Suzanne Somers is an American actress, author and businesswoman best known for her role as the ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow on the sitcom Three's Company (1977-1981), and as Carol Foster Lambert on the sitcom Step by Step, from 1991-1998.
Somers is the third of four children born to Frank and Marion Mahoney in San Bruno, California, USA.
Her father worked loading beer onto boxcars, and her mother was a homemaker.
She grew up living in constant fear of being hurt or even killed at the hands of her verbally and physically abusive alcoholic father. She was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was young, and was a poor student.
She excelled, however, in the arts and was active in her school's theatre program. She won a music scholarship to college, but became pregnant after six months. She married the baby's father, Bruce Somers, and her only child, Bruce Jr., was born in November 1965.
She was unhappy in her marriage and began an affair with her former drama teacher. Her husband found out about it and the marriage ended after just two years, in 1967.
A single mom, she turned to modeling in San Francisco to support herself and her son. She also distanced herself from her family because her older brother and sister by then were also alcoholics.
In 1968 she won a job as a prize model on a game show hosted by her future husband, Alan Hamel, who was married at the time. The two began dating, and she became pregnant while Hamel was still married. They came to the conclusion that Suzanne should have an abortion, from which she suffered severe bleeding for several days.
In 1971 son Bruce was severely injured when he was hit by a car, and the therapist counseling him only charged the struggling Suzanne $1 per week. Suzanne herself also underwent therapy to overcome the problems of her dysfunctional childhood.
In the early 1970s she landed minor roles in film and TV, and finally won a role on the series Three's Company (1977), where she modeled her character after Dick Clark's wife. She married Hamel in 1977.
At the beginning of the 1980-81 season of Three's Company, she asked for a raise from $30,000 an episode to $150,000 an episode and 10% ownership of the show.
She was denied, and boycotted the second and fourth shows of the season, claiming illness. ABC forced her to finish out the remaining season on her contract, but cut her character's role to 1 minute a week in taping.
She was escorted by a security guard to a soundstage behind the set, where she filmed her few scenes, because she was no longer allowed on the set with John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt.
Somers was then fired after her contract expired, and she sued ABC for $2-million, claiming her credibility in the business had been damaged. The suit was settled for about $30,000.
During her pay dispute with Three's Company, Somers continued to receive star billing. Even with Somers' final appearance occurring midseason (in the episode "And Baby Makes Four") and with her character, Chrissy, never being mentioned again, the opening titles continued to have Somers' name until the end of the season.
In 1986 she began writing her autobiography, "Keeping Secrets", which was later made into a TV movie. In 1991 Suzanne landed the role of Carol Foster, opposite Patrick Duffy, on the TV series Step by Step (1991).
She also co-hosted the series Candid Camera from 1998-2000.