The ranch-style house perched in a quiet Los Angeles suburb is almost as famous as the White House. Its memorable frontage served as the picture-perfect image of the home of the six Brady kids from the popular sitcom “The Brady Bunch.”
But the actors who played the siblings never set foot in the house. It was all for show. “We had no recollection of it,” says Christopher Knight, who portrayed the clumsy Peter.
“I mean, it was placed as an establishing shot into the show … I didn’t know where it was and nobody worked there. And I don’t think anyone else, during the period the show was being filmed, knew where this house was.”
The interior of the residence featured a prominent staircase and an upstairs attic. But Susan Olsen, who played the youngest Brady, Cindy, questioned the shot featuring the Brady home.
“I was a very literal child and I looked at that house and thought to myself, ‘No way. That could never be the set. It’s a one-story house.’”
She queried the producers about it. “They said, ‘I’ll have you know that if you walk into that house, it looks exactly like this set.’”
But the interior of the house in Studio City didn’t look anything like the one on TV. And almost 50 years later, TV is rectifying that with HGTV’s new series, “A Very Brady Renovation,” premiering next Monday.
The kids — all grown up now — are refurbishing the house with the help of some of HGTV’s prominent handymen and women to render it an exact replica of the set.
“I had such an affinity for this house just because it’s weird,” says Maureen McCormick, who played the oldest Brady daughter, Marcia. “But in some sort of way, I’m a fan of it just like America … And when I was told that I could be a part of this and that they were going to really let us demolish things and then rebuild them, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, the chance of a lifetime.’”
“I think it was more exciting for me to return to the house this time on our first day of production than it was the first time I ever saw it,” says Mike Lookinland, who portrayed the precocious Bobby. “I didn’t even know where it was until 1990.”
Some of the actors have experienced renovations of their own, including Knight, who built his own house. “Luckily we, I think all, had some money when we ended our days with ‘The Brady Bunch,’ and I put mine into real estate at the right time and then started doing — not flips initially — but just buying homes in the first stages of development … That ultimately led to renovations,” he says. “And I did my first, my only rental when I was like 24. I did it all myself with just a little help from my brother, and swore I’d never do it again.”
Plumb and McCormick continued acting after “The Brady Bunch.” Ten years ago Plumb, who played middle daughter Jan, moved to New York. “There’s such a great amount of television production in Manhattan, I’ve been able to do episodes of HBO’s ‘Crashing,’ ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,’ as well as some regional theater around the country,” she says.
McCormick has been featured in several independent films and has guest starred on a variety of TV shows. “I (have been) married to a wonderful man named Michael for 33 years,” she says.
“We have a daughter named Natalie. And she’s actually gotten into the real estate business and is loving escrow and has her real estate license … When my parents passed away, I have a brother with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and his name is Denny. And my family and I have tried to devote a lot of time to giving him the best life possible,” she says. “I’m very involved with Best Buddies. Love my home and my family and friends.”
Barry Williams, who played oldest son Greg, lives in Branson, Mo., and tours with his musical trio, Barry Williams and the Traveliers. “I am the ambassador and spokesperson for the classic television network, MeTV,” he says.
“I also make personal appearances in various venues, with sometimes a one-man show, an inspirational show, and sometimes with cruise ships or comic-cons or the like. So, that’s what fills up my schedule.”
Olsen quit acting in her 20s and became a graphic designer and illustrator. “And oddly enough, I got talked into teaching acting for children, which I do. I’ve been doing it for the past six, seven years,” she says.
She also hosts a weekly radio show. “And in my spare time, I’m also a single mother with a 22-year-old son who’s the bass player in Xerolithia, the band, got to plug that,” she chuckles.
As for Knight: “For the last number of years, I’ve been busy with this venture that exploded in success called Christopher Knight Home, which is an online furniture effort, where we sell furniture,” he says.
“And it’s now extending itself into the Christopher Knight Collection, which is stuff that is not traditional furniture, but some in-home and some outside-of-home.”
Lookinland has been running a small company for the past 14 years. “We make concrete countertops, of all things. We make fireplace fascia and stair treads and fancy architectural concrete stuff … . I live in Salt Lake City. HGTV came and spent a whole day with me for their digital content … We were plugging my concrete business pretty hard — and halfway through I was thinking, ‘Man, I don’t know about this, because what I really want do is retire.’”
OFFENDER GOES TO THE DOGS
There are no bad dogs, says canine behaviorist and guru Matt Beisner. And he’s proving that on the Nat Geo Wild’s “Dog: Impossible.” Beisner takes the most aggressive and seemingly vicious dogs and persuades them to be their own true selves through what he calls the “Zen method.”
They are, he says, inherently good, and we humans are responsible if they’re misbehaving. He doesn’t use punishment or treats or tricks to make the difference. He felt this calling, he says, when he found himself in jail.
“My younger brother died several years ago on a motorcycle, and I inherited his car. And in a drunken blackout I hit somebody on a motorcycle. The man and the woman on the motorcycle survived,” he says.
“They weren’t injured, not seriously, but it was a wake-up call for me. And I spent the time and put in the time that I needed to do to pay back the community that I had taken away from, and I don’t ever want to go back.”
He used to be afraid of dogs, he says. “And I moved in with somebody that had a terrier … and he was aggressive. And so, in that home, I had to figure out real-time how to change things. And I didn’t know anything. And I began to cultivate what I now understand to be the way of the Zen dog, which is relationship first.
“How do I meet this dog where it’s at and how do I help it continue to make good choices? And because my own personal redemption came directly in that experience with that dog, the reward I got was more aggressive dogs being sent my way, which meant I just had more growth in store. And I wouldn’t trade it.”
WU-TANG GETS THE ONCE-OVER
It’s half mythology and half history, so says co-creator and executive producer of Hulu’s look at hip-hop innovators the Wu-Tang Clan. The group headed by RZA (born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) is chronicled in the new show, “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” premiering Wednesday.
The miniseries gives a semi-fictional account of how RZA stretched beyond his surroundings to establish the group that is today considered the prototype for hip-hop artists. RZA credits his move to North Carolina when he was a little boy with forming his drive.
“When you kind of grow up in the projects, everything is confined, close, close,” he says. “North Carolina gave me a chance to see that things could be expanded. It kind of broadened my horizon, and I think that experience — you know, when you come back to New York City, it gives you a different template of what life could be.”
He went there, he says, because of family troubles. “My parents went through, parents had a tragic separation — not tragic, but a violent separation. You know, we took it from the reality — my memory of my father sitting there, breaking up the table with the hammer. And you know, after that, I’m down south with my uncle,” he says.
“Those years was beautiful for me. My Uncle Hollis was a doctor, a very educated, very ambitious person and very inspiring, and his inspiration is still active in me today.”
TAMRON HALL IS ALL TALK
Come next Monday Tamron Hall will host her own daytime talk show (like we need another talk show). Folks may remember her as a reporter on various assignments like “Dateline: NBC,” “MSNBC Live” and “NewsNation with Tamron Hall,” but when she left her last job on the “Today” show she didn’t know what to do next.
So what do you do when your career stymies? You get married and have a baby. That’s what Hall did at 48. “The IVF (in vitro fertilization) worked,” she says, and she and husband Steven Greener have a son.
But the idea for a talk show came from an unusual source. “Originally it started with Harvey Weinstein,” she says, “and we all know what happened there. And at that point it was, again, like the gut-punch that I received when I left my prior job. Here was another gut-punch. But the vision of the show and the traditional daytime talk, I knew. And I felt strongly there was an opening,” she says.
“And then Disney (the producers) reached out, and they believed. So the players, if you will, changed, but the game remained the same, which was the focus of bringing a traditional layered-daytime talk show. And then the pieces started to fall in place. And I don’t say this to brush it off, because I know that everything is a challenge, but this was that beautiful effortlessness that we seek so much in life, and it fell into place.”
(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)
©2019 Luaine Lee
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