Obituary: Zelda Rubinstein (1933-2010)

Poltergeist actress dies after prolonged illness.

zeldaZelda Rubinstein has died at the age of 76, her family has confirmed in a statement.

Born on 28 May 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rubinstein suffered from a deficiency of the anterior pituitary gland, causing her growth to stop at four feet and three inches. Educated at the University Of California, Berkeley and the University Of Pittsburgh, Rubinstein’s initial career was in medical laboratories before she moved to Europe for several years.

Eventually, she returned to America, where she embarked on a career in drama. Her first major film role is also her best-known, as Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist, but over several decades she also appeared in television and in voice work for animated productions. Her list of credits includes films such as Sixteen Candles and Southland Tales, as well as guest appearances on Poltergeist: The Legacy, Tales From The Crypt, Caroline In The City and Darkwing Duck.

Rubinstein was a prominent activist during the Eighties, particularly for causes such as AIDS at a time when it was not popular to do so and for Dwarfism. The actress later admitted that this had an effect on her career. She appeared in several advertisements specifically targeted at gay men, urging them to practice safe sex to stop the spread of the disease among homosexual communities, and was also involved in several groundbreaking events such as the first Los Angeles AIDS Walk.

She continued to be active within entertainment up until several years ago. Reports began to circulate at the very end of 2009 that she was nearing death after a prolonged stay at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, however her family and long term companion denied this despite taking the decision to remove her from life support due to lung and kidney failure. Rubinstein eventually died on 27 January 2010 at Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles.