Out In Hollywood
Bruce Vilanch on Florence Henderson and that wacky Brady Bunch 70s Variety Hour…
By Greg Hernandez on January 30, 2009 8:05 AM
Bruce Vilanch called the other day but he was too late to be included in my article on Florence Henderson which runs in today’s LA Daily News. But I was happy to chat with the funnyman anyway. He had a good excuse for not calling earlier: he’s busy writing material for next month’s Oscar telecast!
Bruce has written the lyrics for the opening number (“Have I Been Lifted?”) of Florence’s one-woman show which kicks off its national tour in Hollywood tonight.
“It answers the question everyone in the audience has been wondering,” Bruce hints.
“She is amazing,” he says of Henderson, who turns 75 on Valentine’s Day. “It shows you that talent and class wiin out, She was one of those squeaky clean musical comedy heroines of the Julie Andrews school, Offstage, she’s a very boisterous, bawdy girl.”
From here, our conversation takes an unexpected and wonderful turn. I had no idea that Bruce was a writer on the “Brady Bunch Variety Hour” which debuted a few years after the sitcom was cacelled. It was the first of many, many Brady re-incarnations over the years.
It was a show that was so bad, that it’s a blast to watch today. I confess, I was just a kid who was so thrilled to have the Bradys back on TV and I didn’t even care that the show didn’t have the REAL Jan! Florence, her TV husband Robert Reed (gay off-screen but closeted), Ann B. Davis (Alice) and all the Brady kids except for Eve Plumb did musical acts.
They also welcomed such guests as Farrah Fawcett and her then-husband Lee Majors and Donny and Marie Osmond.
Says Bruce: “I wrote the Brady Bunch variety hour, That was writing wholesome mom and wholesome dad for those two. He (Reed) was a closet leather queen living with his mother! If I’d known that 30 yearts later people were going to be interested in this (expletive) I would have paid closer attention, It was 1977 and we were all chemically altered. We were haivng a great deal of fun.”
I mentioned to Bruce that I remembered with Farrah and Lee guested on the show. It was during her year on :”Charlie’s Angels” and he was starring on “Six Million Dollar Man.” At the time, Farrah’s hair was an international sensation and was overshadowing her acting (this was before her three Emmy nominations and acclaim in “The Burning Bed” and “Extremities.’).
Bruce had a funny story about that: “I remember when Farrah showed up, she plugged in her hairdryer and all the power went out. The whole studio went out. That was one powerful hairdryer, Poor thing. I don’t think that was the reason the power went out but it did.”
So why does he think that 30 years later, we’re still talking about the Bradys and that damned variety show?
“I think “The Brady Bunch Movie” had a lot to do with it. When they brought back the movie, Nickelodeon discovered there were these variety hours that had never been aired. People who had never seen them, especiaily Brady fanatics: They had been dead and buried.”