The crazy story of how Suzanne Somers was fired for asking for equal pay on 'Three's Company' at the peak of her fame in 1980

In 1980, Suzanne Somers was at the height of her career, winning accolades and the public’s admiration for playing blonde bimbo “Chrissy Snow” on ABC’s hit Emmy-winning comedy “Three’s Company” alongside John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt.

In 1978, just a year after the show premiered, Somers won a People’s Choice Award for “favourite female performer.”

In 1979, the roleearned her a Golden Globe nomination for best TV actress in a comedy.

Somers became a household name, making countless TV appearances.

Suzanne Somers talk showAP PhotoSomers and Fred Astaire on the ‘Mike Douglas Show’ in 1978.

She attended press events with her “Three’s Company” cast mates…

Three's CompanyAP Photo/Reed SaxonSomers and the ‘Three’s Company’ cast at a press luncheon in 1979.

… And became an international sex symbol.

Suzanne Somers hollywoodAP Photo/Reed SaxonSomers strikes a pose during a promotion photocall in Los Angeles in 1979.

But in 1980, at age 34, Somers’ career came to a screeching halt when she asked ABC for a salary raise on par with what fellow cast member John Ritter was making.

“When it came time for fifth-season negotiations in 1980, Somers asked for a pay hike from $US30,000 an episode to $US150,000,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, noting the salary increase would be “equal to what her
Three’s Company co-star John Ritter was receiving and comparable to salaries
M*A*S*H* ‘s Alan Alda and
All in the Family
‘s Carroll O’Connor were being paid on lower-rated shows.”

Instead, ABC offered Somers a measly $US5,000 salary increase.

As a result, Somersboycotted the third and fourth shows of the new season, using excuses such as “the recurrence of an old back injury,” THR reported at the time. She finished the remaining season on her contract with ABC, but her role was decreased to a mere 60 seconds per episode and shot separately from the rest of the cast.

Eventually, Somers’ contract with ABC was terminated. The network that had made the actress a household name fired one of its biggest stars–and it was apparently all to make a point.

Somers’ husband and manager, Alan Hamel, recently recalled to THR:

The night before we went in to renegotiate, I got a call from a friend who had connections high up at ABC and he said, ‘They’re going to hang a nun in the marketplace and the nun is Suzanne.’ The network was will­ing to do this because earlier that year the women on Laverne & Shirley had gotten what they asked for and they wanted to put a stop to it. They’d destroy the chemistry on Company to make a point.

Later that season, Somer’s “Chrissy Snow” character was replaced by her clumsy cousin Cindy Snow, played by Jenilee Harrison.

In 1981, ABC added another replacement the following season, Priscilla Barnes,to make up for the loss of Somers.

The show would go on until 1984, but meanwhileSomers’ career came to a halt.

After rival network CBS picked up Somers to star in a new show following the “Three’s Company” disaster, the network eventually wound up passing on the show.

In order to stay relevant, Somers posed on the cover of Playboy in 1980 and 1984.

During the 1980s, Somers became the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster.

In 1991, Somers returned to ABC to play mum “Carol Foster” in “Step By Step,” a family sitcom on the network’s popular TGIF lineup.

After the show ended in 1998, Somers would go on to sell clothing, jewellery, skin-care, toxic-free cleaning supplies, weight loss, and beauty products on the Home Shopping Network and her own website.

She has also written over 20 books, including autobiographies, poetry, and many about ageing and how to stay“Sexy Forever.”

Despite controversy surrounding her use of alternative medicine after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Somers has continued to build a massive empire as an actress, author, and businesswoman.

In 2003, Somers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Today, Somers can currently be seen in the live show
“Suzanne Sizzles” in a year-long residency presented in her own cabaret room in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

When not in Las Vegas for the show, Somers resides in Palm Springs with her husband and manager of 38 years, Alan Hamel.

“Life isn’t fair,” Somers recently toldThe Hollywood Reporter when recalling the “Three’s Company” situation in 1980. “Getting fired for asking for a raise wasn’t fair, but I landed on my feet and I’ve done OK.”

Today, Somers is worth a reported $US100 million, due mainly in part to her successful product lines.

Somers’ story is especially relevant right now after the Sony hack revealed just how much less women make in Hollywood still to this day — both female studio execs behind-the-scenes and actresses in front of the camera.

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