Debbe Dunning became the “Tool Time girl” when Pamela Anderson left the hit ABC sitcom Home Improvement due to scheduling conflicts with hit show Baywatch.
Home Improvement, starring Tim Allen, originally cast Debbe Dunning in a small role in the second season. However, she then auditioned for the role of Heidi Keppert, Tim and Al’s (Richard Karn) new assistant on their fictional show Tool Time.
She held that role from seasons 3-8. In the show’s final two seasons, she became a main cast member as her character was more fully developed and a bigger part of the show.
Dunning has largely stayed out of the spotlight in the decades since playing on the show. However, in the past few years, she has found a surprising new starring role.
During Home Improvement and shortly after its run, Dunning held a variety of roles. She made guest appearances on shows including Baywatch, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She also starred on a 1994 episode of Tales From the Crypt.
In the 2000 television remake of The Spiral Staircase, her character was the victim of a serial killer played by Judd Nelson, while in Leprechaun 4: In Space, it was the title character who made her fall from a railing, finger by finger.
In her most recent acting role in 2007, she played on the telenovela Wicked Wicked Games alongside Tatum O’Neal, whose character ultimately killed Dunning’s in a violent parking garage fight.
However, Dunning seems to have taken a hiatus from acting in exchange for some off-screen work.
According to her LinkedIn profile, she spent an amount of time as a sales and marketing specialist for J.R. Lennen Construction, Inc., a California-based general contracting company.
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In the 1996 Home Improvement episode “The Tool Man Delivers,” Heidi gives birth in a gas station with the help of Tim and Jill (Patricia Richardson). Dunning’s real-life pregnancy with daughter Spencer was written into the show. The actress married Spencer’s father, former Olympic volleyball player Steve Timmons in 1997.
The couple had two sons, Stoney and Sysco, followed in 2000 and 2008, respectively.
While the California-based couple divorced in 2018, Dunning documents special moments with her kids on her Instagram page.
Dunning is also an avid golfer. Over the years, she joined many golf events benefiting a variety of causes and organizations. These include the John Starks Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Michael Phelps Foundation.
“There’s not a lot of women out there that are actresses and professional athletes that do golf,” she once said in 2015.
Tournaments have also given Dunning the opportunity to reunite with her former Home Improvement co-stars. She played alongside Tim Allen at the 7th annual George Lopez Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Then, she played with cast-mate Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor) at the SAG Foundation’s 6th Annual Los Angeles Golf Classic. Lastly, she reuinted with Richard Karn at the George Lopez 14th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic Tournament.
Dunning has talked about her affinity for riding horses in interviews. She normally rode horses she kept at an equestrian center during filming of the show. However, when she met Patrick Gottsch years later, she’d help her realize her new dream. Gottsch, owner of RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel, invited her to pitch a concept for the networks. What she created was a travel show focused on America’s ‘dude ranches.’
In 2017, Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Roundup premiered, with Dunning acting as host and executive producer. Now in its fourth season, the series features Dunning exploring the ranches of the American West.