‘Brady Bunch’ matriarch Florence Henderson dies at 82
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.