Pia Alfreda Schipani, better known by her professional name Pia Zadora, is an American singer and actress. After a largely unsuccessful career as an actress, during which she appeared in several critically panned films, she found considerable success as a singer. Originally from New Jersey, Zadora grew up in a family that encouraged her to harbour artistic aspirations. She got her start on the stage and appeared in various plays, some of which were Broadway productions. In 1964, she made her cinematic debut in ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’. In her next film, the heavily criticised ‘Butterfly’, Zadora was cast as Kady Tyler. She received the Golden Globe Award as New Star of the Year as well as the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress and the "Worst New Star" for her performance. In the ensuing few years, she appeared in several equally low-rated films and eventually decided to stop acting and instead focus on her music career. In the 1980s and 1990s, she put out multiple studio albums, including the release ‘Pia’.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 4, 1953, in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, Pia Zadora is the daughter of Saturnina (née Zadorowski) and Alphonse Schipani. She is Polish-American from her mother’s side and Italian-American from her father’s.
Her mother worked as a theatrical wardrobe supervisor for Broadway productions, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Opera while her father was a prolific violinist.
Pia chose to use the first part of her mother’s maiden name for her stage name. While she was still a child, she got the opportunity to work with the theatre and screen legend Tallulah Bankhead in ‘Midgie Purvis’.
In the Broadway production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (1964–66), she was cast as Bielke, the youngest sister.
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Besides ‘Butterfly’, Pia Zadora was also nominated for the Worst Actress Razzie for her performance as the aspiring screenwriter Jerilee Randall in the 1983 drama ‘The Lonely Lady’. Furthermore, she was awarded the Razzie for Worst New Star of the Decade (1980-89).
She also appeared in films like ‘Voyage of the Rock Aliens’ (1984), ‘Hairspray’ (1988), and ‘Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult’ (1994).
She made her TV debut in the TV movie ‘Pajama Tops’ in 1983, and played Little Miss Muffet in the 1990 telefilm ‘Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme’. In 1999, she appeared in an episode of the sitcom ‘Frasier’.
In 2011, Zadora tried to make a return to the spotlight with a cabaret show titled ‘Pia Zadora: Back Again, And Standing Tall’.
In 1982, Pia Zadora put out her self-titled debut album, and has released seven more albums to date: ‘Let’s Dance Tonight’ (1984), ‘Pia & Phil’ (1985), ‘I Am What I am’ (1986), ‘When the Lights Go Out’ (1988), ‘Pia Z’ (1989), ‘Pia Today’ (1989), and ‘Only the Romantics’ (1993).
In 1983, her cover of the Shirley Ellis’ track ‘The Clapping Song’, performed for ‘The Lonely Lady’, was listed at #36 on the US music chart. Her collaboration with Jermaine Jackson resulted in the 1984 German and Netherlands charts-topper, ‘When the Rain Begins to Fall’.
In the 1982 cinematic adaptation of James M. Cain's novel ‘Butterfly’, Zadora played Kady Tyler, who gets involved in an incestuous relationship with her father, Jess Tyler (Stacy Keach). A critical and commercial failure, the film was financed by Riklis, Zadora’s first husband. It received ten Razzie nominations, winning three, including the Worst Actress and the "Worst New Star" Awards for Zadora.
Interestingly, she also won the Golden Globe Award as New Star of the Year for her performance in ‘Butterfly’, after Riklis entertained the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association by flying them to Las Vegas, where Zadora performed for them. This led to allegations of “buying” the award against the couple.
For her single ‘Rock It Out’, Zadora was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1985. The award eventually went to Tina Turner's ‘Better Be Good to Me.’
Family & Personal Life
Pia Zadora has been married three times in her life. Her first husband was the Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis, who was 31 years older than her. They tied the knot on September 18, 1977, and had two children, daughter Kady (born January 1, 1985) and son Kristofer Barzie (born March 3, 1987). The couple divorced on March 29, 1995.
She was married to her second husband writer/director Jonathan Kaufer from August 27, 1995, to November 30, 2001. On April 13, 1997, she gave birth to their son Jordan Maxwell.
Zadora met her third husband, Las Vegas detective Michael Jeffries, after she reached out to the police to report a stalking occurrence. They married on January 7, 2006.
In June 2013, Zadora was arrested after a physical dispute with her son, Jordan, who was a teenager at the time. She subsequently faced charges of domestic violence battery and coercion, and was incarcerated.
The presiding judge later ruled that she had to keep herself out of trouble for a year, undergo impulse control counselling, and adhere to recommendations of an alcohol evaluation.