Thursday, July 18, 2013

Remembering Rebecca Schaeffer November 6, 1967 - July 18, 1989

Rebecca Schaeffer began her brief career as a teen model.  Her father was a child psychologist and mother a writer and instructor at Portland Community College.

As a child, she had dreams of becoming a rabbi but during her junior year at Lincoln High School in Portland, she decided to try modeling.  She appeared in department store catalogs and local television commercials and became an extra in a television film.

In 1984, Rebecca made her move to New York City and enrolled in the Professional Children's School to continue her modeling career.  By modeling standards, she was too short and struggled to find work. A year later, she moved to Japan in hopes she would find less stringent expectations but continued to experience problems.  She then came back to NYC and began focusing on an acting career.

She won her first role in Woody Allen's "Radio Days" with little success. She continued to do some modeling and supplemented her income by waitressing.  Eventually she would experience success and landed on the cover of Seventeen magazine.  Next, she earned the part of "Sandy Russell" on the CBS sitcom "My Sister Sam"  that lasted a couple of seasons until it was cancelled in 1988.  She pressed on and earned a supporting role in "Scenes from the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills" "The End of Innocence" and finally to a television film "Out of Time"  She also became a spokesman for "Thursday's Child" a children's charity in New York.  Things continued to look up for Rebecca until the frightful day of July 18, 1989.

On that day, her life was snuffed out by an obsessed 19 year old man by the name of Robert John Bardo.  Bardo had been stalking her for three years.  He had written to Schaeffer numerous times and and one of those letters was responded to by Schaeffer's fan service. Bardo became enraged with Schaeffer after she appeared in a love scene with another male actor. At that same time, Schaeffer was auditioning for a role in "The Godfather III"  Bardo acquired a gun, tracked Rebecca's residence, rang the door bell and when Schaeffer came to the door, Bardo showed her the letter and autograph she had supposedly sent him and following a brief conversation,  Schaefer advised Bardo not to come back again.  Bardo left and had breakfast but returned for a second time and this time when Schaeffer answered the door, he shot her point blank range.  Paramedics rushed her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center but it was too late.  She died 30 minutes after her arrival.  She was 23.

Schaeffer's death inspired changing laws in California regarding privacy issues called "The Driver's Privacy Protection Act."  Schaeffer was dating director Brad Silberling at the time of the murder and inspired him to produce the film "Moonlight Mile". Her death also was the topic of E! True Hollywood Story and 20 Most Horrifying Murders.

Nearly 200 mourners attended Rebecca Schaeffer's funeral that was held at the Ahavai Sholom Cemetery's small chapel.  Rabbi Joshua Stampfer said of Schaeffer "she brought in her short life more joy to more people than most of us achieve in a lifetime."  Following her service, Rebecca's mother placed her hand on top of the simple wooden casket and placed white lilies on top.  She was then laid to rest.  Inscribed on her monument are these words "I am, so wise to think love will prevail, I am so wise."

Although her life was cut short, Rebecca Schaeffer's story is one that teaches all of us to persevere.






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