The entertainment world is mourning Suzanne Somers. The beloved Three’s Company star ended up having a long and successful career, though her childhood had a very dark side to it.
Somers’ performance, “playing the dumbest blonde in America intellectually” on Three’s Company, as she described it, gave her a place in television history. But, behind the camera, things weren’t all great. Somers and co-star Joyce DeWitt became bitter enemies and stayed that way for a long time.
In the end, Somers and DeWitt were reunited. Before her death, the late Three’s Company star opened up on what really happened.
Suzanne Somers was born Suzanne Marie Mahoney on October 16, 1946, in San Bruno, California. Her mother, Marion, worked as a medical secretary, and her father, Francis, worked at a brewery. He had previously had some success as an athlete in baseball and boxing, but it didn’t work out.
When Suzanne grew up, the Three’s Company star revealed she had been verbally abused by her father, who had alcoholism.
Suzanne Somers were abused by her ather
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.
It took her years, but in the end, Somers forgave her father. Meanwhile, he apologized for the abuse and negativity he had caused her. Even though she, of course, didn’t like the abuse, Suzanne said that having an alcoholic father was the “greatest training ever” because she learned how to be an advocate for herself.
Suzanne Somers went to a catholic high school. However, she was not to stay there for long. She had written some explicit love letters, which the nuns discovered, and she ended up being expelled. Instead, Suzanne graduated from Capuchino High School in San Bruno.
Already at that point in her life, it seemed like Somers was destined for a great career. She appeared in a production of Guys and Dolls during high school, and one night, celebrity gossip columnist Walter Winchell was in the audience. He had seen Suzanne Somers’ outstanding performance and decided to tell her, “You’re going some place, sister.”
Firstborn son almost passed away in car crash
Somers’ life took quite a turn once she attended Lone Mountain College, which today is the University of San Francisco. In 1965, she dropped out of school after discovering she was pregnant.
The promising actress and the baby’s father, Bruce, married just days later, and they welcomed their son, Bruce Jr. But they almost lost him.
Bruce Jr almost died in a car accident, but luckily, he survived. The little boy had nightmares after the shocking incident, and Someers decided to take him to counseling.
It turned out that counseling was also needed for Suzanne, as the counselor realized something was wrong. Once again, her childhood and her father became the talking point.
“‘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?”
The low self-esteem would follow Somers into her professional life. She got a small role in George Lucas’ film American Graffiti, which would change her entire career for the better. Or, more precisely, her one line “I love you” 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.”
Suzanne Somers on ‘Three’s Company’
That was set to be true. Somers got a gig at The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where she began reading poetry in front of a national audience every month. She credited herself as the “Mysterious Blonde in the Thunderbird.”
It was difficult to miss Suzanne Somers, and this one TV executive didn’t either. He offered her a role in a new television series called Three’s Company.
She was cast as Chrissy Snow and helped the series become a television mega-hit.
“I am really proud of creating that dumb blonde cause she had a moral code. She was lovable,” Somers explained.
Suzanne Somers’ life changed while on Three’s Company, starring alongside John Ritten, Joyce DeWitt, and Don Knotts. She appeared in 100 episodes of the show, but her time there abruptly ended.
In 1981, the discussion about equal salary between men and women wasn’t a hot topic – or no topic at all. However, Somers wanted it to be different. She landed herself in hot water over her salary, as she asked the producers for a 500 percent raise. Instead of the $30,000 she earned weekly, she wanted $150,000, equal to her male co-star John Ritter.
Instead of meeting her demands, Suzanne Somers was fired.
“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 told The New York Times the same year. “I did it so well that everyone thought I really was a dumb blonde.”
Her husband, Alan Hamel, a former television producer representing his wife during the negotiations, told People that the decision to fire her was meant to discourage other women from following Somers’ lead.
“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.
While Somers fought for her equal pay, things got heated on set. She and co-star Joyce DeWitt’s relationship was going up in flames, and tensions on set were high.
Even though she had been fired, Suzanne Somers needed to finish the fifth season of Three’s Company. However, she was not allowed to interact with any cast members, including Joyce DeWitt.
Her scenes were limited to bizarre phone conversations filmed on a side set. Suzanne was escorted to and from the site by a police guard.
Eventually, Somers’ character of Chrissy was replaced – first by Chrissy’s cousin Cindy Snow, played by Jenilee Harrison, and then by nurse Terri Alden, played by Priscilla Barnes, from 1981 until the show’s end in 1984.
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.”
Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt didn’t speak for more than 30 years. However, they finally reunited in February 2012 on Somers’ talk show Breaking Through. The former co-stars and friends hugged and chatted about their different perspectives and paths in life.
While DeWitt went on to work in theatre, she thanked Somers for the opportunity to “walk her talk.”
“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.
Moreover, DeWitt revealed that she had avoided the fame part of the industry business in later years.
She expressed tremendous respect for Somers’ accomplishments.
Suzanne Somers dead at 76
“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 became a successful businesswoman, author, and fighter for women’s rights. The actress made millions writing books and also promoting clothes and fitness equipment for women. Sadly, her life ended just days ago when it was announced she passed away at age 76.
The official cause of death was breast cancer.
“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.”
Further, Hay told People, “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.”
Joyce DeWitt breaks silence on Suzanne Somers’ death
Fans worldwide mourn the beloved actress and entrepreneur, and several former colleagues decided to speak out on the sad news of her passing. One of those was her former co-star, somewhat enemy, and later friend, Joyce DeWitt.
“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.”
This week, a private family burial will take place. A memorial will be held in November.
Rest in peace, Suzanne Somers. Please share this article to honor her.