When Suzanne Somers blurted out this week on TV that she and her husband are having sex several times a day, squeamish viewers might have cringed. But to students of the Somers ouevre, this was just another example of her pop-cultural brilliance.
The 66-year-old former "Three's Company" star told CBS' "The Talk" this week that she visits funky town a couple of times a day. This directly contradicted the theories of human sexuality advanced by a certain side-shaved pop star named Miley Cyrus, who told "Today" that after 40, people really don't get any action.
What might seem remarkable is that viewers are still interested in what Somers has to say, given that her best-known TV role ended more than 30 years ago. That would be as Crissy, the stereotypically dumb-blond bombshell in "Three's Company," the hit ABC sex farce she departed in an acrimonious split. Translation: She held out for more cash, but the producers said no.
"Three's Company" might have been the last we ever heard of her, but she was just getting started. Somers, following the example of Jane Fonda, fed upon the body anxieties of aging boomers and became the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster. Users were supposed to press this device between their adductors and somehow achieve total fitness ("squeeze, squeeze your way!").
Somers has a unique take on medicine and personal health. This is a polite way of saying that the medical establishment thinks she's a dangerous crackpot. In another line of work, that could be a liability, but not on TV. She has been an outspoken proponent of controversial hormone replacement theories and -- something few people realize -- has carved out a profitable career as the most famous celebrity author in the anti-aging movement.
Most famously, she claimed she was misdiagnosed with "full-body cancer" and in 2009 published "Knockout," a book that championed alternatives to traditional chemotherapy. This earned her a scolding from the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who said her book could hurt patients by urging them to avoid treatments that have proved helpful. The controversy -- which Somers repeatedly mentioned in TV interviews -- only fueled sales.
What Somers has done, in other words, is undertake a very American form of self-reinvention. At one point, she looked like a toppled sitcom star headed for the rubbish heap. Instead, she has become an oracle of hope for women her age. Don't let the authorities mislead you, she says. You can be young forever. You can beat cancer.
And yes -- despite what Miley Cyrus says -- you can be old enough to qualify for Medicare and still have sex a couple of times of day.
TV's dumb blond has become a whip-smart apostle of hope.
What do you think of Somers and her career?