BarBara was born in New York City (on March 2) and grew up in Yorkville, one of its most distinct “melting pot” neighborhoods. Her lineage provided her with a unique look, so much so that in the less precise and politically correct show-business world of yesterday she had a decades-long career playing women from a wider variety of ethnic backgrounds than her own.
From her mother, she inherited genes from Italy and Hungary (grandmother); from her father, she inherited the genes of Spain and the Philippines.
Just after her eighth birthday, she stepped onto the Broadway stage in the biggest musical hit Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in her very first show business job. BarBara opened the show speaking in French, playing Ezio Pinza’s daughter, by dueting the charming children’s song “Dites-Moi” with her stage brother, Michael DeLeon, which she also repeated on the big-selling “Original Cast” record album. Rodgers thought so much of her talent that he personally paid for her lessons in singing, drama, diction and dance while she remained with the show for two years. She was then cast as one of Yul Brynner’s “Siamese children” in the subsequent Rodgers-&-Hammerstein hit, The King and I. Growing taller R & H contracted her to become swing girl of the company covering children, dancers and singers which she did for three years.
After two Rodgers-&-Hammerstein hit shows she auditioned for Teahouse of the August Moon as the understudy to “Lotus Blossom”, despite the fact that the role was in Japanese she was hired! Six months after being in her third Broadway hit she was offered the first national company only this time in the starring role of Lotus Blossom. Luna celebrated her 16th birthday in Chicago and her 17th in Los Angeles, staying with the show for two years. After appearing with the show in Los Angeles Luna fell in love with LA and knew that is where she wanted to live.
When Columbia talent scout Max Arnow brought her West Side Story screen test to the attention of Producer-Director Mervyn LeRoy who was preparing The Devil at Four O’Clock (1961) he asked for a meeting with Luna. MR Leroy said to her “Kid, you got heart” and gave her the female lead starring opposite to Frank Sinatra.
Luna’s subsequent movie roles included Irwin Allen’s Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962) and an “A” western, Firecreek (1968) with Henry Fonda and James Stewart, A Dime with a Halo, and Mail Order Bride with Buddy Epson and Keir Dullea. The highlight of her big-screen career, though, was Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965) in the role of Amparo; It was a part for which she had to campaign (with the complicity of screenwriter Abby Mann) because Kramer thought she was Japanese not Hispanic!
Most of Luna’s three-decade Hollywood career was spent in people’s homes guest starring in 400 television shows including multiple episodes of Walt Disney’s Zorro, The F.B.I. Hawaii Five-O and Fantasy Island Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and innumerable guest-star roles. In 1967 she played the single role for which she is best remembered: Marlena Moreau in “Mirror, Mirror” on the original run of Star Trek. Luna was reunited almost twenty years later in another of William Shatner’s successful tv-series, T J Hooker.
Always keeping one foot on stage Luna appeared in five companies of West side Story including the prestigious Lincoln Center in the role of Anita and was Morales in the New NY company of A Chorus Line. After leaving ACL she decided to give night clubs a try by approaching Tony award winning composers Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman to write her a club act, successfully she played venues around the country as an opening act for Bill Cosby, from the Catskills to Caesar’s Palace to Atlantic City. That stint was cut short when she was offered the role of Maria Roberts on the Soap Opera One Life to Live, “the bitch everyone loved to hate”…..another Genre for her to explore!
In 1992 she was invited to Australia for a guest starring role on The New Mission Impossible with Peter Graves.
In 1997 Luna attended her first Star Trek Convention and she was astounded that anyone cared about having her autograph. Having retired as an actress, she is thankful to be free to travel the world attending conventions and meeting Star Trek and Soap opera fans, it is quite an honor and an absolute treat.
“What are we without the fans?” she says, and she means it.
Luna is a member of the Thalians, a charitable group which supported mental health and built a wing with its proceeds at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Now monies raised goes to our Veterans. The Thalians was founded in the fifties by the late Debbie Reynolds who was President and Ruta Lee is still Chairman of the board.