Actor Kirstie Alley dies at 71 of cancer that was ‘only recently discovered’
Alley, 71, was battling cancer “only recently discovered,” according to a statement by her children, True and Lillie Parker.
“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,” said the statement shared on Alley’s social media.
Her family thanked doctors and nurses at the Florida-based Moffitt Cancer Center.
Alley, a Kansas native, rose to fame after taking over the female lead on “Cheers” in 1987 after the departure of Shelley Long and her character, Diane Chambers.
The much-beloved sitcom not only survived but thrived after the cast shake-up, with Alley’s character, Rebecca Howe, as the new manager of the show’s titular bar.
In 1989, Alley teamed with John Travolta and director Amy Heckerling in one of the year’s biggest and perhaps most surprising smashes, “Look Who’s Talking,” which earned nearly $140 million at the domestic box office.
She later starred in the sitcom “Veronica’s Closet,” which ran from 1997 to 2000.
Alley was a show-business natural who resisted the urge to go into the industry until she was well into her 20s, according to an Aug. 20, 1987, Times article about her joining the cast of “Cheers.”
She worked as an interior decorator in Wichita until she packed up and drove to Hollywood one day in 1981 “on an impulse.” Six months later, she was making her feature film debut in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
“I’d always wanted to be a star,” she said at the time. “I’m from an ordinary middle-class family in Kansas. When I was 5 I announced I wanted to be an actress. They laughed. I thought to myself, ‘I will, I will, I will — and when you least expect it!'”
At the time she moved to Hollywood, she said, she knew one person in California, who did not work in entertainment.
“I figured if you went in and auditioned and were good they would hire you,” Alley said. “Isn’t that ridiculous?”
But the parts came in.
In recent years, Alley sparred with establishment Hollywood figures over her conservative political views.
The actor claimed she was “blackballed” from the industry after voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
“On Twitter I had many celebrities follow me and now I think three follow me,” she told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in 2021. “I’m the same person. I’m the girl who voted for Obama, twice. And I’m like, ‘Oh, so you liked me when I voted for Obama, and now you’re this?’ And it’s made me have to rethink, weirdly, my whole friendships, all my friendships.”
Ted Danson is raising a glass in honor of his Cheers co-star, Kirstie Alley.
The Mr. Mayor actor, 74, paid tribute to the actress, who died at the age of 71 on Dec. 5 after a short battle with cancer. The two were co-stars on the popular NBC sitcom for six years until 1993.
“I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of Cheers,” Danson said in a statement to E! News. “It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she desperately wants to say yes. Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny.”
As Danson noted, her ability to be a scene-stealer stood the test of time.
“She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard,” he continued. “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,” he added. “I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”
For breakout role as Rebecca Howe in Cheers, Alley won both an Emmy and Golden Globe Award. She also went on star in a number of hit movies including Look Who’s Talking, It Takes Two and Drop Dead Gorgeous.
The actress’ children, True, 30, and Lillie, 28, shared news of their mom’s passing, noting that their family has now been left with “a certainty of her never-ending joy.”
“As iconic as she was on screen,” her children wrote in a Dec. 5 statement, “she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.”
“Kirstie was a unique and wonderful person and friend. Her joy of being was boundless,” actress Rhea Perlman, Alley’s co-star on Cheers and Kirstie, said in a statement to Deadline.
“We became friends almost instantly when she joined the cast of Cheers. She loved kids and my kids loved her, too. We had sleepovers at her house, with treasure hunts that she created,” Perlman added. “She had massive Halloween and Easter parties and invited the entire crew of the show and their families. 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. I’m going to miss her very, very much.”
Jamie Lee Curtis, who worked with her on Scream Queens, wrote on Instagram: “I’ve just heard the sad news that Kirstie Alley has died. She was a great comic foil in @tvscreamqueens and a beautiful mama bear in her very real life. She helped me buy onesies for my family that year for Christmas. We agreed to disagree about some things but had a mutual respect and connection. Sad news.”
“A sweet soul pass on in Kristie Alley. Sad, sad news. Prayers for all her family,” Tim Allen, he co-star in For Richer Or Poorer, tweeted.
“Kirstie graced us on The Middle with her talent when she portrayed ‘Pam freakin’ Staggs!’ She was fun, funny & generous. We even spent a weekend together at a fundraiser in Mississippi — never a dull moment when Kirstie was around. Peace to her family whom she adored. RIP Kirstie,” wrote Patricia Heaton.
Kristin Chenoweth, who appeared with her on the sitcom Kirstie, tweeted: “I love you, Kirstie. I will see you again someday. I can’t believe you’re gone.”
“Kirstie was beautiful in so many ways. I loved working with her. There was no one like her on earth. My condolences to her family,” Clancy Brown, her Vhoot to Kill co-star tweeted.
“I felt lucky to know you @kirstiealley. Rest in peace, my friend,” said comedian Adam Carolla.