Ted Danson is paying tribute to his former Cheers leading lady Kirstie Alley, whose death from cancer was announced on Monday.
“I was on a plane today and did something I rarely do. I watched an old episode of Cheers,” Danson said in a statement to our sister site Deadline. “It was the episode where Tom Berenger proposes to Kirstie, who keeps saying no, even though she desperately wants to say yes. Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny. She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard. As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died. 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.”
Alley played tightly wound bar manager Rebecca Howe opposite Danson’s unapologetic cad Sam Malone on Cheers from Season 6 through to the end of the series.
“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” Alley’s children True and Lillie said in a statement Monday. “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. As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.”
The statement continued: “We are grateful to the incredible team of doctors and nurses at the Moffitt Cancer Center for their care. Our mother’s zest and passion for life, her children, her 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. We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
In joining Cheers in 1987, Alley filled the void left by former leading lady Shelley Long. The NBC comedy didn’t miss a beat though, climbing the Nielsen charts to become TV’s top-rated show in Season 9. Alley was nominated for five Emmys for her work on Cheers, winning in 1991.