Suzanne Somers

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Suzanne Somers
Suzanne Somers USO cropped.jpg
Somers in 2005
Born Suzanne Marie Mahoney
(1946-10-16) October 16, 1946 (age 71)
San Bruno, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, author, singer, businesswoman
Years active 1963–present
Spouse(s) Bruce Somers (1965–68)
Alan Hamel (1977–present)
Children 1 son (with Somers)

Suzanne Somers (born Suzanne Marie Mahoney, October 16, 1946) is an American actress, author, singer, businesswoman and health spokesperson; best known for her television roles as Chrissy Snow on Three's Company and as Carol Foster Lambert on Step by Step.

Somers later became the author of a series of best-selling self-help books, including Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones (2006), about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.[1] She has released two autobiographies, four diet books, and a book of poetry.

She has been criticized for her views on some medical subjects and her advocacy of the Wiley Protocol, which has been labelled as "scientifically unproven and dangerous".[2][3] Her promotion of alternative cancer treatments has received praise from naturopathic health practitioners and criticism from the American Cancer Society.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Born Suzanne Marie Mahoney in San Bruno, California, Somers was the third of four children in an Irish-American Catholic family.[5][6][7]

Her mother, Marion Elizabeth (née Turner), was a medical secretary, and her father, Francis Mahoney, was a laborer and gardener.[8] She attended Capuchino High School[9] and was accepted at San Francisco College for Women (a.k.a. "Lone Mountain College"), a single-sex school which became a campus of the Jesuit University of San Francisco. After a brief marriage to the father of her first child, Bruce Somers, she became a prize model on Anniversary Game (1969–70).[10] There she met host Alan Hamel; they have been married since 1977. She was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer in April 2000, and had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer followed by radiation therapy, but decided to forgo chemotherapy, that doctors may prescribe for extra assurance, in favor of a fermented mistletoe extract called Iscador.[11]

On January 9, 2007, the Associated Press reported that a wildfire in Southern California had destroyed Somers' Malibu home.[12]


Early acting roles[edit]

Somers began acting in small roles during the late 1960s and early 1970s (including 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, and an episode of the American version of the sitcom Lotsa Luck as the femme fatale in the early 1970s). She also appeared in The Rockford Files and had an uncredited role as a topless pool girl in Magnum Force, both in 1974. She also had a guest-starring role on The Six Million Dollar Man, in the 1977 episode "Cheshire Project." She later landed her most famous role of the ditzy blonde "Chrissy Snow" on the ABC sitcom Three's Company in 1977. Also that year, she was a celebrity panelist on Match Game, and appeared with husband Alan Hamel on Tattletales.[13][13][14][15]

Three's Company[edit]

Suzanne Somers on the USS Ranger in 1981, while she was in the cast of Three's Company

Somers was cast in the ABC sitcom Three's Company in January 1977. After actresses Suzanne Zenor and Susan Lanier did not impress producers during the first two test pilots, Somers was suggested by ABC president Fred Silverman, who had seen her on the Tonight Show and she was auditioned and hired the day before the taping of the third and final pilot officially commenced. She portrayed Chrissy Snow, a stereotypical dumb blonde, who was employed as an office secretary.

The series co-starred John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt in a comedy of errors about two young ladies living with a young man who pretends to be gay in order to bypass the landlord's policy prohibiting single men sharing an apartment with single women. It was an instant success in the ratings, eventually spawning a short-lived spin-off series (starring Norman Fell and Audra Lindley). Somers was an audience favorite, leading the media to proclaim her the show's breakout star, and she was generally credited for making the show a worldwide phenomenon. Somers role made her a sex symbol of that era.[16]

At the beginning of the fifth season in 1980, Somers demanded a hefty salary raise from $30,000 to $150,000 an episode and 10 percent ownership of the show's profit. Those close to the situation suggested that Somers' rebellion was due to husband Hamel's influences. When ABC denied her request, she boycotted the second and fourth shows of the season, due to excuses such as a broken rib. She finished the remaining season on her contract, but her role was decreased to 60 seconds per episode (her character only appearing in the episode's closing tag in which she calls the trio's apartment from her parents' home). After her contract was terminated, she sued ABC for $2 million, claiming her credibility in show business had been damaged. It went to an arbitrator who decided she was owed only $30,000, due to a single missed episode for which she had not been paid. Other rulings favored the producers. Somers claims she was fired for asking to be paid as much as male television stars of the day such as Alan Alda and Carroll O'Connor.[17]

Before the feud with Three's Company producers and ABC ended, rival network CBS knew that Somers was ultimately going to be available. They signed her to a contract and a development deal for her own sitcom, to be called The Suzanne Somers Show, in which she was to play an "over-the-top" airline stewardess. Once she was indeed available (after her firing from Three's Company), CBS gave Somers – and the public – a time frame in which to expect the show to hit the air, but due to a change in administration at CBS' entertainment division in early 1982, executives ended up passing on the project. Also, Somers claimed in her book After the Fall (1998) that the producers of Three's Company kept sending cease and desist forms to CBS stating that Somers could not use any of her Chrissy Snow characterization, which purportedly chilled the creative process.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Calling her a legend in the industry, on May 2, 2014, Direct Marketing Response inducted Somers into the infomercial Hall of Fame.[18]

Playboy pictorials[edit]

Somers appeared in two Playboy cover-feature nude pictorials, in 1980 and 1984. The first set of 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 a The Tonight Show appearance, she denied ever posing nude (except for a High Society topless photo), which prompted Playboy to publish photos from the Malinowski shoot a decade later, in 1980.[19] The second nude pictorial by Richard Fegley appeared in December 1984 in an attempt by Somers to regain her popularity after being terminated from Three's Company in 1981.

Spokeswoman for the Thighmaster[edit]

During the 1980s, Somers became a Las Vegas entertainer.[20] Later on, she was the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster in a series of infomercials airing in the early 1990s. The Thighmaster was a piece of exercise equipment that is squeezed between one's thighs. During this period of her career, she also performed for US servicemen overseas.[21][22] During The 1980's Susan Somers filmed a pilot for a sitcom, the pilot aired but the show was never picked up. It was about a sexist jerk who gets killed and somehow comes back to life as a woman.

She's the Sheriff[edit]

At the height of her exposure as official spokesperson for Thighmaster infomercials, Somers made her first return to a series, although not on network television. In 1987, she starred in the sitcom She's the Sheriff, which ran in first-run syndication. Somers portrayed a widow with two young kids who decided to fill the shoes of her late husband, a sheriff of a Nevada town. The show ran for two seasons.

Step by Step[edit]

In 1990, Somers returned to network TV, appearing in numerous guest roles and made-for-TV movies, mostly for ABC. Her roles in these, including the movie Rich Men, Single Women, attracted the attention of Lorimar Television and Miller-Boyett Productions, who were developing a new sitcom. Somers had starred in the film with Heather Locklear, who inadvertently directed the focus of both production companies to Somers due to Locklear's starring role on Going Places (from Lorimar and Miller/Boyett). For Lorimar, this was asking Somers back, since they alone had produced She's the Sheriff.

In September 1991, Somers returned to series TV in the sitcom Step By Step (with Patrick Duffy), which became a success on ABC's youth-oriented TGIF lineup. A week after the premiere of Step By Step, a two-hour biopic 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. Playing off her rejuvenated career, Somers also launched a daytime talk show in 1994, aptly titled Suzanne Somers, which lasted one season. Step By Step continued on ABC until the end of its sixth season in 1997, whereupon the series moved to CBS that fall for what turned out to be its final season. With her sitcom now airing on CBS, Somers was chosen to co-host the network's revival of Candid Camera with Peter Funt, which began airing later that season.[14][23]

Candid cohost[edit]

From 1997–99, Somers cohosted the revised Candid Camera show, when CBS chose to bring it back with Peter Funt. Somers stayed for two years before PAX TV renewed the series without her.

The Blonde in the Thunderbird[edit]

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

In summer 2005, Somers made her Broadway 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.[24] She blamed the harsh reviews (The New York Times referred to it as "...a drab and embarrassing display of emotional exhibitionism masquerading as entertainment"[25]) and told the New York Post: "These men [New York critics] are curmudgeons, and maybe I went too close to the bone for them. I was lying there naked, and they decided to kick me and step on me, just like these visions you see in Iraq."[26]

Breaking Through[edit]

In 2012, Somers began an online talk show, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through, at CafeMom. Three of the episodes featured a reunion with Joyce DeWitt, the two speaking with each other for the first time in 30 years.

The Suzanne Show[edit]

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 related to health and fitness.

Dancing with the Stars[edit]

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.[27] Somers and Dovolani were eliminated on the fifth week of competition and finished in 9th place.[28]

Views on medical subjects[edit]

Somers supports bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Her book, Ageless,[29] includes interviews with 16 practitioners of bioidentical hormone therapy, but gives extra discussion to one specific approach, the 'Wiley Protocol'. Somers and T. S. Wiley, the originator of the Wiley Protocol, have been criticized for their advocacy of the Wiley Protocol. A group of seven doctors, all of whom utilize bioidentical hormone therapies to address health issues in women, issued a public letter to Somers and her publisher, Crown, in which they state that the protocol is "scientifically unproven and dangerous" and cite Wiley's lack of medical and clinical qualifications.[2] The use of bioidentical hormone therapies is a very controversial area of medicine;[3] its efficacy has never been tested and numerous groups have expressed concern over its safety and the misleading claims made by practitioners,[30] which was the subject of an Associated Press article:[4]

"The problem, for many doctors: These custom-compounded products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. ... Somers, whose hormone regimen involves creams, injections and some 60 supplements daily, got a huge boost earlier this year from Oprah Winfrey. 'Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo' Winfrey said when Somers appeared on her show. 'But she just might be a pioneer.' ... Yet Winfrey's tacit support of Somers gave her some of the worst press of her career. 'Crazy Talk,' Newsweek headlined an article on the talk show host earlier this year. Another headline, on 'Oprah's Bad Medicine'."[4]
Somers at The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show (2011)

In 2001, Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, and radiation, but declined to undergo chemotherapy.[3] In November 2008, Somers announced she was 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 book, Knockout, about alternative treatments to chemotherapy.[31] In her book Knockout, Somers promotes alternative cancer treatments, for which she was criticized by the American Cancer Society:

"The American Cancer Society is concerned. ... 'I am very afraid that people are going to listen to her message and follow what she says and be harmed by it', says Dr. Otis Brawley, the organization's chief medical officer. 'We use current treatments because they've been proven to prolong life. They've gone through a logical, scientific method of evaluation. I don't know if Suzanne Somers even knows there IS a logical, scientific method.' ... More broadly, Brawley is concerned that in the United States, celebrities or sports stars feel they can use their fame to dispense medical advice. 'There's a tendency to oversimplify medical messages.... Well, oversimplification can kill.'"[4]

She is also opposed to water fluoridation.[why?][32]

In January 2013 she suggested that Adam Lanza went on his shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School due to the level of toxins in his diet and the household cleaners he was exposed to. She stated that all these chemicals may "overelectrify the brain".[33]

In pop culture[edit]

A couple of episodes of South Park paid homage to Suzanne Somers; for instance, the episode Death references Suzanne Somers as the actress who stars in the reruns of She's The Sheriff which replaced the Terrance And Phillip series that was protested by parents. Another episode of South Park featured a product that endorsed this celebrity, but dubbed her name as "Susanne Somers" in which the product was "calf exerciser", in which Butters took the product name out-of-context when trying to care for calves (baby cows) since he didn't want them to turn into veal.

The Beavis And Butthead episode Killing Time mentioned Suzanne Somers as a "supermodel".

Television work[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 3 way poncho on display at Walgreens, an As Seen On TV product endorsed by Somers


Published works[edit]


  1. ^ Ellin, A. (2006-10-15). "Battle Over 'Juice of Youth'". The New York Times. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b Schwartz, E., Schwarzbein D.; et al. (October 11, 2006). "Letter to Suzanne Somers". Dr Erika's blog. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Ellin, Abby (October 15, 2006). "A Battle Over 'Juice of Youth'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jocelyn Noveck, AP national writer. "Suzanne Somers' New Target: Chemotherapy." October 19, 2009 (AP), The Huffington Post
  5. ^ Buckley, T. (1980-02-22). "At the Movies; From playing dumb to playing a lawyer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  6. ^ Hannity, Sean; Colmes, Alan (2004-07-04). "Suzanne Somers Gives Advice on Aging Gracefully". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  7. ^ Kuchwara, M. (2005-07-22). "Somers on Broadway...briefly". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  8. ^ "Suzanne Somers profile at Film". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  9. ^ "Celebrity Trivia". Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 
  10. ^ Anniversary Game
  11. ^ Schneider, K.S. (2001-04-30). "A Matter of Choice". People. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  12. ^ "Malibu Fire Destroys Four Mansions, Including Suzanne Somers' Home". Fox News Channel. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  13. ^ a b "Suzanne Somers". Retrieved 2016-02-14. 
  14. ^ a b "50 facts about Suzanne Somers, known for her television roles as Chrissy Snow on Three's Company and as Carol Lambert on Step by Step". BOOMSbeat. 2015-08-18. Retrieved 2016-02-14. 
  15. ^ "1970s SUZANNE SOMERS as Chrissy Three's Company 70s Vintage TV Iron On tee shirt transfer Original Authentic retro nos". Irononstation, vintage 70s t-shirt iron-ons. Retrieved 2016-02-14. 
  16. ^ Horace Newcomb (3 February 2014). Encyclopedia of Television. Taylor & Francis. p. 2327. ISBN 978-1-135-19479-6. 
  17. ^ Kohen, Y (2009-03-14). "We'll Show You Who's FUNNY". Marie Claire. 
  18. ^ Erik Anderson. "A Shifting Market Shapes The Made For TV Market". KPBS Public Media. 
  19. ^ "Naked Came the Danger to Suzanne Somers' Career, but She Had An Ace Up Her Sleeve". 
  20. ^ Emmis Communications (July 1988). Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. p. 37. ISSN 0279-0483. 
  21. ^ O'Connor, John J., "TV: Suzanne Somers Plays for G.I.'s", The New York Times, January 3, 1983.
  22. ^ Zielsdorf, Bruce E.,"Armed Forces 'Salute' Suzanne Somers on Broadway", July 12, 2005. Army Public Affairs (press release)
  23. ^ "Suzanne Somers". Starpulse. Retrieved 2016-02-14. 
  24. ^ Somensky, A (2005-12-28). "2005 Year In Theater". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  25. ^ Isherwood, C (2005-07-18). "THEATER REVIEW; Self-Help Expert Gets Back Her Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  26. ^ "Grrr! Flip-Flop Flap: Suzanne Compares Bad Reviews to Iraq". Fox News Channel. 2005-07-20. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  27. ^ ABC News. "'Dancing With the Stars' 2015: Season 20 Celebrity Cast Announced". ABC News. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  28. ^ lalate. "Dancing with the Stars 2015 Results Tonight Elimination: DWTS Cuts Suzanne". Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Somers, Somers (2006). Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 0-307-23724-9. 
  30. ^ "Bioidentical hormones". The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics. 52 (1339): 43–44. 2010. PMID 20508582. 
  31. ^ "Suzanne Somers, Cancer & Controversy/Actress Discusses New Book, "Knockout," on Alternatives to Chemotherapy". CBS News. October 20, 2009. 
  32. ^ Somers, S. (2008). Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness. [New York]: Crown Publishing Group. p. 5. ISBN 1-4000-5327-7. 
  33. ^ "Suzanne Somers Questions Newtown Shooter Adam Lanza's Diet, Exposure To Household Toxins [Video]". The Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]