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All About Eva : Zsa Zsa’s Little Sister Says It Hasn’t Always Been Easy Being the Other Gabor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

She’s a Gabor. She owns a Rolls-Royce. She’s a lousy driver. And a police officer stopped her car for a traffic infraction recently.

Sound familiar?

“My friend yelled to me, ‘Don’t open your mouth!’ because that was all we needed,” recounts the Gabor sister. “So I ducked down and put a coat over my head.”

But the cop saw her anyway.

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“Hi, Eva,” the officer greeted.

With that, she breathed a sigh of relief. “All I could think was, ‘Thank God,’ ” Eva Gabor murmurs.

These days more than ever, it’s not easy being Zsa Zsa’s younger sister. Especially when the 69-year-old Eva--known around town variously as The Other Gabor and even The “Good” Gabor--is always getting mixed up with her more notorious (to put it mildly) sibling.

“Why should we be linked together, dah link? That annoys the hell out of me,” confesses Eva, for the first time breaking her silence about Double-Z’s recent trials and tribulations. “Because we have very different lives and what is white for her is black for me.

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“Of course, she’s my sister and I love her. But I don’t necessarily approve of certain things she does, nor does she of what I do. I just think it’s so unfair, and I suffer a lot for it.”

Well, suffer in the Hollywood sense, at least.

When last summer’s Beverly Hills brouhaha broke over The Slap Heard Round the World, Eva literally went into “serious hiding,” which meant hunkering down in her beatific Bel-Air mansion and cutting back on her many public appearances. And while she and Zsa Zsa talked by telephone every day during that affair, “we never discussed that other stuff,” she claims.

Now, almost a year later, she’s still not free from any guilt-by-association because of her sister’s continuing courtroom antics.

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Just a few days before Zsa Zsa was reprimanded in Beverly Hills Municipal Court for not fulfilling her community service work as ordered, TV news stations in Los Angeles and elsewhere reported that “actress Eva Gabor” was suing Ralphs Grocery Co. because she had slipped and fallen while shopping in one of the chain’s supermarkets.

The next morning, “all my friends are calling and asking, ‘Are you all right?’ ” Eva complains, “and I don’t know what the hell is the matter with me!”

After a little investigating, the actress found out that the Eva Gabor who had filed the lawsuit was a Los Angeles retiree with the same name, approximate birth date and Hungarian ancestry. But since the words Gabor and lawsuit go together in many minds, people assumed that Zsa Zsa’s love for legal wrangling was as contagious as a computer virus.

“I wouldn’t sue anybody. And I’ve never sued anybody. It doesn’t run in my makeup,” explains Eva. “For me to have to go to court, I would faint. I would be so nervous I couldn’t stand it.”

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Still, the incident put a smile on Eva’s face, even if momentarily.

“Because there’s no one in the world who doesn’t know Zsa Zsa. She’s the most famous woman today, I think. More famous than me, certainly,” the sister admits. “But I think that if I fall down and all the news has it, then I’m doing pretty well.”

Welcome to sibling rivalry--Gabor-style.

It’s not as bad as many think. Rumors that they won’t appear at the same party together, or even step foot in one another’s manses (only one-carat stone’s throw away from each other), are “nonsense,” Eva insists. “Two things I do every day: I talk to my sisters and my Mama.”

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“That’s not totally true. They battle,” disputes Merv Griffin. “They may go a week where they don’t speak.”

Yes, they talk the same (about everything except their ages), dress the same (flouncy frills), live the same (ultra-lavishly), marry the same (over and over), and deny the same (face lifts and what-else-have-you).

They are so similar, in fact, that when Zsa Zsa claimed last summer that Johnny Carson tried to arrange a clandestine rendezvous with her at the Beverly Hills Hotel one night, it prompted the comedian to joke recently: “The problem is Zsa Zsa had herself confused with her sister Eva.”

Oh, but there are differences, dah link.

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While Zsa Zsa is zaftig, Eva is a 22-inch-waist Size 6.

While Zsa Zsa has wed the rich and famous (eight times), Eva has married little-known doctors or businessmen (“4 1/2 times,” says Eva, “because one was on the rebound”).

While Zsa Zsa is currently hitched to an obscure prince, Eva is the constant companion of Merv Griffin. (“We’ve never been lovers, but we are great, great friends,” says Eva.)

While Zsa Zsa peddles fake diamonds and mail-order face creams, Eva is chairman of the board of the $18 million world’s largest wig company, which bears her name.

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And while Zsa Zsa acts up a storm in court, Eva acts only in TV series and movies.

Just for the record, Eva--who began as a Paramount starlet and found success first as an ingenue on Broadway and then as a woman of the world in feature films--is best known for chasing roosters in Jean Louis negligees on that 1965-71 TV hit “Green Acres.”

(She reprises her role as Lisa Douglas in the TV movie “Return to Green Acres,” which airs May 18 on CBS. She also is waiting to hear from the network on the fate of a TV series pilot, “Close Encounters,” which she wants to produce and star in.)

Zsa Zsa, on the other hand, appeared in the movie “Moulin Rouge” and not much else noteworthy.

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Or, as Eva so indelicately puts it, “I was the first actress in the family. And I am still the only actress in the family. I shouldn’t be saying it, but it slipped out!”

And while Zsa Zsa is considered the sharp-tongued sister, Eva is the “nice” one.

“You know, when people say that about me, I feel torn,” Eva admits. “Because Zsa Zsa has the best heart in the world. But she is only that way when she is alone. So what are you going to do about it? Anyway, it’s awfully boring to be called the ‘good’ Gabor!”

Eva admits that any and all rivalry between them started early since Double-Z was always considered the “beauty” in the Gabor family. “And while I was the ugly duckling, they used to say I had personality,” Eva sighs. (Magda, the eldest, was dubbed the “smart” sister.)

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Also Zsa Zsa knew “how to handle our mother and father better than anyone in the world,” Eva maintains, “I always tell the truth. And that’s not such a good idea, really.”

Though Eva was the first Gabor to come to the United States, Zsa Zsa followed from Budapest soon after. Immediately, Eva says, the middle Gabor began meddling in the life of the littlest Gabor, then married to a Swedish doctor and living in a tiny apartment in Hollywood.

“Zsa Zsa divorced him, not me,” Eva confides. “Oooh, she’s going to kill me for saying this. But it was a very difficult situation, and I was so influenced by Zsa Zsa because she was very strong, and I was not. What happened is she arrived and moved in with us and took over the master bedroom. And she didn’t like my husband and somehow I got divorced.”

Then, Eva became the first Gabor sister to become a household name, albeit on the East Coast only, thanks to stints on Broadway, TV and radio. Soon after, Zsa Zsa started appearing on a TV talk show in Los Angeles and gained fame for saying outrageous things (Question: “What should you do if your husband is running around?” Zsa Zsa’s answer: “Shoot him in the leg.”)

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The result was that when Eva made her first personal appearance in Hollywood, “nobody knew who I was and everyone was asking, ‘Where’s Zsa Zsa?’ ” she recalls. “Oh, that hurt. It made my career rather difficult. It’s a cross to carry.”

Today, Eva claims she has reached a separate peace or sorts with her sister.

Or have they?

“One night I went to dinner with the two of them,” recounts Merv Griffin, “and I couldn’t believe it. Eva’s dinner arrived first, and Zsa Zsa looked at it and said, ‘Oh, I wish I had ordered that.’ So Eva just hands the plate over.

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“Well I got mad. I said, ‘Don’t do that. What are you, Cinderella?’ And I made her put her plate back down in front of her.”


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