Kirstie Alley, the TV and movie star known for her roles in Cheers, Veronica’s Closet and Look Who’s Talking, has passed away at the age of 71.
Alley’s death was confirmed Monday night in a statement from her children, William “True” Stevenson and Lillie Price Stevenson, posted to her social media account. Her manager also separately confirmed her death.
Alley had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was being treated at Florida’s Moffitt Cancer Center, her family revealed.
“To all our friends, around the world… We are sorry to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother passed away after a battle with cancer, which was only recently discovered,” the statement read. “She was surrounded by her immediate family and fought with great strength, making us sure of her never-ending joy in life and whatever adventures lie ahead. As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.
“We are grateful to the incredible team of doctors and nurses at Moffitt Cancer Center for their care. The joy and passion of our mother, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her undying joy in creating, were unparalleled and inspired us to live life to the fullest, just as she did. We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
Alley’s ex-husband, actor Parker Stevenson, wrote, “I am so grateful for our years together, and for the two incredibly beautiful children and now grandchildren we have. You will be missed.”
“I was on the plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old Cheers episode,” Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone opposite Alley in Cheers, told Deadline. “It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she really wants to say yes. Kirstie was really brilliant at it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both touching and hysterically funny. She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh just as hard today. When I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had passed away. I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh. I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”
Kelsey Grammer, who played Frasier Crane in Cheers, said, “I’ve always believed grieving for a public figure is a private matter, but I’ll say I loved her.”
John Travolta, Alley’s co-star in Look Who’s Talking, also paid tribute. “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you, Kirstie,” he wrote. “I know we’ll see each other again.”
Born in Kansas in 1951, Alley had her big break in 1987 when she joined the cast of the sitcom Cheers, playing new bar manager Rebecca Howe. Alley was cast after Shelley Long decided to leave the show, leaving creators Glen and Les Charles to search for a new female lead. Wanting to find an unknown, the Charles brothers eventually cast Alley after Carl Reiner personally vouched for her comedic skills, after directing her in the 1987 film Summer School. Alley would go on to win a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her performance on the show.
She won a second Emmy in 1994 for her performance as the mother of an autistic child in the made-for-television movie David’s Mother.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Alley appeared in such films as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Summer School, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, and Look Who’s Talking and Look Who’s Talking Too. On television, after Cheers, she played mostly comedic roles, including the titular character in Veronica’s Closet, the short-lived sitcom Kirstie, and the horror-comedy anthology series Scream Queens.
In the early 2000s, amid extensive coverage of her weight in gossip channels, Alley created and starred in the show Fat Actress, playing a fictionalized version of herself, as a fat actor trying to find success in Hollywood as she fended off predatory tabloids and tried to find love.
Later in life, Alley moved into reality television, documenting her efforts to lose 75 pounds (34 kg) on the reality show Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, and competing on Dancing with the Stars, the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother, and The Mask Singer.
In 1970, Alley married her high school sweetheart Bob Alley, who had the same name as her father; they divorced in 1977. In 1983, she married Stevenson and they adopted their two children. They divorced in 1997.
Alley became a Scientologist in 1979 while struggling with a cocaine addiction, and later credited the Church’s drug treatment program for her sobriety.
Alley, a vocal supporter of former US President Donald Trump since 2016, claimed she was “blackballed” in Hollywood because of her politics, saying, “You can cook meth and sleep with hookers, but as long as you apparently didn’t voting for Trump… I feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone a little bit.
Her Scream Queens co-star Jamie Lee Curtis called her “a great comedic foil” and “a lovely mama bear”. “We agreed that we disagreed on some things, but we had mutual respect and a connection,” she added. “Sad news.”