Florence Henderson, a nightclub entertainer and theater actress who parlayed her talents into one of the most iconic TV roles of all time as Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, died yesterday at 82 of heart failure.
That’s the headline. The larger story for the LGBTQ community is that we lost not only a straight ally, but a vocal activist for all equal rights.
Over the past two decades, she was a fixture at many high-profile LGBTQ events. In 2010, as a cast member of Dancing with the Stars, she attended the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Respect Awards to share her experiences and offer support.
“I was bullied as a kid for different reasons,” she said then. “We were so poor as kids, I’m the youngest of 10 kids, and they would make fun of me because, you know, I had a hole in my dress, or no shoes, or no school books. It’s hurtful.”
In 2014, in an interview with Gay Star News, she said that a show like The Brady Bunch could have helped families had it included a positive gay storyline.
“At the time that we actually did the show, they wouldn’t have addressed that,” she said. “But if the show were on today, I think it would definitely be addressed. After all, their father was gay.”
Henderson was referring to her real-life co-star Robert Reed, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1992.
“I think so many young people have such a difficult time,” she says. “Most of the gay people I know – and I have so many gay and lesbian friends – so many tell me they were disowned and how tough it was for them growing up. And all of them, they all knew they were gay from the time they were 5 or 6 years old. The kids that have no place to go and the parents don’t get it, don’t understand and stop loving them. How can you do that to a child?”
Here’s an interview Henderson did with Joy Behar in which she talks about Reed:
Henderson performed (and grabbed crotches) at last year’s Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS Broadway Backwards Benefit:
Henderson was in the audience of Dancing with the Stars just days ago to support Maureen McCormick, who played her daughter Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch.