SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMES
Florence Henderson is A Perfect 10 – (10th Child of 10, that is)
Published: January 7, 2010
By Mike Ward
When you trace the trajectory of any iconic star, certain elements are necessary to blaze one performer above the others: Talent, Timing and Events (local, national and worldwide). When this happens, a celebrityâ€™s star goes super-nova. Florence Hendersonâ€™s life and career is a perfect case-study of this, and both provide the foundation and backdrop for the remarkable evening of entertainment she brings to The Rrazz Room. All the Lives of Meâ€¦ A Musical Journey takes fans on a stellar trek through Hendersonâ€™s life.
â€œThe show contains many surprises for the audience,â€ Henderson explained, â€œEspecially with regard to my childhood. Since so much of my show is interactive with the audience, it is slightly different every night. Sometimes the surprises are on me!â€ She added, â€œOne thing that people may not realize is that Bruce Vilanch contributed heavily to the show.â€ And those attending should keep an eye out as there may be more than one famous guest showing up during the run. Upon hearing SF audiences have a special place in their hearts for her, Henderson replied, â€œI am honored to hear that. I have memories of San Francisco, both happy and sad. I was in The Sound of Music during the Jim Jones tragedy, and performing in Bells Are Ringing when the Harvey Milk assassination took place.â€
Henderson is the tenth of ten children of a homemaker and a sharecropper, and she had a talent that could net her more than just attention. â€œIn fact, my mother discovered my talent,â€ she recalled. â€œShe often said I came out of the womb singing. I was singing for groceries as early as three years old.
So, I have very early memories of making my talent work for me.â€ Looking back, she reflects, â€œWhile being a mother of four is filled with its own rewarding experiences, the same can be said for periods of my life that included Broadway or being on television with The Brady Bunch.â€
Hendersonâ€™s stage career was quite successful, and she was a favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, appearing in various of the legendary teamâ€™s high-profile productions. And she sings a number of tunes from those shows in her act. If she could pick one dream role to perform, Henderson immediately chimes in, â€œMame! I just adore Jerry Herman and would love to portray that wonderful creature, Mame Dennis.â€
She built a series of high-profile exposures and firsts leading up to her most famous role. From Broadway leading lady and headlining national touring companies to being the first woman guest host on The Tonight Show (then her turn as â€œThe Today Girlâ€ on NBCâ€™s The Today Show), Hendersonâ€™s star was swiftly rising. Then in 1969, she went super-nova with The Brady Bunch.
In The Brady Bunch, she co-anchored a dynamic television marriage with beloved actor Robert Reed (the handsome gay performer who died of AIDS complications in 1992). And the Brady family perfectly coincided with the national trend towards â€œblended familiesâ€ â€” Carol (Henderson) and her children from a previous marriage and Mike (Reed) and his children from his previous marriage. Yes, they â€œknew that it was much more than a hunch.â€
She takes her art and public life seriously, yet she gives herself the freedom to enjoy her sense of humor. When asked what advice she would you give younger stars in-the-making, she said, â€œIt may sound corny, but listen to your elders. Or rather, donâ€™t be so quick to dismiss those that came before you. I learned a great deal from those who came before me such as Mary Martin. And above all else, you have always got to maintain a sense of humor.â€ (For a great example, go to YouTube and enter â€œFlorence Henderson Good to Mamaâ€.)
All the Lives of Meâ€¦ A Musical Journey continues until January 10 at The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco. Tickets ($40-$47.50) call Ticket Web at (866) 468-3399 or at therrazzroom.com. More info at flohome.com.