She Was a General Hospital Staple for Nearly Half-Century

Actor Jacklyn Zeman, who played nurse Bobbie Spencer on ABC soap, dies at 70 of cancer
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 11, 2023 8:12 AM CDT
Updated May 11, 2023 9:12 AM CDT
Goodbye to General Hospital 's Bobbie Spencer
Jacklyn Zeman, who portrayed nurse Bobbie Spencer on ABC's "General Hospital," attends to a patient in an ambulance during a taping of the show's first prime-time special in Los Angeles on Nov. 20, 1996. Zeman, who played the character for 45 years on the ABC soap opera, has died at 70.   (AP Photo/Susan Sterner, File)

Jacklyn Zeman, who became one of the most recognizable actors on daytime television during 45 years of playing Bobbie Spencer on ABC's General Hospital, has died. She was 70. Zeman died after a short battle with cancer, her family confirmed Wednesday, per the AP. News of her death was first announced by the show's executive producer, Frank Valentini. "I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved Jackie Zeman," he wrote on Twitter. "Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work." Born March 6, 1953, in Englewood, New Jersey, Zeman discovered a love for dance as a child, and as a teen began acting in school productions.

She worked in Venezuela as a dancer after high school and was pre-med at New York University, but she dropped out when she was offered a contract at the ABC soap One Life to Live after originally being hired for just three days of work. She played Lana McClain on that show for a little more than one year, then joined General Hospital in 1977 as Barbara Jean, who went by Bobbie and was the feisty younger sister of Anthony Geary's Luke Spencer. Zeman grew to regard Geary as family off camera. "I'm probably closer to him than I would be a real-life brother," she told co-star Maurice Benard last year on his YouTube series, State of Mind. Bobbie Spencer had worked as a teen prostitute and given up a baby for adoption but managed to turn her life around and become a nurse at General Hospital.

Zeman's portrayal of Spencer was a spirited, upbeat woman who was as sweet as pie, but who also had a sense of self. She didn't suffer fools and had no problem revoking the niceties if warranted. "Bobbie has been a fascinating person for me to play," she said in an interview in 1982. "I get to do ... all the things that most women think about but wouldn't dare." Zeman's last appearance on General Hospital was in April for the wedding of her character's grandson. The same month, she also celebrated the show's 60th anniversary by posting a video on social media to fans. Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show.

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Outside of soap operas, Zeman worked as a Playboy Bunny to help pay for college and also acted in commercials. She had a role in 1982's National Lampoon's Class Reunion and appeared in a string of TV movies. She also had a regular role as Sofia Madison in the crime drama series The Bay, earning her a fifth Emmy Award nomination. ABC Entertainment and General Hospital released a statement on Zeman's death, noting that "she leaves behind a lasting legacy for her Emmy-nominated portrayal of the bad girl turned heroine and will always be remembered for her kind heart and radiant spirit." Zeman was married and divorced three times: first to disc jockey Murray "Murray the K" Kaufman, then later to Steve Gribbin and Glenn Gorden. Zeman's survivors include two daughters, Cassidy and Lacey, from her marriage to Gorden.

(More General Hospital stories.)

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