Wendie Jo Sperber

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Wendie Jo Sperber
Wendie Jo Sperber.jpg
Sperber in 1981
Born(1958-09-15)September 15, 1958
DiedNovember 29, 2005(2005-11-29) (aged 47)
Cause of deathBreast cancer
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationActress
Years active1978–2005
Spouse(s)
Richard Velasquez
(m. 1983; div. 1994)
Children2

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).

Early life[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

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"),[1] 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."[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Advocacy[edit]

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,[2] 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."[3]

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.[citation needed]

In 1998, Sperber also helped the United States Postal Service unveil and promote a breast-cancer stamp.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Documentary film[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1978 I Wanna Hold Your Hand Rosie Petrofsky
Corvette Summer Kuchinsky
Grease Dancer Uncredited
1979 1941 Maxine Dexheimer
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
1987 Delta Fever Claire
1990 The Image Anita Cox TV movie
Back to the Future Part III Linda McFly
1994 Mr. Write Roz
Love Affair Helen
1995 Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie Woman With Kitten
The Return of Hunter Lucille TV movie
1996 Big Packages
1999 Desperate But Not Serious Landlady
2000 Pissed Wendy
2002 Sorority Boys Professor Bendler
2003 My Dinner with Jimi Louella
2010 Take 22: Behind the Scenes of Sequestered Cece (final film role)
Television
Year Title Role Notes
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"
1990–1991 Babes Charlene Gilbert
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"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "One Fun Babe". Entertainment Weekly. October 12, 1990. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  2. ^ "Terra Wellington Biography". movie-stars.us. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Wellington, Terra (September–October 2004), Bosom Buddy Transforms Pain into Hope, REAL Magazine, pp. 29–31
  4. ^ "Wendie Jo Sperber, Actress, Dies at 46". Associated Press/The New York Times, December 2, 2005. Retrieved December 23, 2019.

External links[edit]