This Is How Kelsey Grammer Overcame His Tragic Upbringing to Become the Star of ‘Frasier’

This article appeared in Cleverclassic and has been published here with permission.

Kelsey Grammer Shot to Fame as Dr. Frasier Crane, But His Life Has Been a Battle

Kelsey Grammer starred in Cheers and Frasier, but behind the scenes, his life was marred by tragedy. A series of traumatic family events saw him slide into guilt and depression, causing a life-long battle with substance abuse. His personal life is just as scandalous. Ladies and gentlemen… welcome to the rollercoaster life of Kelsey Grammer.

A Star Is Born

Allen Kelsey Grammer was born on February 21st, 1955, in Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His parents were a talented bunch. His mother, Sally, was a singer and actress. His father, Frank Allen Grammer Jr., was a musician who owned a coffee shop, a bar and grill, a music store, and the Virgin Islands View newspaper.

A Star Is Born

Frank abandoned the family when Kelsey was two. He re-married and had four more children. But, while Frank’s Caribbean life should have been idyllic, disaster was right around the corner.

Started Young

After the divorce, Sally took Kelsey and his younger sister Karen back to New Jersey. The siblings were raised by their mother and maternal grandparents, Gordon and Evangeline Cranmer. The family later moved to Pompano Beach, Florida to start afresh.

Started Young

Young Kelsey first discovered booze at the tender age of nine. His grandfather passed when he was 11, and by the time he was a teenager, he was a frequent drinker and always getting himself into trouble.

Death in Paradise

Back on the U.S. Virgin Islands, on April 24th, 1968, Frank Grammer’s car was set on fire outside his house. When he went outside to investigate, he was fatally wounded by a man that was trespassing on his property.

Death in Paradise

The intruder went by the name of Arthur Bevan Niles. After the incident, Niles was immediately arrested and sentenced to life in jail, though he was later released around 1994.

Performing Arts School

Kelsey attended a private prep school called Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Here, he first developed his love and appreciation for performing, singing, and the works of Shakespeare. After being encouraged by his teachers, he showed real promise as an actor.

Performing Arts School

So, he graduated high school and won a scholarship to study drama at the famous Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York City. The 18-year-old joined Juilliard in 1973, but as he and his family recovered from Frank’s murder five years earlier, tragedy struck again.

Karen’s Tragic Story

Kelsey’s second year at Juilliard was interrupted in the most horrifying way imaginable. While studying in NYC, his sister Karen — who he adored — went to live halfway across the country in Colorado Springs.

Karen’s Tragic Story

All was going well for Karen; she found a job at a Red Lobster restaurant and met a local boy. Then, in July of 1975, two men tried to rob the restaurant as Karen was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up from work. Sadly, she died in the aftermath.

He Blamed Himself

A few days later, the police turned up at Kelsey’s New York home with the terrible news. The 20-year-old traveled to Colorado and had to identify his 18-year-old sister. Kelsey and Karen had been very close, and her death was a devastating blow. He blamed himself for the tragedy, which he says “nearly destroyed him.”

He Blamed Himself

The guilt of not protecting his little sister would affect him for the rest of his life. In 2012, he told Oprah Winfrey the depression he suffered following Karen’s death led him to substance abuse.

Ended Up Homeless

Brokenhearted, Kelsey failed to attend classes and was eventually expelled from the Juilliard School for what he later described as a lack of discipline. He had only completed two of his four-year acting class. During one low point, he ended up homeless and spent several nights sleeping in Central Park.

Ended Up Homeless

But, Kelsey somehow found the grit to bounce back. He undertook a three-year internship with the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Still, another bizarre family tragedy was on the horizon.

Tragedy Strikes Again

On June 1st, 1980, catastrophe struck the family again when his two teenage half-brothers died in a freak scuba-diving accident. Billy and Stephen, his half-brothers from his father’s second marriage, were scuba-diving off St. Thomas when Billy failed to surface.

Tragedy Strikes Again

Stephen dived down to search for his brother, but as a result of surfacing too quickly, Stephen suffered an embolism and died. Sadly, Billy’s body was never found, but his mother, Elizabeth, swears he was taken by a shark.

Stage Career

A year later, Kelsey made his Broadway debut in 1981, playing Lennox in The Scottish Play. But, when the lead actor withdrew after receiving negative reviews, Kelsey Grammer stepped up to play Macbeth. Next came another Shakespeare role, a Broadway revival of Othello, starring James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer.

Stage Career

In 1983, he performed in Sunday in the Park With George. Starring alongside him was Broadway icon Bernadette Peters, as well as his good friend and ex-Juilliard classmate Mandy Patinkin. Their friendship would change Kelsey’s life forever.

Love and Marriage

But, before we find out how Mandy Patinkin changed Grammer’s life, Kelsey married for the first time in 1982. His first wife was dance instructor Doreen Alderman. They had one daughter, Spencer Karen Grammer (pictured).

Love and Marriage

She was born October 9th, 1983, and named after Kelsey’s late sister. Spencer followed in her father’s footsteps to become an actress. However, Kelsey and Doreen’s marriage didn’t last long. They separated a year after Spencer’s birth in 1984 and finally divorced in 1990.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

In 1984, Mandy Patinkin suggested Grammer’s name to the casting director of a famous NBC sitcom. The show was set in a bar in Boston where everybody knows your name. Grammer joined season three of Cheers as pompous but loveable psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The role was initially meant to go to John Lithgow, but he turned it down. The role was only supposed to be for six episodes, but producers were so impressed with Grammer that he ended up as a regular cast member.

The Worst Place for a Drinker

Cheers became one of America’s most popular sitcoms, lasting 11 seasons between 1982 and 1993. And Frasier wasn’t just popular with the producers. Fans loved him so much that Grammer’s recurring walk-in role lasted for a whopping 204 episodes, ultimately becoming one of the Boston bar’s most beloved characters.

The Worst Place for a Drinker

Frasier was a Harvard and Oxford University-educated psychiatrist who helped bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) recover from a drinking problem. But, behind the scenes, Grammer’s own drink problem was about to send his life into a spiral.

Bad-Boy Lifestyle

By the end of the 1980s, Grammer had become the unlikely star of Cheers. However, the actor had masked the pain of his father and sister’s deaths with booze and illicit substances. In 1987, his bad-boy lifestyle led to a meltdown.

Bad-Boy Lifestyle

Following his first stint in a rehab clinic, he was arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles. A year later, he was once again charged with driving under the influence and possession of an illegal substance.

Welcoming a Second Daughter

Throughout the early ’90s, Kelsey continued to find himself in trouble with the law. Not only was he put on house arrest and required to pay a $500 fine, but he was also given a three-year probational period and even had to serve 300 hours of community service.

Welcoming a Second Daughter

Despite all of the chaos and darkness throughout this time, though, there was also some light — particularly when Kelsey welcomed another daughter in 1992, named Kandace “Greer” Grammer (pictured), with hair and makeup stylist Barrie Buckner. Like her father and older half-sister Spencer, Greer is also in the entertainment industry.

Sideshow Bob

Next, Kelsey joined another beloved sitcom, The Simpsons. He voiced Yale University alum and champion of high culture Robert Underdunk Terwilliger Jr., Ph.D. — better known as evil genius Sideshow Bob.

Sideshow Bob

Playing the role since 1990, Sideshow Bob won Kelsey Grammer an Emmy award. He’s even said that Sideshow Bob is his best role ever. Don’t believe him? The picture of him dressed as Sideshow Bob for Halloween should change your mind…

Second Marriage

Later in 1992, Grammer married his second wife. Leigh-Anne Csuhany was an exotic dancer. He said, “I was into, ‘Here’s someone I can fix…’ I found people who were a bit hysterical attractive.”

Second Marriage

Grammer claims Leigh-Anne was physically and mentally abusive. He was seeking an annulment when Csuhany was found semi-conscious in her hotel room. She was rushed to the hospital, but their unborn baby was lost.

As One Door Closes…

Cheers finally closed its doors in May 1993, and Dr. Crane moved from Boston to Seattle as the sitcom spin-off Frasier was born in September 1993. Frasier hosted his own talk radio show and was helped and hindered by various characters.

As One Door Closes…

One such character was his cranky father, Martin Crane, wonderfully played by John Mahoney. Grammer personally requested Mahoney because he had appeared in an episode of Cheers, and he found him “funny and a blast to work with.”

When the Blues Came Calling

Grammer was a naturally talented tour de force on-screen and behind the camera. He directed 36 episodes of Frasier, sang the show’s iconic theme tune, and won a hatful of Emmys. But behind the scenes, when the blues came calling, he didn’t take his own radio call-in psychiatric advice or turn to tossed salad and scrambled eggs — rather, he turned to his old ways.

When the Blues Came Calling

The cast and producers of both Cheers and Frasier staged numerous interventions to help him, but Grammer was on a collision course with the abyss.

The Ultimate Professional

Cheers and Frasier writer Dan O’Shannon once explained — “He would ooze into the studio, his life all out of sorts. Jimmy [creator and director James Burrows] would say ‘Action,’ and he would snap into Frasier and expound in this very erudite dialogue and be pitch-perfect.”

The Ultimate Professional

O’Shannon continued, “And Jimmy would yell, ‘Cut!’ and he would ooze back into Kelsey… glazed-over eyes, half asleep, going through whatever he was going through. It was the most amazing transformation I’d ever seen.”

Out With the Old…

In 1994, Grammer met 28-year-old model Tammi Baliszewski (aka Tammi Alexander) at a bar in Manhattan Beach, California. After dating for three months, Kelsey proposed in the back of his limousine. The engagement didn’t last, and Tammi has since said the star has no compassion for other people.

Out With the Old…

Tammi explained, “I think he’s like a lot of people in that they think they have to have someone outside of them loving them for them to feel love… They don’t have an internal reference point for self-love.”

Living on the Edge

While still engaged to Tammi in 1996, Grammer got into a car accident. Kelsey was driving his red Dodge Viper on a two-lane road off Mulholland Highway when the car overturned a short distance from his Calabasas home.

Living on the Edge

Miraculously, he only suffered a minor head injury. Still, the accident was enough to make him realize it was finally time to face his demons.

Not Focused

The Cheers and Frasier star admitted, “I actually spoke to Camille on the phone after that and said, ‘I’ve done something I’m really ashamed of, and I’m embarrassed about, and I gotta get some help.” So, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center.

Not Focused

He admitted, “I was at a point in my life where I just wasn’t focused. Sometimes, I was doing [illicit substances]; sometimes, it was booze. There was no question that I shouldn’t have been driving that car at that moment.”

The Love of His Life

“Who’s Camille?” we hear you cry! “Wasn’t Kelsey with Tammi?” Well, Tammi revealed Kelsey had dumped her. “He ended up in rehab, came out, and he was interviewed and told the press he’d found the love of his life, and it wasn’t me!”

The Love of His Life

Tammi also claimed he cheated on her, “You’re the apple of his eye, the center of his universe, and then he replaces you. He doesn’t wanna talk, don’t write […] It’s like, when the bloom starts to fall off the rose, I need a new rose.”

Third Time Lucky

Kelsey left Tammi for actress, dancer, TV personality, and former Playboy model Camille Donatocci. You might know her better as Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Camille Grammer. And to back up Tammi’s claims of her finance’s infidelity, Kelsey first met Camille on a blind date in 1996.

Third Time Lucky

In August 1997, Grammer made Camille his third wife. They married in Malibu, California. But, while his third marriage should have seen him settling down, more was still to come…

Settling Down

Camille and Kelsey welcomed a daughter, Mason Olivia, in October 2001 and a son, Jude Gordon, in August 2004. Grammer’s third and fourth children were both born via a surrogate mother.

Settling Down

But in 2004, Camille was diagnosed with a chronic intestinal disorder. It was so severe a priest delivered the last rites. Kelsey took a two-year hiatus to take care of his wife and luckily, she made a full recovery.

Hawaiian Heartache

In 2008, three weeks after Fox canceled his sitcom Back to You, the 53-year-old actor had a heart attack. He suffered chest pains while paddle-boarding with Camille in Hawaii, near their second home.

Hawaiian Heartache

The attack was so severe that his heart stopped, and paramedics had to use a defibrillator to bring him back. Grammer told Entertainment Tonight, “They had to blast me twice and get me started all over again.” Fortunately, he too made a complete recovery.

Beastly Third Divorce

At some point, Kelsey and Camille began living extremely separate lives — especially while Kelsey was in the midst of shooting for films like Hank McCoy/Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand. Then, in July 2010, Camille filed for divorce, accusing Kelsey of physical and verbal abuse during their marriage.

Beastly Third Divorce

She also threatened to release a compromising videotape of the star. Their divorce was finalized in February 2011. Surprisingly, and perhaps naïvely, Kelsey had never signed a prenup agreement, so the divorce cost him a cool $30 million. Still, he was probably thankful it was less than half of Camille’s original request of $71.5 million.

Wife Number Four

Grammer has admitted that the main reason he split from Camille was because of his now-wife (and former flight attendant) Kayte Walsh. He met Kayte in December 2009 when he was flying to London.

Wife Number Four

Their first date was a “magical night in the snow in London around Christmastime.” Exactly a year later, they announced their engagement and married in New York in February 2011. 15 months later, they renewed their vows in Las Vegas.

Candid Confession

The couple confessed their affair to Oprah Winfrey in a 2012 edition of Oprah’s Next Chapter. Kayte candidly admitted, “I’m not proud of the way we started out because he was in a marriage. I’m sorry. I have so many emotions. But you know, I fell in love. I don’t know how to word it; I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Candid Confession

Kelsey told Oprah that his marriage to Camille had been over for many years, but he lacked the courage to end it officially.

Because You Gotta Have Faith…

Kelsey already had four children from his previous relationships, but he wasn’t done yet. In July 2012, he and Kayte welcomed a baby girl, Faith Evangeline Elisa. Baby Faith’s arrival was bittersweet, though, as 32-year-old Kayte had been expecting twins.

Because You Gotta Have Faith…

“We were ecstatic earlier this year when we announced that Kayte was carrying twins. Tragically, we lost the little boy shortly thereafter,” the couple announced. In 2017, Grammer opened a brewery in upstate New York, which he named Faith American Brewery after his youngest daughter.

Three More Kids

Together, he and Kayte have added three more kids to his ever-growing brood. Their second baby is a son named Kelsey Gabriel Elias Grammer, who was born in July 2014. He goes by his middle name Gabriel.

Three More Kids

Then, in November 2016, the 61-year-old actor became a father for the seventh time. Kayte gave birth to another boy, who the couple named Auden James Ellis Grammer. That makes seven kids in total — including daughters Spencer, Greer, Mason, and Faith and sons Jude, Gabriel, and James.

Net Worth

Nowadays, Kelsey Grammer is reportedly worth $80 million from his film and TV work. The lion’s share of his wealth came from his time as Frasier in the spin-off sitcom. He began on a meager $700,000 per episode.

Net Worth

However, for the show’s final two seasons, he commanded a whopping $1.6 million per episode. Frasier seasons were 24 episodes, so that’s $76,800,00 for the just the last two seasons alone! At the time, he was the highest-paid TV actor in history.

Honors and Awards

Kelsey became the first American to be Emmy-nominated for playing the same character on three shows — Cheers, Frasier, and Wings. In total, he’s earned five Emmy awards, three Golden Globe awards — plus a Tony award.

Honors and Awards

Frasier was one of the world’s most successful sitcoms, winning a staggering 31 Emmy awards. In 2001, Grammer was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With these kinds of accomplishments under his belt, there’s no denying that Kelsey has overcome quite a lot in his life in order to get to where he is.