How Sitcom Icon Kelsey Grammer Translated His Dark Past Into Laughs

Emmy Award-winning actor Kelsey Grammer has had quite an illustrious career. He hit it big with his role as Dr. Frasier Crane on NBC’s Cheers and then followed up with his widely successful spinoff, Frasier. Aside from playing one of the most recognizable characters on TV, Grammer also has a strong Broadway presence and has voiced several animated characters.

Kaytle Walsh pregnant with Kelsey Grammer on the red carpet in 2016 / Kelsey Grammer with headphones in the radio room on the show Frasier / Kelsey Grammer and Woody Harrelson at the bar on the show Cheers

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Many people aren’t aware of the irony that Grammer was cast as a psychiatrist because his journey to success was a difficult one. Grammer’s life story contains more trauma than all of Frasier’s patients combined. From dealing with several family tragedies to overcoming addiction and his divorce from RHOBH Camille, Kelsey Grammer sure has gone through the wringer. This is his story.

Humble Beginnings

The actor was born Allen Kelsey Grammer on February 21, 1955, on the island of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His mother Sally worked as a singer and actress, while his father Frank was a musician and owner of a bar and grill called Greer’s Place. When Grammer was two years old, his parents divorced.

A yearbook photograph of Kelsey Grammar in middle school

Source: Pinterest

His mother packed up their belongings and uprooted Grammer and his little sister Karen to live with her father in New Jersey. A few years later, the actor’s family relocated to Pompano Beach, Florida, and that’s when the string of family deaths began. After Grammer’s 12th birthday, his grandfather passed away from cancer. He was only 63 years old at the time.

The Loss of His Father

Then, the following year, tragedy struck again. While Frank was sitting at his home in St. Thomas with his second wife and their four children, he heard some commotion outside. He got up to see what it was and noticed that someone had set his car ablaze. Frank ran outside only to be shot twice by a man named Arthur Niles.

Kelsey Grammar as a young boy

Source: Facebook

Niles was never sent to jail. Instead, he was found not guilty due to insanity and was subsequently shipped off to a psychiatric facility. Niles spent several decades at the facility, and by 1994, it was believed that he was no longer a threat to society. However, he later threatened a judge and finally sent to prison.

Doing What He Knows Best

With back to back tragedies, Grammer poured his heart and soul into the performing arts. It was at the Pine Crest preparatory school in Fort Lauderdale that Grammer first fell in love with singing and acting. As the years went by, Grammer knew he had finally found his calling.

Kelsey Grammar sitting on a desk in high school

Source: Facebook

He then decided to try his luck with the prestigious Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York. Not only was he accepted, but he won a full scholarship. With barely any money to his name, Grammer packed up his belongings and moved to the big city. To support himself, he worked as a nightman at a hotel only to finish his shift and run to a job site to start his shift as a construction worker.

Making Ends Meet

Today, Grammer smiles when asked about his time working two jobs to make ends meet. The actor even says that at one point, he slept in the park. “I could sneak behind a certain bush and cover myself with a newspaper, and I was fine,” Grammer told Graham Bensinger in 2019.

Kelsey Grammar in high school

Source: Pinterest

The actor also shared that it was his choice to sleep on a park bench, just as it was his choice to use a motorcycle instead of a car. “There was always a way of shaving the budget to a point where you could survive and still feel like you were thriving.” But little did Grammer know that his life was about to take a turn for the worst.

Tragedy Strikes Again

On June 30, 1975, his sister Karen had just finished her waitressing shift at the Red Lobster in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when four men decided to rob the restaurant. One of those men was spree killer Freddie Glenn. But when Glenn and his men saw Karen sitting outside, they decided to kidnap her instead.

Kelsey Grammar and his sister, Karen

Source: Facebook

We’ll spare you the gruesome details, but Karen was found dead the next morning. Since Karen had no identification on her, it took the police a full week to figure out who she was. That’s when police called Grammer to come and identify the body. To say that the actor was devastated is an understatement. “I miss her in my bones,” Grammer wrote to Glenn’s parole board. “I was her big brother. I was supposed to protect her—I could not.”

Living with Guilt

Grammer has struggled with his sister’s death over the years and often blames himself, even though he was 20 years old and living in New York at the time. He eventually learned to let go of the guilt, but the hurt is something the actor has carried around ever since. While the actor has since forgiven his sister’s killer, Grammer still does not believe Glenn should be released from prison.

A portrait of Kelsey Grammar

Photo by ITV / Shutterstock

Every time Glenn is up for parole, Grammer gives emotional testimonies, detailing the reasons why Glenn should never see the light of day. “I forgive you. However, I cannot give your release my endorsement,” the actor said during Glenn’s 2014 parole hearing. “To give that a blessing would be a betrayal of my sister’s life.”

Drinking the Pain Away

After his sister’s death, Grammer went back to New York and resumed his classes at Juilliard. However, he should not shake what had happened to his little sister. Believing that he had no way out, Grammer turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. This got in the way of his studies as he stopped showing up to class, and it didn’t take long for Juilliard to expel the actor.

Kelsey Grammar at an Oscar Party in 2020

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Grammer later told Oprah that his alcoholism stemmed from the depression he experienced in the years following his sister’s murder. “I liked the way it made me feel,” he said in 2012. “Maybe it was because I was running away from the feelings that weren’t, you know, as comfortable as I wanted them to do be, and maybe I do have a self-destructive part of me.”

Trouble in Paradise

Grammer somehow found the strength to focus on his acting career. After being expelled from Juilliard, he moved to San Diego, where he scored a three-year internship with the Old Globe Theatre. Grammer’s career was right on track, but just as he began to find success, tragedy struck his family once again. His two half-brothers, Stephan and Billy Grammer, were scuba diving right off the coast of St. Thomas when something went wrong.

Kelsey Grammar on the red carpet in 2019

Photo by Vianney Le Caer / BAFTA / Shutterstock

While no one knows exactly what happened, investigators know that Stephan tragically suffered a brain embolism from surfacing too quickly. However, Billy’s body was never found. No one knows what happened to Billy or how he died. Rescue teams believed that he was eventually eaten by a shark.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Following his brothers’ deaths, Grammer did what he knew best and poured his heart and soul into his work. After a stint at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Grammer finally made it to Broadway in 1981. Grammer replaced actor Philip Anglim after he quit the show because of a series of bad reviews.

Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenberger, Kelsey Grammer, and George Wendt sitting at the bar in a scene from Cheers

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This led to the actor being cast in Othello, opposite James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer. But it wasn’t until 1984 that Grammer finally got the big break he deserved. He first appeared as Dr. Frasier Crane in the sitcom Cheers after his Julliard classmate and Broadway co-star Mandy Patinkin recommended him for the part. Well, Grammer blew everyone away and turned what was supposed to be a six-episode job into a full-time position.

He Finally Made It

By September 1993, Grammer was awarded a spinoff sitcom, Frasier, which became one of the most successful spinoffs in TV history. Grammer’s talents weren’t just reserved for acting. He also directed more than 30 episodes and sang the closing theme song Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs.

David Hyde-Pierce and Kelsey Grammer in a scene from Frasier

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By 2001, Grammer was making more than $700,000 per episode. Fraiser was a huge success and has tied with Modern Family for receiving the most Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. By the early 2000s, Grammer seemed to be everywhere. Not only was he a part of two very successful sitcoms, but the actor also lent his voice to several well-known animated characters.

Sitcom’s Golden Boy

The actor provided the voice for The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob, which earned him his fifth Emmy Award for his performance in the episode The Italian Bob. Grammer has appeared in 18 episodes since the animation series first aired in 1989. Then, in 1995, the actor was the voice of Dr. Frankenollie in the Academy Award-nominated Mickey Mouse short, Runaway Brain.

Sideshow Bob getting ready to strangle Bart from behind on The Simpsons

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He also voiced Vlad in 20th Century Fox’s animated movie Anastasia and Stinky Pete in Pixar’s Toy Story 2. On the outside, Grammer was the poster boy for an American success story, but he couldn’t seem to shake his demons. He continued to battle his alcohol and drug addictions and had many brushes with the law.

Brushes with the Law

In 1988, while he was still acting in Cheers, Grammer was charged with drug possession and drunk driving and spent a month in jail. Two years later, Grammer was caught again with narcotics. He was fined $500 and sentenced to three years’ probation. Less than three months later, Grammer was caught violating his probation and was given another two years.

Kelsey Grammer photographed after a rough night

Source: Twitter

Everyone close to him knew that Grammer was going through something. They just didn’t know what to do. The cast and crew for both Cheers and Frasier held multiple interventions, especially since his behavior began affecting his work. His co-star and on-screen wife, Bebe Neuwirth, has said that his erratic behavior and drug addiction led to several filming delays.

Snapping into Frasier

What was interesting, however, was how Grammer was able to pull himself together and snap into character when he needed to. “He would ooze into the studio, his life all out of sorts. Jimmy would say ‘Action,’ and he would snap into Frasier and expound in this very erudite dialogue and be pitch-perfect,” writer Dan O’Shannon told GQ in 2012.

Kelsey Grammer wearing headphones doing a radio show on the show Frasier

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“Jimmy would yell, ‘Cut!’ and he would ooze back into Kelsey—glazed-over eyes, half asleep, going through whatever he was going through.” It wasn’t until September 1996 that Grammer decided to get his life together. After crashing his Dodge Viper while driving drunk, the actor checked himself into the Betty Ford Center to finally get help for his substance abuse problems.

A String of Failed Relationships

If substance abuse problems weren’t enough, Grammer also had his fair share of toxic relationships. The actor met his first wife, dancer Doreen Alderman, in 1982, and the couple quickly tied the knot. The couple welcomed their first daughter, Spencer, to the world the following year. Fun Fact: Spencer is the voice of Summer Smith on the hit show Rick and Morty.

Spencer Grammer at a red carpet event in 2009

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For one reason or another, Grammer just couldn’t make it work with Alderman, and the two separated in 1990. Less than two years later, the actor had a second daughter named Kandance after having a one-night stand with a makeup artist. Another two years later, he married a former exotic dancer named Leigh-Anne Csuhany, but their relationship quickly turned toxic.

Moving On

Grammer later claimed that Cshuany would repeatedly spit in his face and threatened to take his life. After one year of marriage, the actor filed for an annulment. Csuhany, who was three months pregnant at the time, was devastated, and, as a result, she tried to take her own life. Cshuany survived, but her baby sadly did not.

Kelsey Grammer and Tammi Alexander on the red carpet in 1994

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Then, in 1994, Grammer met Tammi Baliszewski at a bar in California, and by the end of the year, they were engaged. “We’d only been seeing each other for three months, so it wasn’t very long. And he said he couldn’t afford it yet,” Baliszewski told E-News. “About 10 minutes later, he got down on his knee in the limo and proposed to me.”

Everything Is Not as It Seems

About a month later, Grammer got down on one knee in front of a studio audience and proposed to the Baywatch star again. While the first year together seemed like a dream come true, Baliszewski says that the following two years were very difficult. According to the actress, she frequently poured his alcohol down the sink and replaced it with water.

Tammi Baliszewski posing in her kitchen

Source: Twitter

But Baliszewski reached her boiling point after the actor flipped his car while drinking and driving. The actress told E! News that she wanted to visit him in the hospital, but Grammer told her not to come. She believes that he was already involved with his now third ex-wife at the time and didn’t want the press to know he was cheating.

Third Time’s the Charm?

Whether Grammer began dating his third wife, Camille Donatacci, before or after he ended things with Baliszewski is up for debate. Sources say, however, that he and Camille hit it off after a blind date in 1996. By 1997, the two were already husband and wife.

Camille and Kelsey Grammer on the red carpet in 2002

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After the wedding, the couple moved to a lavish house in Malibu and later welcomed their two kids, Mason and Jude, who were both born via surrogate. Like everything in Grammer’s life, everything seemed to be going well on the outside. He had gotten help for his addiction problems and was now living with his beautiful family in a beautiful house. But according to the actor, not everything was as it seemed.

I Want a Divorce!

Grammer says that while his relationship with Camille was blissful in the first few months, there was trouble in paradise very early on in their marriage. The two constantly bickered, but things really heated up the day of his mother’s funeral. “The day of my mother’s funeral, my third wife basically had an explosion about something,” Grammer told Graham Bensinger in 2019.

Kelsey Grammer with his mother on the red carpet in 2002

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Apparently, Camille reiterated a conversation that the two had had for eight years at this point: She wanted a divorce. “I realized at that moment that I was done with her, that I was not going to end up in this relationship for much longer.” Within a year, Grammer was out the door.

Brush with Death

The actor’s mother’s funeral came less than a year after Grammer suffered a nearly fatal heart attack while paddleboarding with his family in Hawaii in 2008. While the actor’s agent said it was a minor heart attack, Grammer later told Oprah that his heart stopped, and he was just moments from death.

Camille hugging Kelsey on the red carpet in 2008

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He also said that this was a good event in his life because it made him realize where his life was heading and that he should confront the tragedies that had affected his life. It seems that this heart attack helped the actor get one step closer to a happier life, even if that meant hurting others in the process.

Lucky Number Four

In 2012, the Fraiser star spoke with Jimmy Kimmel about how he met and fell in love with his fourth and current wife, Kayte Walsh. “We actually met in the air on a plane to England,” Grammer told Kimmel. “We went out for coffee several days later and had this magical night in the snow in London around Christmas time.”

Kelsey Grammer and Kayte on the red carpet in 2011

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Walsh was working as a stewardess and eventually caught Grammer’s attention, who was still married to Camille at the time. According to the actor, he and Walsh carried on an affair for at least six months before his wife found out. Grammer allegedly didn’t tell Camille about his plans to leave her until she found out about the affair through a mutual friend.

A Parting Gift

According to both parties, Grammer’s plan to leave his wife was in action for a while. Shortly after he met Walsh, the actor moved to New York City to star in the Broadway hit, La Cage Aux Folles. With his family still living in California, Grammer could now spend a lot more time with his new mistress.

Camille Grammer on the red carpet at a Real Housewives event

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To keep his wife busy back in California, he got her a spot on the hit Bravo show, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. “I have to tell you, the Real Housewives was my parting gift to her,” Grammer told Piers Morgan shortly after the divorce. “It was my way of saying, ‘Look, you always wanted to be famous. Here you go.’”

Happily Ever After?

Camille could be seen attending the premiere of her show and even speaking fondly about Grammer, completely oblivious to his extramarital affair. After she confronted him, Camille claims that Grammer sent her a text message to officially end their relationship. She was heartbroken. The drama unfolded on Season 1 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Camille filed for divorce, which was finalized in February 2011.

Kelsey Grammer and Kayte exiting a car on their wedding day

Source: Flickr

Fifteen days later, Grammer married Walsh. The two tied the knot on stage at the Longacre Theater in New York City, the same stage where the actor performed his Tony Award-winning Broadway show. The ceremony was followed by what guests called a beautiful reception at the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom.

The Drama Unfolds

The aftermath of Grammer’s divorce was a public mess. After his fourth wedding, the press had a field day, and almost every publication jumped at the chance for an interview. A year after her wedding, Walsh finally opened up to the press about her role in ending Grammer’s 13-year marriage to Camille.

Kim Richards, Lisa Vanderpump, Kyle Richards, Taylor Armstrong, and Camille Grammer at an event in 2012

Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

The former flight attendant and the Frasier star sat down with Oprah to discuss what had happened. “I’m not proud of the way we started out,” she told Oprah. “Because he was in a marriage.” Grammer also explained that his ex-wife had always wanted to be famous, and she resented him for it.

On Better Terms?

Camille also discussed her side of the divorce with Katie Couric on Good Morning America. “My, my whole life was falling apart. My husband left me. He was having an affair with another woman in New York City,” she said. Camille has also shared that despite sharing two children, she and Grammer do not communicate.

Camille Grammer with Mason and Jude on the red carpet in 2012

Source: Shutterstock

Instead, the former couple uses “parallel parenting” to parent their children. While it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, it seems that Camille and Grammer are on somewhat better terms today. “I don’t want to say anything because he’s the father of my children, and he’s come around,” she told reporters at The Daily Dish. “And I’m glad that they’ve been spending more time together.”

Camille’s Next Chapter

As for Camille, she has moved on from her messy divorce. Even though she married David Meyer in 2018, she still uses her ex-husband’s last name. “I took Grammer off my social media, [but] it’s still on my passport,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “David is all for it. He said, ‘Your kids, both of your kids’ last name is Grammer. I understand that.’ He has no problem.”

David Meyer, Camille Grammer, and Mason Grammer on the red carpet in 2018

David Meyer, Camille Grammer, and Mason Grammer. Photo by Stewart Cook / Shutterstock

Camille was also put in the hot seat when asked about her $30 million divorce settlement. However, the television personality defends the settlement, telling reporters that she worked hard during her 13-year marriage to Grammer. “I just didn’t sit back, buying fancy clothes and shoving bonbons in my face.”

Everyone Seems Happier

Camille and Meyer, who began dating in 2016, tied the knot in 2018 at a private beach club in Hawaii. “This is my next chapter, and I’m so excited to start our life together,” she told People Magazine. The reality star’s fellow Housewives Dorit Kemsley, Teddi Mellencamp, and Lisa Rinna were in attendance, and Kyle Richards served as a bridesmaid.

Lisa Rinna, Teddi Mellencamp, Kyle Richards, and Dorit Kemsley at Camille’s wedding

Lisa Rinna, Teddi Mellencamp, Kyle Richards, and Dorit Kemsley. Source: Instagram

Both of Camille’s children were also part of the ceremony. It was a beautiful day and a great new beginning for Camille. As for Grammer, he seems more laid back and content since his 2011 divorce. He and Walsh now have three kids (a girl and two boys), and there has even been talk about a Frasier reboot!

A Frasier Reboot?!

According to Grammer, he has been working on the reboot since 2018, and now he’s just waiting for a TV network to pick it up. Everyone, fans, and cast members alike have been waiting for a big announcement. “There is a lot of talk about it. I do think there’s something going on, but I don’t know exactly what it is or whether it will actually happen,” actress Peri Gilpin told reporters in 2020.

John Mahoney and Kelsey Grammer posing together at an event in 2002

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“That sounds like a big tease, but I’m being teased too here!” This came on the heels of a Frasier cast virtual reunion, which was emotional, to say the least, considering the absence of John Mahoney. The actor, who played Frasier and Niles’ father, passed away in 2018 at the age of 78.

Storyline Theories

Of course, the actor’s death would need to be addressed in the series’ reboot. Grammer also says that he would want every original cast member back, that is if they want to come back. So what is the reboot going to be about? Grammer says this time, the spotlight is going to shine on Frasier’s relationship with his son Fredrick.

Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce holding their awards at the Emmys in 1998

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This would be interesting, seeing as Fredrick would now be 31 years old (if the show hits our screens in 2020). Fans are also hoping that Lilith, Frasier’s ex-wife and mother to Fredrick, will also return to the show. There are also rumors that fan-favorite Niles will not be returning for the reboot. Actor David Hyde Pierce is uninterested in the role and, according to Vulture Magazine, doesn’t think fans actually want a reboot.

Finally Found Happiness

Regardless of whether the show is picked up or not, Grammer seems as if he’s in a much better place. After three failed marriages, the actor believes he has finally found lasting love with Walsh. The actor even had her name tattooed on his lower stomach to stop himself from ever cheating again. While everything is going great for the actor, his tragic past is always in the back of his mind.

Kayte Walsh and Kelsey Grammer on the red carpet in 2020

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The actor spoke with the Daily Mail in 2019, telling reporters that he gets nervous if his family doesn’t keep in touch with him regularly. “I get nervous something horrible has happened,” he said. But we hope that Kelsey Grammer finally found happiness, and we can’t wait to watch him as Frasier once again.