'Match Game' quipster Somers dies

Actress-comic was familiar TV face

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Actress and comedian Brett Somers, who amused game show fans with her quips on TV's "Match Game" in the 1970s, has died, her son said. She was 83.

Somers died Saturday at her home in Westport of stomach and colon cancer, Adam Klugman said Monday.

Hosted by Gene Rayburn, "Match Game" was the top game show during much of the 1970s. Contestants would try to match answers to nonsense questions with a panel of celebrities; much of the humor came from the racy quips and putdowns.

Shows from the 1973-79 run, featuring such regulars as Somers, Richard Dawson and Charles Nelson Reilly, are still seen on cable TV's GSN.

Somers married actor Jack Klugman, the future star of the television shows "Quincy, M.E." and "The Odd Couple," in 1953. They separated in 1974 but never divorced.

They made many television appearances as a couple. Somers appeared on several episodes of "The Odd Couple," playing the ex-wife of Klugman's character.

During an acting career that spanned more than half a century, Somers appeared in a host of television programs, including "The Love Boat," "Battlestar Galactica," "Barney Miller," "The Bob Crane Show," "Mary Tyler Moore," "The F.B.I.," "Love, American Style," "The Fugitive," "The Defenders," "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Ben Casey" and "Naked City." In the mid-'50s, she performed on "Kraft Television Theatre," "Robert Montgomery Presents" and "Producers' Showcase."

In the summer of 2003, she appeared in a one-woman cabaret show "An Evening With Brett Somers," which she wrote and co-produced. She continued to perform after being diagnosed with cancer.

She was born Audrey Johnston on July 11, 1924, in New Brunswick, Canada, and grew up in Portland, Maine. She ran away from home at age 17 and headed for New York, where she settled in Greenwich Village. She changed her first name to Brett after the lead female character in the Ernest Hemingway novel "The Sun Also Rises." Somers was her mother's maiden name.

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."

In addition to Adam Klugman, Somers is survived by another son, David, and a daughter, Leslie.