Cheers stars Kelsey Grammer and Ted Danson have led the heartfelt tributes to their costar Kirstie Alley who has died aged 71 following a private battle with cancer.
The actress and devout Scientologist ‘fought with great strength’, her devastated children William True, 30, and Lillie Price, 28, revealed in a statement announcing her death Monday.
Alley’s breakout role as Rebecca Howe in the sixth series of Cheers in 1987 launched her to Hollywood stardom.
Ted Danson, who was a mainstay in the classic NBC sitcom, said he was on a flight yesterday and by chance decided to watch an episode of Cheers starring Alley before he learned of her death, in which she is proposed to by Tom Berenger.
He told People: ‘Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny.
‘She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard. As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died.
‘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 added: ‘I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her.’
Other stars paying tribute to the late icon include Jamie Lee Curtis who said on Instagram that Alley was ‘a great comic foil’ on the show and ‘a beautiful mama bear in her very real life.’
Lee Curtis said the pair had a ‘mutual respect and connection’.
‘We agreed to disagree about some things but had a mutual respect and connection. Sad news,’ she added.
Another Cheers co-star, Rhea Perlman, recounted how she and Alley became friends almost instantly after she joined the show. She said Alley organized large Easter and Halloween parties and invited everyone.
‘She wanted everyone to feel included. She loved her children deeply. I’ve never met anyone remotely like her. I feel so thankful to have known her.’
Friend and confidante John Travolta, who worked with Alley on the Look Who’s Talking films, said: ‘Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.’
Tim Allen, who starred alongside Alley in For Richer or Poorer, added: ‘A sweet soul pass on in Kristie Alley. Sad, sad news. Prayers for all her family.’
William and Lillie said their mother had only ‘recently discovered’ she had cancer, and that she ‘was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead.’
Alley’s children continued: ‘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 the Moffitt Cancer Center for their care.’
Alley had not been seen in public for some time with her last-known picture seen during a video in early September as she promoted her profile on Cameo on her Instagram page.
In what was to be her final video on social media there did not appear to be any outwardly visible signs that she was ill as she appeared with her signature mane of thick blonde hair.
In the final days of her life, she had been receiving care at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
In April of this year, she performed on the television show The Masked Singer.
Alley’s children said her ‘zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did.’
They ended the statement by saying, ‘We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.’
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles.
Alley was married to her high school sweetheart from 1970 to 1977, and to Baywatch actor Parker Stevenson from 1983 until 1997.
After suffering a miscarriage she adopted son William True in 1992 and daughter Lillie Price in 1995 with Stevenson.
She said in 2010 if she married again, ‘Id leave the guy within 24 hours because I’m sure he’d tell me not to do something.’
Stevenson posted a brief tribute to his ex-wife on Facebook.
‘Dear Kirstie, I am so grateful for our years together, and for the two incredibly beautiful children and now grandchildren that we have. You will be missed. With love, Parker,’ he wrote.
Her very first television appearances were as a game show contestant, on The Match Game in 1979 and Password in 1980.
Alley’s big breakout role came in 1987 when she was cast as Rebecca Howe on the NBC hit Cheers, replacing the outgoing Shelley Long.
She joined the show at the height of its popularity after the departure of Long.
Alley would win an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991.
‘I only thank God I didn´t have to wait as long as Ted,’ Alley said in her acceptance, gently ribbing her ‘Cheers’ co-star Ted Danson, who had finally won an Emmy for his role as Sam Malone in his eighth nomination the previous year.
She would take a second Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or television movie in 1993 for playing the title role in the CBS TV movie David’s Mother.
Alley appeared in various films throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
These included the Look Who’s Talking film series, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) which was her film debut, Summer School (1987) Sibling Rivalry (1990),It Takes Two (1995), For Richer or Poorer (1997), and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).
Horror director John Carpenter described Alley as a ‘delightful actress’.
‘Kirstie Alley was a delightful actress I had the pleasure to work with on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. She will be missed,’ he wrote.
Alley starred in the 1995 US science fiction-horror film alongside Christopher Reeve, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare and Mark Hamill.
She won her second Emmy Award in 1994 for the television film David’s Mother and received a further Emmy nomination in 1997 for her work in the crime drama series The Last Don.
She also had her own sitcom, Veronica’s Closet, from 1997 to 2000 but it was the 1989 comedy Look Who’s Talking, which gave her a major career boost, as she played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis. She would also appear in the 1990 sequel Look Who’s Talking Too.
She would play a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 Showtime series Fat Actress, a show that drew comedy from her public and media treatment over her weight gain and loss.
Alley said she agreed to do the show in part because of the misinformation about her that had become a tabloid staple.
‘Anything bad you can say about me, they say I’ve never collapsed, fainted, passed out. Basically, anything they’ve said, I never. The only true thing is I got fat.’
Alley co-created the series and played a version of herself – an actress who struggles to lose weight so she can revive her career, although the show only lasted one seven-episode season.
The actress was also a spokesperson for the weight-loss company Jenny Craig between 2004 and 2007, losing 75 pounds during her time there
Two years later, in 2009, Alley revealed that she gained 83 pounds after leaving Jenny Craig and weighed as much as 228 pounds.
She founded the weight loss company Organic Liaison in 2010, though she faced a class-action lawsuit alleging false advertising that was ultimately settled in 2013.
The company was acquired by Jenny Craig in 2014 and she returned once again as a spokesperson, revealing in 2015 that she had lost 50 pounds on the program.
Alley also made several appearances on reality television, first as a contestant on the 12th season of Dancing with the Stars, where she finished in second place.
She appeared on the competition series The Masked Singer in April this year wearing a baby mammoth costume.
During her stint on Big Brother she shared the house with other famous faces including Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas and Dan Osbourne from The Only Way Is Essex, who finished in first and third place respectively.
Alley appeared in the Ryan Murphy black comedy series Scream Queens on Fox in 2015 and 2016.
Alley was brought up as a Methodist but became a Scientologist in 1979 after moving to Los Angeles, where she used the church’s affiliated drug treatment program Narconon in response to her self-admitted cocaine addiction.
She had most recently been living semi-permanently in Clearwater, Florida after purchasing a waterfront property just a stone’s throw from the church’s global headquarters in 2000.
In 2018 she participated in the 22nd series of UK Celebrity Big Brother, in which she finished as runner-up.
In recent years her conservative political views put her at odds with most stars in woke Hollywood.
Alley told Tucker Carlson that she was first warned to keep quiet about her interest in Donald Trump back in 2015, with a producer telling her that she would stop getting roles if she came out as a conservative.
The Cheers star claimed the unidentified producer was also a Trump fan, but chose to keep quiet for fear they’d ‘never work again’.
Alley, however, chose to speak up.
‘People go, ‘You’re so brave.’ I go, ‘No, I think I’m stupid’. Because honestly… it is a real blackballing situation,’ she stated.
‘It’s so strange to me because artists are free-thinkers for the most part.’
Alley – who had not starred in a movie since 2015 – claimed that her Hollywood peers can behave in illegal or unethical ways and still not receive the same type of ostracization that she had to deal with.
‘You can be cooking meth and sleeping with hookers but as long as you didn’t vote for Trump [you’re fine],’ she told Carlson.
‘I feel like I’m in the ‘Twilight Zone’ a bit with the whole concept of it.’
‘I’m voting for Donald Trump because he’s NOT a politician,’ she wrote on Twitter.
‘I voted for him 4 years ago for this reason and shall vote for him again for this reason.
‘He gets things done quickly and he will turn the economy around quickly. There you have it folks there you have it’.
She revealed that she voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 but threw her support in 2016 after criticizing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Despite previously being a moderate liberal, Alley has also hit headlines for her other controversial opinions in recent years.
In 2020 she claimed claiming CNN was ‘terrorizing viewers’ with its constant coronavirus coverage.
She also blasted the Academy Awards after organizers announced that they would update diversity rules in order for films to be eligible for best picture nominations.
‘Can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his … paintings,’ Alley wrote on Twitter.
‘You people have lost your minds. Control artists, control individual thought .. OSCAR ORWELL’ she tweeted.