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Sitcom star Suzanne Somers is a firm believer in second acts.
After four seasons on ABC’s Emmy-winning TV show “Three’s Company,” the actress was fired in 1980 after she asked for a pay raise from $30,000 an episode to $150,000, which was on par with her co-star, John Ritter. Despite being adored across America as bubbly blonde Chrissy Snow, Somers was kicked to the curb.
“At that time, the men were making 10 to 15 times more than I was,” the 75-year-old told Fox News Digital. “And I was on the No. 1 show. It just seemed wrong because I was clearly being underpaid. And it’s not like I stopped the show. My contract was up. We had a meeting with the lawyers [at ABC] … But, by then, they had already decided.
“I was waiting at home — and remember, this was a time before cell phones, so it felt like an eternity,” Somers recalled. “It was a gray day. And the front door opened in a way that you knew bad news was coming. It was really slow. And I heard my husband going up the stairs really slowly. I met him at the landing.
“He looked at me, shook his head, and said, ‘You’re out. You were gone within the first five minutes when I walked into the meeting.’ … Now, I was out of work and labeled ‘trouble’ only because I wanted to be paid fairly for doing my job.”
SUZANNE SOMERS WANTS A ‘THREE’S COMPANY’ REBOOT WITH A JOHN RITTER HOLOGRAM, LATE ACTOR’S SON
Despite being hailed as America’s sweetheart, being on 55 national magazine covers and recognized as a Johnny Carson favorite, the press turned against Somers after she said the network made an example out of her for wanting a pay raise. She went into a deep depression at home.
“I just remember sitting in my living room — same gray, cold day, months later — just thinking, ‘Why?’” she recalled. “And I heard a voice. I think we all hear voices. We just don’t often tune in. But that voice said, ‘Why are you focused on what you don’t have? Why don’t you focus on what you do have? You have enormous visibility. Most of the people on the planet know your name at this point.’”
Somers’ husband and manager, Alan Hamel, went from hotel to hotel in Sin City eager to get her a gig. She was able to secure a Vegas residency, a deal she said was for more money than she had ever asked for on “Three’s Company.” Not only did her shows sell out for 15 years, but, by 1987, she was crowned Female Entertainer of the Year.
And then she launched a pop culture phenomenon with a simple fitness device.
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After taking on a grueling schedule in Vegas, a rejuvenated Somers decided to start branding products she could sell for more income. In 1990, she launched the “ThighMaster.”
“I bought a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes that made my legs look so good,” she chuckled. “It was mainly a vanity thing. But when I bought the shoes, I was in my dressing room and thought, ‘Oh my God, what is Al going to think? I’m so stupid for spending so much money on a pair of shoes.’ Well, it just happened that I was in my bra and underpants. So I walked out and asked, ‘Like my shoes?’ And he said, in his great, deep radio voice, ‘Great legs.’ That was the commercial. And I was able to write off the shoes because I wore them in the commercial.”
Somers’ business empire struck back. She stopped counting how many ThighMasters she sold “after 10 million.” In 1992, she became one of the Home Shopping Network’s top-selling brands. Today, she is the author of 27 books, including 14 New York Times bestsellers. Her name can be found on everything from jewelry to protein formula.
“I have over a thousand products,” she boasted. “Would I have wanted to do it this way? No, but I allowed it to take me and us where it wanted to go. My biggest complaint today is that I work too much. I’m always keeping busy. The pandemic worked for me because we started doing Facebook Live shows and Instagram shows three times a week. We start the show with some tequila on ice, and it’s like having a drink together while my husband is running the camera. There’s just so much freedom on the internet than there is on mainstream television. I’m just loving where I’ve been and where I’m heading.”
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Somers said she hasn’t ruled out returning to television. She hasn’t done a sitcom since “Step by Step,” which aired from 1991 until 1998. The right script just hasn’t come along yet.
“I never felt that I was finished with Chrissy Snow,” said Somers. “She was cut off right where she was really being developed. There’s a whole new generation discovering her. And she’s special to me. I remember when I got the role, I would have taken the part of a monkey because I was not working.
“I didn’t think I brought anything to the table because I hadn’t studied acting. I was that girl from ‘The Tonight Show.’ But I learned so much from watching John Ritter. He [was] a master, the greatest in physical comedy. I would just watch him over and over. I observed his rhythm. I realized one day that comedy is like a musical. It’s a set-up beat. And as soon as I heard that rhythm, I couldn’t be stopped.”
And Somers noted she has come a long way.
“Even before that, I remember Johnny Carson walked up to me [during an audition] and went, ‘Hey little lady … I hope you get the part.’ I just had this book of poetry with my picture in the front. And I guess they loved my poetry because I made my TV debut on ‘The Tonight Show.’ But for my national television debut, I bought a $75 dress that I couldn’t afford. I wrote a check, and I knew it was going to bounce. But, eventually, I paid it off. I was on ‘American Graffiti,’ and I hadn’t even seen the movie because I couldn’t afford to go. I was just a single, young mother, so unpolished … But, as I told everyone, I’m a really fast learner.”
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Somers’ success with the ThighMaster is far from over. Most recently, Courteney Cox filmed herself cooking burgers on a patio grill with Somers standing beside her as they simultaneously exercised and the “Three’s Company” theme song played. In June of last year, Khloe Kardashian revealed to her 243 million followers on Instagram that one of her prized possessions was an autographed ThighMaster.
“How did I fare after ‘Three’s Company?’ Well, I’m still standing, and I’m standing strong,” said Somers.