Recently, I noticed that I hadn't noticed Kirstie Alley's white SUV parked outside of her College Hill house or heard stories of her pushing her grocery cart through Dillon's or dropping in on a Zumba class.
Now we know why. Wichita's most visible celebrity (not only because she's always popping up on television but also because she's always popping up in Wichita) has a new job.
Alley, 60, is a part of the new cast of "Dancing With the Stars," the top-rated ABC show that pairs B-list celebrities with professional ballroom dancers for a glittery, shimmery, sequined dance-off.
The show's 12th season premieres at 7 p.m. March 21, on ABC and KAKE, Channel 10.
Rumors that Alley would be on "Dancing With the Stars" started circulating last year, but the actress — who's best known for roles in "Cheers" and in the "Look Who's Talking" movie franchise — repeatedly turned the offers down.
Alley, who is as famous for her fluctuating weight as she is for her acting roles, has reportedly lost 60 pounds since then and has said that she's hoping the shaking and shimmying of "Dancing With the Stars" will help her shed another 30 or 40.
I've been an Alley fan ever since the mid-1980s, when I was swept away in the melodrama of the television mini-series "North and South," which starred Alley as fiery abolitionist Virgilia. (On a side note, go back and watch clips of "N&S" on YouTube, and you'll be shocked at how bad the acting is — and at how the hair styles manage to simultaneously channel 1860s Civil War and 1980s "Dynasty.")
Four years ago, Alley invited me to her College Hill house for a rare interview. She wanted to publicize her giant Santa's Village, a salvaged set piece from "Look Who's Talking Now" that she set up outside her house on Douglas.
I tried to appear cool and unimpressed as I sat in the living room, casually taking notes. But inside, I was jittery and a little freaked out to be sitting less than two feet from Rebecca Howe.
She wasn't as impressed with me. Her famous disdain for the media appears to include Wichita journalists. But I didn't let that affect my Alley attitude.
I've always liked her for being outspoken and sarcastic and filthy mouthed.
She's a little off center, as all interesting citizens of Hollywood are, but I like that about her, too.
The "DWTS" dance partner she was assigned is Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the hunky, swarthy Russian who's known for getting the most out of his dance partners.
I can't wait to see her tango, cha cha and waltz her way from the B-list back onto the A-list.