'Cheers' Star Kirstie Alley Dead at 71 After Shock Cancer Diagnosis




Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getti Images
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getti Images  

Kirstie Alley, the two-time Emmy-winning actor whose work on Cheers, Look Who's Talking, and Veronica's Closet won her the hearts of audiences across the world, died following a short fight with cancer, her family said Monday. 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," said her children, True and Lillie Parker. In a statement posted across Alley's social media accounts, they recalled her "zest and passion for life" and "her eternal joy of creating."

"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 statement continued. "As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother."

Alley shot to stardom in 1987 after debuting as Rebecca Howe on the sixth season of Cheers. Though her character-the bar's new manager and love interest to Ted Danson's salt-of-the-earth barkeep-was intended to fill the hole left by the departure of Shelley Long, Alley was lauded for her performance, for which she won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 1991.

She would go on to appear in 147 episodes of Cheers until the show ended in 1993.

After Cheers, Alley retained her ties with NBC, returning in 1997 to star as the titular protagonist of Veronica's Closet, a sitcom from the creators of Friends about a lingerie-company owner in New York, across three seasons.

Along the way, Alley accrued a series of choice film credits as well, having kicked off her career as a Starfleet commander-in-training under the tutelage of Leonard Nimoy's Spock in 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Just before landing Cheers, Alley starred in Summer School, a 1987 comedy flick in which she played the teacher-next-door to Mark Harmon's smooth gym coach.

One of her most beloved cinematic projects, however, remains 1989's Look Who's Talking, in which she starred opposite John Travolta. The two, both members of the Church of Scientology, remained exceedingly close in the ensuing years, with Travolta even calling Alley his "soulmate" in 2019.

"Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I've ever had," Travolta wrote in an Instagram post on Monday night. "I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again."

Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1951, Alley was a college dropout who moved to Los Angeles to chase a career as an interior designer, and to deepen an already burgeoning connection to Scientology. Struggling with substance abuse issues, she became a member of the organization in 1979, and credited the group's drug treatment program, Narconon, for freeing her from a cocaine addiction.

Later in her career, Alley branched out, playing a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 meta-comedy Fat Actress, appearing twice on Dancing With the Stars (and placing second on the show in 2011), playing the "Baby Mammoth" on The Masked Singer earlier this year, and acting in the sophomore season of Scream Queens.

Jamie Lee Curtis, a Scream Queens co-star, called Alley "a great comic foil" on the show "and a beautiful mama bear in her very real life."

"She helped me buy onesies for my family that year for Christmas," Curtis recalled in a tribute post to Instagram. "We agreed to disagree about some things but had a mutual respect and connection. Sad news."

Besides her ties to Scientology, Alley courted controversy with her vocal support for former President Donald Trump, saying a month before the 2020 presidential election that she intended to vote for him, as she had in 2016. Last May, she took to Tucker Carlson Today to complain about the industry backlash she'd faced for espousing her political beliefs.

"You can be cooking meth and sleeping with hookers but as long as, apparently, you didn't vote for Trump," she told Carlson. "I feel like I'm in The Twilight Zone, a bit, with the whole concept of it."

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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