When writing about Florence Henderson, it takes all your strength not to begin, "Here's the story / of a lovely lady . . . " Those words to the opening of "The Brady Bunch" theme are as true of Henderson as they are about her best-known character, supermom Carol Brady.
The sparkling 76-year-old sang professionally while still in high school in Kentucky. After a year at New York City's American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, she broke into Broadway in the '50s, and became a fixture of Manhattan variety shows and nightlife. Then came the iconic 1969-74 ABC comedy and its many spinoffs.
It's Henderson the cabaret singer on view again at Guild Hall in East Hampton Saturday, as she co-stars in "A Bipolar Evening With Friends: Florence Henderson and Bruce Vilanch," based partly on her two-year-old tour "All the Lives of Me."
I did this big benefit at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre recently to raise money for AIDS - I had performed in it last year, and then this year I hosted it. And Bruce did a number that was just so funny. We got to talking and we just said we'd love to work together. Many people don't know that Bruce was the head writer on "The Brady Bunch Hour."
You've been touring a revue for a couple of years now.
This'll be pretty much the same show. It's very autobiographical and very funny and touching, we hope. It's a lot of great music. I've done it with symphonies, I've done it with just my small group, and it always seems to work.
You've got projects everywhere: the FloH Club website of computer-tech support for seniors, your interview program on Retirement Living TV, indie movies . . .
I try to be relevant. I love what I do, I love working in so many different areas. I'm going to be on "WWE Raw."
What? Oh, tell me about this. Who are you fighting?
Maybe I'm going to handle three or four guys! [Laughs.] . . . I don't know what the script is yet, but you do something before the show and, I think, whenever they have breaks and so forth. I'm looking forward to it; I think it's going to be very funny.
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask if you stay in touch with your TV kids.
Of course, I do. They're all doing very well. As a matter of fact, I saw Barry the other night quite by accident. We were in a restaurant, and he came over with two people from Australia, and we had a really nice visit.
And you were on the reality show "My Fair Brady" with Christopher Knight [Peter Brady].
Chris asked me to come and kind of counsel him and [fiancee] Adrianne [Curry], which I did - because I am a certified hypnotherapist. I'll tell you, it was surreal. He's still married, and he's a wonderful guy; I adore him. I saw Eve in New York; she also participated in this benefit that I did. And I hear from Susan frequently. Not so much from Mike Lookinland [Bobby Brady] - he lives in Utah. But when I see him, he's also such a sweetheart. I hear from Ann B. Davis , too.
How about the replacement Jan from "The Brady Bunch Hour," Geri Reischl?
No, never. I'm not in touch with her nor the girl who played Maureen [McCormick's] part [Marcia Brady] in one of our reunions .
You and Robert Reed [Mike Brady] really did have a surrogate family. When Sherwood Schwartz did "The Brady Girls Get Married" (1981), Reed left the Broadway play "Deathtrap" for a weekend and flew in at his own expense to film it, saying, "Nobody's gonna marry off my two oldest daughters but me!"
Well, we were his family, pretty much. It was very important to him. As much as he resisted a lot of the scripts and so forth, he just loved all of us, and we loved him. And we miss him.