Zsa Zsa Gabor And The Lion
For four hours once—and this was not for a movie script—Zsa Zsa Gabor was sitting in the middle of half a dozen sort of starving lions. This is how it started.
Picture Zsa Zsa Gabor, and you get a mental image of this beauty in an expensive restaurant, or at some chic party—strictly the cafe society-routine. Which is why it comes a little hard trying to imagine her as a Great White Hunter.
But that’s what Zsa Zsa was, briefly, a few months back. She’d gone to South Africa with a troop of Hollywood stars, bound for a series of charity benefits.
After the performances were over, Zsa Zsa and a couple of friends named Bundy and Derek—yes, those were their names—decided on this Big Game Hunt adventure. Only instead of guns they were taking cameras, for their destination was the KRUEGER NATIONAL PARK, where game is stalked with the 16 millimeter lens instead of the 30 caliber rifle.
With typically magnificent irrelevance, Zsa Zsa explains. “It is only about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg—three hundred miles, I theenk.” Friend Bundy elaborates. “It is three hundred miles, but the trip takes seven or eight hours. Of course it might have seemed but an hour’s drive to Zsa Zsa—she was talking the whole distance, and, for her, when she is talking time stands still!”
They must have made a fairly eye-catching party, as they dashed across the South African countryside. They had gone equipped for the rigors of the journey with such essentials as a cooler filled with champagne, and a basket of chicken.
And Zsa Zsa was the very last word in chic, South African style. Pale beige jodhpurs, pale beige silk shirt. tropical straw helmet—and all her diamonds. Diamonds at the ears, around her throat, dripping from her wrists. “This is not so ridiculous as it first sounds.” Buddy points out. “She simply wanted to keep her diamonds with her, so she would know where they were. They were much safer, this way, than if she had left them behind in her hotel room!”
Nearing the park, their driver swerved left when he should have swerved right, and their car made a rather decisive contact with an oncoming truck. “Our group lost only one leg, though.” Zsa Zsa shrugs. “Derek was not holding tightly enough to the chicken he was eating—and the drumstick flew out the open car window, poof!”
But everything that happens to a Gabor comes out sounding like it had been planned by a movie script writer. Within minutes, along came some fabulously wealthy Greek merchant, who “of course” recognized Zsa Zsa immediately. And with the gallantry of Greeks since Athens was young. he immediately offered not only his personal car, but also his station wagon. They continued their trip in style.
They reached the Park gates just before sundown, and were quartered in the mud huts erected by the natives specifically for the use of tourists at SKUKUZA CAMP. To say these huts are primitive is a pretty wild understatement. They are tiny, round, have a fireplace in dead center, and the only powder room facilities are a block’s hike down the pike—hardly the accommodations Zsa Zsa is used to. “But I rough it like a good scout-boy,” she admits.
The next day the trio put enough big game on film to more than fill out a thirty minute short subject. Zsa Zsa pointing at a herd of elephants. Zsa Zsa pretending to be brave as a few lions stroll casually toward her car, Zsa Zsa coyly enticing tall baboons to the car window with bits of banana and cocoanut macaroons.
Then it happened. Suddenly, for four tense hours. they were marooned smack-dab in the middle of a kaffee-klatsch of hungry lionesses who kept hoping the car would disgorge something edible—namely Zsa Zsa. And since park rules frown on running the beasts down, and several of them kept parking right before the front wheels, there the party of brave white hunters sat, until the wind finally changed and the beasts smelled something really juicy a few acres away.
“Now I know how the animals in the zoo must feel.” Zsa Zsa sighs. “All that time being stared at so intently. Only the people don’t look at the zoo animals so hungrily as those lions looked at us!”
Zsa Zsa Gabor can be seen in U-I’s Beast Of The Kremlin.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE AUGUST 1957