The actress Kirstie Alley passed away Monday at the age of 71, her family has confirmed. The star of 1980s TV sitcom Cheers and movies like Look Who’s Talking (1989) and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) was undergoing treatment for cancer, according to a statement published on social media by her children, William True and Lillie Parker.
“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” said the statement.
The family added that she was surrounded by her loved ones in her last hours and that she “fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead.”
Alley rose to fame playing Rebecca Howe, a character in the highly popular NBC sitcom Cheers alongside co-stars Ted Danson, George Wendt, Kelsey Grammer and Woody Harrelson. The show ran for 11 seasons. Alley received five Emmy nominations for her role and won in 1991 in the Best Actress category. In 1994, she won another statuette for her participation in the miniseries David’s Mother, where she played the mother of an autistic child.
Alley’s big screen debut came in 1982 when she landed a role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which remains one of the most highly rated films based on the Star Trek television series. She also played leading roles alongside 1980s stars such as Tom Selleck in Runaway (1984) and John Hurt, in Champions (1984). In 1988, she shared the screen with Sidney Poitier, in Shoot to Kill.
Her biggest movie success of the 1980s was the comedy Look Who’s Talking, in which Alley played a single mother deciding whether or not to raise her baby (voiced by Bruce Willis) with James, played by John Travolta. Amy Heckerling’s film was not well-received by critics, who limited themselves to calling it cute and simple. But it was a box office success, raking in $140 million in the US alone, enough to justify two sequels in the early 1990s.
Alley was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1951, into a middle-class family. She worked as an interior designer until she decided to move to Hollywood in 1981 on “an impulse” and without any contacts. Just six months later, she was dressed in the uniform of the Starship Enterprise to take part in her first movie.
Although she moved to California, Alley remained a conservative (although she said she had voted for Obama twice) and a fervent supporter of Donald Trump, whom she supported in his 2016 presidential bid. In recent years she claimed to have been blacklisted by Hollywood for her support of the former president.
She was also known for her sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. In 2005, she appeared in Fat Actress for the Showtime network. There she played an actress who, like herself, was trying to keep her career alive in an image-obsessed industry despite carrying several extra pounds. This was an ongoing battle for Alley, who was for years a spokesperson for a company that sold weight-loss plans.