'FAT ACTRESS' Kirstie Alley didn't see how fat she really was
Ironically, she got serious about weight loss and funny about her situation.
By LUAINE LEE
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- If anyone were casting a real-life Auntie Mame, they needn't look any farther than Kirstie Alley. To the one-time star of "Cheers" and "Veronica's Closet," life really is a banquet and she's the last one to leave the table.
"I've never been any good at conserving," she sighs. "I've always been really bad at that. If I have a Smartie I want 1,000 Smarties to eat. If I want down pillows, I want 100 down pillows on my bed. It's that 'more-is-better' viewpoint. And I'm not very good at conserving. At times, when I'm not making very much money, I have to be very creative about what I'm going to have a lot of because I'm going to have a lot of something ...," she says, seated on a green frieze couch in an empty hotel room here.
With acres of her tawny mane billowing over her shoulders, her zaftig body swathed in a long, black jacket and skirt with just a hint of black lace at the neckline, it's hard to think of her as an outcast.
But Alley has converted her passion for excess into her very own sitcom, "Fat Actress," premiering March 7 on Showtime. In the unscripted show she basically plays herself, a beautiful actress whose indulgences have made her persona non grata in a world where body fat is akin to leprosy.
The good fight
Alley says she's battled creeping avoirdupois all her career. "I have spent my life being thin, not in size 1 standards, but I spent most of my life actually thin," she says in her husky, cognac voice.
"But I've also spent most of my acting career with studio executives calling me in telling me I was too fat. It's just impossible for me to maintain where I started -- which was about 114. I just can't do that. I couldn't even do it THEN. I could only do it then because when I did 'Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan' my mother had just died. And I plummeted from 120 to 114, so that's how people first saw me. I was always trying to maintain this 114 insane weight I had because of death."
Today she's the official spokesperson for the Jenny Craig weight-loss plan and has shed 10 pounds in three weeks. Her weight peaked at 207, she says.
Even then, Alley says she didn't realize she was too heavy. "We're not talking about any type of weight that should've been a 'fat conversation' until the last two years when there is a conversation to be had there," she says.
"And that's when I thought, 'Oh, good, I don't even look fat.' It took me seeing this show to go, 'You ARE fat.' I even thought when I made up the show, I thought, 'Yeah, you're fat. You need to lose 20 pounds.' I was just der, der, der. Then I saw the show and said, 'Girl, you're fat. You're not just 20 pounds overweight."'
The Wichita-born actress, a devoted Scientologist, says it's still difficult to understand what is acceptable in Hollywood. "It's odd because one week there would be a photo of me, 'Oh, isn't she beautiful.' And the next day, 'Oh, isn't she fat' -- in the same week! If you believe all that B.S. you start getting kooky about it. And I think I did. I think I sort of went a little mad on the whole subject. I thought, 'Oh, I'm not that fat,' when I really am. It's not a joke anymore."
The lustrous Alley kids about it now, but she admits there was a point when she was severely depressed. "I know in my darkest, blackest moments -- and one of them was just before I created this show -- I'm lying in my bed and thinking, 'I'm not getting out of bed.' And I started watching old reruns of 'Lucy' and 'Dick Van Dyke.' And it was like, 'Oh my God.' This woke me up again and it rehabilitated me," she says.