Friday, August 31, 2018

My Beloved Vanessa Marquez

"Grief is the price we pay for love." HRM Queen Elizabeth II

This is the hardest blog post I will ever have to write. Yesterday actress Vanessa Marquez was shot and killed by the South Pasadena Police Department. She was probably best known as Nurse Wendy Goldman on the TV series ER and Ana Delgado in the classic film Stand and Deliver (1988). I knew her as my dear friend. In fact, I have to  admit that I was in love with Vanessa. She was one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest people I have ever known. We shared a love of classic films, classic television shows, Star Wars, and pop culture. We interacted on several social media platforms, from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram. We texted each other nearly every day and talked on the phone for hours at least once a week.

Vanessa Rosalia Marquez was born on December 21 1968 in Los Angeles County, California. Her father, John Marquez, died when she was only 1 1/2 years old in the Vietnam War. She took an interest in acting while very young, especially after seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the first time when she was three or four. When she was 8 years old she wrote Paramount Studios telling them she was ready to audition for any parts. Even as a child she was a fan of classic films, particularly Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. She studied tap dancing while she was very young.

Vanessa made her film debut in the role of Ana Delgado in the classic Stand and Deliver in 1988.  The film was based on the true story of math teacher Jaime Escalante. In 2011 Stand and Deliver was added to the National Film Registry with the comment that it was " of the most popular of a new wave of narrative feature films produced in the 1980s by Latino filmmakers." The following year she appeared in the film Night Children (1989).  It was also in 1989 that she appeared in the play Demon Wine at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in the role of Wanda. Vanessa made her television debut in the TV movie To My Daughter in 1990. That same year she appeared in the TV movie Sweet 15 and she guest starred on the TV show Wiseguy.

The early Nineties saw Vanessa Marquez appear in the films Twenty Bucks (1993), Bound by Honour (1993), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993), Blood in, Blood Out (1993), and Father Hood (1993). In 1991 she appeared in the TV movie Locked Up: A Mother's Rage and in 1994 in the TV movie State of Emergency. She guest starred on the TV shows Tequilla and Bonetti, Seinfeld, Nurses and Melrose Place. She was part of the ensemble of the comedy sketch show Culture Clash in 1993. In 1991 she appeared at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in the one act play La Pinta.

In 1994 she began appearing in what may be her best known role, as Nurse Wendy on the TV show ER.  She appeared on the show through its third season. Vanessa spoke out about sexual harassment and the use of ethnic slurs towards her on the set of ER. She said that she was subsequently blacklisted for reporting the harassment. Regardless, her credits became fewer after her stint on ER. While still on ER, she voiced six different fairies in the episode "Sleeping Beauty" of the HBO animated series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. She appeared in the 1997 TV movie All Lies End in Murder and made three guest appearances on the show Malcolm & Eddie. She provided the voice of a singer in the film Under Suspicion (2000).

Vanessa Marquez's only scripted television credit in the Naughts was the TV movie Fire & Ice. In 2005 she appeared in an episode of the A&E reality series Intervention, on which she attempted to deal with her shopping addiction. She appeared in the Star Wars fan video short Return of Pink Five in 2006. In 2010 she appeared in Anna in the Tropics at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, playing the role of Marela.

In 2010 Vanessa helped raise money for cancer treatment for James Escalante, the teacher upon whom  the movie Stand and Deliver was based.

When I first learned of Vanessa' death last night I began crying and I did not sleep at all. I would not stop crying until nearly 1 PM Central Time. Vanessa was very special to me. In fact, I am not sure how long we had actually known each other. It seemed as if we had known each other forever. We met through live tweeting the TV show Mad Men and bonded further through live tweets to movies on Turner Classic Movies using the hashtag #TCMParty. We eventually became very close friends. We interacted on several social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We texted each other nearly every day. We talked on the phone about once a week, and our conversations could last upwards of four hours. We had a good deal in common. We were both close to the same age (I was five years older than Vanessa) and we shared a love of classic movies, classic television shows, and pop culture in general. I loved Vanessa Marquez very dearly, as did all of her friends in the #TCMParty community. She was an absolutely wonderful person, beautiful inside and out.

As wonderful as Vanessa was, she did have her share of difficulties. She had a terminal illness, refractory coeliac disease. She experienced seizures on a regular basis. Vanessa also experienced her share of financial difficulties. Despite her ill heath, Vanessa was generally in good spirits. She enjoyed interacting with her friends and expressed concern for them when they were sick or feeling down. If one was having a bad day, he or she could always count on Vanessa to cheer him or her up.

Of course, she was also an immensely talented actress. As Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER there were a few times when Vanessa was required to speak Spanish. At the time, Vanessa did not speak Spanish. She had to learn her lines phonetically with a friend who did speak Spanish. Watching those episodes of ER, one would never know Vanessa did not know Spanish. She also gave a bravura performance in Stand and Deliver, easily one of the best in a film filled with great performances. As a guest voice on Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child she voiced six different fairies, none of which sounded alike and none of which sounded like Vanessa. In her various appearances on television and in film, no matter how brief her roles may have been, Vanessa Marquez was always guaranteed to give a good performance.

In the end I would like for Vanessa Marquez to be remembered as the wonderful person and the talented actress that she was rather than her tragic end. I will remember her as a woman that I loved dearly. In the coming weeks it is going to be very difficult not picking up the phone to call her or text her. And, of course, I know that in the coming weeks there will be even more tears. I loved Vanessa more than I would care to admit, and I know that I will miss her for the rest of my life.


carol said...

This is such a beautiful, loving tribute to Vanessa, Terry. How fortunate you both were to have shared such a special friendship. I’m so sorry for your loss.

KC said...

What a tender tribute. I know you are hurting a lot right now Terry. Please be sure to reach out to us if you need anything. You've got some changes to face and your movie community is here for you. Take care my friend.

Will McKinley said...

Terry - I'm so glad she had you as a friend to give her comfort through her illness. She was well loved by her TCMParty friends and will be greatly missed. My condolences.

Irish Jayhawk said...

She was incredibly lucky to have you in her life. Like you, I cannot keep from crying since the tragic news but I thank you for this beautiful piece. It actually has given me some solace. We lost a friend who was such a good person that it’s impossible to process. But you have helped. Thank you.

Matthew said...

Terry, you have written a very loving and moving tribute to Vanessa. I have a greater appreciation of her, as an actress and a person, after reading this. Our relationships with others can sometimes be complex, underscored by thoughts and feelings that are not always easy to express. You've done a fine job here expressing yours, up to and including the absence of those routine texts and phone calls going forward. We should all be so lucky to have such good friendships. Take care, sir.

Beth Ann Gallagher said...

Terry, a lovely tribute to your friend! I know it may feel hard, like you wish you could do more, but you've written something that shows what she was like at her best before all of these terrible headlines. You and Paula have helped show us the real person. Again I am so sorry for your loss!

Tonya said...

This is such a lovely post, Terry. I'm glad I had the chance to tweet with her during a couple of movies. She was such a sweetheart and I am so sorry for what you're going through now. She was blessed to have you as a friend. *hugs*