Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Michael J. Fox: Mini 'Family Ties' reunion on Oprah

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Despite the tone of the episode, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" started out its Meredith Baxter interview (detailing alcoholism, abuse and later-life homosexuality) with pretty silly intro.

"Remember Elise Keaton? She's a lesbian! What would Alex P. Keaton think of that?"

Well, Oprah never asks a question she doesn't already know the answer to. And the real life Alex P. Keaton ( Michael J. Fox) taped a message for his "Family Ties" co-star that Oprah aired during the hour.

"Gay, not gay, she found somebody that she loved," says Fox. "And if anyone deserves a big plate of happiness, it's Meredith. I'm thrilled that she can be who she is and who she wants to be. Whoever she chooses to share her life with is very lucky."

Fox isn't the only Keaton who turned out to show his support for Baxter. Michael Gross, who played patriarch Steven for 7 seasons of "Family Ties," surprised his former TV wife on stage to help her get through the difficult interview.

Getting a bit more graphic than her interview on "Today," Baxter mentioned a violent incident with ex-husband David Birney, when he struck her, broke her glasses, causing her to bleed.

"The truth is that you don't have to be abused physically too many times," she tells Oprah. "A couple times, and you know that it's always on the back-burner. It's the continuing corrosive effect of being belittle, degenerated in front of children and second-guessed "

Birney, who wouldn't comment on the allegations to the show, has denied Baxter's accusations. But her three children who were all in the audience seem to back up her story.

So why did she stay with him for so long, if it was all true? "I felt a fraud in my own life," she says. "There was an intense desire for secrecy. Don't tell anyone that this goes on in the house. I don't want anyone to know that the man I'm married to thinks so little of me to treat me this way because he's obviously right."

Baxter has the self-confidence now, which was clear when she appeared on stage with her longtime girlfriend Nancy Locke.

The Meredith Baxter publicity explosion continues on the Joy Behar Show on March 2 -- if you haven't had enough.
Photo/Video credit: Harpo