Suzanne Somers, star of Three’s Company sitcom, dies aged 76

Suzanne Somers, the actress whose career encompassed five seasons on the 1970s TV sitcom Three’s Company, a Las Vegas revue show, a role in American Graffiti, two autobiographies, four diet books, a book of poetry, and a spell as an exercise-equipment spokeswoman, has died after a long battle with cancer. She was 76.

The actress died early Sunday morning, Somer’s publicist, R Couri Hay, told the New York Post. “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,” he said.

News of the star’s death comes less than three months after her husband of 46 years revealed that her breast cancer had returned. Somers was first diagnosed in her 50s, after battling skin cancer in her 30s and hyperplasia in her 20s, he said.

“Every time that little fucker pops up, I continue to bat it back,” Somers told Entertainment Tonight over the summer. “I do my best not to let this insidious disease control me.”

Suzanne Somers, John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt pose for a still of ‘Three’s Company’ season two.

In 1973, she was cast as Blonde in T-Bird in American Graffiti, directed by future Star Wars director George Lucas. She later recalled she had no idea who Lucas was, and almost skipped the audition to park her car.

“I only had three words in the entire film: ‘I love you,’” Somers said. “I practiced all day in the mirror.”

But the part helped Somers – she was cast in the hit sitcom Three’s Company four years later, portraying a dumb blonde, stereotypical for the era, in 100 episodes. But she defied that typecasting in 1980 when she demanded ABC raise her salary fivefold and 10% ownership of the show’s profits.

When the network refused, Somers skipped some episodes saying she had a broken rib. ABC cut her part to just 60 seconds per episode and later fired her. Somers sued for $2m, arguing that she was only asking for what popular male sitcom actors were paid. She went on to star in another hit sitcom, Step By Step.

Suzanne Somers at a ceremony honoring her with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on 24 January 2003 in Hollywood, California.

In the 1980s, Somers became a Vegas entertainer, and later a spokeswoman for Thighmaster, a brand of exercise equipment. She also performed for US servicemen overseas. Earlier this year, she revealed that she’d turned down a part on the morning talkshow The View because she didn’t want to move from California to New York.

Somers’ publicist said she died surrounded by her family in Palm Springs a day short of her 77th birthday. Instead of her birthday, Hays said, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her.

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