Jacqueline Zeman, who played Bobby Spencer on ABC’s “General Hospital” for 45 years, has died at age 70. Zeman died after a short battle with cancer, his family confirmed Wednesday. The show’s executive producer Frank Valentini first announced the news of his death.
“I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Jackie Zeman,” he wrote on Twitter. “Just like his character, the legendary Bobby Spencer, he was a shining light and a true professional who brought so much positive energy to his work.”
On behalf of our @GeneralHospital family, I am saddened to announce the passing of our beloved @JackieZeman. Just like his character, the legendary Bobby Spencer, he was a shining light and a true professional who brought so much positive energy to work with him. pic.twitter.com/DxGdjYavab
— Frank Valentini (@valentinifranc) May 11, 2023
ABC Entertainment and “General Hospital” also released a statement saying, “Jacqueline Zeman has been a beloved member of General Hospital and the ABC family since she originated the iconic role of Bobby Spencer 45 years ago. She leaves behind a lasting legacy. Bad Girl The Emmy-nominated character turned heroine and will always be remembered for her kind heart and radiant spirit. We are devastated by the news of her passing, and send our deepest condolences to Jackie’s family, friends and loved ones.”
Zeman first joined “General Hospital” in 1977 as Barbara Jean, who goes by Bobby and is the younger sister of Anthony Geary’s Luke Spencer. Zeman began to consider Geary as a family off camera. “I’m probably closer to him than a real-life brother,” he told co-star Maurice Benard on his YouTube series “State of Mind” last year.
Bobby worked as a teenage prostitute and gave up a baby for adoption but managed to turn his life around and become a nurse at General Hospital. Spencer’s portrayal of Zeman was an energetic, feisty woman who was sweet as pie but also had an affair of her own. He didn’t suffer fools and had no problem withdrawing nice things if he believed it was warranted.
“Bobby was an interesting person for me to play,” he said in a 1982 interview.
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One of Zeman’s most memorable scenes is in 1994 and Bobby’s daughter BJ is in a school bus accident that leaves her brain dead. Bobbie and then-husband Tony (played by Brad Maule) decided to donate their daughter’s heart to her cousin Maxie, who was battling Kawasaki disease.
Laura Wright, who plays Bobby’s daughter Carly Spencer, posted a series of broken heart emojis. John Lindstrom, who plays Kevin Collins, wrote, “It’s going to take me a minute to process this. I can’t believe his vitality is gone.”
Born on March 6, 1953 in Englewood, New Jersey, Zeman discovered a love of dance as a child and teenager, beginning to act in school productions. She worked as a dancer in Venezuela after high school and pre-med at New York University but was only hired for three days’ work when she was offered a contract on the ABC soap “One Life to Live.”
She went on to play Lana McClain on ‘One Life’ for over a year and then moved on to “General Hospital.” “I didn’t even audition,” he told a blogger in 2010 Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on the show.
Outside of soap operas, Zeman worked as a Playboy bunny to pay for college and also acted in commercials. He had a role in 1982’s “National Lampoon’s Class Reunion,” appeared in a string of TV movies, including the 1993 ABC afterschool special “Montana Crossroads.” She had a recurring role as Sophia Madison on the crime-drama series “The Bay,” earning her fifth Emmy Award nomination.
Zeman’s last appearance on “General Hospital” before his death was at the wedding of his character’s grandson in April. That same month he celebrated the show’s 60th anniversary by posting a video on Instagram to fans.
“A big, big heartfelt thank you to the special people who have been watching us and supporting us and keeping us in the air for so many years. We love you.”
Zeman is survived by two daughters, Cassidy and Lacey, from her first marriage to Glenn Gordon. She was married and divorced twice more to Steve Gribbin and to disc jockey Murray Kaufman, who went by “Murray the Kay.”
“Jackie will be greatly missed, but her positive spirit will always live on with our cast and crew,” Valentini wrote on Twitter. “We send our deepest sympathies to his loved ones, friends and family, especially his daughters Cassidy and Lacey.”
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