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In Vegas, Somers starred at original MGM, Las Vegas Hilton

Updated October 16, 2023 - 7:08 pm

When she wasn’t a network-TV star, Suzanne Somers was a star in famous Las Vegas theaters.

The “Three’s Company” actress died Sunday of breast cancer just a day before her 77th birthday. The multi-talented entertainer headlined at the old MGM Grand (today’s Horseshoe Las Vegas) and later Las Vegas Hilton’s main theater. She also lived in Las Vegas in the 1980s.

Somers starred at MGM Grand’s Celebrity Room just after leaving her bit ABC sitcom in 1980. Her husband, Alan Hamel, convinced the hotel’s legendary founding partner Bernie Rothkopf to sign Somers for two years at a time such a contract was often never considered.

But Rothkopf consented. Somers was on that hotel’s marquee in until the MGM fire of 1980 shut down the theater.

“We did incredible business and my stage career was started,” she said during a 2016 interview. That series led to another successful run at Las Vegas Hilton Theater, where she headlined for 2 1/2 years.

“I’ve been around, and it’s more than just being my age,” Somers said. “I’ve gained wisdom, and I’ve gained a lot of perspective.”

Las Vegas helped her regain her reputation, which had taken a hit during her “Three’s Company” contract talks.

“I was portrayed as greedy and ‘Who does she think she is?’ and was persona non grata in television,” Somers recalls. “It was quite a fall.”

Somers would later return to a familiar resort, Westgate Las Vegas (formerly the Hilton), for “Suzanne Sizzles.” The show played Westgate Cabaret from May through June of 2015.

Somers didn’t enjoy the box-office numbers of years past, but she relished the chance to sing such classics as “Pennies From Heaven,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “World on a String” and “I was a Fool (To Let You Go).”

Somers was a wonderful spinner of yarns, recalling her days as the mysterious blonde in the T-Bird in “American Graffiti,” as the star of the late-’80s syndicated comedy “She’s the Sheriff” and even as the Thighmaster workout device (she gave out Thighmasters as part of the announcement of the show’s opening).

In “American Graffiti,” Somers famously mouthed “I love you” to Richard Dreyfuss’ Curt character from her T-Bird.

“It took me one night to make that scene, and I made $136.72,” Somers said from the stage. “But when the movie aired on ABC, years later, it’s “American Graffiti,” starring Suzanne Somers!’ ”

Somers and Hamel attempted to restart the production at a small-capacity venue in Vegas, but could not nail down a partner.

“I got a really good feel of how to work a crowd, how to understand if people were there after a long flight or were dragged there by their wives,” she said. “What is the energy of the room? I got good at reading it. That was the art form for me.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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