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Pia Zadora

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Basic Information

Pia Zadora

Date of Birth: 4 May 1954
Place of Birth: Hoboken, New Jersey, USA
Birth Name: Pia Alfreda Schipani
Height: 5' (1.52 m)


Pia Zadora (born Pia Alfreda Schipani, May 4, 1954) is an American actress and singer. After working as a child actress on Broadway, in regional theater, and in the film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), she came to national attention in 1981 when, following her starring role in the critically mauledButterfly, she won a Golden Globe Award as New Star of the Year.

When her film career failed to take off, she became a singer of popular standards and made several successful albums backed by a symphonic orchestra; as a singer she earned the respect of critics who had previously written her off.


Early life

Zadora was born Pia Alfreda Schipani in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her mother, Saturnina "Nina" (née Zadorowski), was a theatrical wardrobe supervisor for Broadway productions, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Opera, and her father, Alphonse Schipani, a violinist. She is of Polish maternal and Italian paternal descent. She adapted part of her mother's maiden name as her stage name. Zadora appeared as a child actress with Tallulah Bankhead in Midgie Purvis. She attended elementary and middle school in Forest Hills, New York, at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, the same parochial school as Ray Romano and David Caruso. She played the youngest sister (Bialke) in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof (1964-1966).

Film career

Zadora's first film was in 1964's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, as Girmar, a young Martian girl (the movie became notorious years later on the TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000). She also sang Hooray for Santy Claus in that movie. Her career made little headway until she met Meshulam Riklis, 30 years her senior, in 1972, while touring with a musical production. The couple married on 18 September 1977 (and divorced 29 March 1995). Not long after her marriage, she made her breakthrough as the Dubonnet Girl, appearing in print and television commercials for the apéritif. Her husband was a shareholder in Dubonnet's American distributor.

Zadora starred with Stacy Keach and Orson Welles in the 1982 film Butterfly, with a plot around father-daughter incest, and featuring Zadora singing "It’s Wrong For Me To Love You". She won that year's Golden Globe Award as "Best New Star of the Year", amid charges that her husband had bought the award with a promotional campaign. Zadora's image filled billboards on Sunset Boulevard. Not all critics were enamored of her performance, however, she was also awarded "Razzies" as "Worst New Star" and "Worst Actress" in the 1982 Golden Raspberry Awards.

Zadora next starred in the 1982 film Fake-Out (aka Nevada Heat), a zany women in prison B-movie co-starring Telly Savalas, and in the 1983 film adaptation of a Harold Robbins novel, The Lonely Lady, playing an aspiring screenwriter who achieves success after surviving sexual assault. She was awarded another Razzie as Worst Actress of 1983. On the basis of her multiple awards, the Golden Raspberry Awards later named her Worst New Star of the Decade (1980-1989).

In 1985 Zadora starred as the object of an extraterrestrial's affections in the musical-comedy Voyage of the Rock Aliens. In addition to showing off her comedic side, the film showcased her musical talents and featured half of the songs from her 1984 album Let's Dance Tonight.

In 1988, she played a beatnik in John Waters' Hairspray.

Music career

She attained success in Europe as a singer, and had several hit singles throughout the world. In 1984, she received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the song "Rock It Out". Her cover of the Shirley Ellis hit "The Clapping Song", reached the U.S. Top 40 in 1983, and she had a hit duet with Jermaine Jackson titled "When the Rain Begins to Fall" in 1984 from the movie Voyage of the Rock Aliens. Though only a minor hit in the US, the song reached #1 in some European countries.

She released Pia & Phil, an album of standards with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985, she recorded a follow up entitled I Am What I Am shortly afterwards.

In 1988, she worked with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on an album entitled When the Lights Go Out. The single "Dance Out Of My Head" wasn't a hit despite the top producers and club remixes by Shep Pettibone and Ben Liebrand. The album was only released in Europe. In 1989 she recorded the album Pia Z with producer Narada Michael Waldenl; it wasn't a hit. The single Heartbeat of Love included club remixes by Civiles and Cole of the C&C Music Factory. A further album of standards entitled Pia Today! was recorded and received a limited promotional release.

Later in 1994, Zadora played a small role in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult]], in the final act in a comedy sketch as she sang at the Oscars. In this segment, Zadora performed the Steve Allen-penned "This Could Be the Start of Something" during a parody of an Academy Awards musical number.

A compilation, The Platinum Collection, was released around this time and sold via infomercials in the US. It included repackaged versions of "Pia & Phil", "I Am What I Am", and "Pia Today!". A further CD of standards Only For Romantics was also recorded, but is very scarce and only promotional copies are available.

Personal life

Zadora and Riklis bought the Beverly Hills mansion Pickfair in January 1988 from Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss for nearly $7 million. They demolished most of the structure (keeping the guest houses), because termites and time had made repairs difficult. The mansion, former home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, was one of Beverly Hills' best known. To show his "love and affection", Riklis commissioned an oil portrait of Zadora nude. Visitors were greeted by the portrait. Pia remained there until late 2005 or early 2006 when she sold the mansion to Korean businessman Corry Hong for $17,650,000.

Zadora's second husband was writer-director Jonathan Kaufer. They were married from 27 August 1995 to 30 November 2001.[citation needed] Zadora's three children are Kady, Kristofer Barzie, and Jordan Maxwell. Kady was named after Zadora's film character in Butterfly, which later inspired the call letters for station KADY-TV/Oxnard, California after Riklis acquired it in 1988.

Zadora is a contributor to both Republican and Democratic political candidates.


  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  • Butterfly (1982)
  • Fake-Out aka Nevada Heat (1982)
  • The Lonely Lady (1983)
  • Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)
  • Hairspray (1988)
  • Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
  • Feel the Motion aka Der Formel Eins Film
  • Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)


  • Pajama Tops (1984)
  • Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme (1990) (played Little Miss Muffet)
  • Frasier (1 episode, 1999)(voice only)



  • 1982: Pia
  • 1984: Let's Dance Tonight
  • 1985: Pia & Phil
  • 1986: I Am What I Am
  • 1988: When the Lights Go Out
  • 1989: Pia Z
  • 1989: Pia Today! (Promo only until it was issued as part of The Platinum Collection)
  • 1993: Only For Romantics (Promo only)
  • 1993: The Platinum Collection (inc. Pia & Phil, I Am What I Am, and Pia Today!)


Year Single Peak chart positions
US US Country UK
1978 "Come Share My Love"
1979 "Bedtime Stories" 76
"Tell Him"A 98
"I Know a Good Thing When I Feel It" 65
1980 "Baby It's You" 55
1982 "I'm in Love Again" 45
1983 "The Clapping Song" 36
1984 "When the Rain Begins to Fall" (with Jermaine Jackson) 54 68
"Follow My Heartbeat"B
"Let's Dance Tonight"
"Little Bit of Heaven"
"Rock It Out"
1985 "Come Rain, Come Shine"
1986 "I Am What I Am"
1988 "Dance Out of My Head" 65
1989 "Heartbeat of Love"
"If You Were Mine"
  • AB-side to "Bedtime Stories"
  • BB-side to "When the Rain Begins to Fall"

Awards and nominations

Golden Globe Awards

  • Won: New Star of the Year, Butterfly (1981)

Golden Raspberry Awards

  • Won: Worst New Star, Butterfly (1983)
  • Won: Worst Actress, Butterfly (1983)
  • Won: Worst Actress, The Lonely Lady (1984)
  • Won: Worst New Star of the Decade, Butterfly and The Lonely Lady (1990)
  • Nominated: Worst Actress of the Decade, Butterfly and The Lonely Lady (1990)
  • Nominated: Worst Actress of the Century, Voyage of the Rock Aliens, Butterfly, and The Lonely Lady (2000)

Golden Apple Award

  • Won: Sour Apple (1982)

Grammy Awards

  • Nominated: Best Rock Vocal Performance Female, for "Rock It Out" (1984)

ShoWest Award

  • Won: Young Star of the Year (1982)


  • Bought the Pickfair mansion in January 1988, only to have it demolished. The outside gate with the letter P is all that remains of the original home.
  • Her son's godfather is Don King.
  • She had a relatively successful singing career. She made pop and traditional vocal albums in the 80s. Her biggest hit in the U.S. was 1983's "The Clapping Song". She earned a Grammy nomination in 1984 with "Rock It Out" (for Female Rock performance) and also scored a worldwide hit with "When the Rain Begins to Fall", a duet with Jermaine Jackson. It was not a hit in the U.S., however. Among her albums: Pia (1982) and Let's Dance Tonight (1984), Pia & Phil (1985), I Am What I Am (1986), Reflections/Today (1988) and When the Lights Go Out (1988) and Pia Z (1989). She also had songs on the soundtracks to her films Butterfly (1982), Fake-Out (1982) and Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984). She went on to perform in Las Vegas, opening for such pop standard veterans as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and others.
  • Won the now defunct best new star of the year Golden Globe despite the fact that she actually made her acting debut eighteen years earlier.
  • Measurements: 34B-21-34 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).
  • Children: Jordan Maxwell (13 April 1997) with Jonathan Kaufer; Kady Zadora (1 January 1985) and Kristopher Barzie (1987) with Meshulam Riklis.
  • Became the first thespian to "win" back-to-back RAZZIE Awards when she was named Worst Actress of 1982 for Butterfly (1982) and Worst Actress of 1983 for The Lonely Lady (1983) - thus making her the RAZZIE equivalent of Luise Rainer.
  • Appeared in a Penthouse spread in 1983. The picture for her 1984 "Rock It Out" single was taken from this shoot.
  • In 1984, her song "Rock It Out" earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Among her fellow nominees: Lita Ford, Bonnie Tyler, Wendy O. Williams and eventual winner Tina Turner.
  • Ex-sister-in-law of Scott Kaufer.
  • Considered for the role of Evita Peron in Evita (1996).
  • Played youngest daughter Bielke for two years in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway (1964-1966).
  • It was during a 1972 bus-and-truck production of "Applause" starring Alexis Smith that was touring in Ohio that Zadora met Meshulam "Rik" Riklis, a 49-year old corporate businessman. She was 17. Four years later they married.
  • At the time when Zadora became the "ad girl" for the French wine-based aperitif, her first husband was a major shareholder of the American distributor for Dubonnet.
  • She made her first records in the 1960s, which included "Bye Bye Boy", for which she was billed as "Little Pia".
  • In 1990 she toured as an opening act for Frank Sinatra.
  • After remarrying in 1995, she appeared on Broadway in "Crazy For You" to favorable reviews, but during this production, she suffered a miscarriage, retired from show business, divorced her second husband and began living with her first husband and father to her children on the grounds of the former Pickfair Estate in Beverly Hills.
  • For "Rock It Out" she received a Grammy nomination in 1984 for "Best Single By A Female Rock Star.".
  • Father, Alphonse Schipani, played violin in Broadway pit orchestras, and mother, Saturnina Zadorowski, was a theater wardrobe supervisor.
  • Attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art while a child as a means of overcoming shyness.
  • In 1961, the six-year-old was selected by noted screen and stage actor Burgess Meredith to appear in the Broadway production of "Midgie Purvis" starring the one and only Tallulah Bankhead.
  • She is of Italian origin by her father side (Calabria) and Polish by her mother side.