Actor Kelsey Grammer is, of course, synonymous with the character of psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane, the pompous, effete snob he portrayed on the TV sitcom Cheers and later on its wildly successful spin-off Frasier.
Grammer embodied Crane so well that the actor's frequently tumultuous personal life seemed almost incomprehensible to the public at large, and resulted in endless tabloid fascination. Although he eventually settled into a quieter life, the sad truth was that Grammer's life had been beset by difficulty -- and outright tragedy -- for quite some time. Born February 21, 1955, on the island of St. Thomas (in the Virgin Islands), Allen Kelsey Grammer grew up first in New Jersey with his mother and grandparents, who later moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL. In 1968, Grammer's father -- who had divorced his mother when he was two years old -- was killed by a deranged gunman who was found not guilty by reason of insanity; not long after, Grammer's grandfather, with whom he had a strong relationship, passed away. It was during these early teen years that Grammer discovered Shakespeare, and an accompanying ambition to become a stage actor; encouraged by his teachers, he spent two years after high school studying his craft at Juilliard. He then dropped out and moved on to San Diego, where he joined the Old Globe Theatre and performed in canonical dramas for three years. However, tragedy struck viciously again in 1975, when Grammer's younger sister Karen was abducted, raped, and murdered. Five years later, his two half-brothers both perished in a scuba-diving accident near St. Thomas. Grammer persevered, performing in theater productions across the country and scoring occasional roles on TV soap operas. In 1984, he landed the part of Frasier Crane on NBC's hit sitcom Cheers; Frasier was main character Sam Malone's insufferably pretentious rival for the affections of equally pretentious waitress Diane Chambers. Though Frasier was initially intended as a temporary role, Grammer's portrayal was so indelible -- and, somehow, likable -- that the series elected to keep him on as a regular cast member even after his original story line was wrapped up; the writers even created a new love interest for him. Despite his newfound fame, Grammer's personal life was far from orderly; he was arrested in 1988 for drunk driving and possession of cocaine, and two years later divorced his first wife and spent a month in jail for failing to show up at arraignments and community service requirements. (Somewhat ironically, he won Emmys as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in both of those years.) Cheers ended in 1993, and although Grammer's character was tabbed as the center of a spin-off, his private turmoil continued; he made allegations of assault against his second wife, whose failed suicide attempt in the wake of divorce threats resulted in the death of their unborn child. Happily, on the other side, Frasier was a hit, and in 1994 Grammer won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, a feat he repeated the following year. He also attracted notice for his vocal rendition of the series' cool, jazzy theme song, "Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs." Tabloid fascination with Grammer's private life reached a crescendo during the mid-'90s; a taste for motorcycles that contrasted sharply with his stuffy character, an aborted marriage engagement, a scandal involving an underage babysitter (for which police could not find adequate supporting evidence), and a possibly alcohol-related one-car accident provided plenty of fodder. Following the latter incident, in 1996 Grammer checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic. Flipping his sports car seemed to be the catalyst Grammer needed to get his life in order; in 1997, he found a stable relationship in his marriage to model Camille Donatacci, and in 1998, he won his third Best Actor Emmy. While his attempt to make the jump to the big screen hasn't yet paid dividends (his roles include the lead in the 1996 comedy Down Periscope and an unscrupulous newscaster in 2001's 15 Minutes), Grammer has signed with NBC to continue Frasier through 2004; if the deal holds up, Grammer would tie James "Marshal Dillon" Arness of Gunsmoke for the record of portraying the same television character 20 years in a row. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi