There is an inexorable link between comedy and tragedy as Kelsey Grammer knows only too well. The star of US hit sitcom Frasier has overcome no end of hurdles in his private life to become one of television"s best-loved characters and highest earners over the past decade. Today, he has three Emmy awards to show for his portrayal of the radio psychologist in sore need of some therapy.
Born Allen Kelsey Grammer in St Thomas, the Virgin Islands, on February 21, 1955, Kelsey moved to New Jersey with his mother when he was two years old, after his parents divorced. They later relocated to Florida in 1967. His early years were unremarkable, but when Kelsey was just 13, the first of a series of tragic family events took place when his father was fatally shot by an intruder in his Caribbean home.
While at school in Florida, Kelsey got into acting in a big way. After graduating from high school the talented young student was accepted in 1973 into the theatre programme of the Big Apple's prestigious Juilliard School. But after a brace of years at the institution, Kelsey was expelled for what he later described as a lack of discipline.
It was at about this time that Kelsey's life began to unravel around him. In June 1975, his younger sister, whom he adored, was raped and fatally stabbed. Five years later, his two young half-brothers died together in a freak scuba-diving accident. It would have been enough to send anyone over the edge.
Kelsey had discovered alcohol at the age of nine and was a frequent drinker by the time he was a teenager. Towards the end of the Eighties, his drug and alcohol abuse led to near meltdown. In 1987, following his first stint in a rehab clinic, the actor, by then a well-known face after landing the role of Doctor Frasier Crane in 1984 on the sitcom Cheers,
was arrested for drink-driving. A year later, he spent 11 days in prison for cocaine possession.
Almost a decade later he crashed his car while under the influence. It was the wake-up call he needed: the actor checked into the Betty Ford Clinic. "I was at a point in my life where I just wasn't focused. Sometimes I was doing drugs, sometimes it was booze. There was no question that I shouldn't have been driving that car at that moment."
By this time, his Cheers
character had moved to Seattle to become a radio psychiatrist on the sitcom Frasier.
It was one of the most successful comedy series ever the show has won 31 Emmy awards since its inception in 1993, and Kelsey became one of the highest-paid US TV actor, pocketing an unprecedented $1.6 million per episode from the start of the 2001 season. Frasier left the building for the last time in May, 2004.
Although his cinematic career has not sparkled as much as his small screen involvement, there are signs that Kelsey's forays onto the silver screen could soon hit paydirt. His mellifluous tones have graced such hits as Toy Story
and Animal Farm,
and in 2001 he starred alongside Robert De Niro
in 15 Minutes,
playing a slimy tabloid TV presenter.
And finally, after some tempestuous times, Kelsey's personal life seems to have entered a halcyon period. He married his third wife, Camille Donatacci, a former Playboy
model in 1997, and the couple have a daughter Mason Olivia, born to a surrogate mother. He has two other daughters, Spencer (born in 1985) and Greer (1992), from previous relationships.