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I was very saddened to hear that Elizabeth Peña had passed away at such a young age, just a few weeks after her September 23rd, birthday. It seems as if my first memories of the beautiful Elizabeth Peña were from her turn in ‘La Bamba” as the former girlfriend of Lou Diamond Phillip’s character, Ritchie Valens. Soon after the movie starts, she falls for Ritchie’s older brother, Bob, played by Esai Morales. For much of the entire movie, every time I looked at her, I was thinking about how she did Ritchie so wrong. I didn’t like her character at all. As I grew older, I realized that when an actor’s or actress’ performances could make you dislike them, they were doing some very good acting.


Elizabeth was a very good actress. One of the things that I remember most about her was that she had a very youthful look as an actress. While playing a teenager alongside Loud Diamond Phillips in ‘La Bamba’, Elizabeth was nearly 30 years old (actually a few years older than Phillips). It seems like she was always around. She was always popping up in all kinds of Hollywood productions. One of my favorites was her turn in ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, co-starring alongside Tim Robbins and featuring a very young Macaulay Culkin back in 1990. Another memorable performance was in ‘Across The Moon’, where she co-starred with Christina Applegate. She co-starred in ‘Rush Hour’ with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker back in 1998. It was a box office blockbuster and seemed to reinforce that Elizabeth would remain a visible face in the movie/television entertainment circles.

Like so many other actors and actresses, one minute they are doing a very high profile role and the next minute we are wondering what happened to them. Often we take for granted that the familiar faces we know, like Peña’s, are always going to be around. Some time after hearing of Elizabeth’s passing, I noticed that in a collection of DVDs near the television console there was one of a film that Elizabeth had co-starred in with Sela Ward called ‘Suburban Madness’, based on a true story. I hadn’t even known it was there. It just seemed that Elizabeth was always around. I’m going to miss Elizabeth. A whole lot of us will.

…thanks for the memories, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Peña (September 23, 1959 – October 14, 2014)

Elizabeth Peña @ IMDB

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