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Monday, September 17, 2007

Actress Brett Somers Dies in Westport Home at 83

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Brett Somers at a Westport Historical Society exhibit in November 2003 in front of a picture of herself upper right. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo ©
Brett Somers, an actress and comedienne best known for her years as a panelist on “The Match Game,” has died at her Westport home of stomach and colon cancer, her son said today. She was 83.

Somers’ son, Adam Klugman, said she died Saturday at her Willow Walk home near Staples High School.

She married actor Jack Klugman, star of the television shows “Quincy” and “The Odd Couple,” in 1953. The two separated in 1974 and divorced in 1977. Somers appeared on several episodes of “The Odd Couple,” playing the ex-wife of Klugman’s character.

Later in her career, she appeared in a cabaret show, “An Evening with Brett Somers.”

Born Audrey Johnston in New Brunswick, Canada, Somers grew up near Portland, Maine.

She moved to New York at age 18 to pursue a career in acting and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

She changed her first name to Brett after the lead female character in the Ernest Hemingway novel “The Sun Also Rises.”

Somers began her career in the theater and made early television appearances in theatrical programs such as “Philco Playhouse,” “Kraft Theater Playhouse 90.” and “Robert Montgomery Presents.”

Her Broadway debut, in the play “Maybe Tuesday,” lasted for five performances in 1958. Elsewhere, she appeared onstage in “Happy Ending,” “Seven Year Itch” and “The Country Girl” opposite Klugman.

After Somers and Klugman married in 1953, they had two sons, Adam and David. The actress also had a daughter, Leslie, from a previous marriage, who died in 2003.

In the 1970s, Somers became well known as a regular on TV’s “The Match Game,” in which she traded barbs with her close friend and fellow panelist Charles Nelson Reilly.

When Klugman appeared on the first week of the show in 1973, he suggested that producers sign his wife as a regular.

She was an immediate hit and remained on the panel for the rest of its nine-year run.

She continued to perform after being diagnosed with cancer, including the 2003 cabaret show, “An Evening With Brett Somers.”

She made occasional appearances in Westport in recent years-in 2003 at a Westport Historical Society exhibit of television personalities from the area, and a 2005 charity benefit at Mitchells of Westport.

Her son said she was caustic, irreverent and a self-declared bohemian.

“She maintained her independence till the end, and her irreverence,” Adam Klugman said. “She died very much at peace.”

Late today, GSN, formerly the Game Show Network, announced that it will honor Somers in an all-day marathon Saturday.

The Somers’ “Match Game” tribute will air from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET and will feature some of the best moments from her years of work on one of America’s all-time favorite game shows.

Immediately following the “Match Game” marathon, GSN’s original documentary, “The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank,” airs from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Additionally, on Sunday night (Monday morning) Sept. 23 at 3:30 a.m. ET, GSN will air an episode of “Password” from 1971 where she appeared with then-husband Jack Klugman, as the other celebrity guest.

A memorial service for Somers will be held Thursday, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Church of Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road.

Posted 09/17/07 at 06:07 PM


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What a shame!  I grew up watching Brett on Match Game and she was hilarious!  I didn’t even know she lived in Westport.  My condolences to her family.

Posted by Sandra Sandmeyer on September 17, 2007 at 07:15 PM | #

I was upset to see this. I loved Brett so much and was a star-struck idiot any time I ran into her in Westport. I even skipped watching the Super Bowl to watch the “Match Game” reunion special on Game Show Network! My thoughts are with her family.

Posted by Jaina Lewis on September 18, 2007 at 08:37 PM | #

Brett Somers was such a classy and funny lady.  I would run into her when voting (she and I felt the same politically) at Long Lots School, and she was always gracious and warm.  The funniest thing I remember from the past year was that there is a BIG sign saying that one may not take any reading material into the polling area. Well, Brett carried in her magazine and no one said anything.  She was a Westport treasure and I will miss seeing her around town.

Posted by Longtime Westporter on September 22, 2007 at 08:16 PM | #

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