Everybody knew her name: How Kirstie Alley rocketed to fame in Cheers as unlucky-in-love Rebecca and hit movie stardom with John Travolta – before struggles with weight and controversy over support for Trump defined her final years
- Kirstie Alley died on Monday night after a short battle with cancer, she was 71
- Kirstie was born to a lumberman in Wichita, Kansas, in 1951, and headed west to Los Angeles after dropping out of college in her sophomore year
- In LA she began a career as an interior designer, and made her first television appearances on a series of game shows
- Just after turning 30, she landed her first movie role in the 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- She got her break in the hit 1987 comedy Summer School, and shortly after landed the role of Rebecca Howe on the sitcom Cheers
Kirstie Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1951, but it wouldn’t be long before she high-tailed it from home and began her journey from the small screen to the silver, and into the hearts of America.
The daughter of a lumberman and one of three kids, Alley moved to Los Angeles after dropping out of college in her sophomore year. While working as an interior designer, she appeared on a series of game shows and for the first time was broadcast into living rooms across the country. It was just the beginning.
In 1982, just past 30-years-old, Alley landed a role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was followed by Blind Date in 1984, and then the television series North and South a year later.
She scored a hit alongside Mark Hamon in the 1987 comedy Summer School, and found herself on the way to stardom the same year after landing the part of Rebecca Howe in the hit television sitcom Cheers.
As Rebecca, the dry and droll-witted manager of the Cheers bar, Alley shone, and took home the 1991 Emmy for actress in a lead role. Accepting that award, Alley’s daring character and sharp sense of humor came to the fore, as she thanked her husband, Parker Stevenson, for giving her ‘the big one for the last eight years.’
Kirstie Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1951, but it wouldn’t be long before she high-tailed it from home and began her journey from the small screen to the silver, and into the hearts of America
Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe alongside Ted Danson as Same Malone on the set of Cheers
In 1989 her movie career began to soar when she appeared alongside John Travolta in the first Look Who’s Talking film.
The movie grossed nearly $300million and was followed up by a pair of sequels.
She won her second Emmy award in 1994 for David’s Mother, a made-for-television movie in which Alley portrayed a mother caring for an autistic son.
By 1995 she had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as her film and television credits continued to climb, adding a notable performance as the owner of a New York City lingerie company in Veronica’s Closet from 1997 to 2000.
Some of Alley’s other film credits include Sibling Rivalry in 1990, It Takes Two in 1995, For Richer or Poorer in 1997, and Drop Dead Gorgeous 1999.
In 2005 she starred in her show Fat Actress, a largely unscripted comedy which explored how her body-image became a centerpiece of her career and tabloids of the day.
Kirstie Alley as Rebecca, the dry and droll-witted manager of the Cheers bar
Kirstie Alley holds her 1994 Emmy for her work in David’s Mother, a made-for-television movie in which Alley portrayed a mother caring for an autistic son
Alley’s weight came to the fore of her public image around 2004 after tabloids relentlessly covered her weight gain.
‘Honestly, I didn’t know how fat I was,’ she told Oprah in 2004, opening up about her struggles. ‘Thanks to the tabloids I went, ‘Damn, girl, you’re fat!”
Soon after she became the official spokesperson for Jenny Craig, and famously lost 75 pounds while promoting the weight-loss system.
She promoted the company until parting ways in 2007 as her weight began to fluctuate again. By 2009 she told PEOPLE she weighted nearly 230 pounds. But by her 2011 appearance on Dancing with The Stars – in which she finished second – she had shed nearly 100 pounds.
Alley long-insisted that she achieved all her weight-loss through hard work and without the help of surgery or treatments. She rejoined Jenny Craig in 2014, and advocated that said women needed to focus on weight-loss for their own reasons, not for others ideas about how they should look.
‘It’s so important for women to look the way they want to look and feel the way they want to feel for their own reasons, not because someone’s telling them to or because it’s fashionable or trendy,’ Alley told Women’s Health that year. ‘Losing weight is losing weight, but just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you’re happy.’
In 1989 her movie career began to soar when she appeared alongside John Travolta in the first Look Who’s Talking film, which grossed nearly $300million and was followed up by a pair of sequels
By 1995 she had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as her film and television credits continued to climb
Kirstie Alley in 1990, a year before she won her first Emmy award
In her later years Alley spoke her mind on social media, and defended herself even in the face of controversy which threatened her career.
In 2015 she took to Twitter to announce that she would not be endorsing Hilary Clinton.
The next year she announced her support for Donald Trump, only to rescind it months later.
‘I hate this election’ Alley wrote. ‘And I’m officially no longer endorsing either candidate.’ She included a video of a woman placing a ladder into a dumpster to help a pack of bear cubs to escape, and joked she would be voting for her.
But then in 2020 she revealed she did in fact vote for Trump, and that she intended to again ‘because he’s NOT a politician.’
‘I voted for him 4 years ago for this reason and shall vote for him again for this reason. He gets things done quickly and he will turn the economy around quickly. There you have it folks there you have it.’
The response was vitriolic, with many people deriding not only her politics, but her career too. Alley held firm in her stance however, and urged her followers to ‘Stick to your guns.’
The next day she held her ground on Sean Hannity’s FOX News show.
‘They always attack the same three things: That I’m a fat, irrelevant, Scientologist,’ she said. ‘But, this has been going on for 40 years, so I’m sort of prepared.’
Alley long-insisted that she achieved all her weight-loss through hard work and without the help of surgery or treatments
Kirstie Alley in her first movie role, the 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Raised as a methodist by her parents in Kansas, Alley joined found refuge from a drug addiction after she moved to LA through the Church of Scientology.
Alley has long been open about he cocaine addiction, which began to plague her at the age of 25 following the fallout from her divorce with her first husband.
‘I had heard that cocaine made you peppy and happy and I was sort of depressed because I had gotten a divorce and wrecked everybody’s lives,’ she told Howard Stern in 2013.
‘So I thought, ‘I’m gonna try this. I took one snort of cocaine, and I go, ‘Oh my God! I’m gonna do this every day for the rest of my life!”
By 1979 she’d found her way into the Scientology community, and joined the church that year while participating in their drug-rehabilitation program Narconon.
‘I thought either [Scientology] is the world’s biggest scam, or I thought this is how I am going to get rid of this hideous compulsion,’ Alley said to Entertainment Tonight in 2012.
She was a devoted member of the church ever since, and donated at least $5million to it during her life.
Kirstie Alley with her second husband, Parker Stevenson, in 1983
Kirstie Alley with second husband Parker Stevenson in Los Angeles in 1983
Kirstie Alley with her kids William True and Lillie Price in 2005
The actress was first married to Bob Alley in 1970. The pair were high school sweethearts from Kansas, and the marriage lasted seven years before they divorced.
She later married Baywatch actor Parker Stevenson in 1983.
While trying for children Alley suffered a miscarriage with Stevenson, and they adopted their son William True in 1992, and their daughter Lillie Price in 1995.
She and Stevenson divorced in 1997. She became a grandmother in 2016 after William had a son.
Allie has been open about her affections for John Travolta – a fellow scientologist – show she described as ‘the greatest love of my life.’