There is sandwiched in the stacks at the Library of Congress, a thin volume of poetry bound by a pale blue cover entitled "Touch Me" It is 64 pages long, illustrated with marginal sensual photographs of the author, a strinkingly blond woman, about 30. The book is filed uner the author's nam, last name first. Somers, Suzanne. And then she wrote:
There are rules For beautiful girls to abide by: You must notice other women Or you're a snob, And you must let their men alone -- Because every worhtwhile man Belongs to someone. So men stand back In deference to their wives, And women stand back To watch their husbands. And only bores step forward To tell interminable tales And get so close And so Enthusiastic That little spitballs fleck your nose. And even the single guys Who look special and exciting Stand back and give way to the bores, Figuring that a girl as beautiful as you are Certainly wouldn't have any free time. But you do -- lots of it -- Because there are rules -- lots of rules -- For beautiful girls.
And one of the rules, at least this week, was no talking.
Helga Stephenson said she was sorry, really, she was.
"We're just not doing any press," she said.
Because she is a publicist, not "doing" any press makes Helga rather superfluous. It is somewhat like the information service at the telephone company having an unlisted number.
"It's not me," she says, offering her smile as if it were a handkercheif. "It's coming from Suzanne's manager. Our schedule's tight. She's only going to be here until Saturday and then she has to fly to California to start shooting 'Three's Company.' Interviews take a lot out of her, and she's here to do a movie. She's been working for three straight months now. She's tired."
Helga is firm.
She never gives you her number; she only gives you her situation.
Suzanne Somers, who enjoys staggering fame and popularity for her weekly portrayal of an unabashed airhead on one of the top TV shows, is in Washington filming a movie, something called "Nothing Personal" with Donald Sutherland. She is, at this moment, inside the library at the D.A.R., and sooner or later she is going to come out, perhaps giggling, certainly jiggling, and she is going to have to "do " something.
"But she can't do any press," Helga says.
And this time there is no smile. There is stone.
"Nothing personal," Helga says.
If it was good enough for Richard Dreyfuss in "American Graffiti" this waiting for Suzanne Somers, surely it is good enough for the rest of us. Dreyfuss waited for her throughout the entire film. He was determined suitor; she, The Vision in the T-bird who said nothing but simply mouthed, "I love you," then hung a right into oblivion in what has been called "an indelible erotic fantasy."
The film was about cruisin,' and she was about the best thing anyone could cruise after.
She was on the screen for maybe 20 seconds of steam heat. Had since been on any longer they might have had to crape the audience off the seats.
"I don't understand it," says Bob Kaufman.
He wrote the script for "nothing Personal," and he "does" press. He is hot now, and not just because the temperature is in the 90s and the humidity is closing in on 1,000. He is hot because his most recent film was "love at First Bite." And it is boffo.
"She's just uptight today," he says. "Her husband's uptight. He didn't want anyone the first day. He says to me, 'why do they have to come today? Why can't they come tommorow?' I tell you, it's not like working with George Hamilton. George, he'll jump off the World Trade Towers in a bat suit if there's a reporter or photographer around. I say, 'George, you'll kill yourself.' He says, 'I gotta do it. Look over there, Rex Reed's over there.'"
Kaufman is in high gear. He goes from zero-to 60 faster than Big Daddy Don Garlits. Every time he speaks you see the Boom Boom at Grossinger's in the background. The only things missing are the rim shots and the But-I-Wanna-Tell-Yas.
He starts talking numbers.
"She loved it," he says. She read it and loved it. She tells me, I love it. I'll do it. But you gotta pay me $525,000.$"Donald loves it. He says it's funny and I gotta make it even funnier. He says, 'I'll do it, but you gotta pay me a million.'
"So of course, I pad them. I still love them. Look, she's the hottest actress on television, and he's a star. She's worth $2 1/2 million on the TV sale alone. Together they're worth $3 1/2 million."
These are Hollywood numbers, sweetie.
Hollywood numbers: Chinese dinner for two, $150; tip to waiter, $50; cab home, $85. You want to believe them, believe them.
Later, Sutherland will say, "Never believe Kaufman," in the kind of tone usually reserved for "Honor thy Father and Mother."
But Kaufman is still schpritzing.
"You know she plays that idiot Chrissy," he says. "I thought it was her when I first met her, but it isn't.
"You know what she did? You wanna know about her life?
"She wrote a book of poetry, yeah.
"She has a 13-year old son, yeah.
"She starved in San Francisco, yeah.
"It's so weired. She's Judy Holliday -- or she can be. Chrissy was her big break, she needed the work. But she's got two more years to do Chrissy, then she'll never do it again.
She's a movie star -- i'm sure. I been in this bussiness 25 years, that's too long not to know.
"Hey, this script's lying around two years when she says she wants to do it. Half of me is sold immediately because she's a $2 1/2 million TV sale. The other half is sold when she starts feeding me melted cheese sandwiches and diabetic Cokes. She's Carole Lombard -- at least she can be."
She was born in San Bruno, Calif., the second of four children, to a gardener and a medical secretary. Her given name is Suzanne Mahoney, and the kids called her Boney Mahogeny. Figures. From first grade through high school she attended Catholic schools, and then as her present husband tells it, when she was 16 or 17 she became pregnant. She married the man whose child she carried, a man named Somers. The marriage lasted less than a year. Her present husband does not know for sure, because he never asked, but he guesses that neither the pregnancy nor the marriage caused any great joy in the Mahoney household. She went to live in San Francisco with her son and tried a career in modeling.
"They dealt with her on a meat level." her husband says.
The recollections of this period influenced her most bitter poem, "The Model."
. . .The squat, dykie lady in the Anne Klein suit Takes revenge on the pretty girls Who laughed at her pimples and thigh thighs in junior high.
And like some angry magician, She renders exquisite beauty down . . . The slave traders are out To sell the Americans way of life With the smiling girl -- as soft as Revlon can make her Of a hundred takes -- (Show a little-, babe, bring the man alive) And still it's not right To sell shampoo and pantyhose. . .
The modeling and the attempt to break into acting didn't go well. Financially she was doing quite poorly, so poorly that she was once arrested in San Francisco on bad-check charges amounting to about $100. She has said that she wasn't convicted because she was given a period of time to make good on the checks, which she did within one year.
"Everyone has ca-ca in their lives," says her husband.
Alan Hamel is one of the co-producers of "Nothing Personal." He is a talk-show host in Canada, maybe even the Johnny Carson of Canada. He has softly curled hair, which is mostly brown but has a patch of gray in front, sort of like a Devil Dog with the cream filling overflowing one end. He has perfect, television teeth.
Only once has he been addressed as "Mr. Somers."
"My first reaction was to correct the error," he says. "My second was to be ticked off. But then, my third reaction was -- how could he have assumed otherwise?"
They met almost 12 years ago on the set of a show called "The Anniversary Game." He was the host and she was hired "to be the girl who opened the refrigerator door." Hamel remembers that she was fired after her first day; he guesses that she wasn't too good at opening the refrigerator door.
They have been together ever since. For the first 10 years they lived together. Hamel says that in all that time -- with her filming "Three's Company" and his taping of his daily talk show in both Los Angeles and Vancouver -- they have never been apart fr more than one week at a time.
"I had two kids, and she had one. There was some resentment there.Even liberated children have great difficulty merging in the absence of marriage," he says. "We married because we had overcome all our insurmountabble problems."
Who is Chrissy? Hamel is asked.
He is prepared. He has heard this before.
"There's a lot of Suzanne in Chrissy," he says. "She's a caricature of Suzanne's outrageous traits. She claims to take some of the character from Dick Clark's wife, Carrie, and some from me. Suzanne plays the role so brilliantly that people often confuse the fact that she's playing a character. Certainly Suzanne knows the difference. She just pushes the Chrissy button when it's necessary."
There's magic in the button.
Chrissy has become the sex symbol in America. Waht Somers did silently to Richard Dreyfuss for 20 seconds in "American Graffiti" she now does for 30 minutes weekly on "Three's Company."
And, you can't help but wonder, how does her husband feel knowing that his wife's body is being leered at by males of all ages, perhaps even by his 15-year-old son, perhaps even by her own 13-year-old son.
Hamel's eyes are soup tureens.
"All right, there was a time when we'd go out and everyone would stare at her, and it bothered me," he says. "But I realized it was probably the supreme compliment they could pay her and me. We go out and try to do it normally, but it doesn't work. She'll put on a hat or a pair of dark glasses, but people know the way she walks, they know the shape of her body.
"The only way she could ever get away unnoticed would be for her to wear a ski mask. That's the down side to the popularity,
"But as for our children, we're not worried. We treat what Suzanne does as business. The posters, the necklaces, the lunch boxes, that's all merchandise. That's the other half of show business. Our children have nver wanted to hang up a poster of Mommy.
Somers is big bussiness now but during her no-business days, she first began writing poetry. Hamel thinks that "she just decided she'd like to express herself in some other area other than superficial picture-taking. I doubt she anticipated it being published." This was the time in her life when she truly was selling her face and her body. There are no words. At all in modeling. She was a woman being hit on and hit on and hit on. It may well have led to the poem, "No."
I don't give you time Because you're a cliche I meet a thousand times a day. There's no need to talk. I know you're handsome And successful, And extremely good in bed. But really there's nothing to say, Only a kind of game to play. Only a tedious cliche I meet a thousand times a day. And I always forget your name.
Judging Somers by her performance as the Numero Uno Airhead of the 70s and following TV's spin-off mania, you might reasonably look forward to sequels to "Touch Me," like: "Touch Me Again;" "Touch Me Right Here"; "Touch Me over There"; and, dedicated to Jim Morrison, "C'mon, C'mon, C'mon, C'mon And Touch Me, Babe," But those to Somers aren't thinking TV.
They think she has real talent as a movie actress and all-around performer. Hamel envisions her career as evolving into a few full-length films each year and a song and dance act in Vegas. He sees Ann-Margaret as the role model.
'Suzanne is a unique talent," he says.
In the meantime there is this movie, in which she will play an ager young lawyer. "This is an important role for her," Hamel says. "People will see her and be absolutely shattered that she's not the ding-dong she plays on "Three's Company' any more than Carroll O'Connor is Archie Bunker."
And in the future, the very distant future, Hamel plans on being a hydroponic farmer, a farmer who tills water rather than soil. And Somers?
"I guess she'll be a farmer's wife," he says.
There is a knock on the door of the Winnebago where Hamel is sitting.
"Alan?" someone says, "Suzanne wants you."
Somers wanted to give Donald Sutherland something special for his birthday recently.
She gave him a copy of "Touch Me."
Sutherland is a star. He was Trapper in "M*A*S*H" and played the title role in "Klute." He is experienced and he is good. His eyes alone are so maniacally expressive that he can steal a scene without saying a word -- much like Suzanne's face did in "American Graffiti." But this is her first starring role on film.
". . . and she'll never do anything but full-length films again," Sutherland says. "She's great, dynamic, anything you want to say."
It is, at this moment, between takes. Somers has somehow escaped scrutiny by going from the D.A.R. to her Winnebago, and Sutherland and the rest of the crew are inside the D.A.R., waiting as a soft rain falls on the streets, making steam rise, giving no relief at all.
"Ten minutes," someone says.
Sutherland turns to go. He says he never even saw Three's Company." Not once. "But I see the way people react to her on the streets," he says. "I guess she could have any-8-year-old she wants.
C.D. Ragsdale's job is to wait for Suzanne Somers.
Then, when she is ready, he drives her. He's her chauffeur for the week. The license plate on the limo is L-592. It has been seen at the D.A.R., the Hay-Adams Hotel, an Exxon station on M Street in Georgetown, Sans Souci, the Jockey Club, Rive Gauche and on a twilight tour of the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. Later this week, according to Hamel, you will see it at a restuarant where Somers and Hamel will have lunch with Sen. Edward Kennedy.
C.D. Ragsdale will wait and drive and wait
"She calls me Rags,'" he says. "Everyone does."
Rags says that Somers is "real nice," implying that some of the VIPS he drives are not. "She's not at all overbearing. She's very pretty, prettier than she is on TV. And she's nothing like that character Chrissy."
Another chauffeur assigned to the film crew overhears this and says, "Nobody on earth could be that stupid."
"Anne Klein is doing her clothes," Helga says.
This is on the record.
"Well maybe not Anne Klein herself," Helga says, "but Anne Klein was contracted to do the costumes for the movie."
Anne Klein is dead.
Two cops from Special Operations Division are assigned to traffic control, guarding the shooting site.
"Yeah, I saw her," says one.
"She got here about noon," he says.
"The limo pulled up and she went inside. She looked nice. She smiled and laughed like she does on TV, but I wans't that close to her."
"Who?" the other asks.
"The girl from 'Three's Company.'"
"Never saw it."
"Two girls and a guy living together. The guy pretendeds he's queer. She's the blond."
"Never saw it."
The time is 3:29.
Suzanne Somers is walking across the street. Her bodyguard, a large man carrying an umbrella, is next to her, shielding her hair from the rain. Somers takes his hand. He walks at her pace, which is neither fast nor slow but certainly star-like.
You notice her hair first. It is so very blond as to appear almost white. It is parted in the middle of her head and it flowss gently, as if it had been treated by a laundry softener, down her face and curls up at her shoulders. If it was any lighter it would surely take off and fly.
She is wearing a dark turquoise shirt and brown pants. Her waist is narrow, and her breats bounce in time with her pace and the curls on her shoulders.
She looks nothing like Chrissy.
She looks, actually, like Elizabeth Ray, or how Elizabeth Ray might look cast as an eager young lawyer named Abigail Adams.
She walks up the steps of the D.A.R. The umbrella man sees that she is sheltered now from the rain and he moves off to the side.
She says nothing.
She blows him a kiss and is gone.
From "The Model":
But if you cooperate, that smiling girl selling Winstons May look a little like you, And you'll be paid well to handle rent and the rising cost of living Until the next time the slave traders hire your To sell the American way of life. CAPTION: Picture, Suzanne Somers