In 1982 myself and some friends went to see the new movie POLTERGEIST playing at the Zeigfeld Theater on W. 54th St in Manhattan We loved the movie, but were blown away by the woman who played the medium Tangina. Everyone in our group agreed that whoever the newcomer Zelda Rubenstein was, she had just asserted herself as an icon in cinematic history.
I could never have anticipated that one day this unique and talented woman would bestow on me the mitzvah -one of her favorite yiddish-isms - of her friendship.
Six years after that movie, I would move to Los Angeles, and become part of the original staff of ORSO Restaurant. ORSO grew into quite a show business hangout and Zelda became one of our most beloved regulars. (Notably, ORSO - which rarely closed it's doors for private parties - agreed to play host for Zelda's celebratory party when she adopted her daughter and family in the early 1990's).
As was Zelda's way, she very quickly flirted, joked and warmed her way into my life and my heart. Hearing her voice on my answering machine always made me smile: "Hi honey! How the hell are ya? Give me a call when you have the time - let's have a meal together!!!"
I have many great memories of our lunches at CHA CHA CHA in Silverlake - usually on a Thursday or Friday - it was a great way to end the week and start the weekend. We used to call it 'our place' - but there's not a doubt in my mind those fried plantains and bowls of guacamole must've been shared with innumerable dates on other days of the week too.
Zelda loved to get together for one on one's with her nearest and dearest - but she also loved to gather all those friends for her fabulous birthday parties which were held - literally - from one end of Los Angles to the other . . Without a hint of irony she would say "Honey, this year I'm going to have to have a smaller party - I'm keeping the guest list down to 50 . . . or 100"
Another example of Zelda's humor came in the fall of 2002. She left a message on my voice mail:
"Hi honey, it's Zelda Mae . . . I've got a favor to ask of you . . they are honoring POLTERGEIST at the Vista Movie Theater in Silverlake on Friday . . and they want the remaining and attending cast to put their hand-prints and signatures in cement in front of the theater. I'm wondering if you could come and give me some support. And I mean that literally!
I'm a little top heavy these days and I'm worried that if I don't have someone holding on to me when I bend over to put my hand-prints in the cement, The Vista will end up with my tit-prints as well! Let me know!!!
Zelda never lost that ribald sense of humor . . . Even as the years went by, she became a more frequent visitor to Cedars Sinai . . .but whenever she was up to it, she took great fun in sharing her 'blue material' with visitors, nurses and doctors alike. And I never saw anyone take offense - you couldn't help but like - and love - Zelda.
But any memory I have of Zelda would be far from complete with mentioning the love of her life and her life's partner, David. I don't think I ever, ever spent time with her that she did not tell me what a special man he was and how deeply she loved him - as she would often tell me: "I love him on a cellular level". And David's devotion was the perfect match. His love, understanding and care of her through the years was something wonderful to witness. True love.
I truly feel blessed to have known them both.