On Family Ties, Meredith Baxter was one of those TV mothers who seemed to have it all -- great family, career, and marriage. Oh how I wanted to be one of her Keaton kids. Sure it was a fictional show, but her real life was almost the opposite of the idyllic one we watched on TV. Today she told Oprah Winfrey all about her "secret life," including 15 years of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, David Birney.
She said playing Elyse Keaton on the show was "an oasis" for her. "It was a haven, because going home was so painful," she said. Her revelations make me want to go back and watch old episodes of the show to see if I can make out any traces of sadness in her eyes that I don't remember.
She's making the talk show rounds, telling her life story while promoting her new book Untied. In it, she says that while most of the abuse was verbal, Birney also hit her:
It was so sudden and unexpected, I couldn't tell which hand hit me, or even how hard. I do recall thinking, "I'd better not get up because he's going to hit me again."
Birney denies her claims.
Baxter's TV husband, Michael Gross, was also on Oprah today, and he said he was blindsided by her painful home life as well. “They were the poster child of a marriage that was going well ... I didn’t notice because you (Baxter) kept her mouth shut," he said.
He also didn't know about her drinking problem that had her driving to and from work with tumblers of wine. Michael J. Fox, however, had an idea as he revealed in a video Oprah played today:
What I noticed with Meredith’s drinking was there was another reason underneath it, there was a sadness underneath it. You could tell that something was troubling her ... It was the red flag. I think she was having problems with David and that’s (drinking) how it manifested itself.
Fortunately, Baxter has moved on and is now in the "healthiest relationship" she's ever had with her lesbian partner Nancy Locke. They have lived together since 2005 and have endured a lot, but it seems Baxter has finally found happiness in real life.
Are you surprised to learn of Meredith Baxter's secret life behind Family Ties?
Image via Alan Light/Flickr