He’s not a man to get bogged down in slavish consistency. He talks vegetarian and shops organic, but “it would not be extraordinary,” he says, “to see me slipping into a McDonald’s with my kids.” He drives a Jeep and a Volvo wagon, but not without guilt. “It’s about time for me to put my money where my mouth is and buy something that gets great mileage,” he says. Ted Danson, 42, has traversed the money-power-fame minefield of the ’80s with passions and priorities intact. Today he brings a refreshing—perhaps necessary—tolerance to a central quandary of the ’90s: how to reconcile domestic values with the pursuit of careers and causes.
Indeed, he has had ample experience wrestling with contending forces. On Christmas Eve, 1979, his wife, Casey, suffered a paralyzing stroke during the birth of their first child. Despite a career-igniting performance in The Onion Field, Danson left acting for six months to nurse her back to health. Two years later work again clashed with homelife as he became a leading man in Cheers. In the mid-’80s his attention was seized once more—by a sign on a favorite beach that read, POLLUTED WATER, No SWIMMING. He and Casey, 52, founded the American Oceans Campaign in 1987, and he began pouring energy into fostering a responsible coastal resources policy. “During the last two years, I almost crashed and burned trying to be everything for everybody,” he says. Now he is getting back to basics. “My concern is for my wife and me, not how far I can shoot out into the world.”
Danson’s social conscience runs deep. Even while he was pulling the tap as the libidinous bar-keep of Cheers, he starred in TV movies with a message—as an incestuous father in Something About Amelia (’84) and a reporter on famine in Ethiopia in We Are the Children (’87). His reverence for nature dates to a Flagstaff, Ariz., childhood among the Hopi Indians. Danson’s father, an archaeologist, taught him that the past must be preserved as a legacy.
Nowadays one finds Danson not only preaching clean water, but also preserving what counts most for him: horseback riding with his kids, shooting hoops in the driveway or, as on a recent Saturday, spending the evening with friends, enjoying pasta, Puccini and a Magic Johnson video.