In the summer of 1991, I was your typical junior high reject. I had an overbite, was a book nerd, and exhibited all the uncertain social graces that automatically equated a life of adolescent torture. Thus when May came, I was relieved to lock myself away from the outside world. However, by June, I was bored out of my mind. Having never been a couch potato, I flipped on the TV. A local station was airing the "Lights Out" episode of "The Brady Bunch," a show I had never watched. Without meaning to, I tuned into each subsequent Brady episode that week. By July I was a hardcore, sixth grade Brady Bunch fan.
I returned to school in the Fall with a self-established sense of cool because *I* was a Brady Bunch fan. Although the other kids didn't aquiesce my accolades, they enjoyed asking obscure trivia questions about the Bradys. By the end of my junior high career, I had taped all 117 episodes, owned hundreds of dollars worth of rare collectibles and watched in delight as society's interest in the Bradys spread like wildfire. Fast forward past high school, college and beyond, and I still had yet to meet a Brady in person. I lived vicariously through other people's stories, interviews and videos from fan conventions. But I wanted my own Brady experience!
One month ago, while perusing Brady World (IMHO, the only Brady site worth reading), I came across the announcement that the Museum of Television and Radio was holding the William S. Paley Television Festival in Hollywood. As part of the festival, one night would be "A Tribute to Sherwood Schwartz" with Sherwood, Lloyd, Susan Olsen, Ann B. Davis and Christopher Knight in person. My family would be in town for a visit, and although they never shared the same degree of Brady love, they'd be able to appreciate the evening as a sign of nostalgia.
The evening began with a clip from "I Married Joan," one of Sherwood's earlier credits. After the clip, each guest was introduced. In addition to the Schwartzes and the Brady cast members, Les Martinson, Dawn Wells, John Rich and Mel Shavelson were also present. After a brief welcome from Sherwood, the evening commenced with viewings of "Gilligan's Island" ("The Little Dictator") and "The Brady Bunch" ("The Show Must Go On??"). It was a rare treat to watch an episode with 600 other people!
Next up, the festival host asked each guest various questions about their experiences with the shows. Although nothing revelatory was revealed in terms of the show, it was a delight to see each of the actors and writers so warmly and openly discuss their memories of the show (one non-Brady revelation, however, was that Red Skelton was quite cruel to his writers, among them Sherwood). And having never been a devout fan of Gilligan, I was charmed by the beautiful Dawn Wells (and although her name was never mentioned, the sentiment toward Tina Louise was almost palpable).
After the formal questions were finished, the floor was opened to questions from the audience. Again, the panel members were generous with their time. They seemed to enjoy reminiscing. Perhaps the most touching statement came from Ann B. Davis. When the question of typecasting came up, she said that the fans made her so grateful for the experience. She in turn thanked Sherwood for having given her the opportunity to play a character that, 35 years later, was still so loved and cherished by such wonderful fans.
Finally, the push-and-shove battle started when the questions ended. Fans rushed the stage for photos and autographs. Unfortunately, most of the people were nothing more than autograph hounds waiting to make a quick buck off of eBay. Even so, Sherwood, Dawn, Ann B., Susan and Chris waited around for almost two hours to meet the fans. The first "Brady" I met was Chris. Most people were asking him to sign autographs. When my turn came, I said, "I hate to bother you, but it would mean so much if I could have my picture taken with you." He smiled, said "It's no problem, I still enjoy it after all these years!" What class!
The longest line was to meet Ann B., my next Brady. She was also so inviting and warm despite being a bit overwhelmed by the large crowd in her honor. She waived to my mom (the unofficial photographer) and said, "It was nice meeting you."
After Ann B., I met Sherwood. He asked each and every fan his or her name and engaged in a conversation with everyone. He's such a humble, intelligent man! I'm amazed that people as wonderful as Mr. Schwartz still reside in Hollywood. I asked him if The Brady Bunch would be coming to DVD, and he said that although he had no control over it, he knew it was in the works.
Next up was Dawn Wells. She has such a contagious warmth and friendliness about her. She eagerly posed for pictures with fans and also took the time to learn names. She's so well-spoken, polite and graceful.
Finally I met Susan Olsen. Despite being under the weather and a little worn out, she was nothing less than gracious and welcoming. When my mom failed to master the disposable camera, Susan waited patiently and talked with me while my mom figured out Kodak. And Susan looks great, too!
I left with such a warm feeling of nostalgia. I even managed to convert my family into Brady fans. For the remainder of their trip, they couldn't stop talking about how wonderful everyone had been. With nary a sign of ego, bitterness or inconvenience, the entire panel at Sherwood's tribute embodied all the qualities that people love in the Bradys: humility, friendliness, gratitude and love. And for this junior high reject, those attributes were just as comforting at age 24 as they were at age 12.