Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy-winning actor who rose to fame with her role as Rebecca Howe in the NBC comedy series “Cheers,” died Monday of cancer. She was 71.
Alley’s death was confirmed through her official social media presence, which shared a statement from her children.
“To all our friends, far and wide around the world… We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” reads the statement. “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. 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,” the statement continues. “Our mother’s 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. We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
Kirstie Louise Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1951, and moved to Los Angeles in 1980, where she was an interior designer. Alley was already involved in the Church of Scientology, and sought treatment for a cocaine addiction through its affiliated Narconon program, which she credited with her sobriety.
In 1982, she began her film career in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which she soon followed with “Blind Date” and the 1985 miniseries “North and South.” Two years later, she played opposite Mark Harmon in Carl Reiner’s hit comedy “Summer School.”
It was that year when Alley replaced Shelley Long on NBC’s “Cheers,” which was among the top comedies on television. In 1991, when she won the lead actress Emmy for the role, she delivered a famously bawdy speech, when she thanked her husband, the actor Parker Stevenson: “I’d like to thank my husband, Parker, the man who has given me the big one for the last eight years.” Her second Emmy was for the 1994 television movie “David’s Mother,” in which she played the parent of a teenager with autism.
Alley’s career heights also included NBC’s “Veronica’s Closet” (1997-2000), the meta 2005 Showtime comedy “Fat Actress” and costarring with John Travolta in the three “Look Who’s Talking” movies, a trilogy that kicked off in 1989, and were huge hits.
Alley served as a spokesperson for Jenny Craig’s weight loss system, then parted ways and started her own company Organic Liaisons. She later returned to Jenny Craig, which acquired her company. Over the past few years, Alley became active — and sometimes combative — on social media. She tweeted her support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, then withdrew her endorsement, then said she had voted for him. Though she often sparred with people over politics, she was also responsible for some examples of non-partisan, deadpan humor that became social media classics, like her response to physicist Stephen Hawking’s death, “You had a good go at it…thanks for your input.”
She worked steadily, always: Alley came in second on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2011; in 2013, she had a self-titled TV Land sitcom called “Kirstie” that was canceled after one season; she was on Season 2 of “Scream Queens” in 2016; and earlier this year, she appeared on Season 7 of “The Masked Singer” — as Baby Mammoth.
She is survived by a son, William True Stevenson, a daughter, Lillie Price Stevenson and a grandson.
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