R.I.P. Suzanne Somers, sitcom star and self-help spokesperson

The Three's Company and Step By Step star would've turned 77 this week

R.I.P. Suzanne Somers, sitcom star and self-help spokesperson
Suzanne Somers Photo: Dia Dipasupil

Suzanne Somers, the sitcom star who transitioned into a second career as a health spokesperson and advocate for alternative medical treatments, has died after a prolonged, two-decade battle with breast cancer. The news was confirmed by People, which received a statement from her longtime publicist that said she “passed away peacefully at home” after having “survived an aggressive form of breast cancer for over 23 years.” Her family had gathered this weekend to celebrate what would’ve been her 77th birthday on Monday, but the statement says that, “instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life.”

Somers, born in California in 1946, started her show business career in the late-‘60s, spending a few years with little more than bit parts in movies and TV shows like The Rockford Files, Magnum Force, The Love Boat, and The Six Million Dollar Man, plus a memorable appearance as the woman driving a white Thunderbird in George Lucas’ American Graffiti.

She finally got her big break in 1977 when she appeared in the third attempted pilot for ABC’s Three’s Company, playing stereotypical ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow opposite Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter. The show, with its endlessly wacky situations and double-entendres, was a huge hit, but when Somers tried to fight for more money and a cut of the show’s profits ahead of the show’s fifth season, the producers effectively cut her out of the show (reducing her appearances to weekly phone calls), and then completely cut her out of the show.

In the late-‘80s and early-‘90s, Somers began using a muscle-toning device called the Thighmaster, which she then became the spokesperson for in a series of famous infomercials. Around the same time, she landed another sitcom gig after years of mostly smaller roles, starring in ABC’s Step By Step with Patrick Duffy. The show was another hit for her, and it secure Somers’ return to stardom after her exit from Three’s Company.

In 2001, Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer and declined chemotherapy after a seemingly successful lumpectomy. After doctors misdiagnosed an inoperable return of her cancer, Somers began exploring (and advocating for) occaisionally controversial alternative medical treatments. And even as her career as a spokesperson supposedly brought her millions and millions of dollars, she remained involved in show business and appeared as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars in 2015.

Somers is survived by husband Alan Hamel, son Bruce Somers Jr., and granddaughter Camelia Somers (who has a recurring role on The Bold And The Beautiful).

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