Wendie Jo Sperber
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Wendie Jo Sperber
Sperber in 1981
|Died||November 29, 2005 (aged 47)|
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Breast cancer|
|Resting place||Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery|
(m. 1983; div. 1994)
Wendie Jo Sperber (September 15, 1958 – November 29, 2005) was an American actress, known for her performances in the films I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), Bachelor Party (1984), and Back to the Future (1985) and as well as the television sitcoms Bosom Buddies (1980–1982) and Private Benjamin (1982–1983).
Sperber was born in Hollywood, and aimed for a performing-arts career from high school onward. She attended the summer Teenage Drama Workshop at California State University, Northridge, during the 1970s.
Sperber began her screen career at a young age when she was cast in the small role of "Kuchinsky", in Matthew Robbins' 1978 teen comedy Corvette Summer, alongside Mark Hamill and Annie Potts. She appeared in Robert Zemeckis' period comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand, as the irrepressible "Rosie Petrofsky". Sperber was overweight, but was able to move quickly on screen (Entertainment Weekly described Rosie Petrofsky as "a screaming Beatlemaniac who, among other things, climbed through elevator shafts"), and her "girl-next-door" appearance helped her to overcome the stigma of her weight.
She played the title role in the ABC Afterschool Special feature Dinky Hocker, which dealt with a teenager's attempts to hide her feelings by eating, and engaged in physical comedy in Steven Spielberg's 1941. Zemeckis, who also worked on 1941, brought Sperber back to the big screen in 1980 with a role in his comedy Used Cars, but it was on television that year that Sperber finally began to receive more serious attention.
She was cast in the role of "Amy Cassidy;" a character that was funny, romantic, and exuberant— in the series Bosom Buddies, starring Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. Following its cancellation in 1982, Sperber appeared in the comedy The First Time, and worked a year on the series Private Benjamin. She then resumed her feature work in the Tom Hanks theatrical vehicle Bachelor Party, directed by Neal Israel. Israel used her again in Moving Violations in 1985. That same year, she appeared as Linda McFly in Zemeckis' highly successful Back to the Future. She reprised her role as Linda in Back to the Future Part III.
Sperber's roles grew larger in the wake of Back to the Future, and over the next decade she starred in the series Babes (a comedy about three zaftig women). In 1994, Sperber was cast in a major supporting part in the CBS-TV series Hearts Afire. By this time, she had lost a lot of weight. As far as acting roles were concerned, she preferred comedy. As she told TV Guide in 1990, "I'm an actress who likes to say something funny—everybody laughs and your job is done." In 1998 she guest starred as April the cleaning lady and Grace's muse on the twelfth episode of Will & Grace.
Her last work was lending her voice to "Roger 'n' Me", an episode of American Dad! that aired in 2006, after her death. The producers of the show renamed her character Wendie Jo in honor of the actress.
In addition to her work on TV and movies, Sperber also was the founder of weSPARK Cancer Support Center, an independent organization formed in 2001 to advance and help support individuals and their families fighting various forms of cancer through free emotional support, information and social events/activities. In addition to being the founder, Sperber also served on the board of directors and wrote the quarterly newsletter. According to one of the last known interviews with Sperber by Terra Wellington, the weSPARK organization was her key cause and effort in the last year of her life with her stating "The whole idea of weSPARK's programming was that I didn't want people to walk into a room and have a therapist ask how they feel. I wanted peer support."
Each year, weSPARK put on an extravagant benefit show called weSPARKLE to raise funds for the organization. The event was attended by many of Sperber's friends and colleagues, including Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, John Ritter, and Eric McCormack.
In 1983, Sperber married Richard Velasquez and had a son, Preston, in 1986, and a daughter, Pearl, in 1990. Pearl also goes by the name "Daphne". The marriage ended in divorce in 1994.
In 1997, Sperber was diagnosed with breast cancer, which seemed to go into remission following treatment. She revealed in April 2002 that the cancer had reappeared and spread throughout her body, and by mid-2004 she had undergone experimental brain radiation therapy. She continued to work in television and movies during this period, including episodes of Unhappily Ever After, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, Grounded for Life, and the movies Desperate But Not Serious (1999) and Sorority Boys (2002).
She died of breast cancer on November 29, 2005, at the age of 47.
Sperber is the subject of the documentary The Show Must Go On, directed by Beth Murphy. The film follows the actress through her treatments to battle breast cancer during the production of the 2004 weSPARKLE event.
|1978||I Wanna Hold Your Hand||Rosie Petrofsky|
|Dinky Hocker||Susan 'Dinky' Hocker||TV movie|
|1980||Used Cars||Nervous Nona|
|1983||The First Time||Eileen|
|1984||Bachelor Party||Dr. Tina Gassko|
|1985||Moving Violations||Joan Pudillo|
|Back to the Future||Linda McFly|
|1986||Stewardess School||Jolean Winters|
|1990||The Image||Anita Cox||TV movie|
|Back to the Future Part III||Linda McFly|
|1995||Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie||Woman With Kitten|
|The Return of Hunter||Lucille||TV movie|
|1999||Desperate But Not Serious||Landlady|
|2002||Sorority Boys||Professor Bendler|
|2003||My Dinner with Jimi||Louella|
|2010||Take 22: Behind the Scenes of Sequestered||Cece||(final film role)|
|1980||The Stockard Channing Show||Wendy Simon||Episode – "Life Begins at 30"|
|1980–1982||Bosom Buddies||Amy Cassidy|
|1981||Knots Landing||Ellie||Episode – "Step One"|
|1982–1983||Private Benjamin||Pvt. Stacy Kouchalakas|
|1985||Brothers||Connie||Episode – "Life's Too Short to Be Delicate"|
|1987–1988||Women in Prison||Pam|
|1989||Designing Women||Estelle Rhinehart||Episode – "The Women of Atlanta"|
|1990||Who's the Boss?||Lori||Episode – "Micelli's Marauders"|
|1991||Harry and the Hendersons||Leslie Worth||Episode – "George's White Light"|
|Married... with Children||Sandy Jorgenson||Episode – "I Who Have Nothing"|
|1992||Parker Lewis Can't Lose||Carol||2 Episodes|
|Dinosaurs||Wendy Richfield||Episode – "Hungry for Love"|
|1992–1993||Hearts Afire||Mavis Davis|
|1994||Fortune Hunter||Nadine||Episode – "Triple Cross"|
|1995||Kirk||Saleswoman||Episode – "S'Wonderbra"|
|1997||You Wish||Margo||Episode – "A Real Don Juan"|
|1998||Murphy Brown||Ann||Episode – "Bad Hair Day"|
|1999||Will and Grace||April||Episode – "My Fair Maid-y"|
|Unhappily Ever After||Ms. Snaylops||Episode – "The Artist and the Con Artist"|
|Maggie||Dr. Scott||Episode – "Don't Quit Your Day Job"|
|Home Improvement||Sue||Episode – "The Long and Winding Road (Part 1)"|
|2000||Bette||Penny||Episode – "A Method to Her Madness"|
|2002||8 Simple Rules||Alice||4 Episodes|
|2003||JAG||Landlady||Episode – "Standards of Conduct"|
|Touched by an Angel||Tricia||Episode – "And a Nightingale Sang"|
|2005||Grounded for Life||Mrs. Robinson||Episode – "The Letter(s)"|
|2006||American Dad!||Old Lady/Wendie Jo (Voice)||Episode – "Roger & Me"|
- "One Fun Babe". Entertainment Weekly. October 12, 1990. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "Terra Wellington Biography". movie-stars.us. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Wellington, Terra (September–October 2004), Bosom Buddy Transforms Pain into Hope, REAL Magazine, pp. 29–31
- "Wendie Jo Sperber, Actress, Dies at 46". Associated Press/The New York Times, December 2, 2005. Retrieved December 23, 2019.