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Ruben Padilla Dies; Ex-Actor, Tourism Chief

June 18, 1991|G. JEANETTE AVENT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A funeral Mass will be said Wednesday for Ruben Dario Padilla Colon y Magallanes, who died Sunday of cancer at his Mission Hills home. Padilla, who acted with John Wayne and was the first tourism director of Baja California, was 81.

Padilla was born in Guadalajara on Feb. 16, 1910, the oldest of seven children. Much of Padilla's life centered on movie making and bullfighting. His father, Dario, was a friend of Mexican bullfighter Rodolfo Gaona, Padilla told The Times last year.

Padilla was a friend of famed bullfighter Silverio Perez for nearly half a century, said Karen Padilla, family spokeswoman.

It was his friendship with Perez and other matadors, and his involvement with the taurine world that led to his personal and professional friendship with John Wayne. Wayne died in 1979.

At Hotel Caesar in Tijuana after a bullfight in the early 1940s, Padilla introduced Perez and other matadors to producer-director Budd Boetticher. Boetticher contacted Wayne about financing "The Bullfighter and the Lady," and Wayne agreed.

Padilla arranged for the matadors in the film and portrayed the lead character in a cast that included Robert Stack, Gilbert Roland, Katy Jurado and Virginia Grey. The movie was filmed in Mexico City on a $450,000 budget, Padilla said.

Padilla also acted with Wayne in "The Alamo," the 1959 classic filmed in Texas. Padilla portrayed Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, leading his soldiers at San Antonio against defenders holed up in the old mission called the Alamo.

Padilla also served as Perez's chief of police in 1967-68 during one of the bullfighter's three terms as mayor of Texcoco, Mexico.

"Silverio appointed me police chief to bring tourism from Mexico City," said Padilla, who had no prior law enforcement experience. "Fortunately, I had a great assistant chief," he joked.

Padilla's work in promoting tourism extended back to 1953, when he was appointed the first tourism director of Baja California. He was also public-relations director of the Agua Caliente Race Track in Tijuana.

Padilla is survived by his six siblings: Oscar Padilla, Carlos Padilla and Conchita Encinas of San Diego, and Peter Padilla, Wilhelmina (Willie) Padilla and Margarita de Necochea of Calexico.

He is also survived by his sons, Ruben Padilla Jr. and Marco Antonio Padilla, and five grandchildren of San Diego.

Mass will be held at 9 a.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, 2020 Alaquinas Drive, in San Ysidro. Flowers may be sent to Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary in Bonita. Following cremation, his ashes will be inurned at Glen Abbey Memorial Park.

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