Actress Kirstie Alley, best known for featuring in the comedy Cheers in the 1980s and 90s, has died of cancer at 71, according to a family statement.
Alley won an Emmy award and a Golden Globe for her role as bar manager Rebecca Howe on the popular TV series.
The Kansas-born star also appeared in the Look Who’s Talking film franchise and the TV sitcom Veronica’s Closet.
Her former castmates Ted Danson and John Travolta led the tributes, noting her warm heart and wicked humour.
“We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce and loving mother has passed away,” her children wrote, in a statement that did not specify what cancer she had, but said it was “only recently discovered”.
“As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother,” they continued, saying she had been surrounded by her family when she died.
They also praised her “zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating”.
In Cheers, the beloved NBC sitcom set in a Boston bar, Rebecca Howe – bar manager and cocktail waitress – soon became a fans; favourite, fending off advances from Danson’s womanising bar owner Sam Malone.
First appearing as a strong independent woman, the character repeatedly had failed romances, often with rich men, becoming more insecure and frustrated as a result.
She appeared in 147 episodes after joining the show at the height of its popularity in 1987 and continued to appear until its end in 1993.
In a statement to Deadline, Danson said: “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,” he added, referring to having caught an old episode of Cheers on a flight this week.
“As I got off the plane, I heard that Kirstie had died,” he went on. “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.”
Kelsey Grammer, who played the psychiatrist Frasier Crane, told the PA news agency he had “loved” the actress.
In a separate statement provided to PA, Rhea Perlman, who played head-waitress Carla Tortelli, said she had “never met anyone remotely like” Alley and would miss her “very, very much”.
“Kirstie was a unique and wonderful person and friend,” Pearlman said. “Her joy of being was boundless.”
She added: “We became friends almost instantly when she joined the cast of Cheers. She loved kids and my kids loved her too.”
“I feel so thankful to have known her,” she continued.
Speaking to US chat show host David Letterman in 1993, after having wrapped up filming on the final series of Cheers, Alley explained she had called a meeting of all the actors and director, pitching the idea that the show should return for six more episodes so “we go out with style and class and we don’t let the fans down”.
She jokingly explained how her best laid plans then fell apart as she began sobbing uncontrollably while delivering her pitch.
“It was like a group therapy session where people were saying this literally, ‘go with it… let it out!'” she smiled.
“It was so degrading. Then I thought, screw you people are old and I’m young, I still have a career!”