If you were an ’80s kids — you know, one of those young’uns who, according to Jeanne, shouldn’t have survived their childhoods –then you probably watched more than a few episodes of the sitcom “Gimme a Break!,” the story of a widower, his three daughters and the sassy housekeeper (Nell Carter) who loved them.
If your memory is in working order, you may recall that the middle child in the Kaniisky family was a smart (and occasionally smart ass) teen named Julie, and that Julie was played by Lauri Hendler. Which of course raises the question: whatever happened to that sarcastic, bespectacled young lady? Here’s a hint: you probably have seen her recently — more than once, in fact — and didn’t even realize it.
But first things first. Hendler’s gig on “Gimme a Break!” certainly stands as her most notable acting job in the ’80s. But it wasn’t her only one; she also popped up in TV movies like “High School U.S.A.,” several ABC “Afterschool Specials” and on shows like “Mr. Belvedere.” According to the bio on Hendler’s very snazzy Web site, sometime after “Break” ended its run on NBC in 1986, the young actress moved to New York to study her craft more formally.
She eventually returned to L.A., though, and has spent most of her adult life acting as a guest star on TV shows (including “The West Wing,” “Without a Trace” and “ER”), doing voiceover work and appearing in television commercials.
And that’s where — if you’re anything like me — you’ve probably seen her without even recognizing that she and Julie Kaminsky, the brain from “Gimme a Break!,” are actually the same person.
Know that Progresso commercial where the women brag about the various soups that have helped them maintain healthy figures? Hendler’s the redhead who swivels her hips and says, “It’s the turkey noodle diet,” prompting her friends to declare, “It’s working for you!” Or what about the Comcast spot where the chef stirs the ingredients in a massive pot while singing the “More, more, more” line from “Lady Marmalade”? Yep, that chef is Hendler, too! (For the record, that commercial annoys the living crap out of me. Not Hendler’s fault, really, since she lip synchs Labelle pretty perfectly. Just sayin’.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of these TV spots on YouTube, but you can view them all on Hendler’s Web site. I always knew Julie was the smartest daughter on “Gimme a Break!” The fact that she’s diversified her acting career and is still working steadily more than 20 years later just proves that it’s true. The girls who wear glasses? Oh yeah, they always know what they’re doing.
Check out what Hendler looks like these days, then enjoy the intro from “Gimme a Break!” below.
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Images: Young Hollywood Hall of Fame and IMDB