Academy members and staff share memories of Florence Henderson
Florence Henderson was not only an important part of television history, she was also an important part of the Television Academy family.
Whenever she was needed to present an award, appear at an event, or help out in any way, she was always right there, ready to do whatever was needed. Here are a few memories from Academy members and staff of this remarkable woman.
Bob Bergen, Governor, Performers Peer Group: Growing up, to me, she was Mrs. Brady. Over the past several years, she was Barbara's Mom. And what a delight to get to know her as the latter.
One of my fondest memories was when Florence and I were asked to call out bingo numbers for a charity drag queen bingo event. Sitting together onstage, pulling bingo balls out of a little rotating cage calling out the numbers with this larger than life drag queen, at one point Flo leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I'm pulling balls with Porky Pig!!" It was hard to keep a straight face knowing Mrs. B. had such a bawdy sense of humor! Gonna miss her! There were more balls to be pulled!
Mark Spatny, Governor, Special Visual Effects Peer Group: I wanted to share a story about meeting Florence Henderson. It was in 1987 when the USC Trojan Marching Band performed at a TV show called Super Night at the Super Bowl. I was just 22 years old, and the USC Band was there because we were going to be performing in the half time show for the Super Bowl game that Sunday in Pasadena.
The show was packed with stars. It was the first time I ever met a showbiz celebrity in a real work environment. I played hacky-sack backstage with the amazing brass players of Miami Sound Machine, who were basically living gods of music (Do you remember Conga? Jesus that trombone part was killer.).
We ate craft service with Gladys Knight and the Pips. Lilly Tomlin did her Ernestine character. Joe Namath, Rosey Grier, Terry Bradshaw, John Madden, and Joe Montana were there. So were the Beach Boys.
But the highlight for me was meeting Florence Henderson. America's mom. I never watched Joe Namath play football but I had seen every episode of the Brady Bunch growing up. Multiple times. When I was in the 1984 Olympic Band, over a billion people watched us on TV performing at the opening ceremonies.
But being on the same stage as Florence Henderson was really the first time it clicked for me "Holy cow, I'm on TV!"
Ms. Henderson was gracious and kind to everyone who approached her, unlike some of the other celebrities who shall remain nameless. She looked just happy to be there and took the time to speak with anyone who said hello.
After the show, as the USC band was heading back to campus, I took the time to hunt her down and tell her that it was nice working with her. She smiled, said thank you, and for some reason, did the little showbiz peck on the cheek. OMG, Mrs. Brady kissed me. In my sweaty band uniform.
If you know what a marching band uniform smells like after a full football season, you know not many actresses would have wanted to get that close. But Ms. Henderson was a totally class act. I was thrilled. So much better than an autograph to a college kid.
At the time, I had never once considered a career in television. Now, after nearly 30 years and 300 television episodes under my belt, I'm a Governor of the Television Academy along with one of the stars of that show. It's still one of my fondest memories of working in TV.
It took 25 years to feel that thrilled to be working in television again, and that was the day I walked onto the set of Doctor Who's TARDIS for the first time. But that's a story for another day.
Dr. John Leverance, Senior Vice President, Awards: Some years back I was producing a charitable event that Florence kindly agreed to host. When we got to the auction part of the evening, she coaxed, cajoled and more or less cudgeled the room into high bids beyond all expectation. I never saw her in a Broadway play, but that night I saw her give a wonderful performance!
Nancy Robinson, Academy Foundation Director, Education Programs: I remember lying in the sun with Barbara on the deck of Florence's floating home (yacht) about 26 years ago. She made us delicious sandwiches and told us to put on sunscreen.
Melissa Byers, Producer, Digital Content: My first encounter with Florence was after an event at the Montage in Beverly Hills. As we were waiting at the valet stand, I asked her if she had enjoyed the event.
"Oh, I loved it," she said. "You know, my daughter produced this."
That was the first time I realized that Barbara Chase was Florence's daughter, and I just loved seeing the pride shining in Florence's eyes when she told me that her daughter had produced the wonderful event we'd just experienced. She may have been "everyone's mom," but I think her proudest achievement was her own four children.
Conrad Bachmann, Former Governor of Performers Peer Group: Not only was I lucky enough to do a couple of commercials with Florence, but I had the opportunity to honor her at the Louisville's International Festival of Film in Louisville Kentucky this year. We honored Florence in our Kentucky Legends of Fame. We invited her sister and niece and they attended as well. Florence had a blast and was kicking up her heels and having a wonderful time and was welcoming young and old to her conversations. We couldn't go anywhere that she wasn't adored. I've known Florence for years and I've always seen a smile on her face for everyone. She was truly a star that lived next door. She had a risqué sense of humor that was ever so charming. I had just spoken with her about coming back again this year to be honored by Muhammad Ali for a humanitarian award. It will not seem the same not seeing Florence around the Academy or having a wonderful lunch in the Marina with her. God Bless you Florence and may you rest in peace. Love you
For more memories of Florence Henderson, click here.