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Wendie Jo Sperber
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Wendie Jo Sperber

Wendie Jo Sperber (1958-2005) was an American television/movie actress known for her comedic talents. She was also a humanitarian who championed the fight against breast cancer, forming an organization that would help others battle the life-threatening disease that would eventually claim her life.

Her life and career

Sperber was born in Hollywood and aimed for a performing-arts career from high school onward. She attended the Summer Drama Workshop at California State University, Northridge, during the 1970s, and 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. Her talent for comedy was showcased far better in Robert Zemeckis' period comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand, as the irrepressible Beatles fan Rosie Petrofsky, stealing a big chunk of the movie with her performance. Sperber was a large woman — over 200 pounds (90 kg ) — yet she was also very pretty and as physically dexterous as any gymnast — and as funny as any comic actress this side of Lucille Ball.

She played the title role in the made-for-television feature Dinky Hocker and got to show off her physical comedy in Steven Spielberg's gargantuan 1941. Zemeckis, who also worked on 1941, brought Sperber back to the big screen in 1980 with a role in his offbeat comedy Used Cars, but it was on television that year when Sperber finally began getting some serious acknowledgement. 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. It was a fair bet that she'd steal almost any scene in which she was featured. Following its cancellation in 1982, Sperber appeared in the offbeat comedy The First Time, and worked a year on the series Private Benjamin. She then resumed her feature work in the Hanks theatrical vehicle Bachelor Party, directed by Neal Israel. Israel used her again in Moving Violations in 1985. That same year, she finally got to appear in a successful movie with her portrayal of Linda McFly in Zemeckis' Back to the Future.

Sperber's roles grew larger in the wake of the goofy sci-fi adventure film, and over the next decade she starred in the series Babes (a comedy about three zaftig women) and had a major supporting part in the series Hearts Afire, as well as numerous big-screen comedies interspersed with the occasional drama. By her own account, however, she preferred comedy if given the choice. 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 1997, Sperber was diagnosed with breast cancer, which seemed to go into remission following treatment. She revealed in April of 2002, though, that the cancer had reappeared and spread throughout her body. She continued to work in television and movies during this period, including episodes of Unhappily Ever After, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, and the movies Desperate But Not Serious (1999) and Sorority Boys (2002).

Other works

In addition to her work on TV and movies, Sperber also was the founder of weSPARK Cancer Support Center, a 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.

In 1998 Sperber also helped the United States Post Service unveil and promote a breast cancer stamp.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

Wendie Jo Sperber Facts

BirthdaySeptember 15, 1958
BirthplaceHollywood, California, USA
Date of deathNovember 29, 2005 (Sherman Oaks, California, USA, age 47)

Selected Filmography

Not available.