Peace Out, Zelda

You might not know her name, but I bet you recognize her voice. Zelda Rubenstein was the diminutive on-screen actress with a gigantic off-screen Good streak.

She’s probably best known for her role in Poltergeist as the psychic Tangina Barrons, but I really loved her brief appearance as the organist in Sixteen Candles. It’s one of my favorite movies (Jake Ryan!), and she added the perfect touch of surrealism to the already-horrible day endured by Samantha (Molly Ringwald).

Zelda died yesterday in an L.A. hospital where she’s been since suffering a heart attack two months ago.

As it turns out, she was remarkable for more than her movie and TV roles. She campaigned for little people to be treated with more respect by the entertainment industry, and she appeared in a series of early AIDS awareness ads in the ’80s.

 “Zelda not only lent her support to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center—before it was popular for celebrities to support AIDS and LGBT organizations–she volunteered to star in a groundbreaking HIV prevention campaign for us,” said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.  “The image of her on billboards and posters, saying to a shirtless guy holding an umbrella: ‘don’t forget your rubbers,’ is now iconic.  She will be deeply missed.” – LGBT POV

Y’all know I have a soft spot for people who try cool things at an age when conventional wisdom says they should “know better.” Zelda was a medical technician until she decided – IN HER FORTIES – to try acting. After her scene-stealing turn in Poltergeist, she never returned to working in a blood bank.

Sounds like she was a real firecracker.

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