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Cheers Star and Noted Scientologist Kirstie Alley Passes Away at 71 after Losing Battle With Cancer

Cheers actress Kirstie Alley dies at 71

Cheers actress Kirstie Alley was recently diagnosed with cancer and has passed away at the age of 71. Best known for playing Rebecca Howe on the NBC sitcom that ran for 11 seasons, the actress’s contribution to the show made Cheers one of the most memorable and durable programs on American television. A renowned and vocal member of the Church of Scientology, the life of Kirstie Alley was defined by her fearless character, and people who have been the closest to Alley have defined her as someone unafraid of holding back.

Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley

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The Life and Formative Years of Cheers Star Kirstie Alley

Born in 1951 in Wichita, Kansas, Kirstie Alley’s life was a rollercoaster ride dotted with equal parts joy and tragedy. After spending two years at Kansas State University, Alley found herself gravitating toward LA where she went on to feature in short television programs during her formative years, including the show Match Game where she won $6000 in 1979. 1981 was defined by a definitive tragedy when her mother was killed and her father was left grievously injured after a roadside accident involving a drunk driver.

The decade that followed was filled with career-defining roles in shows, films, and miniseries. The ’80s catapulted her to fame and Kirstie Alley became known for her understated screen presence. Her projects comprised franchise films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), shows, and telefilms like Masquerade (1983-84) and A Bunny’s Tale (1985). Her work under Carl Reiner’s direction for the 1987 film, Summer School went on to secure her breakout role in Cheers which she landed after Shelley Long decided to leave the cast.

Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe in Cheers
Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe in Cheers

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The late actress went on to secure a Golden Globe and an Emmy win for her role in Cheers. She would later win her 2nd Emmy for her role in David’s Mother in 1994 where she portrayed the mother of an autistic child. Alley’s career later catapulted into including projects like Deconstructing HarryLook Who’s TalkingVeronica’s Closet, and Scream Queens. She later created and starred in Fat Actress where Alley depicted a fictionalized version of herself. Alley was known to have struggled with weight loss during her lifetime.

The late 70s were marred by a cocaine addiction during which Kirstie Alley famously joined the Church of Scientology and underwent their drug treatment program. For the entirety of her life and career, she has been a vocal spokesperson and supporter of the Church, including going toe-to-toe with actress and former Scientologist Leah Remini who has personally criticized the Church on numerous occasions.

Co-Stars and Family Pays Their Tribute to Kirstie Alley

Kirstie Alley’s death was announced by her adopted children True and Lillie Stevenson via her social media account. Soon after, Alley’s second husband actor Parker Stevenson (divorced in 1997) wrote, “I am so grateful for our years together and for the two incredibly beautiful children and now grandchildren that we have. You will be missed.” Alley was memorialized in the words and memories of former co-stars and actors like Ted Danson, Kelsey Grammer, and John Travolta who have all expressed their grief upon receiving the sudden news.

Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley

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Travolta who starred opposite Kirstie Alley in Look Who’s Talking wrote, “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.” Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred beside her in the horror anthology series Scream Queens mourned the loss calling Alley “a beautiful mama bear” and said, “We agreed to disagree about some things but had a mutual respect and connection. Sad news.”

Source: Twitter | Kirstie Alley

Written by Diya Majumdar

At 25, Diya Majumdar is inching closer to getting to the bottom of every film and television's history in existence. Having graduated with honors in literature from Miranda House, DU, her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema, with more than 800 published articles on Fandomwire. She is a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for Monet, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh and boasts of being an avid painter of all their troubled works.