DESPITE a desperate bid to preserve all the trappings of her once great wealth, tragic Zsa Zsa Gabor will die penniless, says sources.

The famed actress and socialite and her eighth husband, Frederic von Anhalt, 67, are in dire financial straits after losing $10 million to con man Bernie Madoff in his multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the sources add.

As Gabor, 93, bravely struggles to recover from a risky hip replacement surgery, she and von Anhalt face losing their $14 million Bel Air, Calif., mansion plus luxury cars, jewelry and a fabulous art collection.

“It’s terribly sad,” says an insider. “To have such a fabulous life come down to possibly being booted into the street just brings you to tears.

Relied on advice

“If she hadn’t gotten caught up in Madoff’s scheme, Zsa Zsa could go out in the style to which she has been accustomed. Now, she’s in the same boat as others who bet their life savings on the silver-tongued sales pitches of con men.”

Von Anhalt admits he blew it by relying on the advice of investment experts who led him to Madoff.

“I feel really bad because Zsa Zsa shouldn’t have to worry about the financial mess I’ve gotten us into,” he says.

Von Anhalt adds that he is trying to recover some of the money through legal action. Without it, he fears they are facing “financial ruin”.

As GLOBE reported in our Nov.30 issue, records show the Internal Revenue Service has already filed a lien against Gabor seeking $118,000 in delinquent taxes.

“We might be forced to sell our home, cars, artwork and jewelry because of this sick man,” von Anhalt says about Madoff. “He should be dragged through the streets and flogged!”

Madoff, 72, was sentenced to 150 years in prison after swinding a whopping $50 billion from hopeful investors, but his punishment isn’t likely to help Gabor’s bottom line.

And her money woes only add to the health problems she has endured in recent years, including a crippling car wreck in 2002 and devastating stroke in 2005. Now, friends fear her latest ordeal, the July 19 hip replacement surgery she needed after breaking bones when she fell out of bed could be her last.

“We all fear the end is near for Zsa Zsa,” says a source. “She’s always had a lot of fight in her, but the years and her health problems have taken a terrible toll. She just might not have the strength to fight on.”

And Beverly Hills orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bal Raj tells GLOBE, “At Zsa Zsa’s age there is an increased risk of death after hip replacement surgery because it’s unlikely she’ll ever walk again.”

Now, friends are heartbroken that Gabor-the great-aunt of scandal-plagued Paris Hilton by her three-year marriage to hotel magnate Conrad Hilton-faces taking her final bow as a pauper rather than a Hollywood princess.

“The thought of Zsa ZSa Gabor going out penniless is tragic,” says a pal. “It’s a sad final act in a life that she lived to the fullest.”

JIM NELSON and LYNN ALLISON
jnelson@globefl.com