‘Brady Bunch’ matriarch Florence Hen­der­son dies at 82

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Lynn Elber AP Tele­vi­sion Writer

LOS AN­GE­LES >> Florence Hen­der­son, who went from Broad­way star to be­come one of Amer­ica’s most beloved tele­vi­sion moms in “The Brady Bunch,” has died. She was 82.

Hen­der­son died at Cedars-Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les on Thurs­day night, a day af­ter she was hos­pi­tal­ized, said her pub­li­cist, David Brokaw. Hen­der­son had suf­fered heart fail­ure, her man­ager Kayla Press­man said in a state­ment.

Fam­ily and friends had sur­rounded Hen­der­son’s hospi­tal bed­side, Press­man said.

On the sur­face, “The Brady Bunch” with Hen­der­son as its ever-cheer­ful matriarch Carol Brady re­sem­bled just an­other TV sit­com about a fam­ily liv­ing in sub­ur­ban Amer­ica and get­ting into a dif­fer­ent wacky sit­u­a­tion each week.

But well af­ter it ended its ini­tial run in 1974, the show res­onated with au­di­ences, and it re­turned to tele­vi­sion in var­i­ous forms again and again, in­clud­ing “The Brady Bunch Hour” in 1977, “The Brady Brides” in 1981 and “The Bradys” in 1990. It was also seen end­lessly in re­runs.

“It rep­re­sents what peo­ple al­ways wanted: a lov­ing fam­ily. It’s such a gen­tle, in­no­cent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there’s al­ways an au­di­ence for that,” Hen­der­son said in 1999.

Premier­ing in 1969, it also was among the first shows to in­tro­duce to tele­vi­sion the blended fam­ily. As its theme song re­minded view­ers each week, Hen­der­son’s Carol was a sin­gle mother rais­ing three daugh­ters when she met her TV hus­band, Robert Reed’s Mike Brady, a sin­gle fa­ther who was rais­ing three boys.

The eight of them be­came “The Brady Bunch,” with a quirky house­keeper, played by Ann B. Davis, thrown into the mix.

Mourn­ers flooded so­cial me­dia with mem­o­ries of Hen­der­son.

Mau­reen McCormick, who played the el­dest Brady daugh­ter, Mar­cia, tweeted, “You are in my heart for­ever Florence.” ‘’Danc­ing With the Stars” host Tom Berg­eron tweeted, “Heart­bro­ken. I’ll miss you, my friend.” Hen­der­son’s last pub­lic ap­pear­ance was Mon­day at the “Danc­ing With The Stars” tap­ing where she was in the au­di­ence to sup­port McCormick, who com­peted this sea­son.

The blond, ever-smil­ing Hen­der­son was al­ready a Broad­way star when the show be­gan, hav­ing orig­i­nated the ti­tle role in the mu­si­cal “Fanny.” But af­ter “The Brady Bunch,” she would al­ways be known to fans as Carol Brady.

“We had to have se­cu­rity guards with us. Fans were hang­ing on our doors. We couldn’t go out by our­selves. We were like the Bea­tles!” she said of the at­ten­tion the show brought the cast.

Like the Bea­tles, there was even a Satur­day morn­ing car­toon ver­sion called “Brady Kids,” though Hen­der­son was not in that show.

She and Reed did re­turn, how­ever, for “The Brady Bunch Hour, “The Brady Brides” and “The Bradys.” So did most of the orig­i­nal cast.

She was also back again in 1995 when a new cast was as­sem­bled for “The Brady Bunch Movie,” a play­ful spoof of the orig­i­nal show. This time she was Grandma Brady op­po­site Shel­ley Long’s Carol. Nu­mer­ous me­moirs also kept in­ter­est in the show alive as cast mem­bers re­vealed they were more than just sib­lings off cam­era. Barry Williams, who played el­dest son Greg Brady, would con­fess to hav­ing a crush on his TV step­mom. Hen­der­son, in her own book, de­nied hav­ing any re­la­tion­ship with Williams but did ac­knowl­edge a fling with for­mer New York City mayor John Lind­say.

Florence Hen­der­son

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