"These men are curmudgeons, and maybe I went too close to the bone for them. I was lying there naked, and they decided to kick me and step on me, just like these visions you see in Iraq," said Suzanne Somers (search) of her treatment at the hands of New York's drama critics.
It may be the height of celebrity hubris to compare your bad reviews to Abu Ghraib, but Somers — an exaggerated entertainment personality if ever there was one — is not backing down.
She said she's "pissed" that the critics savaged her one-woman show, "The Blonde in the Thunderbird," (search) and "saddened" that, because of their terrible notices, she's being forced to close it on Sunday.
It was scheduled to run until Sept. 3.
On Monday, the day reviews appeared, the box office took in about $5,000.
In the show, Somers speaks candidly about her struggles in life — an alcoholic father, teen pregnancy, bankruptcy, breast cancer.
"I laid out my life in all of its flawed ugliness, and I guess there was a part of me that hoped the critics would say, 'Wow!' "
What they said, in fact, was, "Yuck!"
Charles Isherwood, in the New York Times, called her show a "swan dive into narcissism."
(Somers said she'd like to tell Isherwood "to go to hell, and I don't care if he knows it.")
Clive Barnes, in the New York Post, said "Thunderbird" was "smug and remorseless."
And Michael Kuchwara of The Associated Press said it was a "therapy session crossed with a tacky Las Vegas review."
"I put my show out there with the cleanest of hearts and the best of intentions, and getting reviews like that hurt," Somers said.
"Barry Manilow said Broadway would break my heart, and it has."
A self-help guru who spent years in therapy, Somers said she allowed herself to "wallow in it" the day the notices appeared.
"It was hard for me. I was angry and depressed. I had a massage that day, and I asked the woman who worked on me to do some acupuncture for my emotions. I told her I was heartbroken. After the massage, she told me she came to the show on Friday and was so moved by it. She said: 'The men who write these reviews can't take it. It's too emotional for them.' "
It's significant, Somers believes, that the one decent review she got was from Linda Winer (search) of Newsday, the only woman among New York's top theater critics.
Winer called Somers "bright and ebullient" and said the show was "slickly presented."
"There is something about me that connects with women," Somers said. "You'd think I would have a male following, but my demographics were always the highest in television with women."
Somers is hoping that her gal pack — "those ladies out there in Queens who watch me on TV" — will ignore the critics and flock to her show.
They won't be disappointed, she said.
"The fighter in me is back today. Even though I only have [seven] performances left, they're going to be great performances."