Kirstie Alley, who reached a career zenith as the replacement for Shelley Long in the long-running NBC sitcom Cheers, died after a short battle with cancer. She was 71.
Her children – William “True” Stevenson and Lillie Price Stevenson — announced the news Monday evening with a statement shared via their mother’s social media accounts.
“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” they said in a 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.”
“Our mother’s zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention our eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did,” they added. “We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
Born January 12, 1951 in Wichita, Kansas, Kirstie Alley first appeared on television on game shows Match Game in 1979 and Password Plus in 1980. At the time she described her profession as an interior designer.
Alley made her film debut in 1982 in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, playing the Vulcan Starfleet officer Lieutenant Saavik. Rather than reprise her role in later sequels, she was featured in a number of less prominent movies including One More Chance, Blind Date and Runaway. At the same time, Alley began guest-starring in TV series like comedy Quark, The Love Boat, and drama Runway. In 1983, she had her first regularly scheduled role in the one season drama Masquerade. Then, in 1985, she played Virgilia Hazard in the ABC miniseries North and South, books I and II.
Following more movie roles (Look Who’s Talking and Look Who’s Talking Too opposite John Travolta in 1989 and 1990, respectively, among others), several TV movies (including A Bunny’s Tale and Infidelity), and more guest appearances, it was her Emmy Award-winning role as Rebecca Howe on Cheers that catapulted Alley to great stardom. She joined the comedy in the sixth season in 1987 and remained through its demise in 1993.
She also appeared as Rebecca Howe in a guest spot on the sitcom Wings.
Immediately following Cheers, Alley reprised her role as Mollie in Look Who’s Talking Now in 1993. And she won her second Emmy for the 1994 television film David’s Mother.
In later years, Alley headlined three additional TV sitcoms: the three-season NBC sitcom Veronica’s Closet (from 1997 to 2000), the comical docuseries Fat Actress as a caricature of herself in 2005, and TV Land’s Kirstie opposite Michael Richards (Seinfeld) and her former Cheers co-star Rhea Perlman in the 2013-14 season. In 2016, she appeared in Fox thriller Scream Queens.
Alley also competed in ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2011 and was a houseguest in the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK in 2018.
More recently, Alley guest-starred on ABC’s The Goldbergs and appeared in the 2020 TV movie You Can’t Take My Daughter. Last April, she appeared on Fox’s The Masked Singer.
Following the news, Alley’s friend and former costar John Travolta paid tribute to the actress on social media.
“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you, Kirstie,” he tweeted. “I know we will see each other again.”