After what felt like an eternity but was actually just a few minutes, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt emerged from a white door into the foyer of the old-fashioned Bel-Air mansion that he shares with his wife of 25 years, former glamour queen Zsa Zsa Gabor.
The self-proclaimed German prince held a chocolate birthday cake he said was a gift from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Smoke from the expunged candles jabbed into the small cake was still drifting in the air.
Surrounded by paintings and photographs depicting Gabor when she was an infamously sassy Hungarian actress, a few dozen guests quietly sipped champagne and mingle in the common areas of the home overlooking the twinkling lights of Los Angeles.
But Gabor was nowhere to be seen — apparently celebrating her 95th birthday behind closed doors on the chilly Monday evening. Von Anhalt presented the cake to his bedridden beloved out of sight from the partygoers who had gathered for the occasion. He paraded it around the room as he greets his guests.
Gabor hasn't had much reason to celebrate for nearly two years as she dealt with a broken hip, a leg amputated because of gangrene, blood clots, infections, pneumonia, a loose feeding tube. But that didn't stop the publicity-loving von Anhalt from throwing a good party in her honor.
There was food — German dishes like warm pretzels and schnitzel — and plenty of drink. After emerging from the kitchen with his arms filled with bottles of pink wine, the endlessly eccentric von Anhalt scoffed at questions about unloading the mansion, having a baby or running for mayor of Los Angeles.
"This night is only a celebration of my wife's life," he proclaimed.
It was a seemingly lavish yet hardly A-list affair. Over in the sitting room, pianist Rei Williams filled the air with tunes such as "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "Moon River." A young male singer named Caleb — just Caleb — who bears a striking resemblance to Justin Bieber, lounged outside near the pool.
In the dining room, there was a towering white cake for guests topped with strawberries and decorated with hearts and the letters "ZZ" on each tier. Over on another table was a framed letter that read: "The Consulate General of Hungary in Los Angeles sincerely congratulates Zsa Zsa Gabor on the occasion of her 95th birthday. We wish you many more years!"
So why throw such a party for Gabor after all she's been through, especially if she can't participate? Gabor may not know what's going on outside her bedroom door, but she can feel the energy, according to von Anhalt.
He said the celebration makes her feel good. He said she's getting better. He said she wants to live.
AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang/.