor", The Lowell Sun, October 5, 1975
- Ellie Grossman, "Accent on People: Jolie Gabor", The Times-Standard, March 11, 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, February 27, 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 December 30, 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, February 27, 1957. According to the same newspaper report, Szigethy was previously married to Katalin Ronay.
- Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.