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Suzanne Somers on Hollywood fame and values

America was first introduced to Suzanne Somers as the blonde third of the 1970’s hit “Three’s Company”. Since then, she’s built an empire, piece by piece, based on her name and reputation — from exercise equipment and health foods, to jewelry, clothing, and books. Suzanne Somers, Hollywood actress and entrepreneur, joined ‘Scarborough Country’ to discuss the wild ride of fame, and Hollywood values.

America was first introduced to Suzanne Somers as the blonde third of the 1970’s hit “Three’s Company.” Since then, she’s built an empire, piece by piece, based on her name and reputation — from exercise equipment and health foods, to jewelry, clothing, and books. Suzanne Somers, Hollywood actress and entrepreneur, joined Scarborough Country to discuss the wild ride of fame, and Hollywood values.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: I want to ask about your business empire. You have built it on your name. You built it on your reputation as a Hollywood star. But look at somebody like Kobe Bryant, who’s built a $90 million empire on his name; or Martha Stewart in New York, who’s built her empire on her name and reputation. Very dangerous thing to do in Hollywood, isn’t it?

SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTRESS AND ENTREPRENEUR: I don’t think you can approach it that way. I remember after I got fired from “Three’s Company” because I asked to be paid what they were paying the men— which I still feel good about— and I got shot down, but so what? I asked.

I remember I had a year of grief of depression, and oh, look what I let slip through my fingers. And then one day the little voice inside my head, you know, we all have that, that said “Why are you focusing on what you don’t have? Focus on what you do have.” And what I did have, what I realized then, was enormous visibility.

But, I may not be on a series anymore but everybody in America knew my name. And I thought, “That’s something. That’s tangible.” And the first thing I did with that was go to Las Vegas, and I said, “I would like to do a nightclub act here.” And they said, “Great, you’re Suzanne Somers.”

And then, while I was doing nightclubs, I had a lot of time during the day so I wrote a book about my alcoholic father. And then that became this best seller and all of these people started coming to me— and everything became organic.

SCARBOROUGH: Isn’t that amazing though. You know, I went through that in Congress. When I got out of Congress voluntarily — but I got out, and I went through about a year and a half of depression.

I want to talk about the star-maker machinery in Hollywood, because it’s the same way in Congress. I would have phone calls all day. I would be on the phone all day from people that wanted to meet with me. The second I was out of Congress—boom, it stopped. Hollywood, it seems, the star-maker machinery is even more brutal.

SOMERS: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: When you’re on top of the world, they love you.

SOMERS: They love you.

SCARBOROUGH: But, Suzanne, when you get out of that public eye, though, they chew you up and spit you out, don’t they? They stop returning your calls.

SOMERS: Yes, but you know what I realized early on, is you got to be proactive. You have got to reinvent. You can’t sit around and complain that because you’re a certain age, you’re not getting roles anymore. Get off that pity-pot. It’s what can you do with what you’ve got. Make the right choices. You know, everything that you just mentioned— Martha, Kobe— I think the choice with Kobe was something that parents should teach their daughters. I am putting responsibility on the girl what should be. When a guy — a married guy, a famous guy, a wealthy guy — says, “After work, why don’t you come to my room,” it’s at that point that the girl says, “I don’t think I should go up there.”

SCARBOROUGH: I want to talk to you about Hollywood values and the dangers of Hollywood. You came to Hollywood. You became a huge star and at a very early age. Of course, we heard the story of Heather [Tom] who also came to Hollywood — became a star very early. Do you look at what’s happening with the sexualization of Hollywood, especially young teenage girls?

“Vanity Fair” had a cover a couple of months ago about these young hot stars who were 14, 15 years old. Talk from your experiences about whether that’s dangerous or whether that’s always been a part of Hollywood culture.

SOMERS: If you hit it big, you are not going to be ready for it whether you’re 14 or 24 or 48.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, how old were you?

SOMERS: I will tell you, I was older than most people realize. I think when I was on “Three’s Company,” I was 27. So I was playing about 20 but I was about 27.

Fame is hard to handle at first. It’s very easy now. I have been in this business now for 30 years and it’s just part of what you live with. But in the beginning, you can’t believe people that want to give you this much attention. It’s very hard to keep your feet on the ground.

I just think it’s an incredible privilege to become famous— and when you have got that privilege, then what can you do with it.

For more on Suzanne Somers, go to her website.