Suzanne Somers, who rose to fame in 1977 as Chrissy Snow on the ABC sitcom Three’s Company, died on Sunday following a lengthy battle with breast cancer. She was just one day shy of turning 77.
“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,” the actress’ publicist, R. Couri Hay said in a statement. “Suzanne was surrounded by her loving husband Alan, her son Bruce, and her immediate family.”
In July, Somers shared on Instagram that her breast cancer had returned.
“Like any cancer patient, when you get that dreaded, ‘It’s back’ you get a pit in your stomach. Then I put on my battle gear and go to war,” she told Entertainment Tonight at the time. “This is familiar battleground for me and I’m very tough.”
Born Suzanne Marie Mahoney on October 16, 1946 in San Bruno, California, Suzanne Somers made her big screen debut as an uncredited extra in the Steve McQueen action drama Bullitt in 1968. Following four additional uncredited roles (including as the blonde in the T-Bird in American Graffiti in 1973), Somers segued to television in guest spots in comedies Lotsa Luck! and the original One Day at a Time, crime dramas The Rockford Files and Starsky and Hutch, and The Love Boat, among others. But it was aforementioned Three’s Company, the then controversial comedy about a single man (John Ritter) who moves in with two single women (Somers and Joyce DeWitt), that put her on the forefront.
Three’s Company was an immediate sensation, rising to No. 2 overall in primetime (behind Laverne & Shirley) in the 1978-79 TV season. But a contract dispute in the middle of season five resulted in Somers being downgraded to only a small closing scene at the end of each episode until she was ultimately released from the sitcom.
At the time, Somers claimed she was fired for asking to be paid as much as popular male television stars of the day such as Alan Alda and Carroll O’Connor.
Following Three’s Company, Somers headed to Las Vegas to concentrate on a singing career. In 1987, she returned to the TV sitcom world in the critically panned first-run syndicated entry She’s The Sheriff, which aired for two seasons. Then, in 1990, she became the commercial spokesperson for the Thighmaster, a piece of personal exercise equipment meant to be squeezed between one’s thighs to develop leg and hip strength. Following a series of infomercials, sales for the Thighmaster skyrocketed and Somers began a long tenure selling her own successful lines of personal products (including skin care, makeup, hair care and health products).
In 1991, and following a series of different guest star roles, Somers returned to ABC in the TGIF comedy Step by Step opposite Patrick Duffy. Considered a modern day version of The Brady Bunch, Step by Step aired for seven seasons.
Additionally, Somers entered the syndicated daytime talk show arena in 1994 in a self-titled hour of banter that aired for just one season. She co-hosted a remake of the classic Candid Camera on CBS in 1997. In 2012, she began an online talk show, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through, at CafeMom. There she reconciled with her former Three’s Company co-star Joyce DeWitt; the two had not seen nor spoken to each other in 31 years. And, later that year, The Suzanne Show aired on Lifetime Network, where Somers welcomed guests and covered a range of topics related to health and fitness.
Somers also competed on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (which, in one dance, paid tribute to her former Three’s Company co-star John Ritter). And, as an author, she penned several books (including the self-help-themed Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones and Knockout).
Somers is survived by her husband Alan Hamel, her son Bruce, 57, her stepchildren, Stephen and Leslie, and her six grandchildren.