Kirstie Alley: Cheers and Look Who’s Talking star dies aged 71 after cancer battle - co-stars pay tribute

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The two-time Emmy winning actress starred in the long-running 1980s US sitcom Cheers and hit film Look Who’s Talking

Kirstie Alley, who shot to fame after starring in the US sitcom Cheers, has died at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer.

Her family shared the news in a statement posted on social media, describing her as an “amazing mother and grandmother”. It read: “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.

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“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.”

The family went on to thank the "incredible" Moffitt Cancer Centre doctors and nurses in Florida where she was cared for, adding: “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.”

Alley was best known for her role as Rebecca Howe in Cheers and made her debut on the NBC sitcom in 1987, quickly becoming a fan favourite for her role opposite Ted Danson’s womanising bar tender Sam Malone. She played bar manager Howe until the show ended in 1993, winning both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for the role in 1991.

Kirstie Alley has died at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer (Photo: Getty Images)Kirstie Alley has died at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer (Photo: Getty Images)
Kirstie Alley has died at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Beyond Cheers, Alley starred in many films across two decades, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Summer School (1987) Sibling Rivalry (1990), It Takes Two (1995), For Richer or Poorer (1997), and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999). She was also well-known for starring opposite fellow Church of Scientology member John Travolta in the Look Who’s Talking series.

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In 1994, she won her second Emmy Award 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. Alley then went on to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 for her contribution to motion pictures.

In 1997, she returned to NBC to play the title character in the sitcom Veronica’s Closet, which ran until 2000, and 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.

John Travolta paid tribute to his former co-star (Photo: Getty Images)John Travolta paid tribute to his former co-star (Photo: Getty Images)
John Travolta paid tribute to his former co-star (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

British audiences saw Alley star in the 22nd series of UK Celebrity Big Brother in 2018, with the Kansas-born actor finishing in second place. During her stint on the show she shared the house with 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 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 programme Narconon in response to her self-admitted cocaine addiction.

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She was married twice – to her highschool boyfriend from 1970 to 1977 and to Baywatch actor Parker Stevenson from 1983 – and after suffering a miscarriage she adopted son William True in 1992 and daughter Lillie Price in 1995 with Stevenson. The marriage to Stevenson ended in 1997 and Alley became a grandmother in 2016 following the birth of William’s son.

‘We will see each other again’ - co-stars pay tribute

Alley’s Cheers co-stars Kelsey Grammer and Rhea Perlman led the tributes to the late actress.

Grammer, 67, who played the psychiatrist Frasier Crane alongside Alley in Cheers, admitted that he loved the actress. In a statement provided to the PA news agency, he said: “I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her.”

In a separate statement, Perlman, who played head-waitress Carla Tortelli on the show said she had “never met anyone remotely like” Alley, adding that she would miss her “very, very much”.

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

John Travolta also paid tribute to the actress and his former co-star in the 1989 romantic comedy film Look Who’s Talking. Sharing a picture on Instagram of them together, Travolta wrote: “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.”

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