General Hospital fan favorite Jacklyn Zeman, who played Barbara Jean “Bobbie” Spencer since 1977, has passed away at the age of 70.
Jacklyn Zeman: A Spectacular Life
ABC7 in Los Angeles reports that Zeman’s family told ABC News that the actress died after a short battle with cancer. Zeman was originally scheduled to join Soap Hub for a Fireside Chat in late March to honor the show for its 60th anniversary. It was in the process of being rescheduled.
“On behalf of our[General Hospital] family, I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved [Jackie Zeman],” said executive producer Frank Valentini in a statement shared 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. Jackie will be greatly missed, but her positive spirit will always live on with our cast and crew. We send our heartfelt sympathy to her loved ones, friends, and family, especially her daughters Cassidy and Lacey. #GH”
Zeman’s friend and former GH producer, Kac Young, shared on Facebook that Zeman died in the morning on Wednesday, May 10. “She was my soul-sister, life-buddy and we travelled together, shared a lifetime of secrets, were in each other’s weddings and as close as two friends could be,” Young posted on Facebook, “38 years of friendship and I will miss her with all my heart. I was able to be with her in her last days and it was a blessing to see her still shining towards the end. I am grateful for who she was and that I got to share that beautiful soul. She was an angel on this earth and will continue to be the same in the next life. My heart is breaking.”
Jacklyn Zeman was born on March 6, 1953, to Rita Zeman-Rohlman, a magazine supervisor, and Richard Zeman, a systems engineer, in Englewood, New Jersey. She grew up in the nearby suburb of Bergenfield, New Jersey. At the tender age of 5, Zeman began training in classical ballet. After graduating from high school early, at 15, she received a full scholarship to study dance at New York University.
Just three years later, Zeman took a job as a Playboy Bunny at the Playboy Club, one of the youngest bunnies at the time. She, along with the other bunnies, would travel overseas promoting Playboy, the magazine, and the movie theater. She traveled to Rio De Janeiro to promote the record company. The actress credited the job with being a great training ground for all the publicity that she would receive during General Hospital’s heyday.
After returning from a trip to South America, Zeman auditioned for the world-famous DJ, Murray the K, as a dancer for a music festival he was hosting. She landed the gig and the guy, opening her world to some of the most famous musicians in the world. The couple hung out with the Beatles and their wives in New York.
It was around this time Zeman began to ponder an acting career. As a young girl, she would race home for lunch and watch soap operas. In 1976, she scored a role on The Edge of Night as a stewardess named Bobbi. The budding actress moved on to a more permanent role on One Life to Live as Lana McClain later that year. She addressed how she spent her first days on the soap in a sitdown interview with Maurice Benard on State Of Mind.
One year later, she was offered the role of a lifetime as the naughty red-haired nurse, Barbara Jean ‘Bobbie’ Spencer, on General Hospital. Through the years, Bobbie would try and break up Scotty Baldwin (Kin Shriner) and Laura Webber (Genie Francis). She once goaded Laura, who was on probation for killing David Hamilton, into a physical brawl in the hospital bookroom. Bobbie took advantage of Laura’s emotional state and played victim to the hilt to make Laura look as unbalanced as possible. Later, Bobbie upped her game by enlisting her shady brother Luke (Anthony Geary) to aid her in her efforts.
As Bobbie tempered her hatred of Laura, she turned her attention to Luke’s pal, mobster Roy DiLucca (Asher Brauner). The two feel deeply in love. Roy would later “die” in her arms after being shot (he would return to Port Charles many years later, alive and well and played by A Martinez). Her antagonistic feelings towards Laura lessened over the years once Luke and Laura ended up on the run from gangster Frank Smith.
Bobbie would have many romantic pairings in Port Charles, but none as popular as her relationship with Dr. Noah Drake (portrayed by rock star Rick Springfield). The pair sizzled onscreen, and the fans ate it up. Some fan appearances at the time had to be shut down due to the crowd’s enthusiasm. Zeman even had FBI protection for a year due to a stalker that was found with her picture in his pocket. It was truly crazy times.
The role of Bobbie Spencer would earn Zeman four Daytime Emmy nominations over the years. The nurse from the wrong side of the tracks resonated among the fans who followed her character’s redemption during her 46 years on the soap opera.
The actress didn’t rest on the laurels of daytime. She appeared in feature films such as The Day the Music Died, Young Doctors in Love, Class Reunion, and Deep in the Valley. Primetime television credits included The New Mike Hammer, Sledge Hammer!, Chicago Hope, Misguided, and The Bay. Two TV movies, Jury Duty; The Comedy, and a primetime foray of GH called General Hospital: Twist of Fate, rounded out her acting resume.
Jacklyn Zeman lived a remarkable life. She is survived by her two daughters, Cassidy Zee, and Lacey Rose, as well as her grandchildren Kennedy and Decker. Soap Hub sends its sincere condolences to all of her family, coworkers, friends, and fans during this difficult time.