By: Jesse Striewski
I was far too young for Cheers during Shelley Long’s run as Diane Chambers in the earlier seasons, but can clearly remember watching the show after Kirstie Alley had come on board in the late ’80s as Rebecca Howe, and quickly became a fan all the way up to the much-watched series finale on May 20, 1993. In that short span of time watching the show, I’m not ashamed to admit I had the major hots for Alley. But it was more than just a physical attraction; her ability to appear so down to Earth, not to mention quick-witted, made her a strong, relatable example of an ’80s woman, just as much as a sexy one. I wasn’t prepared when I learned of her passing last night on December 5, 2022.
Alley was born in Witchita, Kansas on January 12, 1951, and made her film debut four decades ago in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although I’ve never been much of a Trekie myself, the sequel was much more tolerable than many other entries in the series, perhaps partly due to Alley’s involvement.
From there on out, Alley made appearances in a number of supporting roles in such ’80s staples (at least in my book) as 1984’s Blind Date (co-starring Bruce Willis) and the Sci-Fi action/thriller Runaway with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons of KISS (a personal favorite of mine to this day, and the scene where Alley “strips down” is still etched in my mind after all these years).
If there were a “breakthrough” year for Alley, it’d have to be 1987; not only did she score big co-starring (with Mark Harmon) in the hit film Summer School, she also landed said role of Rebecca on the previously-mentioned hit television series Cheers, a character she would thrive as for six full seasons.
By 1989 she had become a box office draw, co-starring with John Travolta in what was billed as his “comeback” in 1989’s comedy romp Look Who’s Talking (re-uniting her in sorts with her Blind Date co-star Willis). The film was successful enough to spawn two sequels; 1990’s Look Who’s Talking Too and 1993’s Look Who’s Talking Now.
Aside from the L.W.T. sequels, the ’90s were not as kind to her at the box office, but she appeared in a number of underrated films such as 1990’s Madhouse with John Larroquette, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (1995), and 1997’s For Richer or Poorer (along with Tim Allen). But she fared better on the small screen, landing another hit show in the form of Veronica’s Closet on NBC, which ran from 1997-2000.
She made more sporadic appearances throughout the next couple of decades, becoming a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig in 2004 after struggling with weight issues, and occasionally still scoring a memorable role or two (her guest spot on a 2006 episode of The King of Queens particularly stands out) and short-lived starring roles like 2013’s Kirstie, and 2016’s Scream Queens.
Most recently, Alley appeared as a contestant on season seven of The Masked Singer earlier this year, which looks to be her final public appearance now since her family announced her passing at the age of 71 on Monday night after a battle with cancer. Although I can’t say I understood every aspect of her personal life (especially her spiritual beliefs), I definitely think her and I would’ve seen eye to eye politically (among other things). Her death no doubt came as a sudden shock to many, and left yet another huge unfortunate void for all of us children of the ’80s. She will be missed by many.