Suzanne Somers, the bubbly blonde actress known for playing Chrissy Snow on the television show “Three's Company” and who became a businesswoman and New York Times best-selling author, has died. She was 76 years old.
Somers had breast cancer for more than 23 years and died Sunday morning, her family said in a statement provided by her longtime publicist, R. Couri Hay. Her husband Alan Hamel, her son Bruce, and her other immediate family members were with her in Palm Springs, California.
"His family gathered to celebrate his 77th birthday on October 16," the statement said. "Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life and want to thank the millions of fans and followers of hers who loved her so much."
In July, Somers shared on Instagram that her breast cancer had returned.
He was first diagnosed in 2000 and had previously battled skin cancer. Somers faced some backlash over her reliance on what she describes as an organic, chemical-free lifestyle to fight cancer. She opposed the use of chemotherapy in books and on platforms such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which drew criticism from the American Cancer Society.
Somers was born in 1946 in San Bruno, California, to a gardener father and a medical secretary mother. Her childhood, she would later say, was tumultuous. Her father was an alcoholic and abusive. She married young, at 19, to Bruce Somers, after becoming pregnant with her son Bruce. The couple divorced three years later and she began modeling for “The Anniversary Game” to support herself. It was during this time that she met Hamel, whom she married in 1977.
He began acting in the late 1960s and earned his first credit in the Steve McQueen film "Bullitt." But attention really focused when she was cast as the blonde driving the white Thunderbird in George Lucas' 1973 film, “American Graffiti.” Her only line was uttering the words "I love you" to Richard Dreyfuss' character.
At his audition, Lucas simply asked him if he knew how to drive. He later said that that moment "changed his life forever."
Somers would later host a one-woman Broadway show titled "The Blonde on the Thunderbird" about her life, which generated largely scathing reviews.
He appeared in many television shows in the 1970s, including "The Rockford Files," "Magnum Force" and "The Six Million Dollar Man," but his most famous role was on "Three's Company," which aired on ABC. 1977 to 1984. – although his participation ended in 1981.
In “Three's Company,” she played the dim-witted blonde opposite John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt in the roommate comedy.
“Creating her was actually intellectual,” he told CBS News in 2020. “How can I make her nice and adorable? Dumb blondes are annoying. I gave him a moral code. “I imagined it was the childhood I would have liked to have.”
In 1980, after four seasons, he said he asked for a raise from $30,000 per episode to $150,000 per episode, which he described as comparable to what Ritter was paid. Hamel, a former television producer, had encouraged the petition.
"The show's response was, 'Who do you think you are?'" Somers told People in 2020. "They said, 'John Ritter is the star.'"
She was quickly eliminated and soon fired; Her character was replaced by two different roommates during the remaining years that the show aired. She also caused a rift with her co-stars; They did not speak for many years. Somers reconciled with Ritter before his death and later with DeWitt on her online talk show.
But Somers used the break as an opportunity to pursue new avenues, including performing in Las Vegas, hosting a talk show and becoming an entrepreneur. In the 1990s, he also became a spokesperson for the “ThighMaster.”
The decade also saw his return to network television in the 1990s, most famously in “Step by Step,” which aired on ABC's youth-targeted program TGIF. The network also aired a biopic of her life, starring her, called "Keeping Secrets."
Somers was also a prolific author, writing books on aging, menopause, beauty, wellness, sex, and cancer.
She was in good spirits and surrounded by family before her death, and even gave an interview to People magazine about her birthday plans to be with her "nearest and dearest."
Hamel, in the People story, said he had just returned from the Midwest, where he received six weeks of intensive physical therapy.
"Even after our five decades together, I still marvel at Suzanne's amazing determination and commitment," Hamel said.
She told the magazine that she had ordered “large amounts of cake.”
"I really love cake," she said.