Kirstie Deal – the daughter of lumber company owner Robert and his wife Lillian – becomes Alley when she marries high school sweetheart Bob Alley at 19 while studying at Kansas State University in her native Wichita. After dropping out in 1977, she finds success as an interior decorator, but also develops a cocaine addiction. "I was a good decorator, but I snorted up all my profits," she told PEOPLE in 1990.
After separating from her husband, Alley moves to Los Angeles, where a friend introduces her to Scientology. The religion's rehab program Narconon helps Alley beat her nearly three-year drug addiction. "When I came out of my drug stupor, I decided I wanted to act," Alley tells PEOPLE.
At the same time that her mother Lillian passes away in a tragic car crash, Alley nabs her first film role, playing a Vulcan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The sci-fi hit tallies the heftiest opening weekend gross at the time, launching Alley's career.
"I picked him up at a bar," Alley tells PEOPLE of meeting former Hardy Boys star Parker Stevenson. "I saw him and said to my roommate, 'For him, I would die.'" The smitten duo elopes on Dec. 22, 1983.
Alley makes a steady living doing stints on TV, including her scene-stealing role in ABC's popular miniseries North and South, but her true breakthrough comes once she lands on Cheers – as the replacement to popular departing star Shelley Long. Cast as neurotic Rebecca Howe, Alley quickly wins over viewers of the highly rated series. "Stand us next to each other and it spells sex," costar Ted Danson says of their chemistry. "I mean, sparks fly."
Alley becomes a box-office draw, starring in Look Who's Talking, opposite good pal John Travolta. The critically slammed comedy earns $140 million domestically, spawning two blockbuster sequels. "John is the funniest person I've ever met in my life," she says of her costar. "He does impressions of Tom Cruise, my husband, even me."
Alley's success on Cheers earns her a lead actress Emmy award. While accepting the statuette, she thanks her husband "for giving me the Big One!" Her bawdy speech becomes an ongoing joke that night, prompting Burt Reynolds to thank then-wife Loni Anderson for her gift of "two big ones." That same year, Alley also takes home a Golden Globe for her role on Cheers.
After Alley suffers a miscarriage and is told she may never be able to bear children, the actress and Stevenson adopt a baby boy, William True. A year later, Cheers ends its 11-season run, allowing Alley to concentrate on motherhood. In 1994, they add another baby to their brood, adopting daughter Lillie.
Alley and Stevenson separate, filing for divorce a few months later to end their 14-year marriage. Stevenson, who demands spousal support, receives a reported $6 million settlement from Alley, who returns to TV with the NBC sitcom Veronica's Closet. "In that one aspect of my life, I needed to make a change," says Alley of her divorce and subsequent romance with actor James Wilder. "This has been a bizarre but great year for me." The series runs for three seasons before being canceled in 2000.
Alley, whose waistline is becoming cruel tabloid fodder, admits to topping the scale at over 200 lbs. "Four years ago I made a decision: I'm gonna be the best mother I can be, she tells PEOPLE in 2004, adding, "I got lazy. I haven't worked out for three years. I'm just going for the stuff that looks yummy."
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