Kirstie Alley – who shot to fame after appearing in the US sitcom Cheers – has died at the age of 71.
In a statement, her children said: “We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a short 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.”
The family went on to thank the “incredible” Moffitt Cancer Centre doctors and nurses in Florida where she was cared for.
The statement continued: “Our mother’s 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.”
Alley was best loved for her role as Rebecca Howe in the long-running US comedy Cheers, in which she appeared as the on-off love interest of Boston bar owner Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson.
Danson paid tribute, telling Deadline he had watched an old episode of Cheers while on a flight just that day, and had heard about Alley’s death when he got off the plane.
Praising her performance, he said: “I am so sad and so grateful for all the times she made me laugh. I send my love to her children. As they well know, their mother had a heart of gold. I will miss her.”
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Alley starred in various films including successful 1989 romantic comedy Look Who’s Talking, alongside John Travolta. In 1999, Alley starred alongside Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards and Ellen Barkin in beauty pageant comedy-thriller Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Travolta paid tribute to her on social media, writing on Instagram: “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.”
Like Travolta, she would become a long-time member of the Church of Scientology.
Actor Kelsey Grammar, who played psychiatrist Frasier Crane alongside Alley in Cheers, also said he had loved the actress.
He said in a statement to the PA news agency: “I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her”.
Having bagged both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for her role in Cheers in 1991, three years later she won another Emmy, this time for her role in the 1994 television film David’s Mother.
She earned further Emmy and Golden Globe nominations as the titular star of Veronica’s closet, which ran from 1997 to 2000, and played a fictionalised version of herself on Fat Actress in 2005, a show that played on the way she was treated in the media over her weight gain and loss.
From 1997 to 2000 she had her own sitcom on US network NBC, Veronica’s Closet.
Later, in 2018 she took part in UK Celebrity Big Brother, in which she finished as runner-up.
During her stint on Big Brother, Alley shared the house with other famous faces including reality star Dan Osbourne from The Only Way Is Essex, and Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas who finished in third and first place respectively.