Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles on the TV hit Cheers and in the Look Who’s Talking films made her one of the biggest stars in American comedy in the late 1980s and early ’90s, died Monday. She was 71.
Alley died of cancer that was only recently discovered, her children True and Lillie Parker said in a post on Twitter. Alley’s manager Donovan Daughtry confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press.
“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” her children’s statement said.
She starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on the NBC sitcom Cheers from 1987 to 1993, after the departure of original star Shelley Long.
Alley won an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991.
“I only thank God I didn’t have to wait as long as Ted,” Alley said in her acceptance speech, gently ribbing her Cheers co-star Danson, who had finally won an Emmy for his role as Sam Malone in his eighth nomination the previous year.
She won a second Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or television movie in 1993 for playing the title role in the CBS TV movie David’s Mother.
She had her own sitcom on the network, Veronica’s Closet, from 1997 to 2000.
In the 1989 comedy Look Who’s Talking, which gave her a major career boost, she played the mother of a baby who’s inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis. She also appeared in the 1990 sequel Look Who’s Talking Too.
John Travolta, her co-star in both films, paid tribute in an Instagram post.
“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had,” Travolta said, along with a photo of Alley. “I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.”
She played a fictionalized version of herself in the 2005 Showtime series Fat Actress, a show that drew comedy from her public and media treatment over her weight gain and loss.
She dealt with the same subject matter in the 2010 A&E reality series Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, which chronicled her attempt to lose weight and launch a weight-loss program while working as a single mother in an unconventional household that included pet lemurs.
Alley said she agreed to do the show in part because of the misinformation about her that had become a tabloid staple.
In recent years she appeared on several reality shows, including Dancing With the Stars. She appeared on the competition series The Masked Singer wearing a baby mammoth costume earlier this year.
Jamie Lee Curtis, with whom Alley co-starred in the Ryan Murphy black comedy series Scream Queens in 2015 and 2016, said on Instagram Monday that Alley was “a great comic foil” on the show and “a beautiful mama bear in her very real life.”
Alley’s Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammar said in a statement that “I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her.”
A native of Wichita, Kan., Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles.
Her first television appearances were as a game show contestant, on The Match Game in 1979 and Password in 1980. She made her film debut in 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.