'Three's Company' actress Suzanne Somers dies at 76

Somers passed away 'peacefully at home,' her publicist said in a statement.

October 15, 2023, 4:11 PM

Suzanne Somers, the actress best known for her roles in TV comedies including "Three's Company" and "Step by Step," has died, her longtime publicist announced Sunday. She was 76 years old.

“Suzanne Somers passed away peacefully at home in the early morning hours of October 15th," R. Couri Hay said in a statement. "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. 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."

A private family burial will take place this week, Hay said, and a memorial will be held next month.

Born Suzanne Marie Mahoney on Oct. 16, 1946, in San Bruno, California, Somers got her acting start in the late '60s and early '70s with small roles and bit parts in films like the 1968 Steve McQueen action classic "Bullitt," and Clint Eastwood's "Magnum Force" in 1973. That same year, she also had a brief but memorable appearance in the George Lucas-directed "American Graffiti," credited as "Blonde in T-Bird" who silently mouths the words "I love you" to star Richard Dreyfuss before driving away.

Suzanne Somers and husband Alan Hamel visit the SiriusXM Studios on November 15, 2017 in New York City.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Somers also appeared throughout the 1970s on hit TV shows including "The Rockford Files," "One Day at a Time," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Love Boat" and "Starsky & Hutch." However, her big break came when she was cast as the ditzy Chrissy Snow on the ABC sitcom "Three's Company" opposite Joyce DeWitt and the late John Ritter. The series, based on the British sitcom "Man About the House," revolved around the antics of three single roommates – Somers' Chrissy, Ritter's Jack Tripper and DeWitt's Janet Wood – living together platonically.

"Three's Company" was a hit, running for eight seasons between 1977 and 1984 and spawning several spinoff series. It also made Somers a sex symbol and household name. Before the show's fifth season, Somers famously demanded a raise from $30,000 an episode to $150,000, equal to what male co-star John Ritter reportedly was making then. When producers refused, Somers claimed health issues and declined to appear in two show episodes. Despite her popularity, her role was drastically reduced for the remainder of the season and she was fired when the season ended in 1981. Somers sued the show's producers for $2 million in response but received only a small fraction of what she asked.

Suzanne Somer, right, in a scene from "Three's Company."
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Widely criticized in the popular press for her "Three's Company" demands, Somers found it difficult for several years to secure acting, other than an occasional TV movie. She also starred on the short-lived, critically drubbed syndicated sitcom "She's the Sheriff" from 1987 to 1989. Somers also headlined a series of one-woman shows on the Las Vegas strip in the 1980s, which she reprised in 2015.

To further help make ends meet, in 1990, Somers 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. While the ubiquitous infomercials, featuring Somers in heels and a leotard, were widely lampooned, the product was a success, selling millions of units and earning Somers induction into the Direct Marketing Response Alliance Hall of Fame. Under her own business shingle, Somers ultimately began selling her own successful lines of personal products, including skin care, makeup, hair care and health products.

Suzanne Somers, as Carol Foster Lambert, and Patrick Duffy, as Frank Lambert, in a promotional photo for "Step by Step."
CBS via Getty Images

Ten years after she was fired from "Three's Company," Somers scored her next big television role, when she was cast on ABC's "Step by Step" alongside "Dallas" alum Patrick Duffy. Similar to the plot of "The Brady Bunch," the sitcom starred Somers and Duffy as Frank and Carol, two single parents who married and blended their families, which consisted of three children each. Somers remained on this show, which was part of ABC's TGIF lineup until it changed networks for its final season, for its entire seven-season run, which ended in 1998.

Somers worked sporadically in television in the years after "Step by Step" ended, including brief forays into talk. She gave Broadway a shot in 2005 with her one-woman show "The Blonde in the Thunderbird"– a reference to her cameo in "American Graffiti" more than 30 years earlier – featuring a collection of stories about her life and Hollywood career, but it closed after less than a week of performances due to poor ticket sales and bad notices. She also competed on season 20 of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2015 alongside her professional partner, Tony Dovolani, placing ninth.

Suzanne Somers competes with professional dancer Tony Dovolani on "Dancing with the Stars."
Adam Taylor/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Somers battled breast cancer multiple times throughout her life. She was first diagnosed with the disease in 2000 during a routine mammogram and subsequently underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy for treatment, as well as seeking out alternative therapies. The actress opened up about additional bouts with breast cancer in 2023, telling ABC's "Good Morning America," "every now and then it pops up again, and I continue to bat it down."

"This is not new territory for me. I know how to put on my battle gear and I'm a fighter," she continued at the time, adding that her husband had "been by my side every step of the way."

Somers wrote numerous books, including memoirs, ones focused on health and wellness, cookbooks and even a collection of poetry. Her most recent was "Two's Company: A Fifty-Year Romance with Lessons Learned in Love, Life & Business," published in 2017.

Somers was married twice. Her first marriage, to Bruce Somers, produced her only child, Bruce Jr., and ended in divorce in 1968 after three years. She met her future husband, Alan Hamel, in 1969 when she was a prize model on "Anniversary Game," the short-lived game show he was hosting. The two married in 1977 and remained together until her death.