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Meredith Baxter Lesbian Announcement: 'Family' & 'Family Ties' Actress + Another Gay Movie Seized in Canada

Meredith Baxter: lesbian announcement from 3x Primetime Emmy nominee known for 2 family TV seriesMeredith Baxter. Family and Family Ties actress Meredith Baxter (a.k.a. Meredith Baxter Birney) has come out as a lesbian after learning that tabloids were about to out her. The three-time Primetime Emmy nominee has been featured in only a handful of movies, most notably in a couple of 1976 releases: Alan J. Pakula's Oscar-nominated All the President's Men, in which she has a small but memorable bit, and David Miller's Bittersweet Love, a little-seen effort notable because of its theme (incest) and the presence of a quartet of old-timers: Lana Turner (as Baxter's mother), Celeste Holm, Robert Alda, and Robert Lansing (as Baxter's biological father).

Three-time Primetime Emmy-nominated actress Meredith Baxter comes out as gay

On the day the New York senate decided that gays should not have the right to marry, Meredith Baxter, best known for two television series with the word “family” in the title – Family in the 1970s and Family Ties in the 1980s – stated publicly that she is a lesbian.

The 62-year-old Baxter (born on June 21, 1947, in South Pasadena, Los Angeles County), who has been married three times and has five children, is currently in a relationship with building contractor Nancy Locke. The couple have been together for four years. Baxter says she began dating women seven years ago.

Beating the tabloids

She decided to open up now because supermarket and online tabloids recently got hold of a story about her – accompanied by a female friend – taking part in a lesbian cruise. (As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, openly gay actress Kelly McGillis – of Reuben Reuben, Top Gun, and The Accused fame – had previously been on that lesbian-geared cruise as well.)

“I didn't want some tabloid to take the story and make it up,” Baxter said during an interview with Matt Lauer for the Today show. “I wanted it to be in my own words.”

Meredith Baxter movies

Among Meredith Baxter's handful of big-screen credits are the following:

  • Phil Karlson's Ben (1972), a sequel to the previous year's Willard. Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, and the titular black rat star in this cult thriller chiefly notable for Michael Jackson's rendition of the title song. Meredith Baxter plays the sister of rat owner Montgomery.
  • Former child actor Jackie Cooper's (mildly) feminist comedy Stand Up and Be Counted (1972), starring Jacqueline Bisset, Stella Stevens, and Gary Lockwood. Baxter was cast in a minor role.
  • Alan J. Pakula's Oscar-nominated All the President's Men (1976), starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. In the political thriller, Baxter plays Debbie Sloan, the wife of Hugh Sloan (Stephen Collins), former treasurer for the Committee to Re-elect the President.
  • Veteran David Miller's melodrama Bittersweet Love (1976), toplining another Hollywood veteran, Lana Turner (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Peyton Place). Despite Turner's billing, the actual leads in this melodrama about (half-)incest are, as half-siblings, Scott Hylands and Meredith Baxter (billed as Meredith Baxter Birney; she was television actor David Birney's wife between 1974–1989).

More recently, Baxter was featured in Lorraine Senna's Paradise, Texas (2005), a little-seen indie in which she plays the neglected wife of has-been actor Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show, Texasville).

That same year, she was excellent in a supporting role in George Bamber's gay-themed comedy The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, playing the no-nonsense mother of the titular social misfit (brought to life by Daniel Letterle).

Television

On television, Meredith Baxter – oftentimes billed as Meredith Baxter Birney (sometimes with a hyphen) – has made countless guest appearances in multiple series (The Love Boat, 7th Heaven, Brothers & Sisters), and has starred in a number of television films and miniseries, including:

  • David Lowell Rich's Little Women (1978), as Meg March, with Susan Dey, Ann Dusenberry, and Eve Plumb as her sisters; Best Actress Oscar nominee Dorothy McGuire (Gentleman's Agreement, 1947) as their mother; Best Actress Oscar winner Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver, 1942) as their aunt; and veteran Robert Young (Crossfire, TV's Father Knows Best) as their grandfather.
  • John Korty's biopic Winnie (1989), in which, according to New York Times reviewer John J. O'Connor, Baxter got the chance “to act up a storm” as the mentally handicapped titular character.
  • Michael Switzer's sports drama Miracle on the 17th Green (1999), with Baxter as another neglected wife, this time Robert Urich's.

Notably, Meredith Baxter played a lesbian mother raising a young son in the 1993 CBS Schoolbreak Special episode “Other Mothers,” for which she received a Daytime Emmy Best Actress nomination.

Meredith Baxter Family Ties Michael J. Fox Michael Gross Justine Bateman Tina Yothers Brian BonsallMeredith Baxter in Family Ties family picture with Michael Gross, Michael J. Fox, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, and Brian Bonsall. In addition to his three Primetime Emmy wins, at the 1989 Golden Globes ceremony (covering the previous year), Michael J. Fox was one of the winners in the Best Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical category – he shared the award with Judd Hirsch for Dear John and Richard Mulligan for Empty Nest. As for the NBC sitcom itself, Family Ties was shortlisted for three Golden Globes (1985–1987). Meredith Baxter, for her part, was never singled out for either the Golden Globes or the Emmys for her performance as the sitcom's youthful, liberal-minded wife and mother.

'Family' & 'Family Ties'

Created by Marnie and Cabaret screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, ABC's serious-minded, Pasadena-set Family (1976–1980) featured Meredith Baxter (Birney) as Nancy Lawrence Maitland – the daughter of caring, middle-class parents James Broderick and Sada Thompson; the sister of sensitive Gary Frank and tomboyish Kristy McNichol; and the estranged (eventually former) wife of adulterer John Rubinstein.

Family earned Baxter two back-to-back Primetime Emmy nominations in the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category. She lost to fellow Family player Kristy McNichol (1977) and to Lou Grant actress Nancy Marchand (1978).

In her other family hit series, Gary David Goldberg's NBC sitcom Family Ties (1982–1989), Baxter was cast as the liberal-minded Elyse Keaton – the wife of Michael Gross; and the mother of Michael J. Fox, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, and Brian Bonsall.

Family Ties was nominated for four Primetime Emmys in the Outstanding Comedy Series category (1984–1987), but the only two cast members to be singled out were Michael J. Fox, nominated a total of five times* (1985–1989), including three wins as Best Actor in a Comedy Series (1986–1988), and two-time Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series nominee Justine Bateman (1986, 1987).

* Michael J. Fox's first nomination, in 1985, had him listed in the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category.

Jan. 2012 update: Kristy McNichol, Meredith Baxter's younger sister in Family, publicly came out as a lesbian in early 2012.

Third Primetime Emmy nomination

Meredith Baxter's third Primetime Emmy nod would come in 1992, for her performance as real-life murderess Betty Broderick in the first part of a two-part TV movie (aired months apart) directed by Dick Lowry: A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story – a sort of Fatal Attraction in reverse, with Baxter as the spurned, vengeful, and eventually murderous all-American, Southern California suburban housewife whose husband (Baxter's All the President's Men husband Stephen Collins) had left her for a younger woman (Michelle Johnson).

She lost the Emmy to Gena Rowlands for Face of a Stranger.

Part II of the story, Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter, a depiction of Broderick's days in court, was aired that same year.

Mother Whitney Blake & aunt (?) Anne Baxter

Meredith Baxter's father was radio announcer Tom Baxter; her mother was TV multitasker Whitney Blake, probably best known for her role as Dorothy Baxter in the hit TV series Hazel (1961–1965), starring Shirley Booth, and as one of the creators of another hit series, One Day at a Time (1975–1984), starring Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin.

Married in 1944, Tom Baxter and Whitney Blake were divorced in 1955. One Day at a Time was reportedly inspired by Blake's own experiences as a divorcée with children.

Correction/Update: According to unverified online sources, Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner Anne Baxter (The Razor's Edge, 1946), best remembered for her portrayal of the scheming young actress Eve Harrington in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning classic All About Eve – which, coincidentally, has lesbian undertones – was Meredith Baxter's aunt.

However, that information is in all likelihood false. Meredith Baxter mentions Anne Baxter in her 2010 autobiography Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering, saying that, in an effort to be popular at school, she claimed that the All About Eve and The Ten Commandments actress was her mother: “No one recognized the name Whitney Blake. Anne Baxter sounded like she actually could be my mother. And she'd won an Academy Award.” (Italics in the original.)

Meredith Baxter husbands & wife

Besides David Birney, with whom she was featured in the flop 1972 TV series Bridget Loves Bernie, Meredith Baxter had two other husbands: actor and sometime screenwriter Michael Blodgett (as an actor: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Carey Treatment), who died at age 68 in November 2007, and actor/costumer/wardrobe supervisor Robert Lewis Bush (as an actor, Village of the Damned; as a costumer, They Live – both films directed by John Carpenter).

Dec. 2013 update: Meredith Baxter and Nancy Locke were married in December 2013 in Los Angeles.

Two years earlier, Baxter claimed that she had been emotionally and physically abused by then husband David Birney – who denied the accusations, calling the charges “an appalling abuse of the truth.”

Dinx gay short comedy seized by customs: Men's burlesque club bartender taleDinx: Trevor Anderson's gay short comedy Dinx was temporarily seized by a Canada Border Services Agency guard. The potential security threat revolves around a bartender at a men's burlesque club who relives a day from his childhood. In the cast: Nick W. Green, Griffin Cork, Linda Grass, and Alan Hildebrandt.

Another gay movie seized in Canada: Trevor Anderson's comedy short 'Dinx'

In other gay-related news, after the outrage sparked by Canadian border guards' decision to seize three gay-themed films headed to Inside Out Ottawa LGBT Film Festival a couple of weeks ago – Shamim Sarif's I Can't See Straight, Adrian Shergold's Clapham Junction, Ella Lemhagen's Patrik, Age 1.5 – Jenn Ruddy reports at the gay-oriented xtra.com that another gay-themed film was held up by Canadian authorities for more than a month: Dinx, a short film directed by Edmonton-based filmmaker Trevor Anderson.

According to the report, when Anderson called the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to ask why his film had been held up, “he was told that a customs official at the border in Emerson, Manitoba[,] had not known what it was and decided to investigate it.”

And what would the overly cautious customs official have found? A comedy about an unhappy bartender at a men's burlesque club who relives a day from his childhood. Last year, Dinx won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at Fairy Tales (website), Calgary's international gay and lesbian film festival.

Checking the 'obscenity box'

“I guess the fact that it was called Dinx and coming from the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (website) was enough for them to check the obscenity box,” Anderson told xtra.com. “… It concerns me that the determination of what gets into our country is in the hands of individual border guards.”

In other words, any CBSA agent in uniform is apparently allowed to seize a film, a book, a magazine at will.

And gay-themed materials – whether coming from or going to gay film festivals, gay bookstores, gay individuals – clearly make for some very attractive targets for border cops who dislike, fear, despise, hate (or are ignorant about) gays. And who clearly have both way too much time and way too much power in their hands.

Either Canada should give up its progressive credentials – with Stephen Harper in power that shouldn't be too hard – or Canadians, gay or otherwise, should make sure they're protected from their obscenity-crazed border cops.

 

Michael Gross, Michael J. Fox, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, Brian Bonsall, and Meredith Baxter Family Ties image: NBC.


         
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1 Comment to Meredith Baxter Lesbian Announcement: 'Family' & 'Family Ties' Actress + Another Gay Movie Seized in Canada

  1. Adam

    Ridiculous. The Canadian government and police can be appallingly reactionary and bigoted. Canadians should revolt. But will they?