On Friday, December 16, 2005, The West Wing lost the heart and soul of its cast, and the world lost a fine actor and man. In a cruelly ironic case of life imitating art, the incomparable John Spencer suffered a heart attack and later died at a hospital in California. He was a week shy of his 59th birthday.
The depth of John's career was almost as broad as his talent. Though he will always be most fondly remembered to us for his Emmy Award-winning (and four other times nominated) role as White House Chief of Staff and Vice Presidential candidate Leo McGarry, he was also a critically-acclaimed theatre, film and television actor whose star shone as brightly as the twinkle in his eyes for over 40 years. Consistently described as generous and humble, both as an actor and man, his loss leaves not only an irrepairable void in the cast, but in our hearts. Deepest condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends, both onscreen and off, during this very sad time.
Statements from NBC / Warner Bros., John Wells, Aaron Sorkin & Tommy Schlamme.
Instead of remembering him with sadness, let's celebrate his talent. I hope these Leo-centric quotes bring a smile to your face.
Leo: 17 across ... yes, 17 across is wrong ... you're spelling his name wrong ... What's my name? My name doesn't matter. I'm just an ordinary citizen who relies on the Times crossword for stimulation. And I'm telling you that I met the man twice, and I recommended a pre-emptive Exocet missile strike against his air force, so I think I know how--
CJ: Leo ...
Leo: They hang up on me every time.
Margaret: Can I just say something for the future? I can sign the President's name. I've got his signature down pretty good.
Leo: You can sign the President's name?
Leo: (incredulously) On a document removing him from power and giving it to someone else?
Margaret: Yeah. Or do you think the White House counsel would say that's a bad idea?
Leo: I think the White House counsel would say that's a coup d'etat!
Margaret: I'd probably end up doing some time for that.
Leo: I would think! And what the hell are you doing, practicing the President's signature?
Margaret: It's just for fun.
Leo: We've got separation of powers, checks and balances, and Margaret, vetoing things and sending them back to the Hill!
-- In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II
Leo: How'd it go?
Josh: Did you wait around for me? (beat) He thinks I may have an eating disorder.
Josh: And a fear of rectangles. That's not weird, is it? (beat) I didn't cut my hand on a glass. I broke a window in my apartment.
Leo: 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, can you help me out?" The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down 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 out 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 stupid? Now we're both down here!" And the friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." (beat) As long as I got a job, you got a job--you understand?
Mrs Landingham: In my day, we knew how to protect ourselves.
Leo: Well, in your day, you could pretty much turn back the Indians with a Daniel Boone musket, couldn't you?
Mrs Landingham: Ah, sarcasm, the grumpy man's wit.
Leo: Sharpen a pencil, would you?
-- The Drop In
Bartlet: They thought I was going to be eating with Abbey, so ...
Leo: I know.
Bartlet: We'll just, you know, pretend there's no candlelight.
Leo: And that we're not paranoid homophobes in any way.
-- The Stackhouse Fillibuster
Margaret: Speaking of health and fitness ...
Leo: Oh, merciful God!
Margaret: What did you have--
Leo: I had half a grapefruit!
Leo: You think I'm lying?
Margaret: No ...
Margaret: Yes ...
-- 20 Hours in America, Part I
Bartlet: Do you have a best friend?
Tribbey: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: Is he smarter than you?
Tribbey: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: Would you trust him with your life?
Tribbey: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: Then that's your Chief of Staff.
-- He Shall, From Time to Time
Rest in peace, Leo. You will be greatly missed.
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