David Birney, ‘St. Elsewhere’ and ‘Bridget Loves Bernie’ Actor, Dies at 83

Birney met future wife Meredith Baxter Birney on the 1972 CBS sitcom

American actress Meredith Baxter Birney and her husband, American actor David Birney, in New York City, New York, circa 1985. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

David Birney, a familiar face to ’70s TV audiences with dozens of appearances over five decades, including as the star of “Bridget Loves Bernie,” the short-lived CBS sitcom where he met future wife Meredith Baxter, has died, according to reports. He was 83.

The New York Times reported that Birney died Friday at his home in Santa Monica of Alzheimer’s, citing life-partner Michele Roberge. The Times said he was diagnosed with the degenerative disease in 2017.

Birney played the titular Bernie Steinberg on “Bridget Loves Birney,” a ratings hit during the 1972-1973 TV season that was nonetheless canceled after just one season. But the connection was made: Birney would wind up dating and marrying his co-star Meredith Baxter, who was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney by the time she played Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties.”

The couple had three children – Kate, Mollie, and Peter – and divorced in 1989. Years after their divorce, Baxter wrote a lengthy account of their relationship, alleging emotional and physical abuse that he strongly denied.

Birney was also an accomplished stage actor, with credits both on Broadway and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He played Dr. Ben Samuels on the first season of NBC’s medical drama “St. Elsewhere,” and continued to make television appearances into the late ’90s, with credits on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and the “Love Boat” reboot.