In an announcement on December 5th, 2022, True Stevenson and Lillie Parker, the children of Kirstie Alley, told the public that their beloved mother had passed away. Her death came after what her children said was a brief battle with cancer that was discovered only recently. Her children said that Alley died surrounded by her loved ones. They said that her battle with cancer was a recent occurrence, and that while she fought bravely, the disease ultimately was too much. Of course, to them and their children, Alley was much more than a Hollywood star. They stated that as big of a star as she was, she played a much more important role in their lives as an amazing grandmother and mother.
Alley’s children spoke of her big heart, and how she used it to spread love to her kids and grandkids, the animals in her life, and others around her. They said she had a passion for creating, and that it brought her joy. They made sure to mention the incredible care Kirstie received from the staff at the Moffit Cancer Center.
Tributes Came Pouring In
Friends and costars of Alley’s were understandably devastated at the news. And while many likely expressed their grief privately, a few took to social media to lament the passing of their friend and colleague. John Travolta, who was a long time friend and who starred in the Look Who’s Talking films with Alley, wrote that theirs was one of the most specials relationships that he had in his life. He posted a pic of Kirstie, adding that he was sure they’d see each other again. Actress Valerie Bertinelli also expressed her sadness and love, simply posting, “Oh Kirstie, Rest in Peace.” No doubt more and more expressions of grief and love will be shared as the news spreads.
Alley had recently joined Cameo and was open to sending personalized video messages to fans. The instruction on Kirstie’s page said that people could choose a message that was funny, or one that was sincere. Fans will likely be devastated if they didn’t get a chance to get that personalized Cameo message before Alley’s untimely passing. The page has since been removed from the Cameo site.
Alley’s early life
Kirstie hailed from Wichita, Kansas. She was born in 1951 as the daughter of Robert Deal and Lillian Alley. Her father was in the lumber business, and her mother helped raise Kirstie and her two siblings, Craig and Colette. After finishing high school in Wichita, she headed to Kansas State for higher education. However, she didn’t find it a good fit, and decided to leave school after two years. Already involved in the Church of Scientology, she decided to move to one of the hubs of the church, Los Angeles, and sought work in the world of interior design.
Her earliest appearance on TV came in the game show circuit. She was on Match Game in 1979, winning $6,000 over the course of two appearances. Then in 1980 she appeared on Password Plus, finding some success there as well.
Tragically it was shortly after this that her parents were involved in a fatal car accident. While her father escaped death (albeit with serious injuries) her mother wasn’t able to survive the accident.
In 1982, Alley had firmly ventured into an acting career when she found herself playing Lieutenant Saavik in the second Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. And while they asked her to return in the role for the next two sequels, Kirstie turned it down. She noted later that they were offering less money each time. It was perhaps a good indicator of the headstrong personality Alley possessed, and her unwillingness to be treated unfairly. But turning down the Star Trek sequels didn’t end up hurting her career at all, and it was only upwards from there. She immediately got a recurring role in the show Masquerade, which aired on ABC from 1983 to 84. She also spent the next couple of years making appearances in a series of small budget films such as Runaway and Blind Date. Her earliest breakout role was starring opposite Mark Harmon in the classic 1987 comedy, Summer School. Despite being a fairly silly and lighthearted movie, it was a surprise success. After it grossed $35 million in the US, Alley’s star grew even more. It was perhaps her bankability from that movie that helped get her the role that changed her life. She was cast in the hit sitcom, Cheers, replacing fan favorite Shelley Long. Long had departed the show while it was still at the top of the ratings, in order to pursue a film career. The network knew they had big shoes to fill, and they needed an actress who was not only talented, but who could also hold her own amongst such a steallar and talented cast. In particular they needed someone with the screen presence and comedic skills that could match those of the inimitable Ted Danson. Alley came in and hit the ball out of the park. She was an immediate fan favorite as well, and stayed on the show through the 11th season, after which the show ended. She was nominated for her role as Rebecca Howe three separate times, winning once.
By the time Alley signed on to costar with John Travolta in Look Who’s Talking, she was already a household name. The movie about talking babies was another surprise hit, enough so that it garnered two sequels. The original brought in $295 million in worldwide gross, making it a certified blockbuster.
In 1994, she starred in David’s Mother, a TV movie for which she won another Emmy. Then in 1995, Alley was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, solidifying her status as a legitimate legend.
In her post-Cheers career, Alley found a bit of success with a couple assorted sitcoms, though nothing came close to matching the level Cheers. She played the lead on Veronica’s Closet, a sitcom on NBC from 1997 to 2000. By that point she had found a level of success and fame that she was able to also executive produce the show. Later on, she was on a TV Land sitcom that was called Kirstie, though that only lasted once season before getting the boot.
In later years, she had success as a spokesperson. She spent several years as the face of furniture brand, Pier One, and then became the spokesperson for Jenny Craig in 2004. That gig lasted until 2007. Though her resume of notable acting performances somewhat dwindled in the last decade or so, she had begun to find success on the reality TV circuit. Most notably, she competed on Dancing with the Stars on its 15th season, before also appearing on The Masked Singer just this year. So clearly, Kirstie was not looking to retire or slow down. Sadly, her cancer diagnosis meant her career and life were tragically cut short.
Alley was a longtime member of the Church of Scientology. Her stock in the church only rose as her Hollywood star rose, since the religion has a focus on fostering and promoting celebrities to help spread its word. Originally, she suffered from a cocaine addiction, and turned to Scientology to help fight it. According to her, the Scientology affiliated drug program Narconon helped her kick her addiction. She ended up buying a house in Clearwater, FL, which is where Scientology HQ is located, and has donated millions of dollars to the church over the years, as per the church’s tenets. When the Cheers spinoff, Frasier, was created, Alley was asked to continue playing Rebecca Howe on the show. But for Kirstie, it was a nonstarter, because it dealt with psychology. Scientology has a stated distrust of psychology and psychiatrists, and are instructed not to believe in their expertise. So Alley didn’t want to join a show that she felt glorified that field.
Her relationship with Scientology resulted in a long time feud with former member and actress Leah Remini. The two former friends spent a lot of time going back and forth in public, after Remini began exposing the church’s many shady, intrusive, and outright dangerous practices. Alley initially went on Howard Stern’s show and called Remini a ‘bigot’ because of her claims against the church’s practices. The two then exchanged harsh words over the next decade or so.
Kirstie Alley was a talented actress who lit up the screen, particularly in her roles in Cheers and Look Who’s Talking. She’ll be remembered as an adept comedic performer who could hold her own opposite anyone onscreen. And while her personal life had its share of controversies, she was adored by her friends and family, and will be missed.
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