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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 1946

Welcome to another exciting edition of the Tuesday Timeline, where we go back in time to look at a particular event from pop culture past. This week's edition will focus on a particular individual who has had success in the world of television, books, and believe it or not, infomercials! But, that's all I will say for now. Well, at least until we get through the other events of October 16 anyway.

Some interesting events that have taken place on October 16 include the following...

1384 – Jadwiga becomes the first female to be given the title of “King of Poland”

1590 – Prince of Venoza and Count of Conza Carlo Gesualdo murders his wife and her lover at the Palazzo San Severo in Naples, Italy

1781 – George Washington captures Yorktown, Virginia after the Siege of Yorktown

1793 – Marie Antoinette is guillotined at the height of the French Revolution

1813 – Napoleon Bonaparte is attacked by the Sixth Coalition in the Battle of Leipzig

1834 – Much of the ancient structure of the Palace of Westminster burns to the ground

1841 – Queen's University is founded in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

1846 – The first demonstration of ether anesthesia is performed by William TG Morton at the Massachusetts General Hospital

1869 – The Cardiff Giant is “discovered” (later proven to be a hoax) on the same day that Girton College, Cambridge is also founded (not a hoax)

1875 – Brigham Young University is founded in Provo, Utah

1882 – Nickle Plate Railroad opens for business

1916 – Margaret Sanger opens the first family planning clinic in the United States in Brooklyn, New York

1923 – Walt and Roy Disney found the Walt Disney Company

1939 – One of the earliest battles of World War II takes place when the German Luftwaffe invades British territory

1944 – Wally Walrus, the first foil for Woody Woodpecker, debuts

1951 – The first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, is assassinated in Rawalpindi

1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis begins

1964 – The People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon

1968 – Two American Olympic athletes (Tommie Smith and John Carlos) are thrown off the team for their participation in the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute

1970 – War Measures Act is invoked in Canada by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

1978 – Wanda Rutkiewicz becomes the first European woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest

1984 – Desmond Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day that Britain's longest running cop drama, “The Bill” debuts

1995 – Million Man March takes place in Washington D.C.

2006 – An earthquake measuring 6.7 magnitude strikes the Hawaiian islands, which causes landslides, power outages, and the temporary closure of Honolulu International Airport

2011 – British race car driver Dan Wheldon is killed in a crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the age of 33

What a busy day October 16 was, eh? I got tired just typing all that out, and we haven't even reached the celebrity birthday portion yet!

Speaking of which, here are some famous faces celebrating a birthday today! Becoming one year older are Angela Lansbury, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Peter Ashdown, Barry Corbin, Fred Turner (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), David Zucker, Boogie Mosson (P Funk), Tony Carey (Planet P Project), Stephen Mellor, Ellen Dolan, Tim Robbins, Brian Harper, Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Randy Vasquez, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tom Tolbert, Davina McCall, Wendy Wilson (Wilson Phillips), Chad Gray, Adrianne Frost, Kellie Martin, Ryan Fitzgerald, John Mayer, Erin Brown, Sue Bird, Jeremy Jackson, Pippa Black, Rachel Reilly, and Bryce Harper.

And then we have one more celebrity celebrating a birthday today.

Their date of birth? October 16, 1946. And, if you are wondering why the logo looks a little bit pink...well, we'll get to that a little later.

As I mentioned before, this celebrity is one that has made a name for herself in television, including infomercials. She's also written a few books, hosted her own short-lived talk show, and she's also appeared in bit parts in some major films. On the flipside, she has also had her moments of controversy including being fired from the show that made her a star, as well as undergoing health scares.

Through everything, this woman has survived it all long enough to mark birthday number 66!

Happy birthday, Suzanne Somers! This blog is all about you today!

Suzanne Somers was born Suzanne Marie Mahoney in San Bruno, California on October 16, 1946. She was the third of four children, and she grew up in an Irish Catholic family. And, needless to say, Suzanne's early childhood was not exactly ideal. If you pick up her book, “Keeping Secrets”, it explains the situation a lot better than I ever could, but basically, Suzanne's father was an alcoholic who often hurled abuse the rest of the family as a result of it.

The upbringing that she went through left some deep scars on Suzanne emotionally, and after she graduated high school, she lied about her background to other people. In an interview that she did with Orange Coast Magazine in the summer of 1988, she recounted that she would tell other people that her father was dead, or that he was a doctor, or other things that would make her situation seem more respectable. She was that ashamed of him.

Suzanne would end up getting her name by a brief marriage to Bruce Somers. They got married in 1965, and the marriage would last just three years. The union did produce Suzanne's only son, Bruce Somers Jr. And, Suzanne also began her acting career, taking bit parts in television shows and movies. Despite all this, she struggled with low self-esteem, and bouts of depression over how she grew up.

It wouldn't be until a tragedy occurred in Suzanne's life that things ironically got better. When Suzanne's son was just a toddler, he was critically injured in a car accident, and Suzanne worried that he would die from his injuries. Bruce eventually made a full recovery from the accident, but both Bruce and Suzanne were so emotionally scarred by the accident that they ended up going to therapy about it, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions that Suzanne ended up making for both herself and her son. She came to terms with her terrible childhood experiences, and caused her to reevaluate everything that she had believed was true. As she later explained in the interview she did with Orange Coast Magazine, if it wasn't for the accident which caused her to go into therapy, she likely wouldn't have become successful, and she also wouldn't have met her current husband of 35 years, Alan Hamel.

And she certainly wouldn't have landed the role that made her famous.

Yes, in 1977, Suzanne Somers was cast in the role of Christmas Noelle Snow on the long-running sitcom “Three's Company” alongside John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt. Of course, Suzanne was the last one cast in the show, as many people know that a different actress played the role in the unaired 1976 original pilot episode. Susanne Zenor assumed the role (which was then called Samantha) in that episode. When she wasn't picked up for the second filming, Susan Lanier took over the role (which had since become Chrissy). Suzanne Somers ended up getting the role after the audience in the third taping of the pilot approved.

For the first four seasons of the show, Suzanne Somers wowed audiences with her portrayal of Chrissy Snow, a beautiful, sexy blonde whose penchant for short shorts and lopsided pigtails made the hearts of men all over the world flutter. I mean, sure, she was the stereotypical “dumb blonde” role, but Somers' portrayal was so convincing that you couldn't help but root for her. And, her breakout role certainly got attention from entertainment magazines and the press. In 1978, she appeared on over fifty different magazine covers alone, and her star continued to rise as the 1970s became the 1980s.

Unfortunately, this was where Suzanne Somers ended up doing something that cost her dearly.

Shortly before the 1980/1981 season was set to begin taping, contract negotiations were taking place, and Somers was earning a respectable $30,000 per episode. However, Suzanne decided that $30,000 was not enough for her, and raised the stakes. She wanted five times her salary, as well as 10% ownership of the sitcom. This seemed to shock a lot of people, especially her co-stars and executives at ABC, who flatly rejected her salary increase. So, Suzanne decided to take matters into her own hands. She skipped out of filming the second and fourth episodes of the fifth season by telling the producers that she had a broken rib and other excuses. For the rest of the season, she ended up only making one-minute appearances by talking to either Janet or Jack on the telephone from a separate soundstage (the reason being that neither Ritter or DeWitt wanted to work with Somers following her backstage antics). 

By the spring of 1981, it had become clear that ABC had enough of Suzanne Somers, and she was fired...her replacement being Jenilee Harrison, who played Chrissy's cousin, Cindy.

Suzanne tried suing ABC for $2 million in damages caused to her career, but she ended up not winning the lawsuit. Suzanne tried jumping ship to CBS to start another sitcom, but the sitcom idea was not picked up (Suzanne would later explain in one of her books that Three's Company producers had sent cease and desist letters to CBS, which stated that Somers could not bring her Chrissy Snow characterizations to the new project). Whether this is true or not, I cannot say...though it does sound rather believable.

Throughout the early and mid-1980s, Somers tried her hand at a few other projects. She did pose for Playboy in 1984 (another feature was printed in 1980, but those pictures were shots that she had done before she became famous), and in the mid-1980s, Somers ended up putting a face to the modern-day infomercial with this popular product.

I don't have any information of how many Thighmasters were sold while Somers was pitching them, but I can only imagine that the infomercials only helped.

And, hey, one can say that the Thighmaster helped Somers get jobs. It was while she was doing the infomercials that she ended up getting her first sitcom job in six years, 1987's “She's The Sheriff”. That sitcom featured Somers as the widowed mother of two children who assumes her husband's job as the sheriff of a small Nevada town. It ended up running for two seasons, wrapping up production in 1989. It wasn't the best show in the world, but it did get her name back out there, and she spent most of 1990 doing made for television movies.

And in 1991, she ended up proving that lightning struck twice when she ended up getting the role of Carol Foster Lambert in the ABC sitcom “Step By Step”, where she starred alongside Patrick Duffy. The show ran until 1998, which was the same year she began co-hosting the revival of “Candid Camera” with Peter Funt. In between that, she attempted hosting her own daytime talk show, “The Suzanne Somers Show”, which only lasted the 1994-1995 season.

Over the last few years, Somers has attempted a Broadway show (which unfortunately failed), and in 2012, she began hosting an online radio show on CafeMom called “Suzanne Somers Breaking Through”.

But during the early 2000s, Suzanne underwent a health scare (and this is where the pink logo comes into play). You see, October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, and one of the symbolic colours of the month is pink. In 2001, Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is currently in remission from the disease, which is fantastic news for her...however, it was the way that she chose to fight off the illness that ended up generating a little bit of controversy.

You see, Suzanne underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatments in order to help get rid of the cancer, but she drew the line at chemotherapy, rejecting all forms of it. In 2008, Suzanne made the announcement that she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer by six different doctors, but a week later, she made the discovery that she had been misdiagnosed. But that wasn't where the controversy lie.

It was Suzanne's decision to pursue alternative methods to treating cancer after speaking to several doctors about the possible treatment options available to her at the time that got tongues wagging...especially after Suzanne promoted these treatments in her book, “Knockout”. In the book, she sings the praises of the Wiley Protocol as a possible method of cancer treatment, and claimed that it worked for her...and that caused the American Cancer Society Society to speak out against it, instructing people not to follow the method that Somers promoted.

My honest assessment is that while I am not a doctor, and have no business promoting alternative medicine to treat an illness...however, if someone is in the same situation that Suzanne Somers is in, fighting for their lives...wouldn't you try almost anything to get better? There are two sides to every story here, and I'll leave it up to you to debate it.

I think Suzanne Somers is one of those people in which time can heal all wounds. Yeah, Suzanne might have annoyed ABC with her antics at Three's Company, but she obviously learned from her mistakes when the same network gave Somers the okay to star in another sitcom ten years later. Somers even took steps to repair the damage between her and her two co-stars from Three's Company. Somers and John Ritter patched things up between them and cleared the air shortly before his September 11, 2003 passing, and just recently, Joyce DeWitt appeared as a guest on her online radio show after not speaking to Somers for thirty-one years!

At any rate, yes, she made some mistakes. But, haven't we all? The point is that she has managed to overcome some of the biggest obstacles to get to where she is...and despite the fights, tears, and controversies, she's in a good place right now. I think that Suzanne Somers has had, and continues to have one heck of a life!

And, that's our look back on October 16, 1946.

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