Memories of Zelda

Below are some email exchanges I had with Zelda's former publicist, Tyler St. Mark, soon after she passed away. You can visit his web site at


Hi David,
Thank you for your thoughtful email.
Yes, indeed, I have many, many anecdotes about Zelda and both her film career and AIDS activism.   Along with producing the AIDS campaign, I was Zelda's publicist as well for several years and have many, many bittersweet memories of those times.
In particular, I was on the set of Poltergeist II several times and have some amusing stories from that particular film as well.
Below are a few rare photos I have shared this week...
Tyler St.Mark
Zelda and I during one of the many photo shoots for the "Mother Cares" campaign.  As I was the one
who found and championed her for the role of "Mother," she often jokingly referred to me as "Father."
A publicity photo of Zelda in her "Mother" wardrobe

Although most of the media recently featured another poster from the set, this
poster was actually the most popular and featured of all the safe sex posters.
Zelda receiving a special proclamation from the County of L.A.

I can tell you that, yes, Zelda was not too pleased at the time with the second film or its director.  From what I witnessed, Mr.Gibson was not a detail-oriented director and his "direction" of the film's cast consisted primarily of this:
"Alright, everybody, CONCENTRATE!"  He would repeat this before every scene and take--and it was really quite annoying. 
Also, from what I observed, he wasn't well-liked for reasons that I was never clear on.   Zelda was polite but aloof around him and, clearly, didn't care for him or his directing style.   Of course, it didn't help that some of her best scenes went onto the cutting room floor.  
One funny story:  I was on the set the day they filmed the underground cavern scene.   I walked among the numerous skeletons that littered the set during setups and, being a former emergency medical technician, I mentioned to Zelda that I thought that some of them appeared remarkably authentic.  "Are you sure they aren't real?," I joked.  Many months later, I heard that the set decorators had used real skeletons purchased from India because they were cheaper than making fake ones.

DAVID: Do you recall what scenes with her were cut? I was told by one of the editors that at least 15 minutes of various scenes were cut from the film during post production. Here is an excerpt from the shooting script that I did find, with the publicity still of the scene below:

They walk together toward Tangina's car.
I want you to know something...I'm afraid. That's the real reason I haven't been here.
I understand.
There's something else I feel you should know...The authorities are going to seal off the cavern..the day after tomorrow at noon...citing "health regulations."
Diane hugs Tangina.
Maybe that'll end it all.
Tangina shrugs.
I'll miss you.
God bless, child.
Tangina gets in her car and drives off, leaving Diane watching her, sadly.

TYLER: I don't recall all of the scenes now but one of them, as I do recall, involved a direct confrontation with the evil reverend played by Julian Beck.   Zelda was quite upset about it as she felt that was one of her best scenes.  (I never saw the scene nor was I there when it was filmed).  
I also recall early on that Zelda was very concerned that Julian was very ill at the time and, according to her, "probably terminal."  He died before the film completed, of course.
As far as the director, he simply came across like he didn't really know what he was doing and it was off-putting to the cast and crew.  His manner was brash, abrupt, pedantic, and seemingly insecure.  Combined with all of the other issues that hindered the production, including delays, actors' illness and death, the morale was extremely low on this production. Honestly, nobody looked like they were enjoying the process--including Zelda.

I later asked writer/producer Michael Grais about the deleted scene with Zelda and Julian. Here's what he told me:

Yes, I do remember something like was a great scene. Sorry it didn't make it in.


Another friend of Zelda's, Jack, who first met her while doing a play in 1984, shared the following information with me:

I met Zelda on May 27th 1984, my birthday. Her birthday is May 28th. She was doing a production of George Orwell's "1984" on stage in LA at the time. We became close friends from then on. I was NOT lucky to have known her. I was privileged.

I always called her Zelda Mae! "Hey there Zelda Mae! "Love you Zelda Mae!"

As the song from DREAMGIRLS says........Love you I do!

While I am not shocked [at her passing] I am still dazed. I sort of cannot believe it. Friends of over 25 years are hard to maintain. I miss her profoundly. She was one unique and fabulous woman.

[When I told Jack about how I saw Zelda at a "Poltergeist" screening but was a bit shy to approach her, he said:]

You should NEVER have been scared off by Zelda and her "ways" of dealing with fans! Are you male? Are you the slightest bit cute? hee hee! She would have responded with GLEE! Zelda LUVS her men! If you are a woman and got down on your knees to worship her? Ohhhhhhhhhh look out!

Anyway, I don't want to sound like a smart ass.

When I have time over the next week I will send you stories about Zelda and the whole POLTERGEIST phenom. I have to reflect. I was with her when she shot scenes up in the John Hancock Center  in Chicago. The whole "icy pool thing". I met Lara Flynn Boyle and the whole cast. That night when they shot the icy pool thing was interminable and Zelda and I left early to go to a restaurant for dinner across the street.

Short story.

Zelda LOVED a particular waiter in a private dining room in the Hotel next to where she was staying. We went there and she ordered Beef Wellington. When it arrived it was an individual serving of Wellington on a plate submerged in a lovely brown Cabernet sauce. Zelda took a knife and fork and sliced in. The knife hit the plate and the Cabernet sauce hit her face and chest with alarming velocity. She was covered.

The Owner/Hostess/Whatever noticed this and ran to get a cloth with club soda. When she got to Zelda she offered her assistance. Zelda said "The gravy got the best of me!" We both laughed but the snide Owner/Hostess/Whatever said........"DEAR that is a sauce!"

Without a beat Zelda said "Yes DEAR I know it is a sauce but it is BEHAVING like gravy!". Hilarity ensued.

More where that came from.

Since I used to be an actor and have been around famous people my entire life I am not a "fanboy" so to speak. I have never gotten that thrill of seeing or meeting a celeb like some folks do. Wellllllllll........maybe once. I met Julie Andrews at a party and damn near passed out! LOL!

I just haven't retained the small stuff that people are so entranced by. While I have many many stories about Zelda I am woefully ill equipped to give minutiae on topics like set visits and the like. I will do my best to fill in some gaps though. I have visited your websites and think you are a good egg. Smart and funny.

Here are a few remembrances:

When I went on the set of P3 and watched the filming of that icky pool scene it was just a "royalty tour" as we call it in the biz. Zelda wanted me to see her surroundings and to meet the cast as well as show me off as one of her "boyfriends". That sounds awful but oh so true. She also couldn't be around Gary Sherman enough. She just adored him and thought he would make her into a "real" movie star with a great role some day. Zelda was infatuated with Gary in a big way. Later she did POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY for him. She told me that she did it to "elevate" the property for Gary.

I never met Heather O'Rourke. She was not involved with that scene that night. I understood that she was ill though. Zelda ADORED that child. When she passed away Zelda was inconsolable. It was sad and touching at the same time. Zelda is very good with children. She worked at Arena Stage in DC one year and actually adopted a boy that was in the cast!

Tobe Hooper! OMG! Zelda detested him. The "traffic cop" line that is attributed to her is as old as I am! Her actual line was as follows:

"Tobe Hooper? The only line that man is qualified to direct is 'Hello welcome to Arbys. Do you have any coupons?'". LMAO!

I vaguely remember a conversation with Zelda about P2 and Beatrice Straight. Beatrice was an Oscar winner and felt that POLTERGEIST was beneath her in the first place. P2 was out of the question. Zelda was thrilled to reprise her role as Tangina.

Brian Gibson! OMG! Zelda detested him. More on him later.

Zelda thought Geraldine Fitzgerald was a GODDESS! Zelda is hateful toward women. Mostly tall women. But she loved Geraldine.

As for Poltergeist IV? I heard a whisper about it many years ago. The script was said to be unfilmable. Something about reincarnation and Indians? I don't quite remember. I DO remember that there was not ONE star of the previous films that would sign on.

Zelda story:

Zelda got off a plane at Burbank airport in 1996. She was returning from Florida. She sat next to a "breathtaking" young man. She was all verklempt when relaying this story. She said, "Jack! That man was SOOOOOOOO beautiful I wanted to fuck him into unconciousness!" That's my Zelda!

God Bless and as Zelda always said...........CHEERS!