In the 1960s and 1970s, the Museum of Northern Arizona sat a good distance outside of Flagstaff's city limits, far from other buildings and housing developments. A young boy named Ted Danson called this place home.
Danson played with sons and daughters of ranchers, as well as Hopi and Navajo friends. He roamed the grounds of the Museum of Northern Arizona where his father, Edward "Ned" B. Danson, was the director.
"My connection to northern Arizona is very real," Danson said in a recent interview. "I cherish the memories of growing up ... I had experiences going to the Hopi villages. The museum has a strong heritage of supporting the Hopi and Navajo cultures and that place definitely informed who I am."
He added, "If I am stressed out, sitting out in the Hopi lands is about as calming of a thing that I can imagine. I also remember how we as a family used to jump into the car and go to the base of the Peaks for a picnic. Or we'd go to the Grand Canyon's Rim for the day. We must've gone there a hundred times."
Now, Danson is returning to Flagstaff for the first public appearance in seven years and the first fundraiser for the Museum of Northern Arizona in eight years. He and his actress-wife Mary Steenburgen will give a dramatic reading called "Tales of the Dansons," about the famous actor's mother and father, during a special event at the Orpheum Theater on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets range from $22 to a $125 VIP package that includes a personal pre-show event. The night's itinerary also involves a monologue by Danson called "Years from Flagstaff to Cheers," film clips, a dance performance by the Nuvatukya Sinom Hopi Dancers and live music from the Voluntary String Band.
A Sunday brunch event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Museum of Northern Arizona. Tickets are $150 per person. Learn more about all of the event details at www.musnaz.org.
BOOK, CHAIR AND ACTOR
The special appearance by Danson comes on the heels of the release of his father's biography, "Edward Bridge Danson: Steward of the New West." It's written by Eric Penner Haury, Danson's nephew, and published by the museum.
It also comes at a time when Danson and his sister, Jan Haury, and other members of the family are pushing to raise funds for the Edward B. Danson Chair of Anthropology at the museum. The chair is currently held by Kelley Hays-Gilpin.
Both the book and the chair speak to the legacy of Danson the museum director, who served in the position in the 1960s and 1970s and was mentored by Harold S. Colton, who co-founded the museum with his wife Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton.
The Dansons eventually moved to Sedona when Ned Danson retired, but his legacy at the museum and the ongoing connections have helped make Flagstaff the hometown of one of Hollywood's most accomplished and best known television and film actors.
Mere weeks before the fundraiser, Danson debuted on the CBS hit drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." He replaced Lawrence Fishburne as the lead actor when he took on the role of D.B. Russell. The show has 13 million viewers in the U.S. and, worldwide, is the most-watched current television show with 73 million viewers tuning in.
As most people know, Danson achieved international acclaim in the 1980s when he starred as Sam Malone, the bar owner in the NBC comedy "Cheers." In the years following the end of "Cheers," Danson went on to star in the CBS hit comedy series "Becker."
When that show ended in 2004, Danson's career did not. In recent years, he has appeared in a variety of series, including the F/X drama "Damages." The good streak has continued with the critically acclaimed HBO comedy hit "Bored to Death," now in its third season.
He also has appeared in several notable films, including Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," Lawrence Kasdan's "Mumford" and Joel Schumacher's "Cousins." And that does not include "Three Men and a Baby," a runaway hit comedy in 1987.
During a recent phone interview, Danson talked from his home in Los Angeles just days after the start of the 12th season of "CSI," with his first appearance. He talked about how this new role came to be.
"Out of the blue," he said about the call for him to be on the crime drama. "I was doing 'Bored to Death' on HBO and doing 'Damages' on F/X. So, I was being a cable guy. And an offer just came along out of the blue to be on 'CSI.' And one week later I was watching an autopsy" in preparation for the show.
Still, despite all of the major roles of Danson's career, he considers it an honor to come back and play the role of museum booster and fundraiser in Flagstaff. In 2003, he brought his Sam Malone persona as part of a "Cheers" fundraiser at MNA. He also helped raise money for congressional candidate Paul Babbitt in 2004. Now, he returns for this downtown Flagstaff event.
"The Orpheum Theater is where I used to spend my Sunday afternoons as a kid," Danson said during the recent phone interview. "For this event, my sister put together a reading of letters between my mother and my father about the museum years and their life with the Hopi and the Navajo. And it's a love letter to the Southwest ... It's a very sweet piece."
The night's event is really less of a celebration of the famous actor and more about his family's legacy and the work of his father.
"He came out West and fell in love with Arizona," Danson said of his dad, who died in November 2000. "He decided he would make his life and livelihood there. [My mother] really supported his effort to support that part of the world."
He added, "He really dedicated his life to northern Arizona. And he was a people person. My mother was the saint. She worked so hard in support of this. In the summer, there was hardly a single night at home with the four of us. There were Hopi and Navajo. There was always a hodgepodge of people. He just thrived on that."
If you go ...
What: A Hometown Evening with Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen
Where: Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen Ave.
When: Saturday, Nov. 5. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Tickets: From $22 for lounge and balcony to $125 for VIP package with pre-show
Information: Visit www.musnaz.org or call 774-5213, Ext. 270.
Also: Brunch at the museum with Danson and Steenburgen Sunday, Nov. 6. Information on the museum website.
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