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Kirstie Alley, mainstay of the screen in the 1980s and 1990s, dead at 71

Kirstie Alley, whose role as Rebecca Howe in the US sitcom Cheers propelled her to stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, has died from cancer at the age of 71 (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Kirstie Alley, whose role as Rebecca Howe in the US sitcom Cheers propelled her to stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, has died from cancer at the age of 71 (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kirstie Alley, whose role as Rebecca Howe in the US sitcom Cheers propelled her to stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, has died from cancer at the age of 71.

A statement from her family, posted on social media through her official accounts, described her as an “amazing mother and grandmother”.

“To all our friends, far and wide around the world… We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” the statement read.

“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.”

Alley debuted on the NBC sitcom in 1987, quickly becoming a fan favourite for her role opposite Ted Danson’s womanising bar tender Sam Malone.

She played bar manager Howe until the show ended in 1993, winning both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for the role in 1991.

Beyond Cheers, Alley starred in various films across the two decades, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Summer School (1987) Sibling Rivalry (1990), It Takes Two (1995), For Richer or Poorer (1997), and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).

Alley was also well-known for starring in the Look Who’s Talking series, alongside fellow Church of Scientology member John Travolta.

She won her second Emmy Award in 1994 for the television film David’s Mother and received a further Emmy nomination in 1997 for her work in the crime drama series The Last Don.

Obit Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley starred alongside Ted Hanson on Cheers (Doug Pizac/AP)

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 for her contribution to motion pictures.

Alley returned to NBC in 1997 to play the title character in the sitcom Veronica’s Closet, which ran until 2000.

She also made several appearances on reality television, first as a contestant on the 12th season of Dancing with the Stars, where she finished in second place.

British audiences saw Alley in reality TV-mode on the 22nd series of UK Celebrity Big Brother in 2018, with the Kansas-born actor finishing in second place.

During her stint on Big Brother she shared the house with other famous faces including Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas and Dan Osbourne from The Only Way Is Essex, who finished in first and third place respectively.

Alley was brought up as a Methodist but became a Scientologist in 1979 after moving to Los Angeles, where she used the church’s affiliated drug treatment programme Narconon in response to her self-admitted cocaine addiction.

She was married twice – to her highschool boyfriend from 1970 to 1977 and to Baywatch actor Parker Stevenson from 1983 – and after suffering a miscarriage she adopted son William True in 1992 and daughter Lillie Price in 1995 with Stevenson.

The marriage to Stevenson ended in 1997 and Alley became a grandmother in 2016 following the birth of William’s son.

Her celluloid career began as a contestant on game show The Match Game in 1979 and ended with an appearance on the competition series The Masked Singer, in which she wore a baby mammoth costume, earlier this year.