Kirstie Alley, ‘Cheers’ and ‘Veronica’s Closet’ star, dead at 71

Actress Kirstie Alley, star of the big and small screens known for her Emmy-winning role on “Cheers” and films like “Look Who’s Talking,” has died after a brief battle with cancer, her children True and Lillie Parker announced on her social media.

She was 71.

“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” the statement read.

“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,” the family’s statement continued. “As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.”

“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,” the statement said.

A representative for Alley confirmed to CNN via email on Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer prior to her death.

Career beginnings

A two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner, Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1951.

After a standout role in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” she played roles in movies like 1984’s “Blind Date” and 1987’s “Summer School” opposite Mark Harmon.

That same year, Alley would follow Shelley Long to play the lead opposite Ted Danson in the latter part of TV classic sitcom “Cheers,” which premiered in 1982. Alley first appeared in 1987, playing strong and independent bar manager Rebecca Howe, staying on the acclaimed show until it ended in 1993.

After winning the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series in 1991 for “Cheers” and another for lead actress in a miniseries or special for 1994’s “David’s Mother,” she again found TV success in the late ’90s with series “Veronica’s Closet,” which scored her another Emmy nod.

Additionally, Alley starred in a number of memorable films, like the “Look Who’s Talking” movies, 1990’s “Madhouse” and 1999’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous” with Ellen Barkin.

In 2005, Alley co-wrote and starred in the Showtime comedy “Fat Actress” before making a foray into reality TV.

She appeared in “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life” in 2010, was a contestant on Season 12 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” the next year and placed second on Season 22 of the British version of “Celebrity Big Brother” in 2018. In 2022, she competed in Season 7 of Fox’s “The Masked Singer.”

Though she had an impressive body of work, the later part of her career was marked by Alley’s penchant for stirring controversy, especially through social media.

In a 2007 interview, Alley said she was proud of her no holds barred ways.

“I’ve always felt like if someone asks me something, they want the real answer,” Alley told Good Housekeeping. “I think there’s also something about being from Kansas. Usually people think I’m from New York. The only similarity between New Yorkers and Midwesterners is that what you see is what you get.”

‘Her charisma was always iconic’

John Travolta, who costarred with Alley in 1989’s hit “Look Who’s Talking” as well as two sequels, wrote on Instagram on Monday, “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.”

Jamie Lee Curtis — who worked with Alley in 2016 on episodes of TV’s “Scream Queens” — shared a statement on Facebook to pay tribute to the late actress, writing, “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.”

Josh Gad tweeted, “My heart breaks for Kirstie and her family. Whether it was her brilliance in ‘Cheers; or her magnetic performance in the ‘Look Who’s Talking’ franchise, her smile was always infectious, her laugh was always contagious and her charisma was always iconic. RIP.”

Alley’s “Cheers” co-star Ted Danson told Deadline he had just watched Alley in an episode of the show while on a plane before learning of her death.

“I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of ‘Cheers,'” Danson told the outlet. “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.”

“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,” Danson added. “I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”

Another “Cheers” star, Rhea Perlman, told CNN in a statement that she and Alley became friends instantly on the set of “Cheers.”

“Kirstie was a unique and wonderful person and friend. Her joy of being was boundless,” Perlman said. “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. 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.”

“Baywatch” actor Parker Stevenson, who was married to Alley from 1983 to 1997 and is the father of her two children, also paid tribute to her on social media. In an Instagram post, confirmed to be Stevenson’s by a representative for the actor, he wrote: “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.”

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