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Inside Kirstie Alley's Estate Sale, an Eclectic Life Emerges

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Past stacks of melamine dishes, a baroque dog bed and a Lucite stand that once held a Golden Globe, there it was. Kirstie Alley's yellow bike.

I'd seen her atop it long ago, riding on the Pinellas Trail in Florida. She was tooling around alone with a certain lightness. I remember thinking, huh. The late "Cheers" alum, the comic star with the bouncing hair and raspy voice, the unwitting symbol of our culture's sick obsession with weight, was small. Petite, even. Just another person huffing around in the sun on a banana ride with the word "Townie" down the side.

Alley's yellow bike, $950, was up for grabs at an estate sale of her things Thursday that offered a surreal glimpse at the everyday ephemera of a celebrity. The prices ranged from pedestrian -- $25 for a set of summery goblets -- to jaw-dropping -- $18,000 for a peach ball gown she wore in a Jenny Craig commercial.

What to do with the trappings of the dead? Sorting the remains of anyone's life is a confusing swirl of transaction and sentiment. If you've lost someone, you've no doubt stared into a box of socks, overwhelmed with analysis paralysis. Add in a layer of fame, of glitz and glamour, of real and perceived value, and the kaleidoscope shifts again.

The task of sorting it all fell to Those Two Girls Estate Sales. The company tackles projects from hoarded houses to high-end affairs such as this. Alley, who died in 2022 at 71 after a battle with cancer, tapped Those Two Girls when she fell ill. Her associates interviewed the company and chose them to catalog and sell her belongings from three houses in Maine, California and Florida.

The sale was not at her Clearwater, Florida, home, which sold for $5.2 million in August. Those Two Girls co-owner Bill Wallace walked me through the sale inside a vacant Clearwater building. Alley's belongings were both painfully ordinary -- DVDs of "The Office" and sets of cocktail napkins -- and fantastically ornate -- hand-painted panels from famed interior designer Sister Parish.

Wallace shared anecdotes about Italian pottery from Positano and a dress Alley wore on "Dancing with the Stars." Assembling the sale and learning the lore took Wallace and co-owner Magge Barber nine months.

"Exciting, arduous, to say the least," said Wallace. "Lots of phone calls back and forth understanding her life. Because why does someone have 15 vintage doors?"

Indeed, he pointed to an array of doors I had somehow failed to process amid the sensory overload.

"It wasn't because she was a hoarder or a collector. She had actually purchased the house that she was retiring to, and she wanted it to be authentic."

Alley was an interior designer before turning to Hollywood, always hunting for maximalist pieces that, by all accounts, should not make sense together.

"There's French chateau, there's American mid with the vinyl and the chrome and glass table," Wallace said. "When you look at the pictures of how she had her house set up, it all worked."

An elderly man tried on Alley's old reading glasses. He said he was a cancer patient and asked to sit on the furniture; Wallace said yes. These things were used before, and they're meant to be used now. The goal of any estate sale is to keep useful items in use but spare grieving people from becoming so overwhelmed that they slip a bit of treasure into the trash.

 

"These are dishes that she hand-picked from Italy and brought home with her," he said. "She used these. She ate off these. This is her real..."

A customer cut in, asking to get a Pinocchio puppet off the wall. Wallace unhooked it and handed it over.

"That's a $350 marionette," he said.

Racks of clothes filled the back of the room: period costumes for $1,000 and Zara blouses for $25, pristine Christian Louboutins for $300 and flats from Nordstrom Rack with a clearance sticker on the bottom (size 9 range). Women sifted through the clothes, muttering about how small they were.

A stunning reminder: This was a woman so maligned for her weight that she turned the bizarre fixation on her body into a payday. Alley's portfolio included the Jenny Craig endorsement as the weight loss fairy, her sitcom "Fat Actress" and her reality show "Kirstie Alley's Big Life."

Alley, a Scientologist since the 1970s, bought her Clearwater mansion from Lisa Marie Presley in 2000. Her headlines, especially later in life, tended toward politically unpalatable brashness. I had no particular affinity for her, but despite points of disagreement, I perceived her as interesting and bold, blessed with a talent to beat a desperately judgmental public to the punchline.

I carried $60 cash in the pocket of my jeans. I would not be taking home anything imported from Paris, but maybe a pair of sunglasses or a knickknack, something I could point to and say, "This was Kirstie Alley's!"

But as I wandered around, I just felt sad, actually, a little teary. All this life sourced from all over the world was now picked over and fragmented and loaded into RAV4s. Famous or not, we must all eventually let go.

In this sea of beautiful baubles, what I found myself wanting most was less clutter. More lightness, maybe. The feeling of riding a yellow bike alone with the notion that nobody knows your name. I left with nothing.

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Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her at @stephhayes on Twitter or @stephrhayes on Instagram.

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Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.


 

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