Friday, August 30, 2019

A Very Brady Grave!

September marks the 50th anniversary of The Brady Bunch, and there's no shortage of quick-for-cash TV specials commemorating the event.   HGTV will soon begin airing A Very Brady Renovation, giving 4222 Clinton Way a full Brady makeover.  Over on the Discovery Channel,  Fast 'N Loud will team up with Johnny Bravo himself, Barry Williams, to pimp out the Brady station wagon.  And earlier this week, the Food Network's Chopped! asked the Bradys to serve as celebrity judges for a variety of 70s-inspired dishes.  Pork chops and apple sauce?  You bet!

Six Feet Under Hollywood is happy to jump on the Brady bandwagon.  I've been to a few Brady graves over the years, but with apologies to Sherwood Schwartz and Allan Melvin, we'll be focusing exclusively on the Brady matriarch herself, Florence Henderson.

She was born on February 14, (whoa, Valentine's Day) 1934 in Dale, Indiana.  Talk about a bunch - she was the youngest of ten children!  Her mother taught her to sing at a young age, and by 12, "Florencey," as she was called, was performing in local grocery stores.  You read that correctly.  After completing high school, she moved off to New York to pursue a career in drama.

She proved a natural on the Broadway stage.  Her early roles included productions of Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and Wish You Were Here.  In 1952, she was given the title role in Fanny (right), which would have 888 performances.

Hollywood was quick to notice, and she was cast in a number of series, including The Patti Page Show and I Spy (not the one with Bill Cosby).  She was also the first woman to ever guest host The Tonight Show, following Jack Paar's departure. 

All of this was leading to her most famous role, that of Carol on The Brady Bunch, which she landed in 1968.  Henderson had been an early favorite of series creator Sherwood Schwartz, but was unavailable to appear in the pilot episode.  Comedic actress Joyce Bulifant was given the role, one she'd ultimately have to surrender when Henderson became available at the 11th hour.  Watch Joyce describe that decision here.

She enjoyed five seasons on the series, which occasionally gave her the opportunity to showcase her singing ability.  Here's Carol singing at church on Christmas morning, and here she is singing and dancing with her series co-star, Maureen McCormick. 

A few years after the series was cancelled, she rejoined her Brady castmates in the ill-conceived Brady Bunch Variety Hour, a series that would put her singing abilities center stage.  Here's one of her solos from that show.  It's a prime example of figuring out what you do best, then doing your best with it.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Henderson appeared on a number of game shows, including The Match Game, To Tell the Truth, and The $25,000 Pyramid. She also joined several of her Brady co-stars in a celebrity edition of Family Feud.  You can watch that episode here.  Good answer!

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a nod to Henderson's one and only appearance in a music video, Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise" in 1997.  While she doesn't sing in it, she certainly entertains.  Watch it here.

In 2007, Henderson began co-hosting Living Live on Retirement Living TV.  Here she is interviewing fellow 70s icon, Charo.  Coochie-coochie!

She was also very charitable, often appearing on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.  She became an advocate for the Sisters of St. Benedict in her home state of Indiana, as some of the nuns had been her earliest educators.  She helped them in their fundraising efforts, and even played for them on a celebrity edition of "The Weakest Link."  The episode used to be on YouTube, but someone seems to have removed it.  How un-Brady of them.

By all accounts, Henderson was in great health well into her 80s.  On November 23, 2016, she checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for an undisclosed medical condition.  Sadly, she'd pass the next day, quite unexpectedly, the cause attributed to heart failure.  The world was in shock, as she had made her last public appearance just three days earlier on Dancing With the Stars.  Watch that final appearance here.

She was cremated, and her ashes were interred at the best cemetery in L.A., Pierce Brothers Westwood Village.  Her closest neighbors include Ray Bradbury, Carroll O'Connor, and Farrah Fawcett.  She's also just a stone's throw from her Brady co-star Allan Melvin, aka Sam the Butcher. 

Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village
Plot: Gardens of Serenity

RIP, Mrs. Brady.

  • Trailers for the new shows are all online.  Watch them here.
      * A Very Brady Renovation
      * Fast 'N Loud
      * Chopped!

  • This blogger published his first book "Bradypalooza: The Unathorized Guide to TV's Favorite Family," in 2004.  Check it out here.  Don't buy it though.  Too expensive.

  • From 1958 to 1961, Florence sang her way through a series of commercials for Oldsmobile.  Watch one of them here.

  • Florence is famous for her series of Wesson Cooking Oil spots of the 1970s and 80s.  Watch one of them here.  In the 1990s, she added Polident to her resume.  Here's one of those spots.

  • Beginning in the early 1990s, Florence sang "God Bless America" before the start of every Indianapolis 500.  In 20 years of performances, no one apparently ever took good video of it, but here's one from 2011.

  • A&E's Biography profiled Florence shortly after she died.  The episode was hosted by her TV son, Barry Williams.  You can watch it here.

  • Just because I love it, here's the intro to The Brady Bunch Hour.

  • Henderson was preceded in death by her two main Brady co-stars, Robert Reed and Ann B. Davis, who are buried in Chicago, Illinois and Boerne, Texas, respectively.  This blog has yet to visit either, but will plan to have future posts.

  • As noted above, Allan Melvin is also interred at Pierce Brothers.  Here's a shot of his grave.
  • And finally, here's series creator Sherwood Schwartz, who passed in 2011.  Full disclosure, I maintained a snail-mail correspondence with Mr. Schwartz in his final years, and he was kind enough to offer praise on my Brady book endeavor.  So thank you Mr. Schwartz for your generosity, and for giving us the Bradys.  Not to mention Gilligan!