Book Review: Life Is Not a Stage by Florence Henderson

Hello again readers, family and friends.  Today we take a break from reviewing an episode of The Bradys so that we may have a look at “Life Is Not a Stage” by the late Florence Henderson.  As I have stated in the past, I am not a literary critic, so this blog is really just sharing my own thoughts on the book and sharing some of the information shared.  The book was published in 2011 and ends with the author sharing her experience on Dancing With The Stars.  She would be with us only five more years after the book came out, but if she spent those remaining years living her life as she did in her autobiography, I would surmise they were lived to the fullest.

The book numbers 264 pages and recollections of The Brady Bunch do not begin until page 167.  Pages 1 through 166 focus on Henderson’s childhood in Kentucky and her rise as a star of the stage.  She was the last of nine children and most were grown and no longer part of the household for the duration of her childhood.  Her father was an alcoholic with intervals of sobriety through the years.  She wrote, “When he wasn’t drunk, he could be the sweetest, kindest man.”   She describes her mother as a strict but fair woman who showed little love and adoration for her children.  She would leave Florence and her sister to move to Cleveland while they were still young.  Fortunately, she remained a presence in Florence’s life in later years.  There are pictures of them enjoying time together in Florence’s adult years.   An interesting factoid shared was that Florence Henderson modeled the Great Grandma Hutchins character in “You’re Never Too Old” after her own mother.

Through the charitable act of a friend’s parents, Florence Henderson got her big break.  Through the family’s connections, Florence landed a spot at a prestigious acting school in New York City.  From here she rose quickly appearing in hit plays.  Her adventures as a stage actress are peppered with stories of meeting famous players, troubled celebrities and other interesting tales.  Unfortunately, many of the big names she mentioned were unfamiliar to me.  I am sure one more knowledgeable of Broadway and musicals in general might enjoy this portion of the book more.

Other than her time on The Today Show, her experience in front of the camera was limited prior to playing Carol Brady.  As she wrote about The Brady Bunch, I was a bit disappointed that most of the information shared has been shared before.  She wrote of how she helped ease Robert Reed’s anxiety in the romantic scenes for the show.  It is well known now that Robert Reed was gay.  Florence Henderson describes his anxiety over performing as her husband was challenging at first.  She of course mentions how he wanted The Brady Bunch to be as realistic as possible and would bump heads with Sherwood and Lloyd Schwartz over scripts.

Florence describes how filming a weekly sitcom required long and grueling hours.  She arrived at the set before the sun was up and left after it went down.  She wrote of what a great friend she had in Ann B. Davis who told her she must conserve her energy and encouraged her to take up needlepoint.  She also maintained a family like relationship with the child actors on the series.  She made a great point that she was spending more time with her cast mates than her own family, thereby making them like family.

The one story shared by Florence Henderson about the show, that I never recall hearing before, occurred in Hawaii.  There is a scene where the Bradys are in an outrigger canoe.  The watercraft capsized and none of the cast were wearing life jackets.  Florence knew Susan Olsen was not a good swimmer, nor was she herself, so she held on to her TV daughter for dear life.  The event shook everybody up, but the show must go on and they continued filming.  Florence stated, “It could have been a major disaster”.  Indeed it could have.

Henderson is grateful for the persona the character Carol Brady gave her in her post Brady years.  She never lacked for work in the years following the show.  She mentions briefly The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.  She remembers fondly the beautiful gowns she got to wear and the great talent that made guest appearances on the program.  I was disappointed that not even a passing mention was made regarding The Brady Brides, A Very Brady Christmas or The Bradys.  She also did not mention her cameo in The Brady Bunch Movie.  Instead, the rest of the book shares with readers the bittersweet divorce from her first husband.  She and him remained friendly in the years that followed their divorce.  She found that ending a marriage she had entered into in another phase of life to be a liberating experience.  She also speaks only fondly of her second husband to whom she was married for 20 years until he passed away.

Dear readers, if any of you have had the pleasure of reading “Life Is Not a Stage”, I would love to hear your own thoughts and opinions.  If you have not, I would encourage any fan of The Brady Bunch to learn more about the woman who gave us Carol Brady.   She ends the book encouraging readers to find their own positive energy and follow their dreams.  I like to think she was doing just that until November 24, 2016 when she left this world.  Rest in peace Florence Henderson.  Thank you for sharing your story with us.

 

Author: bradybunchreviewed

I am a lifelong fan of the Brady Bunch. I love it for it's wholesomeness, it's absurdity and how it serves as a time capsule for a time that really never existed, but so many of us wish it did. The show was off the air by the time I was born, but I enjoyed it daily at 4:35 PM for years on Atlanta's Superstation 17, TBS. Through the years I've enjoyed the Brady Bunch spinoffs (however short lived), revivals in pop culture, books, reunions, movies and spoofs. Now, I am excited to be revisiting the show after nearly a decade's hiatus from viewing. I am a parent now, so there may be some new perspectives never before experienced. I hope my fellow fans, lovers and haters alike of the Brady Bunch will join me on this blogging adventure and share your own thoughts and observations.

21 thoughts on “Book Review: Life Is Not a Stage by Florence Henderson”

  1. Thanks for the review, Mike. Makes me wonder how many other books from the cast and crew there are out there. You said you once had Barry’s book and would have to get a new copy to reread it before reviewing it.

    Did you always have this copy of Henderson’s book? I was thinking of buying Barry’s online, which would be cheaper, and perhaps the book that Susan Olsen co-authored, on the BBVH.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Now that you reviewed 3 books, perhaps a “Book Review” section under “Special Features”, would help fans of reading, find them easier? Merely a suggestion.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Nice review, Mike. I am surprised she didn’t talk about the reunions that you had mentioned since Barry did as well as Maureen.

    I do need to get Susan’s book for sure and I guess I need to just risk getting the Schwartzs book and suck it up. lol

    Does it sound like they DID go to the Grand Canyon when she wrote about the mule?

    Maureen mentioned this and so did FH, RR’s images had been removed soon after he died but I wonder if maybe the removal of his likeness has been relaxed over the last few years as I’ve seen some shirts with him on it and the DVD collection I have, Mike and Carol are on it. Brady Christmas even if you buy the standalone and the boxed sets have him too. Some merchandise has him on it too.

    Soon after RR died, I wrote a story to FH and I confess, I remember what it was about and now that I look back, maybe that wasn’t a great story I did. I had Carol as an alcoholic after she loses Mike and the kids help her get over it. I don’t think I saw the Bradys at the time but FH sent me two pictures, one of her and the other with the Bradys. I had it tucked away so the writing is still there. I have a picture of the late Padre player Tony Gwynn who signed his autograph and it is now very faded, I got it in the 90’s as well and had it hung on my wall.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have some Dukes of Hazzard cast autographs that I sent away and paid for. I only had one celebrity autograph that was not solicited. In the early 90s, the USA Network show “Up All Night” offered a free t-shirt if you mailed in a photo of yourself. In my scramble to copy the address to send away for the t-shirt, I missed the “send a photo of yourself” part. A few weeks later, I got an autographed picture of Gilbert Gottfried instead of the shirt, with a note saying I was supposed to send a photo. I was more pleased with the autograph than I would have been the shirt! I don’t think I have it anymore, but I was one excited middle school boy back then!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That is pretty cool! I wouldn’t mind having Gilbert Gottfried’s autograph either 🙂 Great story.
        RE: Florence’s book… I always get majorly ooged out when I remember her rendezvous with NYC Mayor John Lindsay and ended up with a “gift that kept on giving.” I think I could have lived the rest of my life without knowing about Florence’s “crabfest” LOL

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for this review, now I want to get a copy of this book and read it. I have read Maureen McCormick’s autobiography “Here’s the Story”
    A lot of sadness and dark times in her life. I’m glad she seems to be doing good now.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I probably need some clarification on something that FH said about RR.

    In interviews she has stated she never told anyone that RR was gay. But in her book it seems she talked to people, like the producers and camera people when there was an issue about kissing scenes with her and Bob.

    Didn’t she tell people he was gay at the time? Or is this somehow different? Was it more of an explanation of the issue?

    I have to admit, I would have thought RR would realize that the kids knew or people would suspect during the show and even over the years until his passing? Unless he just didn’t want to think about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Robert Reed was very proud of his dramatic training & Shakespearean acting chops. If he was such a skilled actor, why were the entirely G rated interactions with his female co-star so stressful for him? If a dry peck on the lips of his tv wife while encased in pajamas buttoned up to his chin caused him such angst, one had to wonder about his acting skills.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I didn’t think of the part about his acting, but I think it had more to do with him being gay and scared of being outed. But with his nervousness, he did accidentally out himself as FH figured it out and I’m sure others did in the following years. In the book, ‘The way we became the Brady Bunch, the head of ABC, Doug Cramer even knew Reed was gay and still had him on the show.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Barbara, one need look no further than his role as a nazi assassin, on a first season episode of WONDER WOMAN, to see Reed practice his fine, thespian craft.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Actually, buy season one of The Defenders from Shout Factory if you want to see Reed’s acting chops. It was his big role before the Brady Bunch and did really serious issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Why did she marry her first husband if she wasn’t in love with him? Instead she makes a fool out of him and cheats on him. I feel like she put her career ahead of her family. Don’t have four children if ou can’t be around for them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do agree, she shouldn’t have married him if she wasn’t in love. I do wonder if this really has to do with her upbringing, she was taught at a young age she NEEDED or HAD TO WORK and I think that stuck with her for the rest of her life.

      I didn’t realize there was such a big age difference between her oldest and her three other children.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. People’s reasons for acting in a different way vary according to the circumstances and the time. Many women of my generation (I was born in 1960) still thought that the conception of a child could save a marriage. Times have changed a lot and even marriage is not an institution that is respected today.
        I admit that I live in a country with a great Italo-Spanish culture but I think that the motivations and culture of the time were similar to that of the USA

        Liked by 3 people

    2. So true! She had a horrible relationship with her daughter, Lizzie because Florence was never around. Poor woman suffers from depression and is miserable. Flo didn’t mention that, did she.? Also, she forced Lizzie out of college because her second husband told her not to pay and she didn’t!! She wasn’t a good mother to her. Very sad

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I met Florence Henderson in 1996 at an in-store Bloomingdale’s fashion show at the Stanford Shopping Center in CA. I brought a shit-ton of Brady memorabilia – two BB lunchboxes, records, a 1973 Family Circle magazine she was on the cover, a bust of a head that kind of looked like the one she sculpted of Mike that Alice smashed – I was never a Frontier Scout, but came prepared as one. It was a fashion show for petites (the bitchy emcee said, “We petites are lucky we can go to the boy’s or plus-size section and buy a sweater and wear it as a dress.” Bitch. Hope she got fat). Florence came out in about 6-7 different outfits, and each time, she’d say something like “Use a full length mirror at home with good lighting and take a good hard look at yourself. Figure out your positives and negatives and minimize your liabilities.” It was totally, “Find out what you do best, and do your best with it!” But she’d also stop and ask me a question, then she’d say things like, “This would be a great outfit to hit the town and go dancing with Morgan (me),” and then she’d add, “Or maybe he and my assistant Josh would have a better time.” Hilarious! I was clearly gay and she knew it (after all those years with Robert Reed? How could she not?). I was first in line after the show to have her sign my crap (I mean – memorabilia), and she said, “If you can wait to go last, I will sign everything you brought.” And SHE DID! Even putting little Carol-isms I’d ask her to on things, like, “Sometimes when we lose, we win!” She said, “That’s great advice,” and I said, “I know – you said it!” It was amazing and she was a goddess.

    Liked by 3 people

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