updated 8/23/2004 10:53:09 AM ET 2004-08-23T14:53:09

Guest: Suzanne Somers

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Blind ambition.  She skyrocketed to fame playing a bouncy, brainless bombshell on TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTRESS, AUTHOR, ENTREPRENEUR:  The part was written as total dumb, total stupid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  So how did this seemingly ditzy blonde ever become one of the most respected and wealthiest entrepreneurs in the biz?  Tonight, the amazing career of Suzanne Somers, from tantalizing T-bird tease to best-selling author, businesswoman and fitness guru.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  It‘s easy.  It really works.  And it makes life fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  But life hasn‘t always been fair for this scrappy fighter. 

Suzanne earned success the hard war, overcoming an abused childhood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  It was, You are stupid.  You are hopeless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Then the fiasco that turned her into a primetime pariah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  I was back to ground zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  But through it all, she‘s persevered, reinvented herself and bounced back into the spotlight.  Tonight, Suzanne Somers unveils the secret of her success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  What‘s the worst that can happen?  You fail.  So what?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Suzanne Somers achieved extraordinary success as an actress, a comedienne, a best-selling author and an entrepreneur.  And it‘s a treat to welcome her to the studio tonight.  Good to see you.

SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTRESS, AUTHOR, ENTREPRENEUR:  Good to see you again.

NORVILLE:  What do you call yourself?  If you had one word to put next to you—Suzanne Somers, comma—what are you, because you do so many things?

SOMERS:  You know, it‘s at the moment.  Like, right now, I‘m really focused on being an author, but then when the weekend comes, I will be the entrepreneur because I‘m going to be on, you know, Home Shopping, and this coming year, I‘m in a one-woman show on Broadway.  So I don‘t know.  I‘m multi-dimensional.

NORVILLE:  Famous.  That‘s what you are.

SOMERS:  I guess I‘m famous.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  You know, it‘s funny.  I‘m a big believer that most of our lives have a turning point, and I wonder if, in your life, if you had to look at when you turned the corner, if that moment wouldn‘t have been a little flash of a gorgeous blonde in the movie called “American Graffiti?”  This moment right here.

SOMERS:  Was it?  Yes, that was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “AMERICAN GRAFFITI”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did you say?  Wait.  What did you say?  What did you say?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  That was it.

NORVILLE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) That was it.

SOMERS:  The night before that, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, and I practiced saying, I love you every which way.  I had a buffet (ph).  And I guess in the car, and George Lucas says to me—and I‘m ready to give him anything he wants.  And he says, Oh, by the way, just mouth it.  And then he walked away, and I went, Mouth it?

NORVILLE:  The window is not open.

SOMERS:  Right.

NORVILLE:  But that really opened...

SOMERS:  It did.

NORVILLE:  ... every door in the world for you.

SOMERS:  And I didn‘t realize that it had until the first time I was on the “Tonight” show.  I was on the “Tonight” because I had flooded the office with my poetry books.  That was 1973.  And Johnny Carson said, We‘ve all been wondering who the mysterious blonde in the Thunderbird was.  And I was behind the curtain, thinking, You were?  And when I walked out, the audience went, Ooh!  And that was the first inkling I had.  And George Lucas had said to me, Everyone will always remember the blonde in the Thunderbird.  And I thought, yes, right.

NORVILLE:  Because you‘re thinking it‘s really not much of a part.

SOMERS:  Not much of a part.

NORVILLE:  I mean, I don‘t even get to be heard when I mouth the “I love you.”

SOMERS:  Right.  And I remember sitting in the trailer.  And it was Francis Coppola, George Lucas, and they were talking to Richard Dreyfuss, Candy Clark (ph), Cindy Williams, Paul LeMatt (ph) -- who else was in that movie—and all those people, all of whom became very famous, Timothy Hutton.  And I remember sitting there thinking, What a bunch of losers.

NORVILLE:  About them?

SOMERS:  The whole thing.

NORVILLE:  You just thought, This is going nowhere.

SOMERS:  I didn‘t know who Francis was.

NORVILLE:  These people are nobodies.

SOMERS:  I didn‘t know who George Lucas was.  I didn‘t know who any of these actors were.  We‘re in Petaluma, which is arm-wrestling capital of the world.  And it‘s 3:00 o‘clock in the morning, and I just thought, yes, right.  This is not going to go anywhere.  So I was young.  I didn‘t know anything.

NORVILLE:  And it really did.  You got on Johnny Carson, and then after that, it wasn‘t too many more years before, you know, those auditions paid off, and kaboom, “Three‘s Company.”

SOMERS:  There you go.  Wow.

NORVILLE:  Who would have known?

SOMERS:  Who would have known?  Who would have known?

NORVILLE:  Who would have known.  What did you—you know, there was so much made about that whole controversy.  What was the controversy about with “Three‘s Company?”  Because I‘m amazed that 25 years later, it‘s still—it‘s still out there.

SOMERS:  I know.  Because it was so unfinished.  Whenever anything‘s unfinished, when there‘s a lack of resolution—well, there they are.  The controversy was that I asked to be paid what the men in television were being paid.  At that time, our show was No.1 and “M*A*S*H” was at that time No. 10, and Alan Alda was making 10 times more and Carroll O‘Connor was making 15 times more than me.  And I thought, That doesn‘t seem right.  And my contract was up.  I had to renegotiate, so...

NORVILLE:  But you had the ultimate leverage.  We got the No. 1 show on television, folks.

SOMERS:  Yes.  Yes.  And I understand, you know, you don‘t—you have to know how much power you have.  And I thought, I think I‘m important to the show.  I‘m not indispensable, but—but I got a call from somebody at the office at ABC, a friend through a friend, who said, Just tell Suzanne they‘re going to hang a nun (ph) in the marketplace, and it‘s going to be her.

NORVILLE:  Whoa.

SOMERS:  And I thought, No, I‘m Chrissy (ph).  They wouldn‘t do that to me.  So—hey, I look back on this as truly a turning point.  It is what made me what I am.  If I hadn‘t been fired, I‘m sure I would have had a successful TV career, but being fired forced me to, A, go through the depression of what I‘d let slip through my fingers, and then, B, reinvent myself.

NORVILLE:  But you know, it‘s also interesting.  I want to get into the whole reinvention thing because I think that‘s so—you do have to get knocked off, I think...

SOMERS:  Right.

NORVILLE:  ... in order to find the strength to go and rebuild.

SOMERS:  Yes.  Right.  Right.

NORVILLE:  But it‘s interesting.  The reason I brought it up is because I was flipping through one of the industry trades the other day, “Media Week,” and there was a little article in there about the—yet another one of these situations where a couple of stars—in this case, two of the actors on “CSI”—had been negotiating for more money, in the same way that the “Friends” people did.  And Les Moonves from CBS said, Well, thank you very much.  You may leave.

They ended up coming back, but here‘s what the commentator in the magazine said, and that‘s why I wanted to bring it up with you.  He said, “There‘s no better example of what can happen to a series after a key member of the cast departs than ‘Three‘s Company.‘ “  He said, “Although no one ever said the sitcom was rocket science, after the bitter departure of Suzanne Somers in 1981, the producers and ABC were so busy trying to use Somers as a scapegoat that they failed to remember she was an audience draw.”

That‘s from Marc Berman at “Media Week.”

SOMERS:  Thank you, Marc.

NORVILLE:  In hindsight, they recognized you were right.

SOMERS:  I was right.

(CROSSTALK)

SOMERS:  See, the problem was the packaging.  Someone who looked like I looked then, and to some degree still look, going in and saying, So, fellows, my contract‘s up, and there‘s a disparity in the numbers here, and I‘d like you to pay me what you‘re paying the men—and I didn‘t look right.  See, I think if someone like Vanessa Redgrave had asked for it, it would have been dealt with with a lot of decorum.  But because I looked the way I looked and I played the dumbest blonde on television, that the packaging was wrong.  But I thank them now.  I truly do.

NORVILLE:  Because you learned so much from that.

SOMERS:  I have seven careers.  My biggest complaint at this time in my life is that I work too much.  And so, you know, you have to make lemons out of lemonade.  But it was—it was—I went through grief, a year of depression, because I loved being that character.  It was so fun.

NORVILLE:  And how did you deal with being away from your castmates, too?

SOMERS:  Terrible.

NORVILLE:  Every TV set is like a family...

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... and suddenly, you‘ve been cast out from the family. 

That must have been difficult.

SOMERS:  It was not only that, but there was this atmosphere of mob fury, where you were either with the producers and against me or with me and against them.  So everyone had to go there.  So no one ever talked to me again, and that was part of the depression I felt.

NORVILLE:  Do you ever watch the show?

SOMERS:  I love it.

NORVILLE:  Because it‘s on late at night...

(CROSSTALK)

SOMERS:  I watch it on “Nick at Nite (ph).”  A couple weekends ago, it was on for 48 hours.  Because I never had a chance to watch it at that time.  I love it.  I think it‘s wonderful.  I think all—I was watching Joyce DeWitt (ph) and John and I do this show the other day about—I ate John‘s prized pie, and it‘s one of my favorite episodes.  And I was watching the chemistry and the artistry between the three of us, and it compelled me to want to write a letter to Joyce DeWitt and say, You know, it was good.  It was good, and we did have something special.  I haven‘t written that letter, but...

NORVILLE:  Did you guys ever bury the hatchet?

SOMERS:  Not really.  That‘s why I was thinking I want to write this letter and tell her, You know what?  Let‘s let all this crap go because...

NORVILLE:  Time (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SOMERS:  ... the one thing I learned with John Ritter‘s death is if you have unresolved stuff with a person in your life that you care about, or even if you don‘t care about, but I really cared about John Ritter—we wasted 20 years being mad at each other, avoiding one another, not talking to one another.

NORVILLE:  Because he held you responsible for the failure afterward of the show.

SOMERS:  And he...

NORVILLE:  When you left...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  ... it didn‘t go on very long.

SOMERS:  And he was part of the mob fury.  Those producers were very strong and very chauvinistic.  And again, you had to with them and against me.

NORVILLE:  But the two of you have had...

SOMERS:  We made up.

NORVILLE:  ... a rapprochement...

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... before he died.

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  And actually, it was his wife who brought the two of you together.

SOMERS:  Yes.  She‘s great.  She‘s great.  My -- - I think of her sometimes and—I know how much I loved John Ritter, but I‘m not in love with John Ritter.  She was in love with John Ritter.  And when you love John Ritter, he‘s just the greatest guy, and I can‘t imagine what it must be like for her to have been in love with John Ritter and not to have him anymore.  So I get a heartache for her.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Yes.  Well, it‘s one of those chapters of life, you know?

SOMERS:  Chapters of life.

NORVILLE:  There‘s loss, there‘s grief, there‘s joy and there‘s happiness, and there‘s new beginnings.  And as Suzanne said, she‘s had about seven careers.  When we come back, we‘re going to put the author hat on.

SOMERS:  OK.

NORVILLE:  She‘s got new book out.  It‘s called “Suzanne Somers: The Sexy Years.”   When we come back, she‘ll talk about staying cool, and we don‘t mean cool-looking.  We‘re talking about hot flashes.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, you do look kind of familiar.

SOMERS:  I know.  What‘s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chrissy!  Chrissy Snow!

SOMERS:  No.  My name is Chrissy Snow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, listen, Chrissy, do you have any aspirin? 

I think I‘m coming down with a cold.

SOMERS:  That‘s funny.  I was just coming down with the rent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  She was funny.  What can I say?  She was funny.  Suzanne Somers in her role as Chrissy Snow on “Three‘s Company,” the perfect ditzy blonde role.  But the real Suzanne Somers is nothing like that.  She is an actress.  She‘s also an author and an activist.  And right now, she‘s working hard to draw attention to one of the most important health decisions confronting women, and that‘s whether or not to supplement their depleted hormones when they hit menopause.  She‘s got a new book out.  It‘s called “Suzanne Somers: The Sexy Years, Discovering the Hormone Connection, the Secret to Fabulous Sex, Great Health, Vitality for Women and Men.”

And I have to tell you, Suzanne, when I read your book—my mother passed away before she hit menopause.  My sisters and I, we have not gone down that road yet, so I don‘t have direct experience with this.  But when I read your book and I read about your own personal search to find something that would get you out of all the unpleasant side effects of this period in a woman‘s life, I thought, Why are you having to go out there and pound the pavement to find this out?  Why isn‘t there some person in the medical community who did the homework that you did in this book?

SOMERS:  Well, that‘s exactly my sentiments.  A doctor should have written this.  But here‘s what‘s going on.  Our doctors, all our doctors, including our gynecologists, get approximately four hours of instruction in the entire hormonal system.  So they really don‘t know anything.  I‘ve spent hundreds of hours on this, and I don‘t know everything.  So when you go to your gynecologist for hormones, unless that gynecologist has chosen to specialize in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, that is not the right doctor for you at this passage.

NORVILLE:  And this bio-identical, which you say has worked miracles for you...

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... is different from the hormone replacement therapy that, two years ago, women who were on it went into a panic because...

SOMERS:  Right.

NORVILLE:  ... a study was actually stopped mid-stream because the side effects and the health risks were so pronounced.

SOMERS:  Well, let me explain it to you.  Bio-identical means biologically identical to the human hormone.  It‘s an exact replica of what we make in our own bodies.  It‘s synthesized in a lab, but it is—it is not a drug, OK?  The synthetic...

NORVILLE:  So is it like a homeopathic kind of thing?

SOMERS:  It is made from plants and soy extracts.  But women think, by eating soy and other things that contain soy, that they can get their hormones balanced that way.  Our body has no means of turning these foods into a usable hormone on our own.  It has to be synthesized in a lab.  So bio-identical means biologically identical, not a drug.  Very important to understand it‘s not a drug.

What they‘ve had women on for 50 years is synthetic hormones, and that‘s what all the bad rap is about.

NORVILLE:  Right.

SOMERS:  What women really need know, what you need to know because this is around the corner for you, is that synthetic...

NORVILLE:  Way...

SOMERS:  Way.  Way.

NORVILLE:  ... around...

SOMERS:  Way.

NORVILLE:  ... the corner.

SOMERS:  But if you‘re even thinking of being 40, you‘re—things are starting to happen to you, OK?  So synthetic hormones are not hormones.  They are made from pregnant mare‘s urine.  They are pharmaceuticalized into a drug.  They‘ve been patented into a one-pill-fits-all.  Now, to understand menopause, women need to understand that we are now like diabetics.  There‘s no one pill fits all for a diabetic.  You don‘t say, Here‘s your insulin pill.  Have a nice life.

NORVILLE:  And what you‘re saying with this is you need to work with a doctor who‘s going to check your blood levels, see how a little bit of this and a little bit of that, maybe more of this, less of that...

SOMERS:  Body chemistry.

NORVILLE:  ... impacts on you.

SOMERS:  So what a qualified endocrinologist does, takes your blood work, sees where your levels are, prepares a bio-identical prescription for you, individualized just for you.  And she gets you in the range of where you should be, according to your levels.

Now comes the tweaking.  That‘s why you work with your doctor.  So now, if I‘m between this range and that range, she gives me right in the middle.  But then I call her and I go, I‘m itching a little, or, I‘m a little weepy today, or, I flashed a little last night.  OK.  All right.  What are your stresses, she‘ll ask me?  Because stress blunts hormone production.  A fight with your husband, blunts hormone production, even at your age blunts hormone production.

NORVILLE:  Well, everyone...

SOMERS:  You could lose your hormones at your age, by the way.

SOMERS:  Everyone has stress in their lives.

SOMERS:  Right.

NORVILLE:  And whether you‘re in menopause, if you‘re a woman or a man, you can‘t eliminate all of the stresses in your life.

SOMERS:  Right.  And I interviewed a group of 30-year-olds, in their 30s, 35 to 38, upper-middle-class housewives in Los Angeles.  And I wanted women with an important job, who live in a big house, they‘ve got the husband with the important job, the kids in private school, every committee known to man.  They make organic food.  They grow their own vegetables.  You know, the superwomen.

And so I sat around with these young women, and I was asking them about their stresses.  And I said, What about sex?  And this one girl said, Well, I call it the dirty little chore.  I said, Really?  And another one said, I call it taking out the garbage.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Oh, my Lord!

SOMERS:  And she said, And I had to take out the garbage last night. 

I said, You‘re going to lose your husbands, I said, because men connect through intimacies.  They don‘t have the ability that we have to talk about our feelings.

NORVILLE:  But it‘s interesting.  In the book, one of the doctors that you speak with talks about childbirth being one of the biggest stressors on a marriage...

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... not the physical act of giving birth to the child, but the presence of children in the home.

SOMERS:  Absolutely.

NORVILLE:  Because suddenly, you‘ve got this little helpless person that you‘ve got to devote so much of your energies to.  And understandably, father of baby feels left out.

SOMERS:  Yes, he gets...

NORVILLE:  Marginalized.

SOMERS:  ... second, third—yes.  absolutely.  But what I found with these 30-year-old housewives is that they were avoiding sex because they had no sexual drive, no feeling, because it had been blunted by the stress.  Their hormones had been blunted.  So the one girl in there, Karen (ph) -- she‘s 38.  She was very intrigued by what I was saying.  She went to a qualified doctor, and she called me a few months later.

She says, I‘d like to add a caveat.  She said, I‘m now—I‘m 38.  I‘m on short-term hormone replacement.  My testosterone was low.  My estrogen was low.  My progesterone, my HGH.  She said, We‘ve put it back.  She said, I can‘t believe it.  I‘m so calm.  I‘m not flying off the handle.  I‘m in the mood for sex.  My brain is working better.  I said, That‘s what I‘m trying to say.

NORVILLE:  Real quick.  How do you find a doctor, if you think this is something that you want to explore?  How do you find a good doctor?

SOMERS:  Read this book cover to cover because if you read this book cover to cover, you will be empowered with the information to ask the right questions to find the right doctor.

NORVILLE:  All right.

SOMERS:  Finding the right doctor is not the easiest thing.  It‘s my goal over the next few years to keep gathering doctors.  Any doctors who are dealing in bio-identicals, you know, go to suzannesomers.com.  Let me know so I can interview you.  And if you can‘t find a doctor, if you live in some place where it‘s just not going to be there, on pages 78 through 80, I give you, according to—an endocrinologist gave it to me—a 1 through 10 of what you ask your doctor who doesn‘t know anything.  I want an FSH test.  I want this, I want that, that.  Then you get those levels.  Then you take it to your compound pharmacist.  He says, If you‘re between these levels, you need this.  Then you go back to your doctor.  You say, Got to write me a prescription for that.  It‘s...

NORVILLE:  Well...

SOMERS:  This takes work, but I swear, the benefits not only emotionally and physically but to avoid diseases of aging.

NORVILLE:  I want to talk about another disease.

SOMERS:  OK.

NORVILLE:  Three years ago, you announced you had breast cancer.  You look fabulous.  How are you doing healthwise?  Are you out of the woods?

SOMERS:  I‘m not out of woods yet.  I‘ve got another year.  I really believe I will.  I‘ve taken excellent care of myself.  What was interesting was...

NORVILLE:  You did not do the...

SOMERS:  I didn‘t.

NORVILLE:  ... traditional chemo.

SOMERS:  I didn‘t.

NORVILLE:  But you did do a lumpectomy...

SOMERS:  I did.

NORVILLE:  ... and radiation.

SOMERS:  I did.

NORVILLE:  And then the after-care for you was something, again, through your research, you came up with something different.

SOMERS:  Because I went to five different doctors.  And that is a privilege, and so women out there saying, Well, I‘m on HMOs and I can‘t do that...

NORVILLE:  Right.

SOMERS:  So—but I don‘t want people to be upset with me because I have access to that because I share my information.  But what I found was there‘s a common course in cancer.  And I‘m not saying that this is right for anybody else, but as I listened to each doctor tell me, We‘re going remove the cancer, we‘re going to radiate the heck out of you, we‘re going to chemo the heck out of you, and then we‘re going to give you this after-care drug—I looked up the after-care drug, tamoxifen.  There‘s a 10 percent increase—you get 10 percent better chance that you won‘t get a recurrence with tamoxifen.  But—and this is a big but—a 40 percent increased risk of heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, type 2 diabetes.  And I kept saying...

NORVILLE:  All of which gave you pause.

SOMERS:  ... Is this the best they have to offer women?  So...

NORVILLE:  But you‘re also very, very careful in your books and all over your Web site to say, This is what I did.

SOMERS:  Right.  And I‘m not out of the woods.

NORVILLE:  It‘s not necessarily...

SOMERS:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

SOMERS:  So I‘m not telling anybody to do this.  But a woman that was diagnosed on the same day with me—and we followed one another‘s cancer.  She did what they told her to do.  And maybe that‘s what she needed, but she‘s dying now, and she‘s been through four years of just hell, of chemo after chemo and pain in the arm and the—I don‘t know.  I just felt that there would be a better way, and I found this drug in Switzerland.

NORVILLE:  Knock on wood.  So far, so good.

SOMERS:  I think so.  I think you can tell by hair and nails.  I have really strong nails and I have a lot of hair, strong hair, and I think that that‘s very telling.

NORVILLE:  All right.  We‘re going to take a short break.  More with Suzanne Somers.  Remember the Thighmaster?  We do.

SOMERS:  I do.  Loved that thing!

NORVILLE:  We‘re going revisit the pitch for the machine that became something of a punchline on television.  Back with Suzanne Somers in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Suzanne Somers launched her business empire, Somercize (ph), in the mid-‘80s with her unforgettable ads for the Thighmaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  Every single time you squeeze Thighmaster, you strengthen and tone right where you need it.  That‘s not all.  Thighmaster is an excellent way to...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That exercise machine was the beginning of an empire which has flourished into a diet, fitness and fashion powerhouse.  Suzanne Somers, when you left “Three‘s Company,” in a million years, did you think you would morph into all of that?

SOMERS:  Life is a journey you can‘t plan!

(LAUGHTER)

SOMERS:  No!  No, never—I remember one time I was on stage in Vegas, and my husband said, I envision a time when you‘ll be on stage and all you‘ll do is talk.  And I thought—and now I‘m on the lecture circuit, so...

NORVILLE:  And you‘ve got lots to say.

SOMERS:  Yes.  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Tell me a little bit about the reinvention that you went through.  You talked before about the depression...

SOMERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... after the series ended and the network had pretty well run you up the flagpole and made you persona non grata out there.

SOMERS:  And pretty much persona non grata everywhere.  I was labeled trouble.  And so, I remember I had a meeting with one studio head, and he had his feet on the desk—this—I was looking through his shoes like this in front of me, and I thought, OK.  I think I got the message here. 

And so I sat around my house for a year feeling sorry for myself, and one day the voice in my head, you know, the smart part of me said to me, me saying to me, why are you focused on what you don‘t have anymore?  Why don‘t you focus on what you have?  And what you have is enormous visibility, and visibility is a tangible asset.  You can do something with that.  Everybody in America just about knew my name.

And that‘s when I went to Vegas and put together the nightclub act.  And when I was doing the nightclub act, I had nothing to do during the day, so I started writing the books. 

And at that same time, I noticed my inner thighs were—something was happening.  I was walking and I could feel them rubbing against one another. 

NORVILLE:  The old jiggly things. 

SOMERS:  And I had never felt that before.  And so I was working out on those big machines at the gym, you know, to tighten that up, and somebody—I know, I was driving home from the theater in Las Vegas one night after my second show, and I was at the Vegas Hilton for three years, two shows a night, two two-hour shows every night...

NORVILLE:  So things were good.  It‘s not like life was bad. 

SOMERS:  No. 

NORVILLE:  And your career had totally tanked.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) TV.

SOMERS:  I was out of the public eye in that way, but the visibility was packing them in in Vegas.  I was selling out every night. 

NORVILLE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Vegas? 

SOMERS:  Loved it.  But I was tired.  I had gone down to 98 pounds.  I had to wear a pair of shorts under my gown so I looked fatter.  Oh, those days, how wonderful it was. 

And I said to my husband on the way home, you know, you have to figure out some way that I can make my living where I don‘t have to show up.  And he said, oh, passive income?  And I said, whatever.  And so he went out looking and found this guy that had this little device called the V-toner.  So the guy came over and pitched it to me.  And I‘m looking at this V-toner, it‘s for the upper body, it‘s here, for the pectorals, and you do it up here, it‘s for shoulders, and I said, would that wok for the inner thighs?  And he said, oh, yes, it‘s fantastic.  He said, but I think we‘d sell more if we sold it for the upper body.  Oh, I said, oh, I don‘t think so.  Women are really into their inner thighs, and that‘s when we called it the Thighmaster. 

NORVILLE:  And here‘s the ad that was all over television, the Thighmaster and the beginning of the empire. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  Thighmaster, it‘s quick, it‘s easy.  It really works, and it makes life fair.  After all, we may not have been born with great legs, but now we can look like we were. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOMERS:  Now, see, what‘s funny about that, you didn‘t show the whole thing, but the reason that commercial happened was I bought a pair of shoes that were $565, and I thought, my husband is going to kill me for spending $565 for a pair of shoes, and this was in the ‘80s.  And so I had on my bra and pants, and I put on the shoes, and I walked into the bathroom in my new $500 shoes in my underwear, and he looks at me and he goes, great legs. 

And I said, that‘s the commercial.  And that was the commercial.  We started on the shoes and went up, and he never even cared about the $565 for the shoes, which was a stupid amount to pay. 

NORVILLE:  How much of these gizmos have been sold over the years? 

SOMERS:  Well, there was—when we were still counting, 10 million, and they‘re still selling.  I mean, we don‘t even advertise it anymore.  It‘s kind of like Kleenex.  It‘s wonderful, wonderful, and it works.  The thing is, if you actually—if you went to my house, you would see, next to my bed, it‘s sitting there, because I love when I‘m watching television with the clicker to put the Thighmaster between my knees, and back and forth and watch television. 

NORVILLE:  But the Thighmaster is now just one part of the empire. 

There are—there‘s jewelry, which you sell on the Home Shopping Network. 

SOMERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  There are the diet books.  You‘ve sold almost $100 million worth of the Suzanne Somers diet books and recipe collections and so on.  There‘s clothing.  There‘s...

SOMERS:  Shoes, handbags, a whole line -- 350 different products approximately of food that has no sugar or chemicals. 

NORVILLE:  What is your model?  What is it you are trying to create with all of this? 

SOMERS:  I am—I get asked this question all the time.  It‘s—it started—everything starts with one of my problems.  I sell my problems, I realize.  I put on 20 pounds in my early 40s.  So that‘s when I taught myself how to eat like this, because I lived for 18 years in the South of France every summer, and I would watch my French friends eat, and I think, why am I eating boiled and no dressing and they‘re eating this great stuff, and they‘re thin and I‘m not? 

So everything has come down to my problems.  And then the first book came out “Eat Great, Lose Weight,” and sold a million copies.  And then the publisher, of course, wanted more.

NORVILLE:  Sure.

SOMERS:  And the public now started writing me saying, I can‘t find foods without sugar.  So Alan and I went to the supermarket, we went up and down the aisles, and everything, including mustard, has sugar in it.  Ketchup is 25 percent sugar.  Barbecue sauce is 50 percent sugar. 

NORVILLE:  And we wonder why America is so fat. 

SOMERS:  Right.  And you know, if people understood how to lose weight.  It‘s a really simple equation.  Here is how it goes.  If you are thick through the middle, doesn‘t matter if you are thin or heavy, if you‘re thick through the middle, it means you have an elevated insulin level, which means your cells, each one, which is comprised of protein, fat and carbohydrates—are loaded with all the sugar, i.e. carbohydrates, that it can hold.  So that‘s why you‘re thickening up.  There is no more room to store the sugar.  So from that moment on, even a carrot will be converted to sugar.  There is no more room in the cells.  So the pancreas will store it as fat. 

NORVILLE:  Where does your curiosity about all this stuff come from?  Because that is really—it may be a problem that got you talking about it, but it was your curiosity to do something about it that‘s resulted in the books and the products and so on. 

SOMERS:  Yes.  I—who knew?  I‘m fascinated by physiology.  Who knew?  I wish I had paid attention in school.  I didn‘t get good grades in school.  But I‘m self-educated, and when I get interested in something, it just kind of fascinates me.  It‘s the same thing with the hormones.  Fascinates me.

NORVILLE:  And then at the same time, you‘ve raised three kids, you have got a half a dozen grandkids, and a marriage that defies all the odds in Hollywood. 

SOMERS:  Great marriage.  Like you and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NORVILLE:  When we come back, more with Suzanne Somers, including a look at how she does it all, and the obstacles she‘s overcome on the way to fame and fortune.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Suzanne Somers has seen her share of turmoil in her life.  Despite all the success she enjoys now, she was raised in an abusive, alcoholic household, became a single mom when she was very young and had her share of hard knocks on her way to her successful career. 

Back now more with Suzanne.  You managed to take the alcohol that was a part of your childhood—your father was an alcoholic and an abusive man when he was drinking, and make it something positive.  You‘ve created a foundation that allows families of alcoholics to find a way to come to terms with what‘s been a part of their family background. 

SOMERS:  I had the Suzanne Somers Institute for 13 years, and we set up workshops all over the United States for a place for the family members who have lived in this war zone to go and sort it out.  I always had to ask myself, what did that do to me?  And I always say, you know, to understand a child, lie on the floor and look up at us and you‘ll see how big we are and how powerful we are to a kid. 

I am doing a one-woman show called “The Blond and the Thunderbird,” and it‘s about...

NORVILLE:  It just started this spring, right? 

SOMERS:  Well, I premiered it in San Diego at the Spreckles (ph), and I hope to bring it to New York this year.  It is why I was born.  It‘s my life‘s work.  This is the most thrilling project of my life.

But I wanted to take the audience through this saga of growing up in this craziness, what it did to me and what my life is like today.  And it‘s a real roller coaster. 

But at the end, it‘s about being grateful to this father.  Would I have chosen a father like that?  No.  But because of him, I got a case of the I‘ll-show-you‘s when I was a kid.  As he would tell me what I couldn‘t be, I would think, I‘ll show you.  And somewhere in there—and getting a lot of therapy—and I think therapy is so wonderful.  I think every human being can benefit from therapy.  Really looking, forcing yourself to look at the truth about yourself.  You know?  What is the thing that you wouldn‘t want anyone to know about you, that dark secret you have, that‘s where healing can begin if you can admit that to yourself. 

NORVILLE:  And I guess—it‘s always hard for me to understand why someone who has gone through such personally painful experiences allows them to be shared with the public.  And you wrote an incredibly moving book called “Keeping Secrets,” and it was made into a television movie as well.  And we have got just a short clip from it.  And I want to ask about that chapter in your life.

SOMERS:  OK.

NORVILLE:  Here‘s Suzanne Somers from “Keeping Secrets.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you waiting for, baby doll?  You hiding something?  What are we going to do, put her in diapers?  At her age, still peeing the bed?  Big zero.  Get it cleaned up. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, daddy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  It‘s so sad. 

SOMERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Your father was just horrible in...

SOMERS:  When he drank, he was the worst.  Worst drunk I‘ve ever known.  But everybody‘s drunk is the worst they‘ve ever known. 

NORVILLE:  You bet. 

SOMERS:  You bet.

NORVILLE:  And you did wet the bed as an older child. 

SOMERS:  I‘m sure it had to be stress. 

NORVILLE:  Why share that with people?  Does it enable others who are similarly suffering to realize that there‘s a light at the end of the tunnel and it can be a good place? 

SOMERS:  You know, when you have the privilege of being in the public eye as a celebrity, you have a louder voice.  It is incredible how helpful it is to those people who don‘t have any access to information or being able to express their feelings when they know that I made it out.  Then there‘s a big sense of, if she did it, I can do it, too.  And—I don‘t know.  Maybe I‘m too open.  Maybe I‘ve told too much on myself.  I don‘t know.  But I don‘t—I don‘t feel protective of that information. 

And you don‘t feel regretful about it? 

SOMERS:  I don‘t.  I don‘t. 

NORVILLE:  And it‘s clearly helped a lot of other people.

SOMERS:  I‘m just a human being.  I‘m a human being like everybody else.  I‘ve had problems, and I‘ve turned my problems into the positives in my life, and I guess that—that—you asked me at the beginning of this interview, you know, what are you, how would you describe yourself?  I really—I am a champion of women.  I‘d like those people who have gone through adversity to know that you can use that adversity to be the propelling force in your life, to make your life something you never imagined it can be.

Could I ever when I was in that closet, those years ago, could I ever have imagined having the life that I have? 

And more than—I‘m not talking about my professional life—that I could have a happy marriage, because I had no skills. 

NORVILLE:  And you‘ve been married for...

SOMERS:  We‘ve been together 35 or 36 years.  My husband will kill me;

I never remember exactly.  I met him when I was a teenager, and I‘ve been with him ever since. 

But when you grow up in a house like that, we learned by watching the relationship that we grew up with, what a relationship is.  Now the relationship that I watched growing up was as dysfunctional as it gets. 

NORVILLE:  And you knew what you didn‘t want when you were older? 

SOMERS:  I would like to think I was that smart.  I was just—I think I was going down the wrong path, and events in your life are altering.  My little son was run over by a car and given a 50/50 chance to live when he was 3 years old.  And that was a life-altering moment for me.  That I—to get him through this, I took him to therapy at the community mental health center, where they charged me $1 a visit, which is all I could afford, because he was having these terrible nightmares.  He would wake up screaming every night because he kept reliving that accident. 

And it was in that—that period where the therapist after a year with him, she said, he doesn‘t need to come anymore, but you, I‘d like you to stay.  And I said, me, why?  She said, you have the lowest self-esteem of anyone I‘ve ever met. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, we‘re going to talk about how that changed. 

More with Suzanne Somers...

(CROSSTALK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOMERS:  All my incarnations. 

NORVILLE:  All your incarnations.  Yet another life of Suzanne Somers.  That was Suzanne the cabaret performer.  She has done 11 books that have raked in almost $100 million in sales.  And as you‘ve heard her say, she basically deals with her problems and finds a way to make a business out of them.  But you did that by coming to terms with who you were and I want to just follow on—as we were going into the break.  What did you learn about yourself when this woman said, you have the lowest self-esteem of anybody I‘ve ever seen? 

SOMERS:  What she essentially did for me, which took a few years, was to help me to understand that what happened to me wasn‘t my fault.  Because when you grow up in a violent, alcoholic, abusive home, you think that if somehow you could be a better daughter, he wouldn‘t have to drink so much.  That‘s the thought.  And then what therapy did for me was force me to face the truth about myself.  What I liked, what I didn‘t like.  It helped me in this journey of who am I and what do I want, which is, I think, the journey we are all on which is I think the journey we‘re all on.  I don‘t know if we ever answer those questions but life is a process of getting closer.  Therapy changed my life. 

NORVILLE:  Do you still go to therapy? 

SOMERS:  No, no.  You reach a point where you can work it out on your own.  But look at—the worst thing that ever happened to me was almost losing my son and that‘s what got me into therapy and therapy changed me as a person.  And I think it‘s why I can relate to the public. 

NORVILLE:  And almost losing your child, I mean, it puts everything in else perspective. 

SOMERS:  Nothing else is important.  Nothing.  I can‘t—I remember that feeling of not knowing, when we were in that 50/50 and I so would have preferred to give my life than for his to be taken away. 

NORVILLE:  Well, and the story ended happily. 

SOMERS:  He‘s so great.  I could go on and on about my son.  He‘s a darling.  He‘s so smart.  So successful. 

NORVILLE:  As are the other two kids. 

SOMERS:  That‘s right. 

NORVILLE:  You know, a lot of your fans look at you and they go, she‘s always got this great idea and she always manages to make a business out of it.  What‘s the secret you‘ve learned, to taking the idea, and translating it into a successful business model? 

SOMERS:  First of all, I have to say that I‘m a partnership with my husband, Alan Hamel, who is a visionary.  So I know what it is that women want and the public wants.  That‘s my talent.  Alan knows how to see the big picture and put it into play.  So he does the actual business.  I am the front person.  I have the ideas, a lot of them.  I have a great staff now, too.  It keeps growing. 

NORVILLE:  What is the biggest mistake, looking back that you made along the way in the business world. 

SOMERS:  In the business world.  Not understanding that by calling a great device the Butt Master, and it was a great device, not understanding that no one wants to walk out of K-Mart or one of the markets with a big box that says Butt Master.  I was in the parking lot and I saw a woman with a Butt Master and immediately I thought, yes, she needs that. 

NORVILLE:  So the Butt Master didn‘t do as well as it could have?

SOMERS:  And it should have.  We renamed it now and it‘s doing great. 

It‘s a great product.  We tested it at Ball State and it got high marks.  I don‘t think we have made a lot of mistakes.  We‘re cautious.  We have extremely low overhead.  We don‘t waste money on fancy offices.  We have about 100 employees in fulfillment centers around the country.  It‘s very interesting.  You know, how great. 

NORVILLE:  How great.  And maybe the greatest thing is that your marriage with Alan has survived the ups and downs, the glare of publicity, through all of these years, but I‘m sure like yours like any other marriage has had those rough spots. 

SOMERS:  Oh, yes.  I wrote a book about that. 

NORVILLE:  Word of advice? 

SOMERS:  You know, hang in there.  There were times when I wanted to, you know, get out.  And what a loss that would have been.  I—I was looking at him yesterday.  I‘ve been having testings all week for my next book.  And I walked into the test kitchen and he came from a meeting.  He was in suit and tie and I looked at him and I still feel the rush. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s great. 

SOMERS:  After all these years. 

NORVILLE:  After all these years.  The rush is there. 

SOMERS:  I‘m in love with my husband.  How great.  And I‘m hormonally balanced and he, by the way, is hormonally balanced.  He‘s on hormone replacement therapy. 

NORVILLE:  Suzanne Somers, it‘s always a pleasure to see you.  Good luck with the book.  And I know the next one is about chocolate.  We look forward to that. 

SOMERS:  Thanks.  Without sugar. 

NORVILLE:  Without sugar.  Emails when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We‘ve got a lot of emails about our recent show on polygamy and the interview with a young man who was among the dozens kicked out of a polygamous community on the Utah/Arizona border. 

Derick Green (ph) writes in and says, “Deborah, I enjoy your show immensely.  In contrast to your very interesting show on polygamy I would like you to also show the vast majority of Mormons who don‘t practice this lifestyle.  This image of Mormons that portrayed by the media scares the rest of the world about this religion.  I knew nothing but bias against it until my daughter married a Mormon and I got to know he and his wonderful family and other members of their congregation.  Trust me it‘s nothing like what‘s projected on television.”

Good point, thanks for keeping us honest. 

Leonard Peterson Jr. from Idaho Falls, Idaho writes and he says, “I feel your attempt to be fair and responsible but during the interviews with Dr. Fischer and the attorney general for the state of Utah, they were positioned with a view with a view of the Salt Lake LDS Temple in the background.  As a member of the LDS Church, I‘d like to reestablish the fact that the LDS church has had an official position disallowing of plural marriage since 1890.”

By the way, the shot behind them is the iconic shot of Salt Lake City, just like you see the Empire State building behind us here.  That‘s it for tonight.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.  Thanks for watching.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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