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Ted Danson Has Been Quietly Rad for 30 Years

Except, of course, for that one time

Did you know Ted Danson really, really loves his wife, Mary Steenburgen? News that Danson described being with Steeny Baby (which we assume he calls her — get it? Like Beanie Baby) as “heaven on earth” sent the internet collectively swooning. But something kids today might not be hip to is that Ted Danson has always been a pretty cool guy for going on a few decades now, except for that time he really, really wasn’t.

First off, the quote that brought the internet to its knees. It came at a “private” Don Henley concert in L.A. recently, where Danson told Us Weekly:

“I’m madly in love with Mary Steenburgen. She’s a remarkable human being so I’m just incredibly blessed,” the Cheers alum, 69, exclusively told Us Weekly while attending Don Henley’s annual private concert in L.A. on Monday, July 17. “It feels like heaven on Earth. If I were to die, I can say, I know what it’s like to be loved and to love.”

He went on to explain that they’re “always doing something,” and enjoy taking “major naps” together. “I’m following her around, she writes music, she goes to Nashville,” he added. “I’m about to stop actually shooting [The Good Place]. We’re through for the season in a week. So now I get to follow her and go wherever she goes.”

Danson has always been pretty cool, though. He was cool when he made us like him as bartender Sam Malone on Cheers, even though he was a recovering alcoholic womanizer, because he played the part with easy charm.

He’s also really good at leaning:

He has a great head of hair, even if he might actually be bald.

Weird part: At one point he had a pretty public affair with Whoopi Goldberg, whom he met on the set of Made in America in 1992. The affair ended his marriage of 16 years. At one point he made a similarly swoony declaration about Goldberg, too: “I’d walk in Whoopi’s shadow for the rest of my life — I adore the woman,” People Magazine reported at the time.

But the record-scratch moment here in an otherwise timeline of cool is that Danson participated in a celebrity roast of Goldberg at the Friar’s Club, which I will let Roger Ebert explain because otherwise it‘ll sound like we made it up:

It’s a tradition of the celebrity roasts at the Friar’s Club that everything goes — that no joke is in such bad taste that it cannot be told. Friday, that tradition may have ended, as a roast for Whoopi Goldberg turned into such a tasteless display that some audience members hid their faces in their hands, and others left.

They cringed in disbelief during the opening monologue by actor Ted Danson, Whoopi’s lover, who appeared in blackface and used the word “nigger” more than a dozen times during a series of jokes that drew smaller and smaller laughs, until finally the audience was groaning and Danson faltered as he tried to plow through his written material.

At one point he even ate watermelon.

Halle Berry, Mr. T., Anita Baker, RuPaul, Vanessa Williams, Montel Williams and New York City Mayor David Dinkins were all in the audience, mortified.

However, Goldberg defended Danson’s routine as brave and of a piece with the tradition’s over-the-top, raucous humor, claiming she wrote it herself. They broke up a month later anyway.

Other than that, though, pretty cool, right?

He’s a good looking man, too, even now.

In the MEL office, the millennials didn’t understand why we thought that he was good-looking, because he’s old or something. But they probably just don’t remember Cheers.

“He’s arguably the handsomest white man of his age right now,” my friend said when I told her what the millennials said.

Two years after Friargate, Danson found his saving grace when he met Steeny Baby on the set of Pontiac Moon, a movie you’ve never heard of until right now—admit it. They married in 1995, helping him transition from that unintentionally (?) racist provocateur thing toward citizen of heaven on earth.

He was also cool again when he made us like him as a debauched but sweet magazine editor on that HBO show Bored to Death. He is also cool now on Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he and Steenburgen make us like them by playing themselves, a happy couple with an easy charm.

Normally I don’t like to defend celebrities who are always going on about how in love they are — it can feel like they protest too much and so much of their entire lives are just little performances for our benefit. I also need to point out that it’s sad that it’s novel when a man is allegedly over the moon about his wife.

Sad for us, anyway.

But I’m inclined to believe him.

Personal anecdote: I saw Ted Danson trail adoringly behind Mary Steenburgen in Venice at a kids’ store a few months ago. He knocked over something in a glass jar, which shattered across the floor. Mary Steenburgen laughed in polite embarrassment, and the salesperson quickly stepped in to sweep up the mess. But Ted Danson insisted on cleaning up his own mess, and promptly took the brush and dustpan from the salesperson, kneeled to the floor, and swept up while Steenburgen kept shopping.

Pretty cool, Ted Danson.