Bourgeois Deviant

Monday, December 19, 2005

RIP John Spencer

John Spencer passed away on Friday. I am making a note of this here not just because he was a great actor, but also because I had a meaningful conversation with him once. We talked about the craft, business and love of acting. It was during a break while filming an early episode of The West Wing in Arlington, VA @ around 3:00 a.m. (The assasination attempt episode). He was very encouraging and generous in sharing his time and experience with me. All while sharing my pack of American Spirit Lights. A memorable chat indeed.

Years later I met him again while I was selling programs outside Avenue Q in New York City. I mentioned to him that we met on set in Arlington for The West Wing and he took a moment and said: "American Spirits. I remember your face." It was truly flattering. He was clearly a kind and good man. The film and television industry lost a treasure with his passing. Below is part of his obit from the Telegraph.

The only child of a lorry driver, he was born John Speshock in New York on December 20 1946, and grew up at Paterson, New Jersey.

At the age of 16 he enrolled at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan, where he took classes with Liza Minnelli.

From there he landed a role in The Patty Duke Show, after which he enrolled at Farleigh Dickenson University, then returned to New York where he concentrated on theatre work.

Between 1974 and 1981 Spencer appeared in numerous theatrical productions, including David Mamet's Lakeboat, Tennessee Williams's Glass Menagerie and Emily Mann's Still Life, which examined the effects of the Vietnam war on Middle America and earned Spencer an Obie award during its off-Broadway run in 1981.

Film roles became more frequent as Spencer matured, and he was often cast as authority figures. In Sea of Love and Black Rain (both 1989) he played the boss of Al Pacino and Michael Douglas respectively.

His breakthrough came when he was cast as Harrison Ford's detective sidekick in Presumed Innocent (1990), after which the producer David E Kelly asked him to join the popular television series LA Law.

Spencer's portrayal of the tough, witty lawyer, Tommy Mullaney, revived the series and led to further big screen roles in Green Card (1992), The Rock (1997) and Cop Land (1997).

Latterly, Spencer's work kept him in Los Angeles, but he always regarded himself as a New Yorker. Until last year he continued to rent the same apartment he had lived in when he had been a struggling actor in the city.

After giving up smoking in 1999 he spent much of his spare time gardening at his house in Bel-Air, where he cultivated roses, hollyhocks, lilacs and other species more commonly found in the north-east of America.

Spencer, who was married and divorced in the 1970s, spent the last few years living with his long-term companion, the actress Patricia Mariano. [Telegraph]

Update: DCeiver is over on Wonkette and published this homage to JS. Well put.


  • Dude! Yeah, Kristi told me the other day about John Spencer's passing. Always liked that guy's work. Didn't know about the connection you had to him. Good to hear that story. Thanks for sharing it!


    P.S. You can still shove it. =)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, December 19, 2005 2:23:00 PM  

  • that is such a sweet story about your meeting him twice and his remember you the second time. you must have made a good first impression.

    By Blogger Martha Who?, at Monday, December 19, 2005 2:33:00 PM  

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