Mostly Credited As:
Wendie Jo SperberBirth Name:
Wendie Jo SperberDate Of Birth:
September 15, 1958 (Age 47)Country Of Birth:
Hollywood, CaliforniaDate Of Death:
November 29, 2005Cause Of Death:
Breast Cancer (Sherman Oaks, California)
Though she was known for draw laughs as whiny, excitable characters throughout her raucous film and TV career in the late 70s, 80s and 90s, actress/comedienne Wendie Jo Sperber showed a brave, compassionate and inspired human side in the last years of her life that, in the end, outweighed most of her professional work. The Los Angeles-born character 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 (1978) and she was off and running. Other films quickly fell into place, notably I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) as a no-holds-barred Beatles fanatic, and the role of Linda McFly in Back to the Future (1985) and one of its sequels. Other films included Corvette Summer (1978), Steven Spielberg's 1941 (1979) and Bachelor Party (1984) starring Tom Hanks. Often some of her tongue-in-cheek film roles were beneath her, particularly when they used her 200+ poundage as the butt of a cruel joke, but the actress proved game anyway in such lowbrow, youth-oriented comedies as Moving Violations (1985) and Stewardess School (1986).
It was with a then somewhat unknown Hanks and Peter Scolari that she earned her biggest laughs during the two-year run of the sitcom "Bosom Buddies" (1980), which launched a number of inferior drag film/TV imitations. She also had series co-leads in _"Private Benjamin" (1982)_ (gv), "Women in Prison" (1987), the plus-sized "Babes" (1990) and "Hearts Afire" (1992). 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.
At age 39, Wendie was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her career momentum was certainly damaged, the comedienne continued to pursue roles. She even appeared on a poignant breast cancer episode of "Murphy Brown." She had a remission at one point but the cancer returned in 2002 with a vengeance and spread throughout her body. Refusing to give in, 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 and she earned her 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.