After The Fall

Peter Kurth reviews 'After the Fall' by Suzanne Somers

Published June 17, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

Midway through "After the Fall: How I Picked Myself Up, Dusted Myself Off, and Started All Over Again," TV personality Suzanne Somers compares herself to Mary Magdalene, "the biblical figure to whom I most related." Magdalene, she explains, "was a sinner who was so bad she washed Christ's feet with her tears and dried them with her hair to show her repentance and be forgiven. Figuratively, I wanted to wash my feet with my tears to show my gratitude." Which is the difference, in a nutshell, between Somers and her heroine: Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Christ. Suzanne is concerned only with her own.

Granted, the "sin" Somers had committed at this particular juncture of her life and celebrity involved "bad checks" she had once passed around San Francisco as a struggling single mom, before she "burst on the scene" -- or whatever it was she did -- as "the blond in the T-Bird" in "American Graffiti." This was before she became Chrissy Snow on ABC's long-running "Three's Company"; before she got the ax from ABC after alienating everyone around her; before she developed her nightclub act; before she earned millions as the aging but still jiggling spokeswoman for ThighMaster fitness products; and before she wrote the bestselling "Keeping Secrets." That book told all: about her drunken father, her addicted brothers and sister and herself as a recovering "Adult Child," the voice and model for those millions of Americans who suffer from "low self-esteem" and an overwhelming desire to take center stage.

Indeed, Somers' self-esteem was once so low that her first therapist told her it was the worst case she had ever seen. "It would have been easy to sit back and give up," writes Somers, now 50-ish. "It would have been easy to become the poor little victim. But then who would be the loser?" Like many people who define themselves as children of alcoholics and refuse the label of victim, Somers is a perfect egomaniac. A sparrow does not fall anywhere in the world but she sees it as a comment on her own life.

"I'm talking about the emotional work that helped me find the self-esteem to be the person I am today," she asserts. "I see all negatives as opportunities. Everything that has happened to me has been a lesson," including the time she banged her head on a pipe during her Vegas act, was targeted for death by the Baader-Meinhof Gang (!) and formed a tender, loving friendship with an elephant: "It was through Tanya that I realized the incredible connection we all have with one another." As in her previous book, Somers devotes considerable space to the faults and failings of other people, careful, of course, to cloak her hatchet jobs in an air of rueful wisdom, empathy, sympathy and oodles of understanding. Created out of nothing by television, she remains the ultimate TV celebrity -- vapid, packaged and canned. For the life of you, you can't remember what she's doing here, but there she still is, thighs, vendettas and all.

By Peter Kurth

Peter Kurth, a regular contributor to Salon Books, is the author of "Isadora: A Sensational Life." He lives in Burlington, Vt.

MORE FROM Peter Kurth

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Books Suzanne Somers