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Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering [Paperback]

Meredith Baxter
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 6 2012
“I remember Sarah asking me, when I’d just begun therapy with her, what I looked for in a man.  After a few moments of silent, tense deliberation I had it.  ‘Hair,’ I blurted. ‘He has to have hair.’”
Meredith Baxter is a beloved and iconic television actress, most well-known for her enormously popular role as hippie mom, Elyse Keaton, on Family Ties. Her warmth, humor, and brilliant smile made her one of the most popular women on television, with millions of viewers following her on the small screen each week. Yet her success masked a tumultuous personal story and a harrowing private life. For the first time, Baxter is ready to share her incredible highs, (working with Robert Redford, Doris Day, Lana Turner, and the cast of Family Ties), and lows (a thorny relationship with her mother, a difficult marriage to David Birney, a bout with breast cancer), finally revealing the woman behind the image.

From her childhood in Hollywood, growing up the daughter of actress and co-creator of One Day at a Time Whitney Blake, Baxter became familiar with the ups and downs of show business from an early age. After wholeheartedly embracing the 60s counterculture lifestyle, she was forced to rely on her acting skills after her first divorce left her a 22-year-old single mother of two. Baxter began her professional career with supporting roles in the critically panned horror film Ben, and in the political thriller All the President's Men.

More lucrative work soon followed on the small screen. Baxter starred with actor David Birney as the title characters in controversial sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. While the series only lasted a year, her high-profile romance with Birney lasted 15 volatile and unhappy years. Hiding the worst of her situation from even those closest to her, Baxter’s career flourished as her self-esteem and family crumbled. Her successful run as Nancy on Family was followed by her enormously popular role on Family Ties, and dozens of well-received television movies.

After a bitter divorce and custody battle with Birney, Baxter increasingly relied on alcohol as a refuge, and here speaks candidly of her decision to take her last drink in 1990.

And while another ruinous divorce to screenwriter Michael Blodgett taxed Baxter’s strength and confidence, she has emerged from her experiences with the renewed self-assurance, poise, and understanding that have enabled her to find a loving, respectful relationship with Nancy Locke, and to speak about it openly.

Told with insight, wit, and disarming frankness, Untied is the eye-opening and inspiring life of an actress, a woman, and a mother who has come into her own.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

About the Author

Meredith Baxter has been an actor for 40 years and has five children.  She achieved early success in the comedy Bridget Loves Bernie; the acclaimed ABC drama Family and the popular NBC sitcom Family Ties. Baxter makes appearances speaking on breast cancer, domestic violence, alcoholism and general life experiences.  She lives in Santa Monica, California with her partner, Nancy Locke. 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not compelling April 26 2011
Meredith Baxter details her progression from youth to adulthood with the benefit of hindsight. She is quick to admit her errors, especially when making the same mistakes, which she admits was a pattern she found difficult to break. It will surprise no one that she attributes much of her later problems to an emotionally starved childhood; this is almost standard in many celebrity bios. More interesting was the revelation that she stumbled into acting, since she was a divorced mother of two in her early twenties; acting was a means of paying the bills rather than a driving passion. Perhaps because of this, her film career is less detailed than her focus on the failed relationships in her life. While this is certainly crucial information, it is perhaps not all that her readers would want to learn. Stars like Robert Redford and Michael Gross receive only a few paragraphs here and there, while Baxter regales her readers with the shortcomings of ex-husbands David Birney and Michael Blodgett in excruciating detail. For readers interested in the fine points of her three failed marriages, this proves an informative read. There is also an edifying sub-story as Baxter details her struggle and eventual triumph over alcohol addiction. She is an intelligent and introspective author but there is much navel gazing. However, Baxter's perception about others tells us a lot about who she is and there is much of that to be found. Her eventual 'coming out' reads more like the story of a woman disenchanted with men rather than a young girl who always leaned 'that way' and finally finds herself as a mature woman. Die-hard Meredith fans will enjoy this book but it is not a must read, by any means.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Untied April 4 2011
I found this book to be good. It is a story of her life in and after Family ties. I found the parts of her youth lacked some depth.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  103 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meredith Baxter talks to many hidden women March 7 2011
By Marian A. Floyd - Published on Amazon.com
In Untied Ms. Baxter reaches out to all the women who suffer silently in lives that they feel they are trapped in. She writes of hope and love. She readily admits to her mistakes and her short-comings. It is a wonderful read and I enjoyed it in hardback and bought the audio copy because I have always loved her voice. The people who don't like this book are just not clued into what life is like for a woman who is trapped by a marriage or a life that is suffocating them. It takes a great deal of confidence to leave the security of what you know for the uncertainty of what you don't know. When self-esteem is not denegrated and smashed under the weight of the words of someone who is supposed to love you, it is difficult to realize that you really are valid. Thank You for making many abused women feel validated.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest portrayal of Baxter's struggles with alcoholism, marriage, and a major transformation March 5 2011
By Kcorn - Published on Amazon.com
Most potential buyers of this book are likely to remember Meredith Baxter as the mother in Family Ties. But I also recall her from Family and Bridget Loves Birney (she married Birney). For awhile she seemed to be a staple for various tv movies. She did have some big screen appearances (including All the Presidents Men) but she is probably far better known as a television actress, particularly in roles centered around families.

In this memoir, Baxter opens up and reveals the person behind the persona. I'm drawn to memoirs and found this one totally engaging. It isn't a prettified or glossy overview but an open take on Baxter's childhood (rough), marriage (also rough) and her drinking problem (it took its toll).

When I watched her on television, I thought Baxter seemed to have a hard, no nonsense edge as well as a slight underlying vulnerability. She didn't come across as an ultra feminine sex symbol but definitely a reliable character actress, particularly in family dramas or comedies.

After reading Untied, I can't help wondering if her edginess was bolstered by her alcoholism. At one point she was drinking so often that she was sometimes bluntly told that she couldn't have wine on the set. She engaged in reckless behavior, although I'll leave it to readers to learn those details.

While Baxter could be rock solid in her acting career, her personal life was far more turbulent, starting from childhood. The bumpiest moments in her marriage to Birney included some revelations that I won't put in here or they would be major spoilers. She had a deep health scare at one point. She felt inferior to her college educated husband.

Beause Baxter seemed to be everywhere on television nearly every time I turned on the set -from talk shows to repeats of Family Ties to "movies of the week" -she seemed familiar, almost like a distant relative who visits once in awhile. Wow, was I ever wrong in my perceptions of her! Of course, that makes this book even more riveting.

You may already know the type of lifestyle Baxter is living now. If not, you're in for a surprise twist.

While there isn't a memoir (or not one that I could find) written by David Birney, my spouse did interview him at one point, after he had divorced Baxter. It would be fascinating to read a book written by Birney, if only to compare his viewpoint with his ex-wife. But even without Birney's take on his time shared with Meredith Baxter, this book is well worth reading, especially for anyone who has struggled with issues relating to marriage, divorce, drinking, and childhood issues.

It is a testimony to resilience and should inspire a fair number of readers to think about how to handle personal challenges on their own lives. This is not just another bland "celebrity bio" but one that should resonate with many, including wives and mothers, whether they face difficulties or not. And of course it is a must for Meredith Baxter fans!
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest Portrayal of a Life March 7 2011
By B. Billerbeck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought the reviews of this book were unfair. I think it's hard to feel for Meredith for her choices, but easier when you understand she didn't know she had any. She wasn't raised to have them and so she married someone who gave her none. Whether or not you like her choices, you have to give her credit for being honest about the mistakes she's made.

The kind of abuse she alleges with David Birney is very hard to see from the outside. It's insidious and gets at the core of a woman's being, so the fact that she had five kids and became paralyzed by fear in the marriage makes sense to me. I watched a relative go through this same thing. The man always came out smelling like a rose while she looked crazy, but it's the snide little comments that wound a woman's soul.

She told this story for others who won't recognize their being abused and I commend her for it. I wasn't as interested in her career highlights or her conversion to a lesbian, but I found her childhood, marriage and battle with alcoholism (especially the fact that she didn't recognize it in herself) fascinating.

This book will help other women, and so even if you can't see her struggle and identify with it, I think it was good she wrote it for herself.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I took the time.... April 13 2011
By Be True - Published on Amazon.com
I read the reviews for this book before I got it from my library yesterday. I almost did not pick it up due to the 1 star reviews....I prejudged and decided not to bother.... I am very glad I changed my mind.
I read this book in about 12 hours.... it struck a deep cord with me reading about her self-esteem, intimacy, communication and relationship issues, and devastating interactions with the men in her life... Too much of what she told was too familiar personally for me... painfully so. I don't believe she overstated any abuse issue with Birney or the problems being married to him. I thought she as extremely fair and balanced discussing the problems she encountered with him and the other men and women in her life.
Why anyone would say she lied or blamed others for her troubles is truly beyond me....she took responsibility for everything. Knowing your self is one of life's most difficult challenges. She achieved this. I commend her for it. I recommend this book to any women looking for insight.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not earthshattering... March 11 2011
By Zabadu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Meredith had two things against her - a poor upbringing (emotionally), and being born in a time when you were "supposed" to be married and completely fulfilled by that.

What happened in the meantime was a person too afraid to change her life. Raised to feel unloved and unworthy, saddled with a less-than-stellar stepfather who basically pimped her out and tried to get her for himself, she stepped into two marriages as the result of pregnancy. Those who didn't live in those times don't know that it was "expected" of you. The only solid advice her mother ever gave her was "You don't have to do this" when she was embarking on her second marriage.

Meredith never took any time to explore how to escape her own massive insecurities, and was right when she kicked herself for making the same mistakes time and again. But she had no guidance to do any differently.

Three of her children publicly and solidly back up her stories. I think if she had been raised in these times, she would have decided long ago that she cared for women more than men. But she wasn't, and honestly, that's not even the point of this book. Who cares if she's gay, really?

The point of this book is to take a long, hard look at yourself, be courageous and live your own life, and not the life others have made for you. That's what you should take away from reading this book.

It's a quick read, and there will be times you just want to grab her and yell "grow a backbone!" She finally did, thank the lucky stars.
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