Suzanne Somers is being mourned in the entertainment industry. Despite having a very dark childhood, the beloved Three’s Company star had a long and prosperous career.
As Somers put it, her role as “playing the dumbest blonde in America intellectually” on Three’s Company cemented her place in the annals of television. But things weren’t perfect behind the camera. Somers and co-star Joyce DeWitt developed into and remained long-term enemies.
Somers and DeWitt were eventually reunited. The late Three’s Company actress revealed what actually occurred before she passed away.
On October 16, 1946, in San Bruno, California, Suzanne Marie Mahoney was given the name Suzanne Somers. Her father, Francis, worked at a brewery, and her mother Marion was a medical secretary. In baseball and boxing, he had previously experienced some success, but it didn’t work out.
When Suzanne was older, the Three’s Company actress revealed that her alcoholic father had verbally abused her.
Speaking with Good Morning America, Suzanne Somers revealed that he called her “stupid” and “worthless.”
“It’s not easy growing up with an alcoholic,” she said.
The abuse went on for a very long time. But one night, Suzanne Somers decided that enough was enough.
“We all have moments where your life can fall apart, or you can use it like judo — using forward energy to win, making the negative work for you,” she said.
Years passed before Somers was able to forgive her father. He then expressed regret for his treatment of her and the negativity he had caused. Despite the abuse, Suzanne claimed that growing up with an alcoholic father was the “greatest training ever” because it taught her how to stand up for herself.
The high school Suzanne Somers attended was catholic. She was not to linger there for very long, though. She was expelled after the nuns learned that she had written some explicit love letters. Instead, Suzanne completed her education at San Bruno’s Capuchino High School.
Somers already seemed destined for a successful career at that time in her life. When she was a senior in high school, she participated in a production of Guys and Dolls, and Walter Winchell, a celebrity gossip columnist, attended one night. After witnessing Suzanne Somers’ outstanding performance, he made the decision to inform her that “you’re going someplace, sister.”
Firstborn son was nearly killed in a car accident.
After Somers enrolled at Lone Mountain College, which is now the University of San Francisco, her life took a significant turn. She stopped attending school in 1965 after learning she was pregnant.
Only a few days later, the young actress and Bruce, the father of the child, got married and had Bruce Jr. But they nearly misplaced him.
Bruce Jr. narrowly escaped fatality in a car accident thanks to luck. After the shocking event, the young boy began to have nightmares, so Someers made the decision to take him to counseling.
As it turned out, Suzanne also required counseling because the counselor could tell that something wasn’t right. Her early years and her father came up once more in conversation.
“‘He’s fine. You need to stay.’ I said, ‘Why?’” Somers recalled the therapist saying after one year of counseling for her son. “That’s when she said, ‘You’re a walking apology. I’ve never met somebody with such low self-esteem.’”
“I had the craziest, most violent, most unbelievable father,” she says. “I had to do this musical because how do you start out in a closet and end up with the life I have today?”
Somers’ low self-esteem would continue into her career. She was given a small part in George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti, which would completely transform her career. Or, to be more precise, her single “I love you” statement did.
“This is a life-changing moment. Five seconds on film that will never be forgotten,” she said, adding that Lucas told her, “Everybody will always remember the mysterious blonde in the Thunderbird.”
That was programmed to be true. When Somers landed a job with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, she started reading poetry in front of a big audience every month. According to her bio, she was the “Mysterious Blonde in the Thunderbird.”
This particular TV executive didn’t miss Suzanne Somers, which was difficult to do. He offered her a part in the upcoming television show Three’s Company.
She played the role of Chrissy Snow and contributed to the television series’ success.
“I am really proud of creating that dumb blonde cause she had a moral code. She was lovable,” Somers explained.
While working on Three’s Company, where she co-starred with John Ritten, Joyce DeWitt, and Don Knotts, Suzanne Somers’ life was forever altered. She was on the show for 100 episodes before it abruptly ended.
The topic of equal pay for work performed by men and women wasn’t discussed much or at all in 1981. Somers, however, desired a change. She got into trouble because she asked the producers for a 500% pay raise, which put her in hot water. She desired $150,000 in order to match her male co-star John Ritter’s weekly salary of $15,000.
Suzanne Somers was let go after refusing to comply with her demands.
“I’ve been playing what I think is one of the best dumb blondes that’s ever been done, but I never got any credit,” she mentioned the same year. “I did it so well that everyone thought I really was a dumb blonde.”
According to her husband Alan Hamel, a former television producer who acted as his wife’s representative during the negotiations, the decision to fire her was made to deter other women from following Somers’ example.
“Why did I think I could get paid what men are being paid”
In 2005, Suzanne Somers reflected on the time after she got fired.
“When I got fired, I thought, ‘I should never have asked. Why did I ask? Why did I think I could get paid what men are being paid? Who did I think I was?”‘
“Rather than thinking, ‘Hey, c’mon. I have the highest demographics of any woman on television. I’m on the No. 1 show. I’m doing the heavy lifting, too,’ I went right into low self-esteem. I hid in my house for a year in absolute grief.”
Even though it was a fair proposal for Somers, her career had worsened because of her demands on Three’s Company. The following situation didn’t improve either, as no one wanted to hire her.
“Here I was on the number one show, and I couldn’t even get an interview because I was considered trouble,” Somers told CNBC.
Things got heated on set as Somers fought for equal pay. Tensions were high on set as her relationship with co-star Joyce DeWitt was on the rocks.
Suzanne Somers needed to complete the fifth season of Three’s Company despite being fired. She was not permitted to speak to Joyce DeWitt or any other cast members, though.
Her scenes consisted solely of strange phone conversations that were captured on a side set. A police guard escorted Suzanne to and from the location.
In the end, Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes played Chrissy’s cousin Cindy Snow and nurse Terri Alden, respectively, from 1981 until the show’s cancellation in 1984, in place of Somers’ character Chrissy.
Suzanne Somers’ troubled relationship with Joyce DeWitt
“They painted me as she’s trying to ruin the show,” Somers said in 2020. “So, I never talked to anybody on that show ever again. Ever again.”
“We had very different approaches to our careers,” DeWitt said of the relationship between her and Somers following the show. “We had very different needs. I did not have a child that I was supporting on my own. I didn’t have a business head, so I didn’t understand someone who did.”
For more than 30 years, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt did not communicate. On Somers’ talk show Breaking Through in February 2012, they did, however, get back together. The former co-stars and friends exchanged hugs and chatted about their various viewpoints and career paths.
DeWitt thanked Somers for the chance to “walk her talk,” even though she later worked in theater.
“I have relentlessly said that it is my opinion that the only reason Three’s Company is worth remembering is that it created an opportunity for all of us to laugh together, to celebrate joy. It’s a profound gift,” she said on the show.
DeWitt also disclosed that she had shied away from the fame aspect of the business in later years.
She expressed her utmost admiration for Somers’ achievements.
“You went up against ruthlessness, and it came down,” Dewitt said. “What you’ve gone on to do is immeasurable.”
“In a group of serious actors, I probably pissed you all off,” Somers concluded.
Suzanne Somers rose to prominence as a writer, businesswoman, and advocate for women’s rights. The actress made millions from writing books and promoting women’s apparel and exercise gear. Sadly, her life came to an end just a few days ago when it was revealed that she had died at age 76.
Breast cancer was listed as the official death cause.
“Suzanne Somers passed away peacefully at home in the early morning hours of October 15th. She survived an aggressive form of breast cancer for over 23 years,” Somers’ longtime publicist R. Couri Hay wrote in a statement on behalf of the actress’ family.
“Suzanne was surrounded by her loving husband Alan, her son Bruce, and her immediate family,” the statement continued. “Her family was gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on October 16th. Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”
Hay continued, “There were all these plans, and she was always working and dreaming and had brought her family into the business, and the grandchildren and step-children were all part of the business,” adding that Suzanne was “very engaged right to the end.”
Many former coworkers decided to comment on the sad news of her passing, and mourners from all over the world pay tribute to the adored actress and entrepreneur. One of them was Joyce DeWitt, a former co-star who later became a friend.
“My heart goes out to Suzanne’s family,” DeWitt told People. “They are a very close family — deeply connected and caring one to the other. I can only imagine how difficult this time is for all of them.”
She added, “I’m sure Suzanne was greeted by Angels into the loving wisdom waiting for all of us on the other side, and I hope that will assist her family’s hearts in healing as they travel through this difficult time.”
A private family burial will happen this week. November will see a memorial service.
Rest in peace, Suzanne Somers. Please share this article to honor her.