Wendie Jo Sperber filmography and biography
Date of birth: 15 September 1958, Hollywood, California, USA
Date of death: 29 November 2005, Sherman Oaks, California, USA (breast cancer)
Wendie Jo Sperber biography
Though she was known best for drawing laughs as whiny, excitable
characters throughout her raucous film and TV career,
actress/comedienne Wendie Jo Sperber showed a brave, compassionate and
humane side in the last years of her life. The Los Angeles-born
performer developed a driving passion for acting in her teen years. She
went on to attend the Summer Drama Workshop at California State
University, Northridge. Producer Allan Carr discovered this
comic bundle when she invited him to see her in an L.A. stage review.
He gave her an unbilled part in the
John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John smash musical
Grease and she was off and running. Other films quickly
fell into place, notably I Wanna Hold Your Hand as a
no-holds-barred Beatles fanatic, and the role of Linda McFly in
Back to the Future and one of its sequels. Other films
included Corvette Summer, Steven Spielberg's
1941 and Bachelor Party starring
Tom Hanks. Some of her tongue-in-cheek film roles were beneath
her, particularly when they used her excess poundage as the butt of a
cruel joke, but the actress proved quite game in such lowbrow,
youth-oriented comedies as Moving Violations and
It was with a then fairly unknown Hanks and Peter Scolari that she earned her biggest laughs with the two-year run of Bosom Buddies, which launched a number of inferior drag film/sitcoms. She also had series co-leads in Private Benjamin, Women in Prison, the plus-sized Babes and Hearts Afire. In between were roles on the L.A. stage, including "Pizza Man," "Isn't It Romantic," "Reality and Other Nightmares" and Shakespeare's "As You Like It" starring Ron Silver (I).
At age 39, Wendie was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her career momentum was certainly compromised, the comedienne continued to pursue roles. She even appeared on a poignant breast cancer episode of Murphy Brown. Her cancer went into remission at one point but returned with a vengeance in 2002 and spread throughout her body. Instead of retreating, Wendie instead reached out and founded weSPARK Cancer Support Center in Sherman Oaks, California, in which free services, including support groups, information on the latest research and classes, provided invaluable aid to cancer patients, their families and friends. Her selfless determination throughout her illness to help others did not go unnoticed, earning several honors. Eight years later, on November 29, 2005, Wendie lost her battle. She was survived by her parents and two children from a former marriage.
Wendie Jo Sperber trivia
- Son, Preston, born 1986.
- Daughter, Pearl, born 1990.
- She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997.
- Founder of weSPARK cancer support group (www.weSPARK.org).
- Parents: Burton and Charlene Sperber.
- Upon her death, former TV co-star Tom Hanks deliver a moving tribute to Wendie: "The memory of Wendie Jo is that of a walking inspiration. She met the challenges of her illness with love, cheer, joy, altruism through weSPARK, and an unstoppable supply of Goodness. We are going to miss her as surely as we are all better for knowing her."
- In 1998 Sperber also helped the United States Post Service unveil and promote a breast cancer stamp.
- As late as September, 2005, she sponsored and hosted the "Wendie Jo Sperber's 7th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic and 4th Annual Mah Jongg Tournament" in Santa Barbara.
- She was named 1999 Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women, received The Namaste Spirit Award 2003 from the Namaste Interfaith Center, the 2004 Mordecai Kaplan Award for Distinguished Service by the University of Judaism, and was honored by the Jennifer Diamond Foundation.
Wendie Jo Sperber quotes
- "I spent many years with low self-esteem, but the cancer has given me the gift of seeing how many people love me."
- "I'm an actress who likes to say something funny - everybody laughs and your job is done."