Off Topic Messages

John Spencer (star of The West Wing) has died

Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:59 am

I was very sad to hear of the death of John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry on The West Wing. :(

Last edited by TJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:18 am

Yes, I just read that too. Good actor on a good show. He will be missed.

jeff R

Sat Dec 17, 2005 12:25 pm

I got a shock this morning as I thought it was Dutch singer John Spencer, who I know personally for the last 30 years.
Never heard of the American actor with this name but I heard there is also an old blues singer called John Spencer.

Sat Dec 17, 2005 1:56 pm

Luuk wrote:I got a shock this morning as I thought it was Dutch singer John Spencer, who I know personally for the last 30 years.
Never heard of the American actor with this name but I heard there is also an old blues singer called John Spencer.

His face is better known than his name, although to those who don't follow The West Wing, he won't be particularly familiar. LA Law fans will no doubt recognise him. I'm going to modify the title of this thread to include West Wing, because I'm pretty sure most don't know the name.


Sat Dec 17, 2005 2:14 pm

Never watched either series. Usually I watch science fiction and comedy series like Charmed, Stargate, Startrek (and all spin-offs), CSI, Becker, The nanny, The king of Queens and several Dutch ones.
Anyway, learned the man is only 58 and that is much too young an age to die as it is my age! I hope to add at least some 20 years but I would not mind staying healthy and reach 100.

Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:04 pm

A solid character actor. RIP John Spencer.

Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:21 pm

Pete Dube wrote:A solid character actor. RIP John Spencer.

Sure was, may he rest in peace. Any mention of cause of death?

Sat Dec 17, 2005 7:04 pm

Joe -
Cause of death was a heart attack. Mr. Sencer had been an alcoholic when younger, and I think he was a heavy smoker.

Sat Dec 17, 2005 7:29 pm

What a sad day. Makes me want to cry. As some of you know The West Wing is my favorite "modern" TV show. Leo McGarry was always the character that the staff looked to for guidance and John Spencer totally embodied that character. As an actor he was so powerfully evocative and could jerk a tear from my eye pretty often. A very distinct voice & a remarkable laugh. And I loved his expression when he smiled. He will be missed, but fortunately he will never be gone as I will always continue to watch his presence and tremendous performances.

The following quotes pretty much sum up the role.

"Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy."

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey, you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?" The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me Out" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you nuts? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before - and I know the way out."

Lots of comic relief too. ie Pilot episode. The President has crashed into a tree.

Mrs. Landingham: Oh, Mr. McGarry, have they done an x-ray?
Leo McGarry: Yep.
Mrs. Landingham: And is anything broken?
Leo McGarry: A four-thousand-dollar "Lynex Titanium" touring bike that I swore I'd never lend anyone.


Irony is a b*tch in this case, that his end came the same way it almost did on the show. I was hoping to see so much more of him both on the show and other projects, because I really admired him as an actor. The modesty with which he accepted his Emmy award in 2002 really defines my admiration for him. My thoughts go out The West Wing cast, to his family and to all of his fans, of which he had many, I am sure.

John Spencer, I salute you! R.I.P.

Mon Dec 19, 2005 6:00 pm

I've been away from the board for a few day and was thrilled to see that John's untimely and tragic passing is being discussed. John was a superb actor and a great guy who not only faced his past alcoholism, but talked about it openly to adults and teenagers. I first met John on the set of Twilight in 1997. He had been a favorite of mine for some time and I was actually nervous about meeting him. He could not have been nicer and we talked for over an hour. I then had lunch with him and my old friend Emmet Walsh (along with James Garner). This was a couple of years before John quit smoking and he was puffing away like a freight train. The sad thing is that he knew and even said that smoking would eventually kill him. What a loss to the entertainment world and especially to The West Wing. The entire story line will now have to be rewritten as John was about to have an even bigger role. Sad as it is to think about at a time like this but this may signal the death knell for the show.

R.I.P John. Thanks for a great lunch!


Mon Dec 19, 2005 10:00 pm

Moving words you wrote there Tom.

I just got a box set containing Seasons 1 to 6 (without the numerous extras included on the R1 versions) from the UK last week and was almost done watching S1, when I heard the news. His talent and ability to connect with his audience were remarkable. I am truly saddened at his death, and I hope his life and legacy is treated with the honor and respect it deserves. I find myself remembering more about his character than about him as a person because I only "knew" his character. But surely he, not just the writers, made Leo Leo. What I remember about John Spencer is that during those stupid award show interviews on TV, he always had a huge grin on his face. That was a man that enjoyed what he was doing and we all got to enjoy him doing that. Yeah he had his personal demons -- but who hasn't. But I've never heard another human being say a bad thing about him. You can tell he was a gracious, good man who appreciated everything life had brought to him.

Where can they go now? Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn) is returning for the final episode, so perhaps he'll be the new VP on the ticket. But wasn't there also talk that all involved were pretty much planning on this being the last season of the show? If there is any justice in this world, Aaron Sorkin will be hired to write the episode in which Leo's passing takes place. I honestly hope he gets all the honors he deserves, and that the show to which he devoted some of his finest acting, deals with his death in a way that shows properly the wonders he did with an already terrific character. I can imagine the episode- Toby being enlisted to help write Leo's eulogy because the President can't find the words....Toby, trying his best, but expecting better of himself, knows that only one person can help. He's gotta place a call. He's gotta get Robin to his Batman involved. And here's Sam, and here's Toby, and here we all are- finally together again. Paying respects to Leo. To John. "Ain't nothin' but a family thing."

And just one more time: "MARGARET!"