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Why You Don’t See Debbe Dunning Anymore (Heidi Keppert From Home Improvement)

When you were a cast member of one of the most popular television sitcoms of the 90’s, it’s pretty much a given that people are going to remember you. That’s exactly what Debbe Dunning, the actress and model who played the Tool Girl Heidi Keppert on ABC’s Home Improvement, has experienced.

Dunning initially appeared as a guest star in the season two episode “Overactive Glance”, but the show’s producers loved her so much they invited her back to be a permanent addition to the cast the following season after the original Tool Girl Lisa, portrayed by Pamela Anderson, left to go to college. Dunning remained a series regular until the show’s finale in 1999.

Dunning’s first role on the series before landing the part of Heidi was playing the voluptuous Kiki Van Furterwallenscheinlaw, a Tool Time fan who asked Tim for an autograph on an night out when he was challenged by his wife Jill and her friend Kelly to not look at any other women. The two women came up with this challenge after Tim was caught checking a particularly busty woman out on Tool Time.

Before she joined the cast of Home Improvement, Dunning had been trying her hardest to land her first big breakthrough role in Hollywood. Previously, she had only made minor appearances on hit television shows such as Baywatch, Married….with Children, and Who’s the Boss?, in addition to appearing in numerous music videos and commercials.

After Home Improvement ended it’s impressive 8 season run, however, Dunning pretty much fell out of the spotlight. Join Facts Verse as we try to understand why you don’t see much of Debbe Dunning anymore. We’ll be taking a look at what she has been up to in recent years both in her personal and professional life.

But first, let’s take a closer look back at her rise to fame and earliest roles.

Dunning Got Her Start As a Model

Dunning was born in Burbank, California, on July 11, 1966. She graduated from John Burroughs High School – the same school that her parents graduated from twenty years prior.

In her senior year, Dunning was crowned Homecoming Queen and was captain of her heartrending team. In 1984, she won the title of Miss Burbank. That same year, shortly after her parents vacation fund was stolen, Dunning entered and won the Miller Beer Bikini Contest held at Hermosa Beach.

The prize for winning that contest was $500, which she promptly donated to her parents to make up for the pilfered vacation money. The following weekend, Dunning won yet another contest. In time, Miller Beer recognized that they had a rising star on their hands and proceeded to slap her face on a poster and hire her for in-person promotional appearances. It was around this time that Debbe realized that she just might be able to carve a niche out for herself in the entertainment industry.

Dunning soon landed her first on-screen appearance in a commercial for Foot Locker, after which she was handed a myriad of modeling gigs. She went on to grace the covers of sports magazines like Muscle & Fitness, Triathlete, and Shape.

It wasn’t long before she had done more than five dozen commercials, including one spot with Ford appropriately titled ‘Pretty Woman’.

Dunning gained national attention during her prolific three-year campaign portraying the character Louise in Taco Bell’s ‘Run For The Border Girl” ad series. With all this exposure, it’s not surprising that Dunning was able to successfully transition over to acting.

Beside’s Home Improvement, Dunning has also appeared in shows like Dream On, Silk Stalkings, The Jamie Fox Show, Tales From The Crypt, Knots Landing, and Boy Meet’s World. She also hosted ESPN’s ‘Extreme Bloopers for a short time’

In 1997, Dunning played Private Delores Costello in the critically panned science fiction black comedy slasher film Leprechaun 4: In Space.

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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Keep watching to learn what Debbe Dunning has recently been doing with her life.

She Co-Starred In Several Made-For-TV Thrillers

Debbe Dunning’s first role post-Home Improvement was in the TV film The Spiral Staircase – a remake of a 1946 film that was in turn, an adaptation of a novel entitled ‘Some Must Watch’ by author Ethel Lina White.

The film debuted in 2000 on Fox Family Channel. It starred Nicollette Sheridan as a mute woman who begins to suspect that a vicious serial killer is preying on women just like her. Dunning was cast as the character Danielle, one of the unfortunate women who got trapped inside a mansion with the killer. Unfortunately, Danielle didn’t live long enough to see the credits roll.

Dunning’s next significant role was a recurring part on the soap opera Wicked Wicked Games as the character Hope Lorca. The soap starred Tatum O’Neal as Blythe Hunter, a bitter woman who was out to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend who left her to marry another woman decades prior. Once again, Dunning’s character was also killed, this time at the hands of Blythe.

Debbe Started Her Own Show on RFD-TV

Dunning has been a lifelong lover of all things equestrian. That’s why when she as asked by The Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV owner Patrick Gottsch to come up with a new concept for a show, the idea she ended up pitching came to her almost instantaneously.

Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Roundup premiered in 2017. The series, which Dunning both stars in and produces, revolves around her love and passion for touring dude ranches and horseback riding.

In a 2017 interview, Dunning explained that her vision for the show was to explore all the dude ranches in the United States while highlighting what makes each one special.

While she was still a cast member on Home Improvement, Dunning would use her breaks between shoots to go riding.

She grew up in Burbank, California and was surrounded by horse properties in her younger years. She says that she has always loved horses and that even during her Home Improvement years, she would keep her horse at an equestrian center across the street. Between scene changes, she would typically have enough time to spend with her four-hooved companion.

Dunning’s series ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2020. It’s production was forced to come to a close at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but hopefully, it will be able to pick up where it left off eventually.

Dunning Is Passionate About Family And Charity

Whenever she’s not acting or touring dude ranches across America, Dunning enjoys spending her free time with her family, out on the links, or taking part in charity work.

Debbe was married to former Olympic volleyball star Steve Thomas from 1997 to 2018. During their time together, Dunning and Thomas had three children – a daughter named Spencer Schae who was born in 1996, and two sons, Stoney and Sysco, who were born respectively in 2000 and 2008.

In a 2017 interview, Dunning was quoted as saying that she has always had an active role in her children’s lives, even though it’s not always easy to do so. She credits her success as a mother to her strict yet open approach to parenting.

She further said that she loved being a mother and that when she was still on Home Improvement, she was able to bring her daughter to work with her every day since she was just two weeks old. As such, she never had to miss a precious moment or milestone.

Debbe is also a big fan of golfing and skiing. She frequently makes appearances at the annual John Starks Foundation charitable Golf Tournament, which raises funds to provide scholarships for young college-bound students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay for their schooling.

In another notable interview, Dunning was quoted as saying that she always makes time to help children in need. She takes any opportunity that arises where she can put her time into something that benefits children in her community.

It’s been a while since Dunning has appeared in anything on the big or small screen, but it’s pretty obvious that she’s living relatively comfortably. According to most estimates, Dunning has a net worth of between $4 and $5 million.

A Possible Home Improvement Reboot

On May 5, 2015, Hollywood Life reported that Tim Allen and Richard Karn had been tossing around the idea of getting the Home Improvement cast back together for either a reunion episode or a reboot series.

In February 2020, CinemaBlend reported that Tim Allen was still interested in reviving the beloved sitcom. At the time, he expressed interest in bringing the show back for a one-off special in which fans would get a chance to find out where the boys ended up and how Tool Time would fit in with the modern world.

Allen did briefly reprise his role as Tim Taylor in a 2021 episode of his latest sitcom, Last Man Standing, but as of right now, a full-fledged reunion has yet to materialize. If it were to, it would be wonderful to see Debbe Dunning come back to reprise her role as Heidi.

That about wraps up our rundown of the life and career of Debbe Dunning. You’ve heard what we have to say. Now we’d love to hear from you.

Did you know that Debbe Dunning starred in her own show on RFD-TV that revolved around her love for horses and ranch life? And do you think that the cast of Home Improvement should get back together for a reunion special or reboot series? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section down below.

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