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Kirstie Alley, "Cheers" actress, dies at age 71

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning actress, dies at 71
Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning actress, dies at 71 01:41

Kirstie Alley, the actress best known for her role as Rebecca Howe on the sitcom "Cheers," has died, her family said in a statement 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" her children, True and Lillie Parker, said in a statement posted on social media

"As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother," the statement continued. They praised Alley's passion, love and creativity, and thanked the doctors and nurses at Moffitt Medical Center for her care.

In one of her first major roles, Alley appeared in 1982's "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," but she did not return for any subsequent Star Trek films. 

She joined the cast of "Cheers" in 1987 after Shelley Long, who played Diane Chambers, left the show following its fifth season. For her role as Rebecca Howe, Alley received four Golden Globe and five Emmy nominations for best actress, winning both in 1991. She remained a regular cast member of "Cheers" until the show's 11th and final season in 1993. 

"I only thank God I didn't have to wait as long as Ted," Alley quipped in her Emmy acceptance speech, according to The Associated Press — a dig at her "Cheers" co-star Ted Danson, who was nominated for his role as Sam Malone eight times before finally taking home the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series.

Kirstie Alley at the 1994 Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
Actress Kirstie Alley attends the 1994 Primetime Emmy Awards, in Pasadena, California, on Sept. 11, 1994. Getty Images

In a statement following her death, Danson paid tribute to Alley's "heart of gold" and "truly brilliant" performances, sharing a touching anecdote:

"I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of 'Cheers.' It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she desperately wants to say yes. Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny. She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard. As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died. I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh. I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her."

The actress also starred in the 1989 romantic comedy, "Look Who's Talking," and its sequels, "Look Who's Talking Too" and "Look Who's Talking Now."

John Travolta, who starred alongside Alley in all three films, posted an emotional remembrance of his co-star on Instagram, writing, "Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I've ever had."

"I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again."

Kelsey Grammar, who also starred alongside Alley as Frasier Crane on "Cheers," said in a statement, "I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her."  

Rhea Perlman, who played waitress Carla Tortelli on all 11 seasons of "Cheers," said in a statement, "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.'"

"I've never met anyone remotely like her," Perlman added. "I feel so thankful to have known her. I'm going to miss her very, very much."

Throughout much of her career, Alley was open about her struggles with her weight and the way the media reacted to her appearance. She served as the spokesperson for Jenny Craig from 2005 to 2008, and in 2005, she starred in the Showtime series "Fat Actress," in which she played a fictionalized version of herself. 

She also starred in the A&E reality series "Kirstie Alley's Big Life," which followed her attempt to start her own weight loss program in 2010.

In 1997, Alley starred in the comedy "For Richer or Poorer" alongside Tim Allen, who memorialized the actress on Twitter, writing, "A sweet soul pass[ed] on in Kristie Alley. Sad, sad news."

Alley in 2016 joined the cast of "Scream Queens," which also starred actress Jamie Lee Curtis. The iconic "Halloween" actress posted a tribute to her co-star on Instagram, writing, "She was a great comic foil in [Scream Queens] and a beautiful mama bear in her very real life. She helped me buy onesies for my family that year for Christmas."

"We agreed to disagree about some things," Curtis added, "but had a mutual respect and connection."

According to the AP, Alley's first television appearances were as a game show contestant on "The Match Game" in 1979, and on "Password" the following year. 

Alley also had a short-lived sitcom on TV Land called "Kirstie," which ran for a single season and featured Kristen Chenoweth in two episodes.

Chenoweth remembered Alley fondly in a series of tweets, writing, "I love you, Kirstie. I will see you again someday. I can't believe you're gone," alongside photos of the two together.

Actress and model Carmen Electra, who appeared on "Fat Actress," also posted a tribute to the star on Instagram, writing "#rip to this kind, beautifully talented soul," alongside glamour shots of a young Alley and a photo of the two of them together.

Alley, who was born in Wichita, Kansas, was married twice, the AP reported — to her high school sweetheart from 1970 to 1977, and then to actor Parker Stevenson from 1983 until 1997, with whom she adopted her two children.

Stevenson posted a photo of himself and his ex-wife on Instagram, writing her a short note.

"Dear Kirstie, I am so grateful for our years together, and for the two incredibly beautiful children and now grandchildren that we have," said Stevenson. "You will be missed. With love, Parker."

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