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March 17, 2005
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Fat, funny, fabulous
Kirstie Alley's is no sad story
By -- Ottawa Sun


Watching interviews with Kirstie Alley gave me the impression the formerly fading star is crazy.

Now that I've read her book, How to Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life, watched her Showtime series Fat Actress, and caught several of her Jenny Craig commercials, I'm convinced of it.

At least it's crazy in a good way. A highly entertaining, not-so-destructive-we-feel-bad-watching way.

Alley has turned Hollywood on its head with her plus-sized resurgence. The gifted Cheers star has bucked a formula where washed-up stars with problems are supposed to go away. Then, where we can't see them all messy and unravelled, they transform themselves, only to re-emerge on Oprah or the cover of People, svelte, glowing and full of life lessons.

Well, Alley had the Oprah interview, she had the People cover too. But she's no contrite Robert Downey Junior or strange Anne Heche. And unlike the Anna Nicole Smiths of this world, she got back in our face while just as fat as ever.

Oh, she's going to lose the weight, she tells us. Jenny Craig is paying her to do it. Even better, outside of the tabloid photographer's lens, she looks surprisingly good. Big AND beautiful. What a concept.

Take that, Star.

Alley's book is periodically irritating, mildly amusing, and surprisingly crude, even for a woman who once thanked her husband for "giving her the big one" at an awards show.

It's short on details into the interesting stuff and long on strange stories from her past, like her exhaustive recounting of sex with a man possessing an incredibly small penis.

Between tales of childhood hurts, a litany of diets tried, and a chapter titled simply "Pooping," Alley writes about her past cocaine addictions and the pain surrounding a miscarriage in the Cheers years which prevented her from having her own children.

But anyone hoping for tidbits on her secretive religion, Scientology, or the demise of her marriage to Hardy Boy Parker Stevenson will be disappointed.

When it comes to Scientology, Alley says only that one introductory session helped her kick a three-year cocaine habit. She and her ex-husband have a relationship that allows them to spend holidays together. A

And while it appears at some point her Look Who's Talking co-star John Travolta may have wanted to marry her, and there are days Alley regrets not taking him up on it, she never explains why.

Oh, and this might go without saying, but this woman LOVES food. It is impossible to read How To without craving a snack.

Alley, as she explains early on, is fond of lying. It started in grade school, when she captivated her class with tales of her grandmother's dancing white rat. Turning it into a career is one of the happy coincidences of her life.

Alley still seems to be lying today, because there must be more to the story of why she started stuffing her face than her explanation that she simply wanted to be a good mother to her two children.

Far from miserable

(Former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell believes she's also caught her at it. When Alley told an interviewer at her biggest she weighed 201 lbs, O'Donnell wrote in her weblog: "I almost choked on my yodel. I am 220 -- 'fess up kirstie -- 201 my ass.")

In the end we are left with no real clue as to how Alley, as the title promised, was able to Regain Her Life. We can all see, at present, she has yet to lose her ass.

Yet for all her wailing, by her telling, Alley was far from miserable. She seems actually quite happy, fat ass and all.

But she'll have none of the "I'm going to love myself no matter the size" Curves-style crap. "Social brutality is the stock and trade of fatty haters," she writes. "You will be shunned and scorned and looked upon as less. You will be gossiped about and treated as though you are lazy. You will mysteriously lose out on the best jobs and the most attractive, wealthy mates. In fact you won't need anyone else to screw you, you will be expertly screwing yourself."

Hers is really not a sad story, as her fearless capacity to make fun of herself shows.

Early in last week's Fat Actress (broadcast in Canada on The Movie Network Mondays at 10 p.m.) Alley bent over, her giant behind filling the screen. She sits clueless in front of some studio heads while they exclaim her pitch for a show will be "enormous" and "huge." She begs Travolta to do Look Who's Talking 4 -- "we haven't explored all the possibilities!" she mock-pleads and gets her assistants to rip the plus-size Lane Bryant tags out of her clothes and replace them with ones reading Prada, size eight.

Fat Actress is uneven, and sometimes irritating, and a clear rip-off of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, but funny stuff all the same.

Alley has already won a big battle. She may be a fat actress, but she's working, and right now she's everywhere.

While she must realize that her "I got fat and now I'm making it funny" schtick will only go so far in thin-obsessed Hollywood, I'm torn between rooting for her weight loss and wishing she'd grab the cash and a bag of fries and run.

We can hope the industry will embrace her when she gets what she wants, but then again, Hollywood isn't kind to aging actresses when they're skinny either.




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