Suzanne Somers, the Emmy nominee and star of hit shows like Three’s Company and Step by Step, has died. She was 76.
Somers’ longtime publicist R. Couri Hay shared a statement on behalf of the actress’ family on Sunday with the news that she had passed away from breast cancer peacefully at her home in Palm Springs, California, on Oct. 15, surrounded by her family.
“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 want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”
In addition to Three’s Company and Step by Step, the actress was also known for her roles in 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 led by Frank and Marion Mahoney. Her father was a laborer, and her mother was a medical secretary. When the actress was 6 years old, her father became an alcoholic and would often call her names.
Somers began her acting career in the later 1960s and early 1970s 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 a recurring role in Starsky and Hutch, where she played three different characters. After a few more years of one-off parts in TV shows like Lotsa Luck!, The Rockford Files and One Day at a Time, Somers landed her breakthrough role as Chrissy Snow in Three’s Company, for which she received a Golden Globes nomination.
Three’s Company, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1984, followed three roommates: two single women (played by Somers and Joyce DeWitt) and a man (John Ritter), with the women claiming Ritter’s character 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 co-star John 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 starred opposite Patrick Duffy as a widowed mom and divorced dad who quickly fell in love and got married on vacation. The two then combined their different 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 around 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. 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 Gilbert’s Mom. She made her Broadway debut in 2005 for 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 aired on Lifetime Network, where Somers welcomed gusts and covered a range of topics related to health and fitness.
More to come…