Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Kirstie Alley once had a publicist provide mother’s milk for Alley’s pet opossum.
This is one of those stories where the real story is odd enough, but, naturally, people have to make the story sound a lot weirder than it actually was.
The story that gets told frequently is that Kirstie Alley is walking her pet opossum at some event and the the opossum looks sad/gets upset/something or other, so Alley asks a publicist who had recently given birth and had her give the possum some milk from her breast, and the publicist complied.
What ACTUALLY happened?
What actually happened is that Kirstie Alley was at a press event for her 1990 film, Sibling Rivalry, which she did during the break between seasons on Cheers.
Alley is a big animal lover and she routinely saves abandoned critters (her house at the time had over 40 animals living there!). At the time, she had a baby opossum whose mother had rejected it. If a baby opossum is rejected by his/her mother, it’s basically screwed as it has no other way of feeding. The only way you can feed it is by substituting another animal’s mother’s milk in place of the opossum’s mother’s milk.
At a press event, a Castle Rock publicist named Anne Reilly had just gone back to work after giving birth six months earlier. Reilly was still breast feeding and was routinely pumping mother’s milk for her child. So Alley asked if she could lend some of her milk to feed the baby opossum. Reilly agreed, and that was that (Alley sent her a floral arrangement in thanks).
In a People magazine article around the same time (actually, literally the day after the article about the press event came out – October 28 and 29, 1990), Alley was being interviewed while a friend of hers was extracting mother’s milk from Alley’s pet German Shepherd (who had just given birth to puppies) to feed the very same opossum.
So is it weird?
Yeah, it’s weird.
But it’s not THAT weird and it’s certainly not like how it has been presented over the years as some vapid celebrity demanding that a publicist deliver her mother’s milk to calm Alley’s pet down.
The legend is…
Thanks to Pat H. Broeske for the L.A. Times article with info from Reilly describing what happened and thanks to J.D. Reed for the People magazine article confirming that Alley was nursing a baby opossum at the time.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]