Clairvoyant in "Poltergeist", dies at 76


Zelda Rubinstein, a 4-foot-3-inch character actress best known for playing the indomitable ghost-purging psychic in “Poltergeist,” died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 76 and lived in Los Angeles.

The cause was complications of a heart attack she had two months ago, her agent, Eric Stevens, said. No immediate family members survive.

Released in 1982, “Poltergeist” featured a brief bravura turn by Ms. Rubinstein as Tangina, the clairvoyant summoned to scour a suburban home of spirits. “This house is clean!” Tangina memorably declared after attempting the job. The Washington Post called her performance one of the best by a film actress that year.

Ms. Rubinstein reprised the role of Tangina in “Poltergeist II” (1986) and “Poltergeist III” (1988).

A medical lab technician who became an actress in her late 40s, Ms. Rubinstein made her film debut in 1981 in the comedy “Under the Rainbow.” Her other films include “Frances” (1982), “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “Teen Witch” (1989) and “Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights” (1998). On television she had a recurring role as the sheriff’s dispatcher Ginny Weedon in the CBS series “Picket Fences.”

Ms. Rubinstein was also known for her public advocacy of AIDS education and the rights of little people, the term she preferred. In 1981 she helped found the Michael Dunn Memorial Repertory Theater, whose tallest actor was 4 foot 6. Mr. Dunn, who died in 1973, was a dwarf actor known for the film “Ship of Fools” (1965).


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