Zelda Rubinstein, the Poltergeist actress and HIV activist, died Wednesday at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 76.
The 4-foot, 3-inch actress had various health problems following a mild heart attack she suffered late last year.
Rubinstein will be remembered by gays for being one of the first celebrities to lend her name and face to an HIV/AIDS public awareness campaign aimed at gay men. In a series of billboards and posters that blanketed Los Angeles in the mid '80s, Rubinstein portrayed "Mother," a sweet maternal figure who urged her "sons" to play safe. The posters soon spread nationally and then internationally.
The actress spoke to Advocate.com recently about her role in the L.A. Cares campaign and the hit her career took for participating in it (see attached video).
Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Rubinstein worked as a lab technician until getting into acting in her 40s. Her performance as the psychic Tangina in Poltergeist was hailed by critics, and she later nabbed roles in that movie's sequels and the quirky television show Picket Fences.
Rubinstein spoke out not only for safe sex but for the rights of gays and little people.