Friday, February 5, 2010

Stephen Mendel Remembers Zelda

My Friend Zelda

I met Zelda Rubenstein in 1982. I had arrived in Los Angeles in the fall of 1981 from Montreal. Like so many others I had come to the mecca of LA seeking fame and fortune. I was standing in a line at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on the last day to submit photos for the next edition of The Players Directory. I was not alone; many others had waited until the very last moment to do the same. One of those was Zelda. I knew she was an actress, what would she be doing there otherwise, but I hadn’t seen Poltergeist. She looked me up and down (I’m exactly two feet taller) said something to me about being a tall drink of water and we began a conversation that continued until she lapsed into a coma in late 2009.

2009 was not a very good year for Zelda; she was in and out of the hospital the whole year with one health issue or another. Over the years, but most especially in ’09, I’d often taken her to her various doctors when her dear friend and companion David was working.

From 1984 through 1989 I lived in Toronto while working on a TV series. Zelda came to visit me there and also in Montreal when I shot a movie there as well. We were neither of us wealthy and I remember vividly driving from Montreal to Burlington, Vermont to pick her up from the much lamented People’s Express ($99.00 one way across the US!) You should have seen the looks on the immigration and customs man’s face when she pulled out her passport and answered the questions about what she did for a living!

I had a small SUV for many years and it was always a bit of a chore for Zelda to get in. So one day I went into an auto parts store and found a step that could be attached to the passenger side of the vehicle and we called it the Zelda step from then on.

She had a temper of course, one day we were walking about the site of the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal and some hillbilly came up to her and said something to the effect of “ain’t you that little girl from the movies?” I won’t repeat what she said but suffice to say he retreated tail between legs.

She always called on birthdays of course and never missed any plays I was in or musical gigs I performed at over the years and I did the same and saw everything she was in.

Sometimes we’d go for weeks without a conversation and then one of us would pick up the phone (usually her) and we’d catch up.

I saw her many times over these last few years, I’d go and pick her up at home and we’d go out for lunch or dinner and she would never, ever let me pay. I visited her at home and when she was hospitalized or needed to be transported somewhere.

I loved her and always will. She will be forever in my heart.

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