Towards the end of her life, the Cheers and Look Who’s Talking star Kirstie Alley, who has died of cancer at seventy-one, did something that made her a pariah among her Hollywood associates: she tweeted support for Donald Trump. On October 17, 2020, Alley wrote, “I’m voting for @realDonaldTrump because he’s NOT a politician. I voted for him 4 years ago for this reason and shall vote for him again for this reason. He gets things done quickly and he will turn the economy around quickly. There you have it folks there you have it.”
The public response was swift and merciless. Writer and director Judd Apatow remarked, “Shelley Long was way funnier than you”; the actress Patricia Arquette announced, “Well my vote for Biden canceled yours out. I have done my civic duty of the day.”
Initially, Alley, who had struggled to find mainstream work in film and television since initially expressing her approval of Trump in 2016, doubled down, saying to Sean Hannity of Fox News, “They always attack the same three things: that I’m fat, irrelevant, Scientologist. But this has been going on for forty years, so I’m sort of prepared. That really is basically all they have to offer, so I honestly don’t take it too personally because I feel that people are angry and they have the right to say what they want to say, and I have the right to block them if I don’t like the way they speak.”
Yet the following year, she informed Tucker Carlson that she regretted her outspokenness. “People go: ‘You’re so brave.’ I go: ‘No, I think I’m stupid.’ Because honestly… it is a real blackballing situation… You can be cooking meth and sleeping with hookers, but as long as, apparently, you didn’t vote for Trump… I feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone a bit, with the whole concept of it.”
Save for an appearance on the most recent season of The Masked Singer, Alley did not work again after her Trump endorsement, which should indicate — if there was ever any doubt — that the entertainment industry is an unforgiving place for women with their own opinions.
Alley’s most famous roles might give the impression she was a mainstream people-pleaser — there is very little edginess about Look Who’s Talking and its sequels. But she was always drawn to darker and more challenging work, whether it was Woody Allen’s pitiless, self-lacerating Deconstructing Harry, the satirical comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous or the mostly improvised, autobiographical series Fat Actress, in which Alley played an only loosely fictionalized version of herself.
Alley’s struggles with her weight were much discussed, and mocked by would-be satirists. But as she said to Hannity, she had developed a thick skin and was not offended by their witless barbs. Her signature role, as the bar manager Rebecca Howe in Cheers, gained immeasurably from the eccentricity and neuroses that she brought to the part, turning what was originally conceived as a stern girl-boss into something much more interesting, and far funnier.
Inevitably, she made a lot of trash in her career, and it seemed as if there wasn’t a reality TV show she would turn down. But she remained witty, rueful and wise about the tribulations of the industry that had rewarded her and then all but ditched her. It may have amused her, too, that one of the people to have eulogized her was none other than Trump, who wrote on Truth Social, “Kirstie was a great person who truly loved the USA. She will be missed!!”
Ironically, Alley had long since renounced her initial support of Trump, tweeting, “I hate this election and I’m officially no longer endorsing either candidate.” But such nuances were missed at the time, and no doubt will be missed again.