Hand color tinted photo of Florence Henderson as Carol Brady from the 1960s television series, The Brady Bunch
Florence Agnes Henderson (born February 14, 1934) is an American actress and singer, best known for playing the role of Carol Brady in the television program The Brady Bunch, which ran from 1969 to 1974. As of 2010, she hosts the American TV talk show The Florence Henderson Show.
Henderson started her career on the stage, performing in musicals, such as the touring production of Oklahoma! and South Pacific at Lincoln Center. She debuted on Broadway in the musical Wish You Were Here in 1952 and later starred on Broadway in the long-running 1954 musical, Fanny (888 performances) in which she originated the title role. Henderson also appeared on Broadway in The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963). In 1962, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago Theatre, and the same year became the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She also joined the ranks of what was then called “The Today Girl” on NBC’s long running morning show, doing weather and light news, a position also once held by Barbara Walters.
Her most widely seen role was as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch which aired on ABC from 1969 until 1974. Henderson’s best friend, Shirley Jones, had previously turned down the role as at the time she wasn’t ready to do a TV series and she needed to spend more time with her children and stepchild. Jones starred on The Partridge Family the following year, where Jones had a more successful role.
Primarily owing to her role in The Brady Bunch, Henderson was ranked by TV Land and Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 Greatest TV Icons.
Henderson was a frequent panelist on the original version of the television game show Hollywood Squares and made occasional appearances on The $25,000 Pyramid.
Henderson was the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil from 1976 to 1996. During that time, she hosted a cooking show on TNN called Country Kitchen, and also did ads for Prange’s, a former Wisconsin department store chain. Henderson co-hosted the talk show Later Today on NBC (1999–2000) with co-hosts Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake. As of the late 2000s, she is the spokeswoman for Polident denture cleanser. In 2003, Henderson seemed to poke fun at her wholesome image by appearing in a Pepsi Twist television commercial with Ozzy Osbourne.
Henderson has also appeared with her TV children, as with Christopher Knight on the reality television series My Fair Brady. She is also in the sixth season of VH1’s Surreal Life.
In most years since the mid-1990s, the song “God Bless America” has been performed by Henderson at the Indianapolis 500 accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, Henderson being a friend of the Hulman-George family, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
She appeared in the “Weird Al” Yankovic video for “Amish Paradise” and co-hosted the daily talk show “Living Live” with former Designing Women star Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV. The show was reworked to focus on her and was renamed “The Florence Henderson Show”. In 2002 she made a memorable guest appearance on comedy improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, participating in on-screen kisses with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.
Since 2008, Henderson has been the host of her own television series, The Florence Henderson Show, which airs on RLTV (Retirement Living TV). The show was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2010. In May 2010, Henderson did a series of promotional radio ads for Fox TV. On the July 12, 2010 edition of WWE Raw, Henderson appeared as the night’s guest host.
Henderson was one of twelve celebrities competing on the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars which premiered on September 20, 2010. Her professional partner was Corky Ballas. On October 19, 2010 she was voted off the show.
In the mid-1950s, Henderson was diagnosed with a bone deformation of the middle ear, and she had to have surgery to prevent deafness. Henderson married Ira Bernstein in January 1956, and the couple had four children, Barbara, Joseph, Robert, and Elizabeth. During the filming of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles, Henderson returned to the family’s New York home each weekend to spend time with her children. In her autobiography “Life Is Not A Stage” she acknowledges her infidelity during her marriage to Bernstein including an affair with then-New York City Mayor John Lindsay which left her with crabs. In 1985, she divorced Bernstein after almost 29 years of marriage. She later married Dr. John Kappas, a hypnotherapist and founder of the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, whom she met while battling depression in the mid 1980s. Henderson studied hypnotherapy and is a licensed therapist. Kappas died in 2002.
In the 2000s, she has been a supporter of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana; one of the Sisters was her teacher when she was young. She has appeared in a number of their promotional videos and has helped in fund-raising efforts. She has won money for the Sisters on the game show The Weakest Link and on a classic-television-themed episode of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in 2001, winning $32,000 in their name. On the show, Florence used her son Joseph as a Phone-a-Friend lifeline for the $64,000 question on a question about laser colors and answered correctly; however, she then got the $125,000 question wrong and lost $32,000. When Florence appeared on the VH1 show The Surreal Life, she made a point of showing respect for the Catholic Church and the Sisters of St. Benedict by refusing to dress in a nun’s costume for a comedy skit. At one point in the early 2000s Florence considered running for mayor of Cave Creek, Arizona.