Rubinstein in the film Poltergeist II
Zelda May Rubinstein
May 28, 1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||January 27, 2010 (aged 76)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, human rights activist|
Zelda May Rubinstein (May 28, 1933 – January 27, 2010) was an American actress and human rights activist, known as eccentric medium Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist film series. Playing "Ginny", she was a regular on David E. Kelley's Emmy Award-winning television series Picket Fences for two seasons. She also made guest appearances in the TV show Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996), as seer Christina, and was the voice of Skittles candies in their long-running "Taste the Rainbow" ad campaign. Rubinstein was also known for her outspoken activism for little people and her early participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Rubinstein was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 28, 1933 to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland, Dolores and George Rubinstein. She was the youngest of three children and the only short-statured person in her family. (Zelda has been incorrectly referred to as a dwarf.)  Rubinstein did not become comfortable with her short stature until she was an adult. In a 1992 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Rubinstein told the newspaper that she "had a rough childhood, [but] I became very verbally facile... I learned to meet everyone head-on."
She stood just 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m) tall due to a deficiency of the anterior pituitary gland, which produces growth hormone. Commenting in 2002 on the challenges of being a very short-statured person, Rubinstein said, "Midgets are societally handicapped. They have about two minutes to present themselves as equals—and if they don’t take advantage of that chance, then people fall back on the common assumption that 'less' is less."
Rubinstein won a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her bachelor's degree in bacteriology and became a sister of the national sorority Phi Sigma Sigma. She moved to Berkeley, California, at the age of 25, studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked as a medical lab technician at blood banks.
In 1978, Zelda decided to pursue an acting career. She studied acting at the University of California. Poltergeist was her first major film role.
Film critic Pauline Kael, who essentially dismissed Poltergeist as an "entertaining hash", held special praise for Rubinstein's portrayal of the psychic Tangina, saying she "gives the movie new life and makes a large chunk of it work."
She remained active in film and television thereafter, frequently portraying various psychic characters, such as her appearance on Jennifer Slept Here. She also narrated the horror television series, Scariest Places on Earth, which aired in the U.S. on ABC Family and in Canada on YTV.
Rubinstein's other minor/major film roles included Sixteen Candles, Under the Rainbow, Cages, Teen Witch, The Wildcard, Southland Tales and National Lampoon's Last Resort. She also contributed voice-over work for TV including Hey Arnold!, and The Flintstones. She made numerous guest appearances on network TV shows, including Caroline in the City, Martin, Mr. Belvedere, and had a starring role as Ginny Weedon in the TV series Picket Fences. Her character there was killed off in typical off-beat fashion, by falling into a freezer early in the third season. She also appeared in an episode of Tales From The Crypt in which she played the mother of a girl who has been dead for 40 years. In 1993, she made a cameo appearance in the campy thriller Acting on Impulse, which reunited her with Poltergeist III co-star Nancy Allen.
She also starred in two different roles on the same show in 1984 and in 1990: Santa Barbara.
Beginning in 1999, she did voiceovers in television starting with the Fox Family reality TV Show, Scariest Places On Earth, commercials promoting movies such as Lady in the Water, and products including Skittles candy. Her last film role came in 2007 when she made a cameo appearance in the horror film Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. She also appeared in a cameo as herself at the Revenge of the Mummy ride in Universal Studios Florida on the screens which shows various actors from the films warning the people to leave, telling them about the curse of Imhotep.
Human rights and activism
Rubinstein became active in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 1984. She appeared in a series of advertisements, directed towards gay men specifically, promoting safer sex and AIDS awareness. Rubinstein did so at risk to her own career, especially so shortly after her rise to fame, and admitted later that she did "pay a price, career-wise." "I lost a friend to AIDS, one of the first public figures that died of AIDS," the actress said in an interview with The Advocate. "I knew it was not the kind of disease that would stay in anybody's backyard. It would climb the fences, get over the fences into all of our homes. It was not limited to one group of people." She attended the first AIDS Project Los Angeles AIDS Walk.
Rubinstein died in Los Angeles, California, on January 27, 2010. She was 76. Eric Stevens, Rubinstein's agent for four years, said the actress had never recovered from a mild heart attack she suffered several months earlier, which he said left her a patient at Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. "She had several pre-existing conditions that she had been dealing with for years, and unfortunately they began to overtake her," Stevens said. Stevens also said that per Rubinstein's request, no funeral would be held.
|1981||Under the Rainbow||Iris|
|1982||Poltergeist||Tangina Barrons||Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1982||Frances||Mental Patient||Credited as Zelda Rubenstein|
|1983||A Chip of Glass Ruby||Daughter|
|1986||Poltergeist II: The Other Side||Tangina Barrons||Nominated-Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress|
|1987||Anguish||Alice Pressman, the Mother||Alternative title: Angustia|
|1988||Poltergeist III||Tangina Barrons||Nominated-Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
Nominated-Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress
|1989||Teen Witch||Madame Serena Alcott|
|1991||Guilty as Charged||Edna|
|1994||National Lampoon's Last Resort||Old Hermit||Alternative titles: Last Resort, National Lampoon's Scuba School|
|1996||Lover's Knot||Woman in Clinic|
|1996||Little Witches||Mother Clodah|
|1997||Mama Dolly||Mama Dolly|
|1997||Critics and Other Freaks||Theatre Director|
|1998||Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights||Princess Shalazar|
|1999||Frank in Five||Waitress|
|2000||Maria & Jose||Doctor|
|2004||The Wild Card||Mrs. Stanfield||Direct-to-DVD release|
|2005||Angels with Angles||Zelda the Angel|
|2006||Southland Tales||Dr. Katarina Kuntzler|
|2006||Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon||Mrs. Collinwood||Cameo|
|2014||Strange Matters||Agnes Sampson||(final film role)|
|1980||The Flintstone Comedy Show||Atrocia Frankenstone (Voice)||1 episode|
|1983||Jennifer Slept Here||1 episode|
|1983||Matt Houston||Flower Girl||1 episode|
|1984||Whiz Kids||Madame Zerleena||1 episode|
|1984||Santa Barbara||Mental Patient||1 episode|
|1986||ABC Weekend Special||Ralph's Mother||1 episode|
|1987||The Tortellis||1 episode|
|1987||Faerie Tale Theatre||Old Woman||1 episode|
|1987||Reading Rainbow||Herself (Voice)||1 episode|
|1987||Sable||Sister Glory||1 episode|
|1990||Santa Barbara||Gladys Bittleworth, ghost psychic||5 episodes|
|1990||Mr. Belvedere||Murphy||1 episode|
|1991||Darkwing Duck||Voice||1 episode|
|1991||The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw||Butterfingers O'Malley||Television movie|
|1992||Stormy Weathers||Rosamund||Television movie|
|1992||Tales from the Crypt||Nora||1 episode|
|1992–1994||Picket Fences||Ginny Weedon||44 episodes|
|1993||Acting on Impulse||Nosy Lady||Television movie|
|1996||Poltergeist: The Legacy||Christina||1 episode|
|1997||Martin||Nurse Froyd||1 episode|
|1997||Chock 2 - Kött||Mother||Television movie|
|1998||Caroline in the City||Phyllis||1 episode|
|1999||Hey Arnold!||Patty's Mother (Voice)||1 episode|
|2000||The Pretender||Pawn shop lady||1 episode|
|2000–2006||Scariest Places on Earth||Narrator||41 episodes|
|2001||The Flintstones: On the Rocks||Psychiatrist (Voice)||Television movie|
- McLellan, Dennis (2010-01-27). "Zelda Rubinstein, who played psychic in 'Poltergeist', dies at 76". kdvr.com. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Obituary London Independent, April 22, 2010.
- Broverman, Neal (January 27, 2010). "Poltergeist Star and HIV Activist Zelda Rubinstein Dies at Age 77". Shewired.com. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
- Rizzo, Frank (2010-02-02). ""Poltergeist"'s Zelda Rubinstein Dies; Starred in Hartford Project". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- McLellan, Dennis (2010-01-28). "Zelda Rubinstein dies at 76; actress played psychic in 'Poltergeist'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- Fox, Margalit (2010-01-29). "Zelda Rubinstein, 76, 'Poltergeist' Actress". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- Thomas-Matej, Elisabeth (2002). "What's in a Diagnosis? A Medical Biography of Michael Dunn". NCTC.net. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- "Zelda Rubinstein, Iota - University of Pittsburgh". Phisigmasigma.org. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Kael, Pauline (2011) . 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 588. ISBN 978-1-250-03357-4.
- "'Poltergeist' actress dies at age 76". CNN. January 28, 2010.
- Actress Zelda Rubinstein taken off life support : LGBT | POV