Meredith Baxter is best known for her role as Alyse Keaton, where she played a strong female lead in a popular sitcom at a time where there weren’t many. Of course I originally fell in love with her on Bridget Loves Bernie, and always noticed her in The Partridge family or Love Boat episodes, and ah yes, that Loreal commercial (see below) certainly got my attention.
She really gained my respect as an actress when she took on many groundbreaking and controversial roles about women facing various challenges. Roles that broke down social stigmas about eating disorders, lesbian moms, homicidal ex-wives and the mentally challenged, just to name a few. She pretty much invented the genre of a beautiful woman taking on important yet unflattering roles: think Charlize Theron in Monster.
I met Meredith and her partner Nancy Locke on that fateful lesbian cruise in 2009 and have kept in touch. I recently sat down with her at a Starbucks in Santa Monica to ask her some thought-provoking questions:
Worst hairstyle for a role
Princess Leah style “bun braids” on the sides of my head for Little Women, a promising series that flopped.
How has coming out publicly changed the course of your life?
It hasn’t really, but it changed the way I feel. I used to worry about being seen with Nancy, with my hand on her leg at the movies, or holding hands as we exited a restaurant. I always felt like we were a spectacle somehow, either because people recognized me or because we were gay. It took a lot of effort—worrying about these things—and now I’m free of that.
I also notice you’ve been taking a public stand for gay rights, has this changed since coming out?
Definitely. No one ever asked me what I thought about this issue before I came out. I’ve had many speaking engagements. I’ve spoken for HRC, OUTFEST, and am scheduled for an upcoming engagement at The Los Angeles Women’s Expo on October 1st and 2nd.
Your favorite queer themed movie?
Most recently, I love you Phillip Morris
1st Gay Bar?
I went to one years ago when I wasn’t gay yet, and it felt safe and welcoming, but when women tried to hit on me I said “No Way!” I didn’t have a clue.
Least favorite role?
There were so many…
Favorite actor you worked with who is no longer with us?
When he first outed you, Perez Hilton referred to your Fry boots as “lesbionic”. How many Fry boots do you own?
I think I have 5 pair. I love boots!
Did you ever dress in drag?
No, but when I went to court during my divorce with David, I always wore a blazer and boots and I cut my hair real short up the back. I still had no clue I was a lesbian, but it helped make me feel powerful and strong in those meetings.
I think of you and Nancy as a perfect combination couple. You are the butchy-femme and she is the femmy-butch. And you are both gorgeous. Do you enjoy challenging the stereotypes people have about lesbians?
I never thought about that, but yes!
Your book ‘Untied: a Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering” became a National Best Seller, were you surprised by its success?
Part of me fantasized that it would be a huge success, and the other part thought, why would anybody want to read about me?
Do you have plans to write another book?
Well, I did, but I’ve put that on hold for now.
As a friend, I knew about your recent recurrence of breast cancer. Are you ready to go public with it?
Yes, why not? My first bout with cancer was in 1999. I was cancer free until this spring when I found a lump in the same spot as before…they removed it and I had my other breast reduced to the same size as the one with the lumpectomy. Now I have the breasts of a 14 year old, so I’m not complaining!
It’s a beautiful warm day. Where are you headed after this interview?
I’m off to meet Nancy at the beach.