Suzanne Marie Somers (née Mahoney; October 16, 1946 – October 15, 2023) was an American actress, author, and businesswoman. She played the television roles of Chrissy Snow on Three's Company (1977–1981) and Carol Foster Lambert on Step by Step (1991–1998).

Suzanne Somers
Somers in 2011
Born
Suzanne Marie Mahoney

(1946-10-16)October 16, 1946
DiedOctober 15, 2023(2023-10-15) (aged 76)
Resting placeDesert Memorial Park
Occupations
  • Actress
  • author
  • businesswoman
Years active1968–2023
Notable work
Spouses
Bruce Somers
(m. 1965; div. 1968)
(m. 1977)
Children1
RelativesCamelia Somers (granddaughter)
Websitesuzannesomers.com

Somers wrote more than 25 books, including two autobiographies, four diet books, and a book of poetry. She was also well known for advertising the ThighMaster, an exercise device. While 14 of her books were best sellers and most were focused on health and well-being, doctors criticized her promotion of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and alternative cancer treatments.[1][2]

Early life edit

Suzanne Marie Mahoney was born in San Bruno, California, on October 16, 1946[3][4] as the third of four children in a working-class Irish-American Catholic family.[5] Her mother, Marion Elizabeth (née Turner), was a medical secretary, and her father, Francis "Frank" Mahoney, was a laborer and gardener.[1] Her father was an alcoholic and was abusive, and Somers often worried that he would kill her.[1][6][7] Somers was a bedwetter until age 12, which led to additional abuse from her father.[6]

Somers first attended Mercy High School in Burlingame, California, but had trouble with her schoolwork because of dyslexia and her father's all-night rages, and she would often fall asleep in class.[8][9] At school, she performed the lead role in a production of H.M.S. Pinafore. She was expelled at age 14 for writing sexually suggestive notes to a boy that were never sent.[8]

At age 17, Suzanne's father ripped off her prom dress and told her that she was "nothing," and she responded by hitting him in the head with a tennis racket.[6]

In 1964, Somers graduated from Capuchino High School in San Bruno, California, where she won the "Best Doll Award" for her role in the senior musical Guys and Dolls and helped organize her class's senior ball.[10] She then attended Lone Mountain College, a college run by the Catholic Society of the Sacred Heart order, but withdrew in 1965 when she learned that she was pregnant. She married her child's father Bruce Somers days later at age 19.[1][7] Her situation led to low self-esteem. She was arrested for check fraud and her car was impounded.[6]

Career edit

Early career edit

Somers began acting in small roles during the late 1960s and early 1970s. She appeared on various talk shows promoting her book of poetry and bit parts in movies, such as the "Blonde in the white Thunderbird" in American Graffiti; it led to appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[11] She appeared in an episode of the American version of the sitcom Lotsa Luck, based on the British sitcom On the Buses, as the femme fatale, in the early 1970s. She also appeared in The Rockford Files in 1974 and had an uncredited role as a "pool girl" in Magnum Force in 1973. She also had a guest-starring role on The Six Million Dollar Man in the 1977 episode "Cheshire Project".[12] She played a passenger on the first episode of The Love Boat[13] and made a guest appearance in a 1976 episode of One Day at a Time.[14]

Three's Company edit

 
Somers in 1977

After actresses Suzanne Zenor and Susan Lanier did not impress producers during the first two pilot episodes of the ABC sitcom Three's Company, based on the British sitcom Man About the House, Somers was suggested by ABC president Fred Silverman, who had seen her in her initial appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Silverman hired her the day before the taping of the third and final pilot commenced.[15] Somers portrayed Christmas "Chrissy" Snow, who exemplified many blonde stereotypes and was employed as an office secretary. At first, Somers made $3,500 per week from the show.[16]

The series co-starred John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt in a comedy about two single women living with a single man who pretended to be gay in order to bypass the landlord's policy of prohibiting single men sharing an apartment with single women. The program was an instant success in the Nielsen ratings, eventually spawning a short-lived spin-off series, The Ropers, loosely based on the British sitcom George and Mildred, starring Norman Fell and Audra Lindley.[17]

When Three's Company began its fifth season in late 1980, Somers demanded a salary increase from $30,000 to $150,000 per episode, to match the compensation paid to Ritter, as well as 10% of the show's profits.[18] Somers's request was influenced by her second husband, Alan Hamel.[19]

ABC was willing to offer only a $5,000 per episode raise.[16] Somers then refused to appear in the second and fourth episodes of the season, citing excuses such as a broken rib. She finished the remaining season on her contract; however, her role was decreased to just 60 seconds per episode, with her character appearing in only the episode's closing tag in which Chrissy calls the trio's apartment from her parents' home. After ABC fired her from the program and terminated her contract, Somers sued the network for $2 million, saying her credibility in show business had been damaged. The lawsuit was settled by an arbitrator who decided Somers was owed only $30,000, due to a single missed episode for which she had not been paid. Future rulings also favored the network and producers. Somers said she was fired for asking to be paid as much as popular male television stars.[18]

After Three's Company edit

In 1983, Suzanne Somers through her Hamel/Somers Productions signed a deal with Columbia Pictures Television.[20]

Somers and her Three's Company co-star, John Ritter, reconciled their friendship after 20 years of not speaking to each other, shortly before Ritter's death in 2003.[21]

Somers appeared in two Playboy cover-feature nude pictorials, in 1980 and 1984. Her first set of nude photos was taken by Stan Malinowski in February 1970 when Somers was a struggling model and actress and did a test photoshoot for the magazine. She was accepted as a Playmate candidate in 1971, but declined to pose nude before the actual shoot. During an appearance on The Tonight Show in 1980, she denied ever posing nude, except for a High Society topless photo. This prompted Playboy to publish photos from the 1970 Malinowski shoot, without her permission.[22] Somers' original motivation for posing nude was to be able to pay medical bills related to injuries her son Bruce Jr. suffered in a car accident. By the time the photos were published, her son was 14 and Somers feared seeing his mother posing nude would be difficult for him. Somers sued Playboy and settled for $50,000, which was donated to charity, with at least $10,000 of it going to Easterseals.[23] The second nude pictorial by Richard Fegley appeared in December 1984 in an attempt by Somers to regain her diminished popularity after the Three's Company debacle in 1981. Despite her anger and the earlier lawsuit, Playboy approached her earlier that year to pose nude a second time. Initially she was angered again, but eventually agreed after discussing it with her family. She felt she would have a better chance to control the quality of the photos the second time, and having such control was an important condition that Somers attached to posing. Despite Somers' earlier belief that her son would not want to see his mother nude, her then 18-year-old son did view the second pictorial.[24]

In the 1980s, Somers lived in Las Vegas and was an entertainer, headlining at the former MGM Grand (now Horseshoe Las Vegas) for two years until the theater burned down and then at the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate Las Vegas) for another 2+12 years.[25]

 
Suzanne Somers on the USS Ranger in 1981

In the early 1980s, Somers performed for U.S. servicemen overseas.[26][27][28]

From 1987 to 1989, Somers starred in the sitcom She's the Sheriff, which ran in first-run syndication. Somers portrayed a widow with two young children who decided to fill the shoes of her late husband, a sheriff of a Nevada town. The show ran for two seasons.[29]

In 1990, Somers returned to network television, appearing in numerous guest roles and made-for-TV movies.[30]

Later career edit

In September 1991, Somers returned to series television in the sitcom Step By Step (with Patrick Duffy), which became a success on ABC's youth-orientated TGIF lineup.[31]

In the early 1990s, Somers was the spokeswoman in a series of infomercials for the Thighmaster, a piece of exercise equipment which is squeezed between one's thighs above the knees. In 2014, Somers was inducted into the Infomercial Hall of Fame.[32]

In 1991 a two-hour biographical film of Somers, starring the actress herself, entitled Keeping Secrets, based on her first autobiography of the same title, was broadcast on ABC. The movie chronicled Somers' troubled family life and upbringing, along with her subsequent rise to fame.[31]

In 1994, Somers launched a daytime talk show titled Suzanne Somers, which lasted one season.[31]

Step By Step continued on ABC until the end of its sixth season in 1997, when the series moved to CBS for what turned out to be its final season.[31]

From 1997 to 1999, Somers co-hosted the revised Candid Camera show, when CBS revived it with Peter Funt.[33]

In the 2000s, Somers appeared on the Home Shopping Network for more than 25 hours per month, selling household items, clothing and jewelry that she designed.[1]

 
Somers receiving patriotic civilian service award for past USO tour performances after performing The Blonde in the Thunderbird for members of the U.S. military and their families

In the summer of 2005, Somers made her Broadway theatre debut in a one-woman show, The Blonde in the Thunderbird, a collection of stories about her life and career. The show was supposed to run until September, but was cancelled in less than a week after poor reviews and disappointing ticket sales.[29] She blamed the harsh reviews: The New York Times referred to it as "...a drab and embarrassing display of emotional exhibitionism masquerading as entertainment."[34] She compared her treatment by critics with the treatment of soldiers in the Iraq War, prompting even more criticism.[35]

In 2012, Somers began an online talk show, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through, at CafeMom. Three of the episodes featured a reunion and reconciliation with former Three's Company co-star Joyce DeWitt; the two had not seen nor spoken to each other in 31 years. Somers and Dewitt briefly discussed John Ritter and how glad they were they both had spoken with him shortly before his sudden death.[36]

In the fall of 2012, The Suzanne Show, hosted by Somers, aired for a 13-episode season on the Lifetime Network. Somers welcomed various guests covering a wide range of topics relating to health and fitness.[36]

On February 24, 2015, Somers was announced as one of the stars participating on the 20th season of Dancing with the Stars. Her partner was professional dancer Tony Dovolani.[37] Somers and Dovolani were eliminated in the fifth week of competition and finished in 9th place.[38]

In May and June 2015, Somers starred in "Suzanne Sizzles" at the Westgate Las Vegas.[25]

Medical views edit

Somers supported bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Her book Ageless[39] includes interviews with 16 practitioners of bioidentical hormone therapy but focuses on one specific approach, the Wiley protocol. A group of seven doctors, all of whom practice bioidentical hormone therapy to address women's health issues, issued a public letter to Somers and her publisher, Crown Publishing Group, stating that the protocol is scientifically unproven and dangerous and citing Wiley's lack of medical and clinical qualifications. Somers appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was praised by Winfrey for her views, but negative press coverage followed.[40][41]

 
Somers at The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show (2011). Behind Somers are Giuliana Rancic and Julie Bowen.

In April 2000, Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy and radiation but declined chemotherapy. In November 2008, Somers announced that she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer by six doctors, but she learned a week later that she was misdiagnosed. During this time, she interviewed doctors about cancer treatments and these interviews became the basis of her 2009 book Knockout about alternative treatments to chemotherapy.[42][43] In the book, Somers promoted alternative cancer treatments, for which she was criticized by the American Cancer Society, and alternative medical providers such as Stanislaw Burzynski, who has been disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for misleading cancer patients.[2][40]

In regard to the water-fluoridation controversy, Somers called fluoride a "toxic waste by-product of the aluminum manufacturers."[44]

In January 2013, Somers suggested that Adam Lanza may have been driven to commit the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting because of the level of toxins in his diet and his exposure to household cleaners.[45]

Personal life edit

Somers married Bruce Somers in 1965, and they had a son, Bruce Jr., in November 1965.[46][47] After divorcing in 1968, Somers worked as a prize model on The Anniversary Game, a game show hosted by Alan Hamel.[7] Although he was already married, they began dating; she had an affair with him that led to an abortion.[6] They married in 1977.[1][48] Somers had three granddaughters, including Camelia Somers.[49]

In 1971, her six-year-old son was struck by a car. The resulting trauma led her to seek therapy for both herself and her son.[6]

Somers and Hamel bought a house in Palm Springs, California, in 1977, and they sold it in 2021 for $8.5 million.[50]

In January 2007, a wildfire in Southern California destroyed Somers' home in Malibu, California.[51]

Health and death edit

Somers had hyperplasia in her 20s and skin cancer in her 30s.[18]

In April 2000, Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, followed by radiation therapy.[42]

In 2018, it was reported that she underwent an experimental stem-cell therapy to regrow the breast she lost to cancer.[52]

In 2021/2022, Somers was diagnosed with hydrocephalus but, unlike Tim Conway, who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus before he died in 2019, Somers was never given a shunt.[citation needed]

Somers died at her home in Palm Springs, California, on October 15, 2023, one day before her 77th birthday. Her breast cancer had returned earlier in the year.[7][53] Her funeral was held three days later, with her interment at Desert Memorial Park.[54]

Filmography edit

Television edit

 
The handprints of Suzanne Somers in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park
 
Suzanne Somers three-way poncho on display at Walgreens, an As seen on TV product endorsed by Somers

Film edit

Published works edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Traub, Alex (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, Star of 'Three's Company,' Is Dead at 76". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Szabo, Liz (October 18, 2018). "Suzanne Somers' Legacy Tainted by Celebrity Medical Misinformation". KFF Health News.
  3. ^ "Famous birthdays for Oct. 16: Suzanne Somers, Naomi Osaka". United Press International. October 16, 2021. Archived from the original on February 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "Milestones: October 16 birthdays for Angela Lansbury, Suzanne Somers, Flea". Brooklyn Eagle. October 16, 2020. Archived from the original on February 1, 2022.
  5. ^ Buckley, T. (February 22, 1980). "At the Movies; From playing dumb to playing a lawyer". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Plaskin, Glenn (May 15, 1992). "Somers first fought her own fright". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d Bahr, Lindsey (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, of 'Three's Company,' dies at 76". ABC News.
  8. ^ a b "Somers, Suzanne". Encyclopedia.com.
  9. ^ "Suzanne Somers remembers her lost home". Today. May 1, 2007.
  10. ^ "Suzanne Somers". classmates.com.
  11. ^ Mann, Chris (June 15, 1998). Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three's Company. Macmillan. pp. 17, 20, 21. ISBN 0-312-16803-9.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i "American actress Suzanne Somers dead at 76". CBC News. October 15, 2023.
  13. ^ a b "Suzanne Somers: Three's Company actress dies aged 76". BBC News. October 15, 2023.
  14. ^ Morris, Chris (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, 'Three's Company' and 'Step by Step' Star, Dies at 76". Variety.
  15. ^ "Somers' Time". Orange Coast. July 1988. p. 37. ISSN 0279-0483.
  16. ^ a b Sager, Jessica (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers Net Worth In 2023, From 'Three's Company' to the ThighMaster and Beyond". Parade.
  17. ^ Newcomb, Horace (February 3, 2014). Encyclopedia of Television. Taylor & Francis. p. 2327. ISBN 978-1-135-19479-6.
  18. ^ a b c Helmore, Edward (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, star of Three's Company sitcom, dies aged 76". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "Suzanne Somers, Step by Step star, dead aged 76". Stuff. October 16, 2023.
  20. ^ "Fates & Fortunes" (PDF). Broadcasting. September 5, 1983.
  21. ^ Bueno, Antoinette (November 19, 2020). "Suzanne Somers Reflects on Getting Fired From 'Three's Company' and Making Peace With John Ritter (Exclusive)". Entertainment Tonight.
  22. ^ Starchild, Aurora (November 21, 2022). "How Many Times Has Suzanne Somers Posed For Playboy?". Rare.
  23. ^ Dangaard, Colin (March 26, 1980). "Playboy exposure continues to haunt Suzanne Somers". Ottawa Journal.
  24. ^ Scott, Vernon (November 6, 1984). "Scott's World: Suzanne bares all". United Press International.
  25. ^ a b "In Vegas, Somers starred at original MGM, Las Vegas Hilton". Las Vegas Review-Journal. October 15, 2023.
  26. ^ O'Connor, John J. (January 3, 1983). "TV: Suzanne Somers Plays for G.I.'s". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "Suzanne Somers performs for the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger". National Archives and Records Administration. November 1981.
  28. ^ "'Three's Company' Star Suzanne Somers on Entertaining American Troops: 'One of the Most Fulfilling Things in Life'".
  29. ^ a b Blackwelder, Carson (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, known for roles in 'Three's Company' and 'Step by Step,' dies at 76, publicist says". ABC News.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Suzanne Somers List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Mann 1998, p. 305.
  32. ^ Anderson, Erik (May 2, 2014). "A Shifting Market Shapes The Made For TV Market". KPBS Public Media.
  33. ^ "SUZANNE SOMERS". Candid Camera.
  34. ^ Isherwood, Charles (July 18, 2005). "Self-Help Expert Gets Back Her Own". The New York Times.
  35. ^ Straka, Mike (July 20, 2005). "Grrr! Flip-Flop Flap". Fox News.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Piña, Christy; Lewis, Hilary (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, Star of 'Three's Company' and 'She's the Sheriff,' Dies at 76". The Hollywood Reporter.
  37. ^ "'Dancing With the Stars' 2015: Season 20 Celebrity Cast Announced". ABC News. February 24, 2015.
  38. ^ a b "'Dancing With the Stars' 2015: Suzanne Somers Voted Off In Week 5 of Season 20". ABC News. April 13, 2015.
  39. ^ Somers, Suzanne (2006). Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 0-307-23724-9.
  40. ^ a b Noveck, Jocelyn (October 19, 2009). "Somers' new target: conventional cancer treatment". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press.
  41. ^ Ellin, Abby (October 15, 2006). "A Battle Over 'Juice of Youth'". The New York Times.
  42. ^ a b Richards, Bailey; Jones, Alexis. "A Timeline of Suzanne Somers' Struggle with Cancer". People.
  43. ^ "Suzanne Somers, Cancer & Controversy: Actress Discusses New Book, "Knockout," on Alternatives to Chemotherapy". CBS News. October 20, 2009.
  44. ^ Somers, Suzanne (2008). Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness. [New York]: Crown Publishing Group. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4000-5327-8.
  45. ^ Wilkes-Edrington, Lindsay (January 11, 2013). "Suzanne Somers Questions Newtown Shooter Adam Lanza's Diet, Exposure To Household Toxins [Video]". HuffPost.
  46. ^ "Sweet! Suzanne Somers Calls Son 'Greatest Person' in Birthday Post". Closer. November 9, 2019.
  47. ^ Jackson, Dory (January 30, 2021). "How Suzanne Somers and Husband Alan Hamel Keep the Spark Alive After More Than 40 Years of Marriage". Us Weekly.
  48. ^ Massabrook, Nicole (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers and Husband Alan Hamel's Relationship Timeline". Us Weekly.
  49. ^ "Why You Should Follow Suzanne Somers's Granddaughters on Instagram". W. July 17, 2018.
  50. ^ Todisco, Eric (May 14, 2021). "Suzanne Somers Has Found a Buyer for Her 'Legendary' $8.5M Palm Springs Compound – See Inside!". People.
  51. ^ "Malibu Fire Destroys Four Mansions, Including Suzanne Somers' Home". Fox News. January 10, 2007. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012.
  52. ^ Meola, Kiki (October 9, 2018). "Suzanne Somers Update on Experimental Post-Cancer Regrown Breast". Us Weekly. Retrieved October 17, 2023.
  53. ^ Richards, Bailey (October 15, 2023). "Suzanne Somers, Three's Company and Step by Step Actress, Dead at 76". People.
  54. ^ Suzanne Somers Cause Of Death Revealed
  55. ^ Mann 1998, p. 22.
  56. ^ Mann 1998, p. 20.
  57. ^ a b After the Fall: How I Picked Myself Up, Dusted Myself Off, and Started All Over Again. Crown Publishing Group. 1998. ISBN 0-609-60312-4.
  58. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2013). Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012, 2d ed. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-4766-1240-9. Retrieved November 20, 2023.

External links edit