Actress & HIV/AIDS Activist Zelda Rubinstein Dies

By WeHo News Staff, West Hollywood

January 28, 2010

West Hollywood, California (January 28, 2010) - Actress & HIV/AIDS activist Zelda Rubinstein passed away Wednesday at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 76.

The actress had several health problems following a mild heart attack she suffered a month ago.

Most will remember her diminutive but forceful presence – she stood at 4-foot, 3-inch - from her film and TV roles such as the eccentric psychic Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist movies and the Picket Fences TV series.

Her most important role to the gay community, however, was as the first celebrity spokesperson to star in, as America's "Mother Cares," early HIV/AIDS ad campaigns.

Tyler St. Mark, who helped to organize those ad campaigns, told WeHo News, "In 1984-85, I was honored to conceive and produce what would become the first national AIDS awareness campaign.

“The spokes character for that campaign was a diminutive but charismatic actress named Zelda Rubinstein, who became our nation’ first "Mother" for AIDS prevention, pointing her cooking spoon at countless millions at risk and warned them sternly to "Play Safely."

“At a time when it was a huge risk to her fledgling career, "Mother" went in costume into bars, clubs--even bathhouses--to promote safe sex and never accepted a cent for her efforts.”

Indeed, Ms. Rubinstein told Advocate in a recent interview that the ad campaign had serious effects on her career, but as a small person who also fiercely advocated for the rights of little people, she refused to worry about work when basic human rights stood at stake.

Her last public appearance was at October’s AIDS Walk here in West Hollywood.