How Did Kristie Alley Die? Emmy-Winning 'Cheers' and 'Look Who's Talking' Actor Dies Aged 71 after Short Battle with Cancer

Alley's breakthrough came in 1987 when she joined the cast of the sitcom 'Cheers' in 1987 as Rebecca Howe, the bar's new manager.

  • Updated

Kirstie Alley, the two-time Emmy-winning star known for her roles in 'Cheers', 'Veronica's Closet' and 'Look Who's Talking', has died at the age of 71 after a short battle with cancer. Her death was confirmed by her children -- True, 30, and Lily, 28 -- on Monday evening on her official Twitter handle.

The family statement did not specify what cancer she had, but said it was "only recently discovered". Tributes started pouring in from all corners moments after news of her death was announced. Leading the tributes was her co-star, friend and confidante John Travolta, who said he shared a "special" relationship with Alley.

Death of a Star

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley Twitter

Alley's children took to social media on Monday evening to announce her death. "We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered.

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," wrote her children.

In their statement, the family also praised the "incredible team" at Moffitt Cancer Center.

"We are grateful to the incredible team of doctors and nurses at the Moffitt Cancer Center for their care."

Alley had not been spotted in public for some time. Her most recent photo was captured during a video that she posted on her Instagram page in early September to promote her Cameo profile. She appeared to be in good health with no obvious symptoms and had her signature mane of thick golden hair.

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley Twitter

She performed on the television show 'The Masked Singer' in April of this year.

According to Alley's family, "the zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did.

"We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time," they concluded their message.

Tributes started pouring in from the moment news of her sudden death was broken by her family.

John Travolta, who had worked with Alley on the Look Who's Talking films, paid tribute to his lifelong friend on Instagram. "Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I've ever had," he posted to Instagram after her death was announced. "I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again."

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley Twitter

Other celebrities paying tribute to her on social media include "Hot in Cleveland" alum Valerie Bertinelli and comic Adam Carolla, who wrote that he "felt lucky" to know her".

Bertinelli wrote, "Oh Kirstie ... Rest in Peace."

A Star Is Gone

Born in Kansas in 1951, Alley dropped out of Kansas State University and moved to Los Angeles after enrolling. From 1970 to 1977, Alley was married to her high school sweetheart; from 1983 to 1997, she was wed to actor Parker Stevenson. In between her career flourished.

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley in Star Trek II - The Wrath Of Khan Twitter

Her very first appearances on television were as a participant on the game shows 'The Match Game' and 'Password' in 1979 and 1980, respectively.

Alley's breakthrough came in 1987 when she joined the cast of the sitcom 'Cheers' in 1987 as Rebecca Howe, the bar's new manager. Alley was cast as a replacement after Shelley Long chose to leave the show, leaving Glen and Les Charles scurrying to find a replacement female lead.

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley posing with her Emmy trophy Twitter

Alley was chosen by the Charles brothers, who were looking for an unknown, after Carl Reiner, who had directed her in the 1987 movie 'Summer School', personally endorsed her comedy skills.

She was nominated five times for her portrayal and won the 1991 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She also received a Golden Globe for her performance.

In her acceptance speech, Alley made a light-hearted dig at her 'Cheers' co-star Ted Danson, who had finally won an Emmy for his part as Sam Malone after receiving eight nominations the year before: "I only thank God I didn´t have to wait as long as Ted."

Kristie Alley John Travolta
Kristie Alley with co-star and friend John Travolta Twitter

Alley made several film appearances in the 1980s and 1990s.

She made her acting debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), and other notable roles included Look Who's Talking, Summer School, Sibling Rivalry, It Takes Two, For Richer or Poorer, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Sibling Rivalry (1999).

In 1994, she won a second Emmy for her portrayal of a mother of an autistic child in the television movie 'David's Mother'.

Veronica's Closet, her own sitcom, ran from 1997 to 2000. She played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were spoken by Bruce Willis in the 1989 comedy Look Who's Talking, which provided her a big career boost. She would also show up in the Look Who's Talking Too sequel from 1990.

With appearances in TV sitcoms including "The Goldbergs," "The Middle," "Hot in Cleveland," "The King of Queens," and Dharma & Greg, among others, a large portion of Alley's career focused on comedy.

Kristie Alley
Kristie Alley Twitter

According to a 2015 interview with Parade, Alley frequently played roles with defects, a choice that she reportedly perceived as "self-deprecating."

"It's not necessarily intentional. ... I like playing a loser. I like playing someone who can't redeem themselves easily," she said. "For me, I guess, it's self-deprecating and that works best for me. The more of a loser I play, I think actually, probably the better I am. It's hard to play a comedy winner."

She also appeared in the 2005 Showtime comedy "Fat Actress" as well as the reality show "Kirstie Alley's Big Life," which chronicled her well-known weight-loss problems. Alley claimed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that a parking valet had mistakenly asked when she was due, leading her to confront her lingering concerns.

This article was first published on December 6, 2022