Florence Henderson, Mom on 'The Brady Bunch,' Dies at 82
"The Brady Bunch" family circa 1972. Top row (left to right) Maureen McCormick, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight; bottom row: Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Robert Reed and Susan Olsen.Hulton Archive / Getty Images
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Florence Henderson, who wrangled six unruly kids in a blended family on TV's "The Brady Bunch," died Thursday night. She was 82.
Kayla Pressman, Henderson's manager, said the actress died of heart failure surrounded by family and friends in Los Angeles.
At the time of her death, Henderson was hosting a talk show, "The Florence Henderson Show," and a cooking show, "Who's Cooking With Florence Henderson," on Retirement Living TV — showcasing the versatility that kept her in the public eye for decades.
She started in show business as a singer and soon moved into acting, studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She was soon starring in musicals — notably the touring production of "Oklahoma!" — and she made her Broadway debut at age 18 in the 1952 musical "Wish You Were Here."
Beginning in 1954, Henderson gave almost 1,000 performances playing the title role in the Broadway hit "Fanny."
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TV soon took notice. Henderson was one of what were then called "Today Girls," delivering the weather on NBC's TODAY.
But by far her best-known role was that of Carol Brady, which aired from 1969 to 1974 in its original format and never really went away. "The Brady Bunch Hour" aired 1977, followed by "The Brady Brides" in 1981 and "The Bradys" in 1990.
"It represents what people always wanted: a loving family. It's such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there's always an audience for that," Henderson said in 1999.
Maureen McCormick, who starred as eldest daughter Marcia, called Henderson "a dear friend for so very many years" on Twitter early Friday.
Barry Williams, who played her eldest son, Greg, and has admitted to having developed a serious crush on his TV mom during the series' run, also expressed his condolences about the loss of his "life long friend" on social media on Friday.
Deeply saddened. Florence was one of the most gracious people I have ever known, Proud to call her Mom and life long friend. #RIPFlorence
Susan Olsen, the actress who played youngest daughter Cindy, wrote on Facebook that Henderson — a mother of four in real life — was "wonderful."
"Of course we are all devastated by the loss of our TV Mom, but four magnificent human beings are proof that Florence was a wonderful mother in real life. It is for them that my heart is aching," Olsen posted.
Of her many credits, Henderson was the first woman to host "The Tonight Show" for the vacationing Johnny Carson.
After "The Brady Bunch" ended its first run, Henderson alternated her appearances in revivals of the show with guest appearances on other programs, including "Hart to Hart," ''Fantasy Island" and "The Love Boat."
In later years she also made guest appearances on such shows as "Roseanne, "Ally McBeal" and "The King of Queens."
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called Henderson "one of the truly great entertainers," saying in a statement: "Florence was not only America's favorite TV mom, but television royalty."
In her autobiography, "Life Is Not a Stage," Henderson admitted having cheated on her first husband, Ira Bernstein, whom she married in January 1956. One of her affairs, she wrote, was with John Lindsay, the dashing mayor of New York City during the 1960s.
Henderson and Bernstein, who had four children, divorced in 1985. Henderson later married hypnotherapist John Kappas, who died in 2002.