Biography: Suzanne Somers
Suzanne Marie Mahoney was born on October 16th, 1946, to Frank and Marion Mahoney in San Bruno, California. She was the third of four children born to the couple. Her father, Frank, had recently come back from fighting in World War II and worked at a alcoholic beverage company. He soon became an alcoholic. He would often insult Suzanne and her family and harm them, sometimes physically, sometimes verbally. She did poorly in school, due to what would later be diagnosed as dyslexia. She went to a local Catholic School. She was kicked out after love letters that were deemed ‘erotic’ by the nuns were found in her locker. She spent the rest of her high school days at the local San Bruno High School. She excelled at the arts there.
She was given a music scholarship to college, but after a few months she became pregnant and dropped out. She married the baby’s father, Bruce Somers. Her child, Bruce Somers Jr., was born in 1965. Suzanne was unhappy in her marriage and soon started an affair with her drama teacher. After Bruce found out, the marriage broke up and they divorced in 1967. She was awarded custody of her son. Now a single mother, she supported herself by modeling in San Francisco. Around this time, she started distancing herself from her family because her brother and sister had both become alcoholics. In the late ’60s, she was given a job as a model on the series The Anniversary Game, hosted by Alan Hamel. She was fired after only one day, but she soon started a relationship with Hamel. During the ’60s, she appeared on a episode of Lassie and a episode of Ben Casey.
In 1971, her son, Bruce Jr., was hit by a car. His stay at the hospital cost her a lot of money, and she did not have much money. She posed nude to pay off the hospital bills. These pictures would later come to haunt Suzanne in the late 70s when she became a superstar.
In 1973, Suzanne had a small role in the George Lucas film, American Graffiti. People started to notice her because of this role. Also in 1973, Suzanne published a book of poetry called “Touch Me.” Johnny Carson, who was at that time the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, met her at NBC commissary, and soon she was appearing on his show. During the ’70s, Suzanne guest starred on many Television shows. They included Lotsa Luck, Starsky & Hutch, and The Rockford Files.
In January of 1977, she was cast in the third pilot of Three’s Company as the naive blonde, Christmas ‘Chrissy’ Snow. The show premiered in March 1977 and got very good ratings. The series was picked up for a second season.
In fall of 1977, she married her long time boyfriend, Alan Hamel. During her years on the show, she became quite famous. During her time on the show, she made over $11,000,000 from doing magazine covers, movies, and the series. During her Three’s Company days, she appeared in a few movies. They were entitled It Happened at Lakewood Manor (aka Ants!), Zuma Beach, Yesterday’s Hero, and Nothing Personal. She also appeared in another episode of Starsky & Hutch, and in a episode of The Love Boat. One bad thing happened from her fame. One night, after taping an episode of Three’s Company, she was kidnapped. Her kidnapper drove her around LA for three hours while holding a gun to her head. She eventually got free from him.
She stayed on the show from 1977 to 1981. In the 1980-1981 season, Suzanne and her husband Alan asked for a huge pay raise — from $30,000 to $150,000. The producers would not give Suzanne the raise and Suzanne started missing tapings of the series. The producers, worried that she would continue to do this, had the role of her character minimized — Suzanne Somers would appear in one minute of the show each week. Her character, Chrissy, would call the apartment and talk to Janet (Joyce DeWitt) over the phone. In April of 1981, she was fired from the series.
During the 1980s, Suzanne had trouble finding work in television. In the early ’80s, Suzanne did two specials for CBS. The specials had her dancing in front of men from the army. She also did two pilots for CBS, but CBS passed on both of them. In 1985, she had a role in the miniseries Hollywood Wives. During the ’80s, she had a successful show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She starred in a Las Vegas stage production of Moulan Rouge for three years. In 1987, she was named Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year along with Frank Sinatra. That year, she filmed a one hour pilot for a proposed variety show entitled Suzanne! Also that year, she returned to television on the first run syndication show, She’s the Sheriff. The show was panned by all the critics and cancelled in 1989. At this time, she started doing commercials for the Thigh Master–a product that shrinks cellulite. The product holds the record for the fastest selling piece of exercise equipment. Later on, she released the Butt Master.
In 1988, she published an autobiography entitled Keeping Secrets. The book was about her childhood and her alcoholic father. The book was on the New York Times’ best seller list for twenty-one weeks. In 1990, she founded the Palm Springs-based Suzanne Somers Institute for the Effects of Addictions on Families. Also that year, she was honored as a Mother of the Year by the National Mother’s Day Committee in New York, along with Meryl Streep and Matilda Krimm. She also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Council on Alcoholism. In 1991, she appeared before the United States Senate to testify on family addictions. In 1992, she received the Distinguished Achievement in Public Service Award by Dr. Louis Sullivan. In 1993, she founded the Suzanne Somers Family Centers, based in California and Florida to provide outpatient therapy. She has served two terms as honorary chairperson of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
In 1991, she played herself in a movie version of Keeping Secrets. The movie did well in the ratings. At the end of the movie, Suzanne appeared and gave a number for a hotline for children of alcoholics. Over one hundred thousand people called it.
In 1991, she returned to television in the role of Carol Foster Lambert in the ABC series Step by Step. The series did good in the ratings and ABC aired it until 1997. In 1997, the series moved to CBS. CBS cancelled the series in spring of 1998. In the 1994-1995 season, she also hosted The Suzanne Somers Show, which was a talk show. In the 1990s, she appeared in the movies Exclusive; Serial Mom; Rich Men, Single Women; Seduced by Evil; Devil’s Food; and The Darklings.
She also published more books in the ’90s. She published five fitness books (a sixth one will be released in December 2002) and a second autobiography, entitled After the Fall.
In 2001, she announced that in 2000 she found out she had breast cancer. She made this announcement after pictures were taken of her coming out of a liposuction clinic. She said that she had gone to liposuction not because she was cheating in losing weight (which would of devastated the millions who read her fitness books), but to fix the things that chemotherapy did to her body. She has since said that the tumor in her breast had been removed. In 2002, two biographies were made of Suzanne Somers. One was for the Television program E! True Hollywood Story, and the other was made for A&E’s TVography (a spinoff of the popular Biography). She also appeared in the 1998 E! True Hollywood Story on Three’s Company.