Theresa Saldana

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Theresa Saldana
Saldana in 1981
Born(1954-08-20)August 20, 1954
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 6, 2016(2016-06-06) (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Actress
  • activist
  • writer
Years active1978–2004
    Fred Feliciano
    (m. 1979;div. 1986)
      Phil Peters
      (m. 1989)

Theresa Saldana (August 20, 1954 – June 6, 2016) was an American actress, activist, and writer. She is known for her role as Rachel Scali, the wife of Police Commissioner Tony Scali, in the 1990s television series The Commish , for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, in 1994. Major film roles include Lenora LaMotta, the wife of Joe Pesci's character in the 1980 film, Raging Bull , and as a Beatles fan in Robert Zemeckis' 1978 Beatlemania ensemble I Wanna Hold Your Hand . She was also known for raising public awareness of the crime of stalking after surviving a knife attack by an obsessed fan at her home in 1982.


Early life

Saldana was born in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, and was adopted at five days old by Divina and Tony Saldana, a family of Puerto Rican and Italian-American heritage. [2]

Saldana took dance lessons as a child. After suffering a serious shoulder injury while part of a tumbling team, she enrolled in acting classes at age 12. After being spotted by a talent scout while performing in an Off Broadway musical called The New York City Street Show in 1977, she was cast in the 1978 film Nunzio . [3]

Stalking incident

On March 15, 1982, Saldana was stalked by Arthur Richard Jackson, a 46-year-old drifter from Aberdeen, Scotland. Jackson became obsessed with Saldana after seeing her in the 1980 films Defiance and Raging Bull . [4] [5] He hired a private investigator who obtained the unlisted phone number of Saldana's mother. Jackson then called Saldana's mother and posed as Martin Scorsese's assistant, saying he needed Saldana's residential address in order to contact her for replacing an actress in a film role in Europe.

Saldana on the set of Illusion Infinity, with its filmmaker Roger Steinmann Making of ILLUSION INFINITY, director Roger Steinmann with Theresa Saldana.jpg
Saldana on the set of Illusion Infinity, with its filmmaker Roger Steinmann

Jackson approached Saldana in front of her West Hollywood residence in broad daylight and attacked her with a 5½-inch (14 cm) hunting knife, puncturing a lung. His attack was so fierce that the blade bent. Although there were many nearby onlookers including children, [5] the attack was interrupted only when a deliveryman, Jeff Fenn, intervened after hearing her cries, rushed from the second floor of an apartment building, and incapacitated Jackson. Following the assault, Saldana was hospitalized with 10 stab wounds and underwent a four-month hospital stay at the Motion Picture Hospital. She relived the incident in the made-for-TV movie Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story and again in an episode of Hunter .

Jackson served almost 14 years in prison for the assault and making subsequent threats against Saldana and her rescuer while in prison. He was then extradited to the United Kingdom in 1996 to be tried for a 1966 robbery and murder. Jackson (who once saw himself as "the benevolent angel of death") was found not guilty by diminished responsibility in 1997 and committed to a British psychiatric hospital, where he died of heart failure in 2004, at the age of 68.

Jackson's method of finding and approaching Saldana inspired stalker Robert John Bardo to hire a private investigator to contact Rebecca Schaeffer, a young TV sitcom star whom he subsequently murdered, also in West Hollywood, on July 18, 1989. [6]

Victim advocacy

Following her long recovery, Saldana founded the Victims for Victims organization and participated in lobbying for the 1990 anti-stalking law and the 1994 Driver's Privacy Protection Act, both of which came into being partly as a consequence of the attack. The experience also inspired Saldana to play herself in the television movie Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story, and she authored the book Beyond Survival, a memoir of her experiences after being attacked.

Personal life

Saldana's first marriage was to Fred Feliciano from February 11, 1979 to 1986. In March 1989, she married for the second time, to Phil Peters, with whom she had a daughter, Tianna Saldana Peters (born August 30, 1989, in Los Angeles). They remained together until her death.


Saldana died at age 61 on June 6, 2016, following her hospitalization for pneumonia [7] [8] at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Michael Chiklis, who played Saldana's husband on The Commish , wrote that it was "painful to hear the news." [9]



1978 I Wanna Hold Your Hand Grace Corrigan
1978 Nunzio Maryann
1980 Home Movies Judy
1980 Defiance Marsha
1980 Raging Bull Lenora LaMotta
1984 The Evil That Men Do Rhiana Hidalgo / Nancy
1988 The Night Before Rhonda
1988Double RevengeAngie Corello
1989Of Men and AngelsMaria
1990 Angel Town Maria Ordonez
1999Carlo's WakeTheresa Brock
2004 Gang Warz Carmela Cruz
2004 Illusion Infinity Maria(only appearance with her husband Phil Peters; final film role)


1979 240-Robert RosieEpisode: "The Applicant"
1980 Sophia Loren: Her Own Story Maria ScicoloneTV film
1981 Nurse RitaEpisode: "The Gifts"
1983 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers AngelinaEpisode: "Promised Land"
1983 T. J. Hooker Maria SantiniEpisode: "Too Late for Love"
1983 American Playhouse Pregnant AgainEpisode: "Miss Lonelyhearts"
1984 Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story HerselfTV Film
1985 The Twilight Zone InezEpisode: "Dead Woman's Shoes"
1985 Cagney & Lacey Dr. StrathmoreEpisode: "Old Ghosts"
1986 Simon & Simon Mrs. KarnofskyEpisode: "Full Moon Blues"
1986 Matlock Sonia CardenasEpisode: "The Affair"
1986 Tales from the Darkside Audrey WebsterEpisode: "Black Widows"
1987 Hunter Jennifer HartmanEpisode: "Any Second Now"
1987 Santa Barbara Carlotta QuivarEpisodes 689 and 691
1987 CBS Schoolbreak Special Laura ChaconEpisode: "Juvi"
1987 The Highwayman Angela BrownTV film
1987-88 Werewolf RosaEpisode: "World of Difference Part 1-2"
1988 Buck James Marta OrtizEpisode: "Lives in the Balance"
1988 Falcon Crest Pretty WomanEpisode: "False Faces"
1990 MacGyver MariaEpisode: "The Treasure of Manco"
1990 New Kids on the Block Rosa (voice)Regular role (15 episodes)
1991–1996 The Commish Rachel ScaliRegular role (92 episodes)
1991 Confessions of Crime HerselfSeries host (13 episodes)
1993Shameful SecretsRachel MoralesTV film
1994 Captain Planet and the Planeteers Mame Slaughter (voice)Episodes: "Orangu-Tangle", "Horns a'Plenty"
1995 Law & Order JurorEpisode: "House Counsel"
1995 Jonny Quest vs. The Cyber Insects Dr. Eve Belage (voice)TV film
1996She Woke Up PregnantDoris CantoreTV film
1996–1997 The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Estella Velasquez (voice)Episodes: "The Mummies of Malengue," "The Robot Spies"
1997 Diagnosis: Murder Kirsten FoxxEpisode: "In Defense of Murder"
1997 Nothing Sacred PaulaEpisodes: "Parents and Children", "Roman Catholic Holiday"
1997 All My Children Christina VargasTV series
1998 Martial Law Maria HamiltonEpisode: "Bad Seed"
1999 Thrill Seekers CortezTV film
2000 Ready to Run Sonja OrtizTV film
2001 Batman Beyond Mother (voice)Episode: "Unmasked"
2003 The Bernie Mac Show LydiaEpisode: "Maid Man"


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