LOS ANGELES — Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner whose roles in the TV megahit Cheers and the Look Who’s Talking films made her one of the biggest stars of American comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Monday . She was 71.
Alley died of cancer, which was only recently discovered, her children, True and Lillie Parker, said in a post on Twitter. Alley’s manager, Donovan Daughtry, confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press.
“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” their children’s statement read.
From 1987 to 1993, she starred opposite Ted Danson as Rebecca Howe on Cheers, the popular NBC sitcom about a Boston bar.
Alley would win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1991 for the role.
“I just thank God I didn’t have to wait as long as Ted did,” Alley said of her acceptance, gently picking up Danson, who finally won an Emmy for his role as Sam Malone in “Cheers” in his eighth nomination last year .
She received a second Emmy in 1993 for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for the title role in the CBS TV movie David’s Mother.
She had her own sitcom on the network, Veronica’s Closet, from 1997-2000.
She played the mother of a baby whose inner thoughts were voiced by Bruce Willis in the 1989 comedy Look Who’s Talking, which gave her a major career boost. She also appeared in a 1990 sequel, Look Who’s Talking Too, and another in 1993, Look Who’s Talking Now.
John Travolta, her co-star in the trilogy, paid tribute to her in an Instagram post.
“Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had,” Travolta said, along with a photo of Alley. “I love you Kirstie. I know we will meet again.”
She played a fictionalized version of herself on the 2005 Showtime series Fat Actress, a show that made her public and media treatment of her weight gain and loss comedic.
She dealt with the same topic in 2010 A&E reality series Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, which chronicled her attempt to lose weight and start a weight loss program while working as a single mom in an unconventional household with lemur pets.
Alley said she agreed to do the show in part because of the misinformation about her that has become a tabloid staple.
“Everything bad that can be said about me, they say,” Alley told AP at the time. “I have never collapsed, passed out or passed out. Basically, I never said everything they said. The real thing is I got fat.”
In recent years, she has appeared on several other reality shows, including a runner-up spot on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2011. Earlier this year, she appeared on the competitive series “The Masked Singer” in a baby mammoth costume .
She appeared in Ryan Murphy’s black comedy series Scream Queens on Fox in 2015 and 2016.
One of her co-stars on the show, Jamie Lee Curtis, said on Instagram Monday that Alley was “a great comic slide” on the show and “a beautiful mother bear in her very real life.”
Alley’s “Cheers” co-star Kelsey Grammer said in a statement, “I’ve always believed that the grief of a public figure was a private matter, but I will say that I loved her.”
Another “Cheers” co-star, Rhea Pearlman, opened up about how she and Alley became friends almost immediately after she joined the show. She said Alley organized big Easter and Halloween parties and invited everyone. “She wanted everyone to feel included. She loved her children very much. I’ve never met anyone remotely like her. I’m so thankful to have known her.”
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Alley attended Kansas State University before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles.
Like Travolta, she became a longtime member of the Church of Scientology.
She made her television debuts as a game show contestant on The Match Game in 1979 and Password in 1980.
She made her film debut in 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
Other film roles included Summer School in 1987, Village of the Damned in 1995 and Drop Dead Gorgeous in 1999.
Alley was married to her high school sweetheart from 1970 to 1977 and to actor Parker Stevenson from 1983 to 1997.
She told the AP in 2010 that if she were to remarry, “I would leave the guy within 24 hours because I’m sure he would tell me not to do anything.”
Rancilio reported from Detroit. Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton