That time we spent the day with Zsa Zsa Gabor and the prince at their ranch

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who pioneered a modern version of celebrity — she was famous for being famous — died Dec. 18, 2016, of heart failure in her Bel-Air mansion. She was 99. In a 1990 article, the celebrity allowed a Times reporter to come along as she visited her Ventura County horse ranch.

The morning had begun badly, and Zsa Zsa Gabor was still shaken hours later. Schatzi the German shepherd had attacked Genghis Kahn the Shih Tzu, injuring the lap dog’s eye in an apparent fit of jealousy.

“Oh, I can’t be-LIEVE it!” Gabor declared. “Heart attack time, darling. I thought I would have a heart attack!”

Parental anxiety lingered throughout the day, following Gabor and Prince Frederick von Anhalt of West Germany, her eighth husband, from their hilltop mansion in Bel-Air to their recently purchased horse ranch in Ventura County.

It was only the third or fourth trip the actress had made to the ranch since buying it. She had invited along a reporter who had asked permission to visit her on the spread.

“Here we come! Here we come to feed our children!” she sang as she entered the stalls, looking for Red Baron, a rust-colored colt with a crimson ribbon in his hair.

“Where is my honey child? He’s gorgeous. He’s a love. Hi, love! Hi, Red Baron! My grandson, my angel.”

Gabor recalled that when Red Baron was born, she was dressing for a party. She was so excited, she said, and her hands were trembling so much that she was been unable to open her safe to take out her jewels. “I went to the party without one jewelry on. I couldn’t open the combination, I was so excited.”

Gabor nuzzled the colt. Red Baron returned her affection, rubbing his nose on her chest.

As the prince rode, Gabor made a quick walking tour of the grounds with horse trainer and longtime rancher Victor Puentes, efficiently ticking off a list of orders. That cleaned up, this removed. Red Baron should be gelded. A tenant must leave a small rented house, and a trailer will be donated to the homeless.

A modest, cinder-block house will be transformed into an English cottage for guests, Gabor said, and eventually she will build a large house for herself and the prince. Gabor also said she plans a horse show and a “Dallas”-style barbecue in the spring.

She was dressed in beige riding pants, a matching down vest and black “Frankfurt Am Main” sweat shirt she said the prince picked up at a West German airport. Despite the casual attire and her age, now believed to be 72, Gabor looked every bit the star and primped with abandon.

Her blond hair was pulled back in a French braid and tied with a large, black velvet bow. Diamond-studded hoops swung down from her ears, and a fashionably large, simply designed watch hung from her neck. (“Not a stopwatch,” she said. “Nothing can stop me.”)

A look at her Hermes saddle from Paris, a quick bit of business with Eva McClure, then a toast to her new venture. “Let’s open a bottle of Champagne,” she said to the prince, launching anew into Genghis Kahn’s attack. “I had such a terrible morning!”

On the way back to Bel-Air, they stopped for a late lunch at the Top Notch, a Moorpark restaurant with paper place mats, lace curtains and a menu emphasizing barbecue. “I’m really just a peasant at heart,” Gabor said. She may have been booed in the Rose Parade, but in Moorpark she was received like a queen.

“A lady over here says your movies don’t do you justice,” a waitress confided. “You’re more beautiful in real life.”

“Well, tell her that I love her dearly,” Gabor replied.

Although they claim to love country food and Gabor nearly ordered pork chops with sauce, she and the prince both settled on chef’s salads, then fastidiously removed all the cheese and much of the ham.

“The cheese, I’ll take the cheese for the kids,” she told the prince as they concentrated on their plates.

“Ja, ja ja. They like it.”

After lunch, Prince Frederick headed straight for the station wagon, carrying the cheese in a Styrofoam takeout container to the yelping Macho Man and Zoltan Gabor.

Gabor stopped in at the Toy Attic, where she bought two windup horses called Pony Pals and chatted with proprietor Gigi Smith about toys in general and husband No. 6, Barbie Doll creator Jack Ryan, in particular.

“I married Jack Ryan just because he made the Barbie Dolls,” she said. “He was impossible.”

The prince stood in the toy store’s doorway and said, “Come!” Gabor left the shop.

The station wagon headed south for Bel-Air. Prince Frederick and Gabor laughed over the wiggling, mechanical Pony Pals. The dogs clambered for the cheese.

“Ja, you like that, don’t you? And a little piece of ham in between?” cooed the prince, as Gabor snuggled with her children most of the way home.

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