Jacklyn Zeman, longtime star of General Hospital, dead at 70

Jacklyn Zeman, who played Bobbie Spencer on ABC’s General Hospital for 45 years, has died at the age of 70.

Zeman died after a short battle with cancer, her family confirmed on Wednesday.

News of her death was first announced by the series’ executive producer, Frank Valentini.

“Heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Jackie Zeman,” he wrote on Twitter. “Like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright spot and a true professional who brought so much positive energy to her work.”

ABC Entertainment and General Hospital also released a statement, which said, “Jacklyn Zeman has been a beloved member of General Hospital and the ABC family since she created the legendary role of Bobbie Spencer over 45 years ago. She leaves an enduring legacy for her Emmy-nominated portrayal of the bad girl-turned-heroine and will be remembered forever for her kind heart and bright spirit. We are devastated by the news of her death and offer our deepest condolences to Jackie’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Jacklyn Zeman played Nurse Bobbie Spencer on ABC "General Hospital" for 45 years.
Jacklyn Zeman played Nurse Bobbie Spencer on the ABC series General Hospital for 45 years.

Zeman first came to General Hospital in 1977 as Barbara Jean, known as Bobbie, who was the feisty younger sister of Anthony Geary’s Luke Spencer.

Zeman began to think of Geary as family off camera.

“I’m probably closer to him than a real brother,” she told her co-star Maurice Benard on his State of Mind YouTube series last year.

Bobbie had worked as a teenage prostitute and given up a baby for adoption, but had managed to change her life and become a nurse at General Hospital.

Zeman’s portrayal of Spencer was a spirited, happy woman who was sweet as cake but also possessed a confidence. She didn’t tolerate fools and had no problem retracting the niceties when she felt it was justified.

“Bobbie was a fascinating person to me,” she said in a 1982 interview. “I can… do all the things most women would think of but not dare.”

One of Zeman’s most memorable scenes was in 1994, when Bobbie’s daughter BJ was in a school bus accident, causing her brain death.

Bobbie and her then-husband Tony (played by Brad Maule) decided to donate their daughter’s heart to their cousin Maxie, who was battling Kawasaki disease.

Jacklyn Zeman's last appearance on General Hospital before her death was in April for the wedding of her character's grandson.
Jacklyn Zeman’s last appearance on General Hospital before her death was in April for the wedding of her character’s grandson.

Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Laura Wright, who plays Bobbie’s daughter Carly Spencer, has posted a series of heartbroken emojis.

Jon Lindstrom, who plays Kevin Collins, wrote: “It’s going to take me a minute to process this. I can’t believe there is so much life force left as hers.”

Born on March 6, 1953 in Englewood, New Jersey, Zeman discovered his love for dance as a child and began acting in school productions as a teenager.

After high school, she worked as a dancer in Venezuela and received her medical degree from New York University, but dropped out when she was offered a contract on the ABC soap One Life to Live after originally only appearing for three working days had been set.

In “One Life” she played Lana McClain for a little over a year and then went to “General Hospital”. “I didn’t even audition,” she told a blogger in 2010. Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show.

Outside of soap operas, Zeman worked as a Playboy Bunny to fund his college education and also starred in commercials. She had a role in 1982’s National Lampoon’s Class Reunion and appeared in a number of television films, including the 1993 ABC afterschool special Montana Crossroads. She also had a series regular role as Sofia Madison on the crime series The Bay, which earned her a fifth Emmy nomination.

Zeman’s last appearance on General Hospital before her death was in April at the wedding of her character’s grandson. That same month, she also celebrated the show’s 60th anniversary by posting a video to fans on Instagram.

“A big, heartfelt thank you to the very special people who have watched us, supported us and made sure we are on the air all these 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 disc jockey Murray Kaufman, who called himself “Murray the K”.

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