LOS ANGELES Could actress Zsa Zsa Gabor be California's next first lady?
That may seem implausible, but her ninth husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, a German-born socialite with no previous political experience, on Monday announced his own independent campaign to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.
Von Anhalt, 65, launched his long-shot bid for office with a news conference in West Hollywood and the unveiling of a large billboard on the Sunset Strip, showing him smiling and dressed in a military-style coat adorned with various medals.
Von Anhalt described himself as a longtime Republican and fiscal conservative who is liberal on social issues -- he supports gay marriage rights, a broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and legalization of marijuana.
And like his major-party rivals, von Anhalt is sharply disparaging of Schwarzenegger, chiding the Austrian-born Republican incumbent for traveling too much on the job and leaving California "in a mess" for the last year of his term.
"Arnold is going to go, and California needs somebody new," he told Reuters in an interview. "It took always a German to clean out the Austrian mess. That was always the case, and it will happen here also."
Gabor, who by Von Anhalt's reckoning turns 93 next month and is in failing health, was not present for his announcement. But the prince, her longest-lasting spouse, said the Hungarian-born actress fully supports his run for governor.
"My wife, when I married her 23 years ago, she was for me the first lady of California already, and now she gets the title officially," he said.
Von Anhalt said he still needs to file papers to make his campaign official and collect 10,000 signatures by the end of June to get on the November ballot.
Independently wealthy, "but not as rich as Arnold," Von Anhalt said he already has spent $300,000 on his gubernatorial bid and is counting on well-heeled friends for more support.
Von Anhalt joked that his accent, while thicker than Schwarzenegger's, should not be a turnoff for voters, even if his claim to German royalty seems a bit murky.
Von Anhalt says his title of nobility was conferred on him when he was adopted as an adult in 1980 by Princess Marie Auguste, daughter-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last emperor of Germany, after her biological son died in an accident.
Gabor's husband last made headlines in the aftermath of Anna Nicole Smith's death in 2007, when he claimed to have carried on a 10-year affair with the former Playboy magazine model and might be the father of her baby daughter. DNA tests later showed ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead to be the father.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb)