HOLLYWOOD -- Suzanne Somers bares herself once again for Playboy magazine's Christmas issue, but this time she isn't crying about it.
'I did a lot of kicking and screaming when the magazine published the first nudes of me five years ago,' said Somers, who now has a flourishing career as a resort entertainer.
'Those pictures were taken of me when I was 18. I still had a lot of baby fat. I'd just had a baby and the photographs were supposed to be a test. They were lousy pictures. I weighed 20 pounds more than I do now.
'I was hurt and furious when Playboy printed the pictures without my consent.'
Suzanne was then starring in 'Three's Company' and afraid the nude shots would injure her acting career. She sued Playboy and collected $50,000, which she donated to the Easter Seals campaign.
One would assume the Somers-Playboy relationship was strained beyond recall.
But earlier this year the magazine's editors met with Suaanne and her husband-manager Alan Hamel asking Suzanne to participate in the publication's 20 Questions feature.
During the discussion the editors suggested Suzanne pose for the Christmas issue cover and an inside nude layout.
'I told them they had their nerve after what they did to me the first time,' Suzanne recalled. 'But Alan and I talked it over when we got home. There were nude pictures of me out there already and they were bad.
'Why should they keep circulating? Why not have some good ones that show me in the best shape I've ever been in after six years on the road, doing two shows a night, six nights a week?'
Suzanne agreed to the proposition on her terms. They included an eye-popping sum of money and complete control of the photographs, choice of photographer, poses, wardrobe and finally which photos appeared in the magazine. Playboy agreed.
After studying the works of many portrait, fashion and nude photographers, Suzanne chose Richard Fegley, who has done many nude layouts for Playboy.
The magazine flew Suzanne, Hamel, her hairdresser and makeup specialist to Hawaii and to the Hamel Palm Springs manse for a four-day shoot.
'I had to have 100 percent control,' Suzanne explained. 'Any magazine would choose the most revealing rather than the best pictures. I made sure there were no gynecological shots.
'It killed the magazine to give me final approval of all photos because they were afraid it would set a precedent. But they were gents and lived up to the bargain. They redeemed themselves in my eyes.
'The 14 pictures they used were exactly what I wanted. They have a Bardot quality, stylish and classy.'
Suzanne said the Hawaiian beach on which she posed was supposed to be deserted. But an hour after the shoot began helicopters, snorklers and glass-bottomed boats swarmed around the area.
How did Suzanne feel about abandoning her womanly modesty topose in the buff a second time?
'I feel more comfortable wearing clothes,' she said. 'I was self-conscious the first day, but gradually that disappeared. After the first day, when the crew got tired of looking at me, it was okay.'
Suzanne was intimidated, too, by the fact that she would be appearing in a magazine containing nudes of 18-year-old girls. She was concerned her body might not measure up. She is, after all, the mother of an 18-year-old son.
'People never really know their own bodies,' Suzanne said. 'When I saw the hundreds of pictures that were taken of me, I thought I looked pretty darn good.'
Suzanne's mother gave her approval with an admonition not to reveal too much. Suzanne's son, Bruce, a student at the University of California, saw the layout and said, 'Wow! My friends won't believe you're my mom.'
'Mother said it was fine with her as long as I remained a lady,' Suzanne said. 'And I have.
'Nudity can be esthetic. I love looking at anything beautiful, including nude women as long as the photographs aren't crass. And I hope people enjoy looking at these pictures of me.'