The Hawaiian tiki idol…pork chops & applesauce…bowling night with Sam the Butcher…when it’s time to change, you’ve got to re-arrange…Oh, my nose!
For an American generation that grew up in the 70s, all those references have meaning. They all refer of course to the quintessential 70’s TV sitcom, The Brady Bunch. Even “Cousin Oliver” will bring a forgiving eye-roll and head shake these days.
A week ago I was sitting in Studio City’s Aroma Café with a good guy and a producer of some import. Not two different people — the same guy. (It can happen.) This is a man who’s hammered out multi-million dollar deals with Harvey Weinstein and helped start a studio from scratch. When he’s in Cannes it’s because he has a movie there. We were discussing business over sandwiches when I mentioned in passing that we were only a couple of blocks away from the house that was used as the exterior for The Brady Bunch house. His face lit up and within minutes of concluding our business we were standing in front of the house, snapping pictures and reveling in the small wonder of it all.
I have a friend who lives just down the street from the Brady house. That’s how it was first pointed out to me. When I met him, my friend was a regular on a sitcom that shot on the CBS Radford lot – literally around the corner. The house he bought was a convenient location for the working actor but I’m still not entirely convinced he didn’t buy it because of its proximity to the iconic house at the end of the street.
The Brady Bunch is on my mind this morning because of the news yesterday of Ann B. Davis’s passing. Ms. Davis played the role of Alice — the live-in housekeeper – on The Brady Bunch from 1969-1974. As kids, many in my generation wondered how much money our dads would have to make to have someone like Alice live with us. Davis was an accomplished actress having won two Emmys before she took the role of Alice. Ann Davis was, by all accounts, a good soul and a fine person. She seems to have had a rich and rewarding life apart from show business and not dependent on fame or money. And that’s not an easy trick to pull off once you’ve been in the belly of the beast. Without question she played an iconic character in American television. I’m glad she had other things in her life that gave it meaning.
Davis’s passing and the fact that I recently took someone to the house are why the show is on my mind this morning. But that show is never far from my consciousness. Its original run coincided with my early childhood and provided hours of entertainment. After its run, the behind-the-scenes-revelations and varying degrees of struggle the cast endured, sometimes overcoming and at other times being overcome, provided a more instructive window onto the world than the idealistic one the show presented. They were American TV’s first blended family writ large. For 30 minutes every week they showed how a family works things out. For the last 40 years they’ve shown it’s not quite that simple. I’m a grown-up now. I can take it. And because I can, I can cut the show some slack and say ‘thank you’ to all who were involved in giving us a few years of stories about what happened after a lovely lady with three girls met a man named Brady who was busy with three boys of his own.