On the night Zsa Zsa Gabor met her ninth husband, she was introduced to a prince who drove a Rolls Royce, wore a uniform full of medals, and had a bodyguard.
What she didn’t know was that Prince Frederic von Anhalt had bought his title, rented his Rolls Royce, and given a UCLA student $100 to act as his security.
It would be von Anhalt’s first and final audition into the glamorous world of Hollywood, cementing his place four years later when he and Gabor said ‘I do’.
This is the incredible tale, told to the Hollywood Reporter, of how von Anhalt became one-half of one of Hollywood’s most outrageous couples – who helped create the blueprint for being famous by simply staying in the headlines.
Prince Frederic von Anhalt has revealed how he bought his title, rented a Rolls Royce, and seduced Zsa Zsa Gabor at a party he wasn’t even invited to. They were married for 20 years
Von Anhalt, now 74, was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg in Wallhausen, a provincial western German village.
Needing to be the center of attention from an early age, von Anhalt tried his hand at operating a disco, steakhouse, and saunas in the 1970s as he searched for money and fame.
What he found was mostly legal troubles, with a rap sheet that included loan-sharking, assault, burglary, fraud, and theft.
But in 1979 von Anhalt had a stroke of luck when Princess Marie-Auguste von Anhalt, who at the time was 81 years old and broke, adopted him in exchange for 2,000 marks a month.
The exchange turned the German commoner into Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the Duke of Saxony and Westphalia, Count of Ascania.
And once he became a so-called prince, von Anhalt decided to pay the favor forward by selling nobility titles, adopting five adult sons in the process.
Von Anhalt, who was married to Gabor up until her death at the age of 99 in 2016, was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg in Wallhausen, a provincial western German village
He met Gabor at a Hollywood party where he wore a a green dress suit full of medals and was greeted by the host – who had never met him – as ‘your royal highness’
Von Anhalt claims the business was lucrative, telling the Hollywood Reporter he sold dozens of knighthoods for $50,000-$100,000 each and making more than $10million total.
But it wasn’t enough for von Anhalt. He wanted to take his act on the road, and it was Hollywood where he planned to finally find the spotlight.
‘In Europe, they hold you at a distance. In America, they give you a chance, they take you for what you are,’ he told the magazine.
‘Here, you can blindfold with money, with looks, with power. People fall for it.’
And von Anhalt found the perfect co-star in Gabor, a former Miss Hungary who had forgettable acting roles but a larger-than-life personality – and multiple marriages – that made her a household name in a city full of stars.
The future couple met at the mansion of writer Sidney Sheldon, during a party that von Anhalt wasn’t even invited to.
Gabor’s husband recalled arriving at Sheldon’s estate in 1982 with his rented Rolls Royce convertible, in a green dress uniform full of glittering medals, hoping to make it through the door and into the same room as the Sinatras.
‘I wasn’t nervous,’ he told the Hollywood Reporter. ‘Either it works or it doesn’t.’
Together Gabor and von Anhalt would star in plenty of scandals that would keep their names fresh in the tabloids, including when Gabor slapped a cop and was escorted off a plane
Gabor’s antics came to a halt after a serious 2002 car accident, followed by two strokes in 2005 and 2007 and a leg amputation in 2011
‘Your royal highness! Nice to see you again!’ Sheldon’s wife, who had never met von Anhalt before, said to him in greeting as Sheldon gave him a bow.
But it wasn’t the Sinatras who von Anhalt first met that night. It was Gabor, who was 65 years old at the time.
The next day she invited the 39-year-old to her Bel Air mansion. Four years later, they were married.
Together the couple would star in plenty of scandals that kept their names fresh in the tabloids, from Gabor slapping a police officer and being escorted off a Delta plane to von Anhalt falsely claiming he fathered the daughter of Anna Nicole Smith .
Gabor’s antics came to a halt after a serious 2002 car accident, followed by two strokes in 2005 and 2007 and a leg amputation in 2011.
But von Anhalt still found himself in plenty of hot water, specifically with Gabor’s only child.
But von Anhalt made sure their names stayed in the headline, including with these giant billboards he bought to celebrate their anniversary
But one longtime friend, Richard Heard, claimed Gabor only found out about von Anhalt’s extensive criminal record and questionable linage a decade after they married
Following the leg amputation, Francesca Hilton – whose father is the late Conrad Hilton – worried that the prince was not taking adequate care of Gabor.
She was also concerned about missed mortgage payments and her mother’s isolation from everyone but von Anhalt, a concern shared by Gabor’s longtime friend Richard Heard.
Heard, who once spoke to the socialite several times a day, was shocked when von Anhalt took out the private and household phone lines which ‘served as her only method of communication with her friends and the outside world’.
He also claimed that Gabor broke down in tears when she found a decade-old New York Post article detailing von Anhalt’s extensive criminal record and questionable lineage.
The article, which referred to von Anhalt as the ‘king of the con men’, had been published on the eve of their wedding.
Heard claimed Gabor confronted von Anhalt about the article ‘in a rage I had never seen before’, but the prince disputes the story and said the socialite knew ‘everything’ about him
Gabor passed away at the age of 99 in December 2016 from cardiac arrest. Von Anhalt is pictured here, holding her urn, at her funeral
Heard claimed Gabor confronted von Anhalt about the article ‘in a rage I had never seen before’, but the prince disputes the story.
‘She knew about everything,’ he told The Hollywood Reporter. ‘She read the papers. She got a thousand calls about me. I was bad-mouthed left and right.’
‘I remember once, she said into the phone: ‘Well, he didn’t kill anyone did he?” That was it! End of conversation.’
There were also the rumors of von Anhalt’s sexuality, with his own daughter-in-law joking in her comedy act: ‘My mother, Zsa Zsa Gabor, always wanted to be a princess – so she married a queen.’
There has been talk for decades of von Anhalt cruising West Hollywood, but he has always remained mum when it comes to his sex life.
Von Anhalt is now preparing an auction of Gabor’s items, including her Valentino and Chanel wardrobe
‘For 35 years, I’ve been going to that gym in West Hollywood,’ he said. ‘I get along with everybody. I do my stuff. I go to the sauna. Things happen. Who cares? I don’t.’
James M Pembroke, Gabor’s former head of security, claims that even his boss knew that her husband ‘was gay’ – but she didn’t care.
‘Everyone around them knew it was a joke, that he wasn’t a prince,’ Pembroke said.
‘But she was also difficult and just happy, at that age, to find someone who would be with her, who she could use as a prop.’
As von Anhalt plans his next act, it is clear that Gabor – who died at the age of 99 in December 2016 – wasn’t the only one who benefited from their union.
More than 400 items from Gabor’s Bel Air home (pictured) will be put up for auction in April
The Trump supporter plans to run for California governor once again, this time under the slogan ‘Make America Livable Again’.
And von Anhalt is preparing to auction more than 400 of Gabor’s possessions, including her Chanel and Valentino wardrobe and a gold-painted Steinway piano.
But there are plenty of items von Anhalt is still holding onto, from hundreds of videotapes of his wife to a love letter she received from Richard Nixon.
‘I feel guilty, that I’m giving away too much,’ he said. ‘I still see her possessions each day when I go about the house.’
‘They taunt me.’