She was a TV wife on two notable series, but in real-life, Meredith Baxter was a lesbian who was unhappily married for 15 years to one of her co-stars.
And now, in the first of several TV appearances she’s lined up to promote a new memoir she’s authored, Baxter says her ex-husband, actor David Birney, abused her emotionally and physically.
Baxter, now 63, played Birney’s young wife in the early-’70s CBS sitcom “Bridget Loves Bernie,” about the marriage of a young Catholic woman to a Jewish man. In real life, they were married from 1974 to 1989. Baxter went on to play a wife and mother in an even more successful series – “Family Ties” on NBC – where she played Elyse Keaton starting in 1982 and ending in ’89, the year she and Birney split.
Now she’s written a book titled Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering, in which she discusses Birney’s alleged abuse and the anguish she felt about her identity until she came out as a lesbian in 2009.
On “The Today Show” Tuesday on NBC, interviewer Matt Lauer got her to talk about the alleged abuse, but not until he made it clear that Birney, 71, who was not on the show, denies Baxter’s accusations. And it was never clear on the show exactly what the abuse was.
Watch Baxter’s “Today” Interview Below:
Instead, Baxter talked in terms of how she woke up to the realization that, in this marriage, she was more victim than wife. “What I got out of it eventually was I had to change my thinking,” she said. “I had to look, if I did not want to be a victim – and I’d been committed to being a victim for a long time because it felt really warm and comfortable and familiar – but it was a disastrous position to be in. So I had to change my thinking. I had to look at, what was my part? What was in my thinking that told me it was OK to be in this relationship?”
Baxter’s interview with Lauer was her second such “confessional” with the “Today” co-host. Back in 2009, she came out during their last interview.
In her book, Baxter also apparently reveals that she’s waged a years-long battle with alcoholism. It’s one of the topics Oprah Winfrey will ask her about when Baxter turns up on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Wednesday (check local listings), according to this trailer for the show.
On “Oprah,” Baxter will be reunited with her “Family Ties” husband Michael Gross, who will join her in Oprah’s studio, and TV “son” Michael J. Fox, who will be seen via satellite.