On what would have been her 83rd birthday, an encore of my 2009 chat with Florence Henderson
After all those years of watching Florence Henderson on television, who knew I’d get the chance to interview her not once, twice but three times – all in the past year. She kinda reminds me of my own mom: a very pretty and youthful 70-something with impeccably-coiffed blonde hair who is equal parts warmth and iron will.
Florence and I got the chance to chat again last week about her new live show that I’m going to be seeing in Hollywood on Friday night and I’ve written a story for Friday’s Daily News. Here it is your you a few days early:
Anyone who only knows Florence Henderson only as the mom on “The Brady Bunch” is missing out on huge chapters in the career of a real showbiz dynamo.
Henderson has worked non-stop in just about every medium for more than 50 years from the Broadway stage to the recording studio. She recounts the highs and lows of her life on-stage and off in the autobiographical one-woman show “All The Lives of Me…A Musical Journey” which kicks off its national tour tonight at Sunset’s Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles.
“It starts with my childhood and has a lot of music and humor,” she says. “People tell me it’s moving. Not everything is peaches and cream.”
As she embarks on this latest endeavor, Henderson is less than three weeks shy of a major milestone in her life; On Feb. 14, she turns 75 years old.
“You say that and I say, ‘You’re kidding me,’” she says in a telephone interview. “I hear people say this but I’m so active and I do so much and feel so good. I guess I’m very blessed. I feel 35.”
She also remains remarkably youthful looking and fit.
“Looking at her and seeing her energy, she wears me to the bone,” says Glen Roven, the four-time Emmy winning composer who collaborated with Henderson on the show. “She’s a real lesson to all of us in terms of keeping going and enjoying every minute of life.”
The show debuted last year at Feinsteins in New York City and got raves for its between-the-songs patter in addition to Henderson’s well-known singing ability.
Among the musical numbers she will do are “Moonshine Lullaby” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” the Barry Manilow-penned “I Am Your Child,” “One” from “A Chorus Line” in honor of her late TV husband Robert Reed.
The show’s title “All the Lives of Me” is by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein who were Henderson’s mentors. She also asked comedy writer Bruce Vilanch to contribute some material to her opening number.
“A lot of people from (younger) generations think I’m just an actress so when they come and hear me sing it’s, ‘Wow,’” she says. “Every “Brady Bunch” hiatus I was off doing a musical. It’s part of the fabric of my career.”
On Bradys: “Who knew that little show would never go away.”
Roven has produced the Tony Awards and one-woman shows for Liza Minnelli and Patti Lupone thinks audiences will be entertained and surprised.
“It’s a very, very moving show,” he says. “Florence really tells it all – the truth and nothing but the truth. She gets into it all. I always say Florence is salty but not bitter.”
Henderson has loved every minute of her life on stage and screen starting from those early days with Rogers and Hammerstein up to until now.
“The minute I got into my first show, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my vocation.’” she says. “I did some Broadway shows and I got into TV in the late 50s and I thought, ‘This is a great medium. It’s fast. Everything was live then. I did Oldsmobile commercials then I did concerts and nightclubs and before you knew it, I was working in five different unions. I diversified very, very young. That’s all I ever wanted: to be in the business at a pretty top level until I was 95. I didn’t need to be a big flash in the pan.”
Sometime this spring, Florence (pictured with me at the recent TV Academy Hall of Fame event) will appear on the hit show “Samantha Who” as Christina Applegate’s grandmother and Jean Smart’s mother. The episode also features Tony winner Christine Ebersole as her other daughter.
Henderson on this show will be a far cry from Carol Brady. She says of the character: “Nobody loved me and why should I love these two girls? She’s a tough broad. It’s against type and that’s why I love doing these kind of roles. It becomes even funnier.”
The door is open for some return appearances which Henderson hopes will happen because she had such a good time on the show.
“Jean Smart is to die for,” she says. “And Christina Applegate? I haven’t been that impressed with a young actress in so many years. Her attitude, her demeanor. Her work ethic is just astrounding.”