EW Staff
October 11, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Before the world was told about it, Kelsey Grammer was known to be a man in trouble. A source close to Grammer admits that as early as September the star — who was arrested on separate cocaine possession and drunk-driving charges during his Cheers years — had given in to the bottle again.

Grammer reportedly took it public himself Sept. 19 at a party following a James Taylor concert, where he stood wobbling at the bar trying to score drinks from reluctant bartenders. Gossip began to spread that Grammer’s old demons had resurfaced, and it became official on Sept. 21, when he flipped his red Dodge Viper — a gift from NBC meant to placate him for moving his show up against ABC’s Home Improvement — outside his home in Agoura Hills, Calif. Following his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, the actor, 41, was released on personal recognizance and headed straight for the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

After the accident, efforts were made on the Frasier set to keep the problem in the TV family by asking producers and players not to talk to the press.

NBC brass have been more forthcoming but equally supportive. ”The most important thing now, of course, is that Kelsey get better,” says NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield. And though Grammer’s recovery will probably be seen by his fans more as a badge of honor than a stigma, the network’s headaches are not over. While NBC won’t release information on his treatment, Grammer will remain at Betty Ford for 28 days; and depending on the results of a blood-alcohol test, he could face drunk-driving charges (though he did pass a Breathalyzer test at the scene of the accident). In the meantime, the network will fill Frasier‘s Tuesday-night slot with three episodes that have already been taped and, by a stroke of lucky timing, with this year’s major-league play-offs. ”I used to rue the day we had baseball because it interrupted so much,” says Littlefield, who insists that Frasier is covered through the November sweeps. ”I celebrate it now.”

Paramount Television, which produces Frasier, says the show will resume production without its star in mid-October (Grammer will shoot his scenes later in the month).

How Grammer’s condition will affect the content of the show, however, remains to be seen. At least once Frasier has been seen imbibing too much bubbly and suffering the subsequent hangover. Frasier‘s writers may now have to tiptoe around drinking references. When Grammer returns, for example, will Frasier still be an effete wine connoisseur? ”Maybe Kelsey will feel that the character will need to make adjustments, but that hasn’t been discussed,” says Littlefield.

The star’s behavior comes as no big surprise to his friends and colleagues, given his past substance abuse and his emotionally turbulent life: Both his father and sister were murdered in separate incidents and he has been divorced twice. ”The cast has always been worried about Kelsey because they knew he had these demons,” says a TV insider who doesn’t doubt that Grammer’s coworkers will offer the necessary support. ”They not only worry about him because he is the show, but because they genuinely like the guy. They’re like a family.”

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