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Zelda Rubinstein (1933 – 2009)

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.


Zelda Rubinstein, best known for her work in the “Poltergeist” movies, has sadly died at the age of 76.

Having been an ally of Zelda’s for a couple of years now (here we are pictured a couple of years back, sharing a great lunch in California) I can only say, what a sad, sad thing this is.

She’s a divine person. A treasured soul. My producing partner, Christopher Showerman, has been friends with Zelda for years. He drives her around, visits her regularly, and will essentially move heaven and earth to help her – and does… did.

When Chris called late last year to let me know Zelda wasn’t doing well, my stomach dropped. I felt ill. For someone so strong in character and so solemnly brave to have to go through such a thing is just, well, depressing. Its life, sure, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Zelda was a great storyteller. She knew anyone and everyone in Hollywood, and had some wonderful stories to share. She of course was always happy to talk about “Poltergeist” – speaking regularly about how the film was essentially Steven Spielberg’s (not Tobe Hooper’s), and constantly sung the praises for her co-stars. Aside from Craig T.Nelson, she was the second person from the series to get wind of my “Poltergeist Kayeri” spec that did the rounds (ultimately getting placed on a ‘maybe’ list at Sony) in the early noughties. Very encouraging, too. Expected it would come to fruition. That didn’t happen, but what did happen was a friendship and some great story sharing with Zelda. That means more.

I’ll always remember this – My wife, always scared witless by Julian Beck’s performance as the evil ‘Kane’ in “Poltergeist II”, would always try and convince Zelda that her late friend – who sadly died from stomach cancer some years before – was so damn frightening in the movie that he could only be a demon in real life. It was quite an amusing back-and-forth between them. All in good fun, though. Zelda thought it was a laugh. She was wild. And speaking of, if there’s one thing I’ll always remember about Zelda it was her wild vocabulary – she spoke pretty much like Tangina Buttons in the “Poltergeist” movies. Where one might say they’ve just ‘spoken’ or ‘been talking’ to a friend or an acquaintance, Zelda would say “I’ve been communicating with…” so-and-so. Love it.

Zelda hadn’t been well for a while. She was admitted to hospital late last year after suffering a ‘mild’ heart attack.Though the media falsely reported that she’d died last month, Rubinstein was still very much alive – and contrary to reports, her two major organs didn’t give in. In the past week though, she took a turn for the worst.

If you’re stuck for something to watch tonight, you could pay tribute to Zelda by watching the “Poltergeist” films, “Southland Tales”, “Sixteen Candles”, “Behind the Mask” or some old episodes of “Picket Fences”.

Zelda, you’ll be missed.

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