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Zsa Zsa made an impression in Atlanta -- and on Delta

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who died Sunday, made a lasting impression on many with her memorable comments and extravagant lifestyle -- including in Atlanta.

The celebrity had a run-in with Delta Air Lines in 1989 that made the news.

The Atlanta Constitution's article on the incident at Hartsfield International Airport carried the headline: "Delta to Zsa Zsa: Get Off the Plane, Daaahlink; Police Escort Actress Off Jet After She Lets Dogs Loose in Cabin."

Here's an excerpt from the Jan. 6, 1989 article:

 Zsa Zsa Gabor says a star of her caliber ought to be free to fly with her beloved Shih Tzu dogs in her lap if she wants to. Sorry, daaahlink, Delta Air Lines does not agree.

Ms. Gabor, 69, was tossed off a Delta flight during a stopover in Atlanta Thursday night after she insisted on letting the dogs - named Macho Man and Genghis Khan - out of their special carry cases during the first leg of the flight, a Delta spokesman said.

Ms. Gabor was flying from Los Angeles to her home in Palm Beach, Fla., when the trouble began.

"Passengers complained, " said airline spokesman William D. Berry. "The captain asked her to put them back in the kennel. All she had to do was leave the dogs in the kennel, but she would not comply. We asked her to do nothing more than any other passenger, and the rules are animals do not roam free in the cabin of the airplane."

When the plane landed in Atlanta, a Delta agent went aboard and told Ms. Gabor the dogs had to be put back in the boxes. The dogs were still in her lap.

"He asked her six times to comply, " Mr. Berry said. "She refused to comply. Each time he was responded to with considerable vulgarity."

Atlanta police officers were then called by the agent to escort Ms. Gabor off the aircraft. She waited inside the airport - drawing stares and several requests to have photos taken - until she boarded an Eastern Airlines flight to complete the last leg of her trip.

Ms. Gabor said the Delta agent on the plane "was screaming at me like I was some criminal."

"I was so upset you can't imagine. This is not the end of this, " she said. "If I live to be 100, I'll never understand why five policemen would have to come and take me off the plane. As long as I live, I don't want to hear the word Delta."

It's unclear if Zsa Zsa, who lived until the age of 99, got her wish.

A follow-up article on a lawsuit resulting from the Atlanta incident ran in the Constitution on Jan. 19, 1989, with the headline "Zsa Zsa Dogs Delta With $10 Million Suit." Here's what it said:

No one kicks Zsa Zsa Gabor and her Shih Tzu dogs off an airplane without a fight, Delta Air Lines learned Wednesday.

....Her attorneys filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County, Fla., seeking at least $10 million in damages.

"They started it, this is just the kickoff, " said Ms. Gabor's attorney, Bernard Cohen, of Hollywood, Fla. "She's not going to retreat. She's on the offensive."

Delta officials said Ms. Gabor was belligerent and used offensive language when flight attendants asked her to put her two pooches.... back into their carriers.

....In the suit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Ms. Gabor said she "was not treated in a first-class manner" by the "servants and employees" of the airline.

The suit also says William D. Berry, Delta vice president of public relations, defamed Ms. Gabor when he told media that she had "insulted the Atlanta agents with vulgarities" and used words that were "less than ladylike."

Delta spokeswoman Jackie Pate said the airline found the suit "quite interesting but totally unwarranted."

The lawsuit was later dismissed, according to a March 11, 1990 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Miami U.S. District Court Judge William M. Hoeveler, otherwise occupied with the case of Manuel Antonio Noriega, found time to dismiss Princess Zsa Zsa von Anhalt a.k.a. Zsa Zsa Gabor v. Delta Air Lines.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.