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December 16, 2005

Emmy Winner John Spencer Dies


West Wing Star was 58


John Spencer

Los Angeles, CA Actor John Spencer, star of the NBC series The West Wing, died at a Los Angeles hospital today following a heart attack. He was 58.

Spencer is best known as Leo McGarry, the chief of staff to President Jeb Bartlet (Martin Sheen) who recently became vice-presidential running mate to presidential hopeful Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits.

In a grim parallel to real life, McGarry left his White House position after suffering a heart attack. Also like McGarry, Spencer battled alcoholism earlier in his life.

Prior to The West Wing, for which he earned a 2002 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series, Spencer drew acclaim as streetwise attorney Tommy Mullaney on the series L.A. Law. He received four other Emmy nominations for his work on The West Wing.

A native of Paterson, NJ, Spencer, the son of working-class parents, attended the prestigious Professional Children's School in New York City, where his classmates included such future stars as Liza Minnelli.

While still in his teens, he was cast on The Patty Duke Show as the boyfriend of Cathy, the English twin. He continued to work from then on, moving from TV to stage to feature films. His major motion picture break came in 1990 when he appeared opposite Harrison Ford in the suspense drama Presumed Innocent. His performance as a police detective in that film led to his role on L.A. Law.

His other films include Green Card, The Rock and Cop Land.

Spencer’s publicist, Ron Hofmann, who made the announcement, said that funeral arrangements were pending.

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