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Suzanne Somers, the Emmy nominee and star of hit shows like Three’s Company and Step by Step, died Sunday. She was 76.
Somers died peacefully of breast cancer at her home in Palm Springs, her longtime publicist, R. Couri Hay, announced.
“She survived an aggressive form of breast cancer for over 23 years. Suzanne was surrounded by her loving husband, Alan, her son, Bruce, and her immediate family,” the statement read. “Her family was gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on Oct. 16th. Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and they want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”
The actress also was known for her roles on She’s the Sheriff and Serial Mom.
Born in San Bruno, California, on Oct. 16, 1946, Suzanne Marie Mahoney was the third of four children in an Irish-Ameircan Catholic family. Her father, Frank, was a laborer, and her mother, Marion, a medical secretary. When she was 6, her father became an alcoholic and would often call her names, she said.
Somers began her acting career in the late 1960s and early ’70s when she took on small, uncredited roles in Bullitt, Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting and Fools. Her first credited role was as a “blonde in T-bird” in 1973’s American Graffiti.
She landed work on Starsky and Hutch, where she played three different characters. After a few more years of one-off parts on such TV shows as Lotsa Luck!, The Rockford Files and One Day at a Time, Somers landed her breakthrough role as Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
Three’s Company, which ran on ABC from 1977-84, followed three roommates: two single women (Somers and Joyce DeWitt) and a man (John Ritter), with the women saying Ritter’s Jack Tripper was gay in order to appease their landlord. Hijinks ensued in the sitcom.
In 1980, Somers asked for a raise from $30,000 an episode to $150,000 an episode, equal to what Ritter was making and comparable to the salaries of other male sitcom stars at the time. ABC offered only a $5,000 hike, and Somers missed two episode tapings before the network fired her.
“The night before we went in to renegotiate, I got a call from a friend who had connections high up at ABC, and he said, ‘They’re going to hang a nun in the marketplace, and the nun is Suzanne,’” Somers’ husband and manager, Alan Hamel, recalled to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “The network was willing to do this because earlier that year the women on Laverne & Shirley had gotten what they asked for, and they wanted to put a stop to it. They’d destroy the chemistry on Company to make a point.”
Somers landed her other major role in 1991 as Carol Foster Lambert in Step by Step. She and Patrick starred as a widowed mom and divorced dad who quickly fell in love and got married on vacation. The two then combined their families — Somers’ two daughters and young son and Duffy’s two boys and tomboy girl middle child — under one roof. The ’90s sitcom, which ran for six seasons on ABC as part of the network’s TGIF Friday-night programming and then one season on CBS, centered on the conflicts that arose between the step-siblings and their parents.
In April 2013, Duffy told THR that he would be up for a Step by Step reunion. “The Step by Step cast was so wonderful to be with,” he said. “They were my family, and I think a little two-hour special about where these people are — not a documentary, but actually doing a show — seeing where they all come to over the years [would be great]. It would be so fun to play that goofy Frank Lambert character again, aging another 25 years.”
Somers’ final onscreen acting role came in 2001 in Say It Isn’t So, in which she portrayed Chris Klein’s Mom.
In 2005, she made her Broadway debut in a one-woman show titled The Blonde in the Thunderbird. It detailed her life and career but only ran for a week after poor reviews and disappointing ticket sales.
The actress was also known for her 1990s infomercials for the ThighMaster exercise equipment, which was meant to be placed between one’s knees and squeezed to tone the thighs. In March 2022, Somers spoke about the success of the product on the Hollywood Row podcast. At the time, 15 million ThighMasters had been sold at $19.95 apiece, resulting in Somers making nearly $300 million just from sales.
In 2012, she launched her online talk show, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through, where she reconciled with her Three’s Company co-star DeWitt. The actresses hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in 31 years. Later that year, The Suzanne Show, for which she received an Emmy nom for best host, aired on Lifetime Network, where Somers welcomed guests and covered a range of topics related to health and fitness.
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