David Birney, ‘Bridget Loves Bernie’ & ‘St. Elsewhere’ Star, Dies At 83
David Birney, an actor, and director who was best known for playing a Jewish cab driver married to an Irish Catholic teacher in the one-season long 1972 sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie and as a doctor of the 80s hit St. Elsewhere, died on Friday, at 83.
Birney passed away at his Santa Monica, California home, and the cause of his death according to his life partner Michele Roberge was Alzheimer’s Disease.
Along with Bridget Loves Bernie, which was canceled after one season after receiving protests from Jewish groups regarding its depiction of Jewish culture, Birney also starred in a short-lived TV series adaptation of the hit Sidney Lumet film Serpico, appeared on the first season of St. Elsewhere, and would go on to have a steady career acting in TV movies and shows for decades following.
David Edwin Birney was born on April 23, 1939, in Washington D.C., but he soon moved to Ohio where he spent most of his upbringing. Birney graduated from West High School in Cleveland and was reportedly an athlete with distinctions in basketball, football and track. He received a B.A. in English Literature from Dartmouth College and an M.A. in Theatre Arts from UCLA.
Birney got his start performing theatre in the Army and later received an award from the Barter Theatre in Virginia, going on to act in fifteen shows there and even directed two. He later made his Broadway debut in a 1967 staging of The Miser by Molière and would go on to act in several more Broadway shows and many more local theater productions.
He even directed a play of his own adapted from letters and short stories by Mark Twain and was also known as a prolific recorder of audiobooks by authors such as Dean Koontz, Paul Theroux, and Annie Dillard.
The actor married his Bridget Loves Bernie co-star, Meredith Baxter in 1974. They later divorced in 1989, and Baxter later claimed that Birney was emotionally and physically abusive to her during their relationship, which he has denied.
He is survived by his children from Baxter, Kate Birney, Mollie Birney and Peter Baxter, stepchildren from Baxter’s previous marriage Eva Bush and Ted Bush, two grandchildren, and his brothers Glenn Birney and Gregory Birney.
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