Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Brady Bunch
September 30, 1954
Currently Known For:
Actor, Singer, Radio Host, and Performer
The Brady Bunch
September 30, 1954
Actor, Singer, Radio Host, and Performer
“I don’t think of myself as a role model. I do try to live in a compassionate, considerate and positive way. The only advice I can offer is to find what you love to do, find the joy in it, and express yourself through your passion.” Offering sage advice to young entertainers in the industry over the last five decades, Barry Williams knows a thing or two about finding fortune and fame after getting his start in the late 1960s as Greg Brady on the ABC hit series, The Brady Bunch. Only 15 years old when he was cast on the show, Williams spent five years on primetime television in a role that would define his entire career and a huge part of his identity as he’s spent the last 40 years trying to prove he’s more than the long-haired Brady! So, what exactly has he done since The Brady Bunch ended in 1974? Let’s find out!
The youngest of three sons, Barry William Blenkhorn came into this world on September 30, 1954 in Santa Monica, California. He was raised in the wealthy coastal neighborhood of the Pacific Palisades where actor Peter Graves of Mission: Impossible and Airplane! fame was his next-door neighbor. With Graves’ influence over the young Barry and the family’s already close proximity to Hollywood, it came as no surprise that the youngster dreamed of becoming an actor from an early age. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long to see that dream come true and was 13 years old when he made his television debut in an episode of Dragnet.
Adopting “Barry Williams” as his stage name, Williams spent the next few years making guest appearances on popular series like The Mod Squad, Here Comes the Brides, That Girl, Mission: Impossible, Adam-12, and The Invaders. Then, in 1969, he landed the role of a lifetime when he was cast as the oldest Brady son, Greg, on ABC’s newest family sitcom, The Brady Bunch. While the series was a popular hit on the network over the next five years, it didn’t truly pick up steam until after its cancellation in 1974 when The Brady Bunch was picked up for syndication and introduced Mike, Carol, and their blended family—sons Greg, Peter, and Bobby, and daughters Marcia, Jan, and Cindy, as well as their housekeeper, Alice—to a new generation of fans.
Only 15 years old when he landed the part, Williams is the first to admit that The Brady Bunch completely changed his life especially after he dated his on-screen sister, Maureen McCormick, behind the scenes and even took his on-screen mom, Florence Henderson, out on a date… but more on that in a moment! “I didn’t come from it as a fan of the show and I didn’t come at it as a viewer,” Williams said of his experience on The Brady Bunch. “I come from it as a creator and talent as an actor. I was all about the anatomy of it. How did this work? How did these different departments interact and interface to make things happen? I was fascinated with lights, with direction, production, writing, staging. All of that stuff. Now, those things go on in any production, but I was most impressionable being 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and then, when it went off the air, I was 20. That’s what I think about. How cool it was to grow up in that world.” So, what was it like growing up in that world?
While Williams certainly had an interest in how The Brady Bunch was made, he was still your average teen growing up in the 1970s with one of his greatest flubs coming in the first season when he showed up on set after smoking weed with his friends. A veteran smoker accustomed to smoking a pack of Marlboros a day since the age of 12, Williams was out partying with friends on his afternoon off when he was called back into the studio to re-film scenes from the “Law and Disorder” episode. Still high when he arrived on the set, Williams pretended everything was fine, but the producers quickly caught on as he stumbled in the driveway and flubbed his lines. While the show’s writers eventually rewrote the script to drastically reduce Williams’ lines, the teen’s glazed-over look is undeniable in reruns of the episode!
Apart from showing up to the set stoned, Williams managed to get his act together for the rest of the series but found himself back in some boyish trouble a few seasons later when he started dating his on-screen sister, Maureen McCormick. The cast and crew traveled to Hawaii to film a few episodes where McCormick and Williams shared a heart-stopping kiss that took their chemistry even further. “She was the hottest chick on the planet. The difference between me and every other man in America, at that time, was I was there,” Williams said of his behind the scenes romance. Pushing away the thought that she was kissing her brother, McCormick was elated and later admitted in her tell-all book, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, “I was ready to lose my virginity to Barry and it might have happened one night at his house if not for his parents busting in on us.”
While Williams and McCormick shared a few steamy evenings together and were even reprimanded on set for acting more like lovers than brother and sister, Williams was something of a womanizer and had an even bigger crush on his on-screen mom, Florence Henderson, who was 36 to his 16. “When those little things called hormones start kicking in, you get excited by even inanimate objects,” Williams said. “It wasn’t that I sought to bed her. I just wanted to spend time with her.” Williams got his wish one evening when he persuaded his older brother to drive them to dinner (since Barry was not yet old enough to drive). At the time, Henderson was married with four kids at home but agreed to have dinner and even ended the evening by giving Williams a kiss on the cheek.
“That whole thing with Barry got blown way out of proportion,” Henderson later said as rumors ran wild about their torrid love affair. “I guess in a sense it was a date because Barry thought it was. But of course, I had no idea that his intentions were to ‘date’ me. It has made for a good story, though!”Life After The Brady Bunch
It was a major wake-up call for Williams when The Brady Bunch was canceled in 1974, especially since he’d become an overnight star and envisioned Greg going to college and living on his own. The network, however, had other plans. “When you’re working on a television show, especially a network television show, it’s very privileged,” Williams said. “There are a lot of people around that are there to help you to make sure if you need a cup of coffee or there’s someone you could ask for a cup of coffee. People look after your clothes, your hair; they help you with your lines and, in our case, with school. It goes on and on and on. That’s all part of being a network show. So, I got a call on Friday late afternoon… ‘Barry, the show’s been canceled.’ Okay, so on Monday I get up and drive to the studio to clean out my dressing room and the guard at the gate to Paramount Studios, whom I have been saying, ‘Hi, Fritz’ to for the last five years, virtually every morning says, ‘Oh, hello, Mr. Williams. What’s up?’ ‘I’m going to clear out my dressing room.’ And he asked me if I had a pass to get on to the studio lot. I asked, ‘Is one necessary?’ And he said, ‘Well, yes.’ So, I had to pull over while he was able to get me a pass for guest parking. I went in and I drove to my parking space. You know, that’s where I parked, where my name was. And what I found was that my name had been painted over and replaced.”
No longer a household name but forever typecast as Greg Brady, Williams decided to focus on his career outside of television, at least temporarily, and turned to musical theater. On the stage, his career flourished with leading roles in productions of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and Grease. He slowly returned to television with guest appearances in Police Woman and Greatest Heroes of the Bible in addition to reprising his role alongside the Brady clan in television reunions like A Very Brady Christmas (1988), The Bradys (1990), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Growing up Brady (2000), and The Brady Bunch 35th Anniversary Reunion Special (2004).
Amid his success on the stage, Williams was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award as a Former Child Star in 1989 and went on to pen his autobiography, Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, in 1992. The book quickly became a New York Times best-seller and was later adapted into the television film, Growing Up Brady, starring Adam Brody as Williams and sharing more of the former child star’s life on set including his crush on Henderson and his romance with McCormick.
In real life, Williams continued making television appearances whenever possible and built an impressive resume that took him both in front of and behind the camera. “Now I’ve been active in nearly every aspect of show business—certainly all the aspects I’m interested in—with some degree of success,” Williams said. “Which would be television and musical theater, including Broadway and national tours. I’ve performed in Las Vegas, I’ve recorded CDs, I’ve written a bestselling book, I’ve produced that book into a television movie for NBC, I’ve been a radio DJ on Sirius, I’ve been a writer on different TV shows… things have worked out just fine.”
With so much experience under his belt, Williams made a huge move in the new millennium when he visited Branson, Missouri for the first time. Instantly feeling a connection to the Ozarks and the tightknit community, Williams left Hollywood and settled down in Branson where he saw another dream come true with the launch of his local television show, A Very Barry Branson, as well as his musical variety rock and roll show called 70s Music Celebration.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this would be a great place where I might be able to do the show I’ve always wanted to do; a musical variety show. Live band, big cast, play a guitar, and tell stories about my career,’” Williams said of his move to Branson, Missouri. “So, I came and fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the energy, with the mountains, with the people. It’s much more relaxed. I live on a great big lake with 1,100 miles of shoreline. It’s a very good and more relaxed style, high quality of life. So, even though I’m not doing my show anymore—I did it for six years—I still make my home here and expect I will for good.”
Today, the 63-year-old still lives in Branson, but he makes plenty of time for special appearances with his most recent credits as the voice of Bumper Yates Sr. in The Loud House in 2017 and as Marsh Man in the 2018 film, Flea. As for The Brady Bunch, he’s still close with the rest of the cast especially after Florence Henderson passed away in November 2016, making Williams the oldest living actor from the popular show. “As people and actors, we like each other. We cared about each other, we protected each other,” Williams says. “We had chemistry and chemistry is something you can’t fake. You can’t write it, you can’t pretend it, you can’t act it. It’s there or it’s not there.”