How Meredith Baxter Became ‘Family’

Meredith Baxter

Meredith Baxter is best known for her role as the liberal Elyse Keaton, the mother of Michael J. Fox’s character on the Family Ties TV sitcom (NBC, 1982-1989). At the time, she used her married name, Meredith Baxter Birney. Before that, she was a regular on the critically-acclaimed series Family (ABC, 1976- 1980). During a prolific career as an actress and producer, Baxter has won 20 awards, including a Golden Globe Award and 3 Emmy nominations.

“I am a lesbian,” the actress told Matt Lauer, after an awkward introduction that showed both of them clearly nervous during an interview on The Today Show last December 2nd. “It was a later-in-life recognition,” she explained. Seven years ago, Baxter began a relationship with someone that made her acknowledge her sexual orientation. Currently, she has been in a four-year relation- ship with building contractor Nancy Locke, who is openly gay.

Although Baxter and Locke were not hiding their relationship in their local Los Angeles community, they decided to enlist the help of publicist Howard Bragman to head off what promised to be a scandal, with pending reports of their relationship in the National Enquirer, and photos which were to be posted by blogger Perez Hilton, of the couple aboard a ‘Sweet’ Caribbean cruise. Sweet is a travel company that specializes in lesbian and eco-friendly vacations..

Early in her career, she starred in the short-lived Bridget Loves Bernie, with David Birney, her spouse of one of three failed marriages. Now a mother of five and a grand- mother, Baxter explained that she had “difficulty connecting with men in relationships” in her past. When she had her first lesbian relationship, it made her understand why she had the issues earlier in her life. “It was that kind of awakening,” she said.

Reaction to Baxter’s announcement has been very positive, much to her surprise. “I’m not a very political person,” she said in the interview, “[my coming out] is a political act,” pointing out that voters who know someone who is gay are less likely to vote for legislation that negatively affects that person. “I can be that lesbian you know.”

This would not be the first time Meredith Baxter’s personal life has pushed her into playing a more significant public role. A breast cancer survivor, she started the Meredith Baxter Foundation for Breast Cancer.

Baxter’s publicist, Bragman, predicted a positive reaction to her announcement. In an interview with L.A. Weekly, Bragman said that the actress has recently signed a major book deal. Broadway Books, a division of Crown Publishing Group, has agreed to publish her memoirs.

Bragman, himself an openly gay man, has worked with other celebrities to help them to come out. His clients included Chastity Bono, ‘Bewitched’ star Dick Sargent, and NFL defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo. Not all of his clients have a gay connection. Brag- man’s new public relations firm, Fifteen Minutes, also represents stars like Mario Lopez. Hot off the heels of the Meredith Baxter announcement, Bragman is now working with another celebrity who will come out this year, according to L.A. Weekly. Could it be Lopez? One can only dream!

 


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