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- December 13, 1999
- Vol. 52
- No. 23
The Family Still Matters
Thirty Years Ago, The Brady Bunch Formed TV's Favorite Family. Since Then, They Have Weathered Divorce, Alcoholism, and the Death of One of Their Own. With Reruns Still Airing, Cast Members Recall the Highs and Lows of Life as a Brady
GREG Song-and-dance man
Who could forget the 1973 episode in which oldest Brady boy Greg got a shot at stardom-an agent offered to mold him into singing sensation Johnny Bravo—only to quit after learning they wanted him simply because he happened to fit a spangled suit?
Barry Williams has no such qualms. The real-life Greg, 45, continues to mine the rich lode of Brady nostalgia by crooning tunes such as "Hip to Be Square" on a new CD, The Return of Johnny Bravo. "I did not have major labels champing at the bit," he admits. His 1992 memoir Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg has proven more tempting: A TV adaptation to air on NBC is set to start shooting soon, with Williams pitching in as a producer.
Such projects are only a sideline for Williams, who shares a ranch house in Connecticut with second wife Eila Mary Matt, 37, an investment banker, and makes his living starring in productions of musicals such as Guys and Dolls and City of Angels. "I've spent over 200 nights a year on the road for the past 10 years," he says, adding that mobs of Brady fans make him feel "like a politician campaigning."
Brady producer Sherwood Schwartz lauds the Pacific Palisades, Calif., native's "mature attitude, even at 14." Mature indeed: Then-Randy Williams recalls necking with costar Maureen McCormick—and once stepping out with TV mom Florence Henderson, upon whom he had an unrequited crush. "He wasn't old enough to drive," Henderson recalls, adding, "I guess you could call it a date, but it wasn't like I was going out with him!"
Williams, whose first marriage, to ex-Miss Arizona Diane Martin, ended in divorce, is ready for fatherhood—and a new identity. "People can finally stop calling me Greg," he jokes, "and start calling me Johnny."
MARCIA Flirting with TV
"She had a habit of doing what her character Marcia would do," Susan Olsen (Cindy) says of Maureen McCormick, "which is coming in and being very charming whenever Eve Plumb [Jan] had a boyfriend on the set." Playing TV's perky über-teen, McCormick caught the eye of her male castmates, too. "She was a babe," Barry Williams declares. But also a target for teasing. When her character had to get braces, "I told her that her teeth were going to be marked for life," Chris Knight (Peter) recalls. "She broke down and started crying." McCormick, now 43, made an easy transition from teen star to TV-movie ingenue. But in 1989 she quit acting to "do the mom thing," she later told PEOPLE, with Natalie, now 10, her daughter with businessman husband Michael Cummings. Lured back to the limelight in '94 by a stint on Broadway as bad girl Rizzo in Grease, she released a country music album in '95. Despite the makeovers, she's still Marcia to fans. When the Westlake Village, Calif., resident taped a recent episode of It's like, you know..., the audience broke into the Brady theme song. She took it in stride. Says the show's executive producer, Peter Mehlman: "She doesn't take her cultural-icon status too seriously."
JAN Overcoming the awkward years
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! For 41-year-old Eve Plumb, whose character Jan lived in big sis Marcia's shadow, life continues to imitate art. "I think it has been kind of tough on Eve," says Chris Knight (Peter). "Maureen gets all this attention because most of the powerful people in the industry today had a crush on Marcia. To them, Eve was the second fiddle." Still, Plumb, who wed lighting technician Rick Mansfield in 1979 but was divorced from him a few years later, has carved out a career of her own. Recently she played a mom on the kiddie TV program Fudge and guest-starred on That '70s Show; the L.A. resident also creates paintings and lithographs. She and Florence Henderson costarred in the 1995 movie Fudge-A-Mania. "She had all these scenes to do with child actors," recalls Henderson, "and I'd look at her and say, 'It's not easy, is it?' She'd roll her eyes and say, 'I never behaved like that on-set!' "
CAROL The lovely lady peps up morning television
As Carol Brady, Florence Henderson was the queen of shag—but not in the Austin Powers sense. Her infamously groovy hairdo, parodied by Shelley Long in the Brady movies of the mid-'90s, was regretted by thousands of women who wore it in the '70s. "It was my fault!" Henderson admits with a laugh.
As the sunniest mom on TV, Henderson, now 65, helped raise a generation of fans. "At the time of the show, there were a lot of families splitting up," she explains. "Our show gave them hope." The youngest of 10 children of a poor sharecropper, the Indiana native says her own mother was hardworking but not often affectionate. "I played Carol Brady as the mother I always wished I had," she says. Though she adds that she also wished her alter ego had a career, Henderson tried to push the envelope in other ways: "I purposely wore sexy nightgowns!"
Henderson's familiar face, after years of Brady reruns and Wesson Oil commercials, helped land her current job as cohost of NBC's Later Today morning show. "They told me I was their first choice," says Henderson, who lives with her hypnotherapist husband, John Kappas, on a yacht in Marina del Rey, Calif. (She has four grown children with producer Ira Bernstein, from whom she was divorced in 1987.) "People feel comfortable with me. " It's a matter of trust."
CINDY The baby brings up a baby
"I thought Cindy was a jerk," Susan Olsen, 38, says of her character. So did some of Olsen's classmates, who teased her about Cindy's tattletale personality, blonde pigtails and oh-so-innocent lisp. ("People think I forced that poor kid to speak that way, but that's how she spoke!" says Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz.) For Olsen, the show ended just in time. "I didn't want to deal with episodes where Cindy gets her first bra," she says. "That would have been mortifying."
Though she later trained at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, Calif., Olsen had trouble landing adult parts. "I'd get an audition to play a tough street person or a drug addict," she recalls, "and the response was always, 'We can't hire Cindy to play that role.' " She worked as a graphics designer for 10 years, then, in 1995, began cohosting a daily radio talk show in L.A., where she lives with second husband Mitch, 38, a medical salesman, and their son Michael, 3. The longtime migraine sufferer is also a spokeswoman for Migraine Awareness Month. She shuns Brady reruns. "I guess," she says, "I'll have to watch it if my son gets hooked on it."
ALICE The housekeeper embraces a religious life
Ann B. Davis, the Bunch's wisecracking housekeeper, hasn't been left out of latter-day Bradymania. On a book tour for her Alice's Brady Bunch Cookbook in 1994, "everyone was so excited to meet her," recalls publishing executive Bryan Curtis. But Davis, now 73, has always kept her sensible shoes on the ground. The Schenectady, N.Y.-born comedian was a TV and stage veteran when she landed in the Bradys' kitchen, where she sometimes forgot their characters' names. "She'd go, 'Help me!' when she drew a blank," remembers Florence Henderson. In 1976, the never-wed Davis left Hollywood for a religious group house headed by a former Episcopal bishop of Colorado. She and a handful of fellow parishioners, devoted to prayer, Bible study and charity work, now share a southwestern-style house near San Antonio, Texas. Far from cloistered, she has popped up in Brady TV and movie spinoffs. But she recently told E! Entertainment Television that she's through with acting: "I really am very happy and contented with my life."
BOBBY Behind the camera and into family life
Mike Lookinland's sons Scott, 9, and Joey, 6, have just caught a Brady TV marathon, and they can't stop giggling. "You're weird because you were on The Brady Bunch," Joey teases his dad. Lookinland, 38 and a movie and TV cameraman in Salt Lake City, later concedes that "the show is completely inane in a lot of ways. But it was fun."
Cast as boisterous Bobby at 8, the L.A.-reared Lookinland had only one major complaint: the dark dye applied to his carrot top to make him look like the other Brady boys. "He would sweat and there'd be black stuff running down his face," recalls Susan Olsen. After the series' end, Lookinland entered the University of Utah but dropped out to work as a movie production assistant, then as a cameraman. He recently worked on a film, Way of the Gun, starring James Caan. "Life's never been better for me," he says.
Credit his wife of 12 years, Kelly, 37, a script supervisor for Touched by an Angel. And a 1997 drunk-driving arrest—after Lookinland totaled his Ford Bronco—that convinced him to get sober. "I was a raving alcoholic for years," he says. "It took almost dying to finally quit."
Today, he still has a fondness for The Brady Bunch. "If it vanished," he says, "I know I'd miss it."
PETER Struggling kid finds new focus
Being a middle child is tough. For Chris Knight, playing one was even tougher—due to his hyperactive tendencies and trouble remembering lines. Now 42, he only recently learned why. "Three years ago I was diagnosed as having lifelong ADD [attention deficit disorder]," says Knight, who co-owns a technology company and lives in Manhattan Beach, Calif., with second wife Toni, 35, a media sales executive. "All of a sudden everything made sense." Like his painful shyness ("I could barely speak my first year on the show") and hard-to-contain energy. "When the director would instruct us to be 'up up up,' I would be way up," he says. "Not wanting to have other people notice, even though I was in the spotlight, was kind of scary and upsetting."
By his teens, Knight says, he disliked the "silly" show (his biggest onscreen moment: turning his cracking voice into the main attraction of the Brady Singers). After its finale, the California native ventured on a date with costar Eve Plumb (Jan). "Nothing happened," he says, laughing. "Eve and I have never talked about it again." After stints in Bunch spinoffs and the soap Another World, Knight spent years as "a beach bum," he says, admitting to having done "a little bit of drugs." In 1987, he landed his first of several marketing jobs—and last year, the childless Knight (divorced from first wife Julie in 1992) cofounded a computer-devices company. "I'm a whole new person," he says. "My best years are in front of me."
- Ken Baker,
- Ivory Clinton II,
- Cathy Free,
- Anne Lang,
- Elizabeth Leonard,
- Cynthia Wang,
- Ulrica Wihlborg,
- Paula Yoo.
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