Requiem for a Heavyweight

spencer.jpgJust a few minutes after signing off last Friday, we heard from one of our favorite operatives of the DCeiver universe, the redoubtable Shayna Bloom, bringing us the sad tidings of West Wing actor John Spencer's passing. There's rarely the room over at Wonkette for sentimental remembrances, but as we made our Friday night rounds, it was clear that the news of his death from a heart attack at age 58 was something that many Washingtonians were greeting with a heavy heart. It was as if a million Congressional interns cried out at once, only to be heard no more.

Spencer spent the bulk of his career as one of Hollywood's great "That Guy" actors, making a living as one of those go-to character types who directors turned to whenever a scene called for a serious guy to fill out a smart suit or look believable wearing a badge or carrying a piece. He brought a lantern-jawed gravitas that most Southern California pretty boys couldn't hope to match. Getting the part of Presidential Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on The West Wing was a sweet moment for Spencer, giving him the chance to strut his considerable chops for a huge audience.

The West Wing, of course, has long since jumped the shark (the exact moment came when Josh Lyman leaped out his cab to scream and yell at the Capitol Dome), and has, for a considerable time now, been a John Wells-style no-fun zone of oppressive, swampy melancholy. But Washingtonians appreciate John Spencer all the same. He hired Ainsley Hayes. He kept President Bartlet from pussing out in the situation room. Instead of showing fear at a Congressional hearing, he spent the day straight macking on Joanna Gleason, imagining under oath all the things he could do with her undergarments. But most of all, Washingtonians remember him for being the guy who jumped down in the hole with us. He'd been down there before. And he knew the way out. Peace out, Spence.


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