Wichita's most famous TV star now is making TV stars out of a couple of other Wichitans. Actress (and Emmy winner) Kirstie Alley, who still lives in Wichita part of the time, is starring on her own reality show on A&E.
It's called "Kirstie Alley's Big Life," and it follows Alley and her entourage as she attempts to lose weight and launch her own weight-loss company.
The show, which airs at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Sundays on A&E, cable Channel 41, is filmed at Alley's Hollywood home, and it features her two teenage children, Lillie and True (who have attended school in Wichita), plus various members of her staff.
One of them is Kyle Little, a former Wichita State University student who is well-known among the local Twitter crowd.
Little, who tweets under the name dfwinict, came to Wichita in 2007 to work on a master's degree in poetry at WSU.
While attending school, he got a job working at Frank & Margaret, a furniture and gift store that operated briefly at the corner of Douglas and Oliver.
Alley would stop in the store when she was in Wichita, and that's where she met Little.
They became friendly, and one day last April while she was in the store, Kyle gave her a crash course in the social networking site Twitter.com.
Shea Sylvia, a pal of Little's at the time, witnessed the whole event. She recalls that someone had already reserved the Twitter account twitter.com/kirstiealley, and she and Little tried to explain to her how she could wrestle it away.
While in the store, Sylvia said, Alley whipped out her cell phone and dialed Twitter aficionado Ashton Kutcher, who also gave her tips. (Alley did in fact get the account and now tweets — nonstop — from it.)
Little and Alley started corresponding via Twitter and became friends. Pictures on his Tumblr site from last April show Alley holding his pet pug and hanging out in the store.
Eventually, Alley brought Little to L.A. and asked him to appear on her show.
The description of Little on the show's Web site reads:
"An aspiring poet, Kyle met Kirstie in Wichita while he was working at a boutique. Seeing promise in his writing talents and ability to handle direction, Kirstie plucked him up and moved him to Los Angeles to be her assistant's apprentice. New to L.A. and thrust into Kirstie's big life without support, Kyle must adapt and adjust if he wants to survive."
I met Kyle once — briefly — when he attended Gridiron at the Orpheum last year. I've followed him on Twitter since I signed up in May 2008.
He's funny and outspoken, and it's a little strange to see him on Alley's show, where he's been cast as a bit of a bumbling punching bag (in a good-natured way) for Alley and her assistant, Kelly Coleman (also a native Wichitan, who grew up next door to Alley).
In one episode, Kyle was charged with setting up interviews so that Alley could choose a personal trainer, and he had trouble deciding how to start such a task.
He's also been shown sleeping on the job, and in a recent episode, Alley twice dunked poor Kyle as the two worked out in her backyard pool.
The punching bag role doesn't fit the Little his onetime Wichita friends knew, many of them say. Though he's since had a bit of a falling-out with his former Twitter crew, they remember him as funny, forceful and smart.
"When I think of Kyle in a positive light, he was a really funny guy that we all really took to quickly," Sylvia said. "He was outgoing and always really entertaining — goofy, willing to do anything for a laugh."
I sent Kyle a few messages asking him to talk to me for this column, but alas, I did not hear back. (Our guess is that his boss, or the show's publicists, put the kibosh on him doing an interview.)
But I'll continue to follow him on Twitter and on the show, which I find highly amusing, if not a bit staged.
If you want to get to know Kyle a little better, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dfwinict or read his blog, http://littlekyle.tumblr.com.