When Barry Williams, the actor behind the infamous Greg Brady, spilled the beans on his child-actor companions from The Brady Bunch, Generation X just couldn't resist his cathartic tales of making out with Maureen "Marcia Brady" McCormick. His 1991 autobiography Growing Up Brady was a best seller. But as the book passed out of print, Williams warned that he'd probably be back. And he is.
September 26th marks the 30th anniversary of The Brady Bunch's first episode, and Williams is jumping on the tribute bandwagon. Hoping to surf the cresting wave of Brady nostalgia, the 44-year-old is issuing a special "collector's" edition of Growing Up Brady, and will release The Return of Johnny Bravo, a 12-song CD that includes remakes of Top 40 favorites like "Hip to Be Square," "Happy Together," and "We Are the Champions" ("I've done my sentence, but committed no crime...").
But will Williams ride the wave or wipe out? When Greg tried for a musical career as "Johnny Bravo" on a Brady Bunch episode, Mrs. Brady warned that "Johnny Bravo could become a has-been before he ever was." In that same episode, Greg told his parents he'd promote an album with his flashy new persona, "Like all over, man. The whole country... They've got the platter jockeys waiting to freak out over my album, and I haven't even recorded it yet." Back in real life, though Williams' own press packet promised a 40- to 50-city promotional tour starting in October, he admits that's a goal, not a given.
Will Barry Williams -- né Blenkhorn -- ever break out of his Greg-shaped box? GettingIt cornered the former child star and set about deconstructing the strange relationship between his real life and his TV family.
GETTING IT: When you do have kids, will you name them Greg? or Sherwood, or Johnny?
BARRY WILLIAMS: Uh... I don't... [Laughs] Uh, I'll consider it. I don't know why not, they're perfectly good names. I can tell you for sure: I wouldn't call him Oliver!
GI: In the "Adios, Johnny Bravo" episode of The Brady Bunch, Marcia accuses Greg of "selling out." How would you respond to groovy chicks in polyester who asked you the same question?
BW: [Long pause] That's a good question. How would I respond to that? Um... I would deny it emphatically.
GI: When was the last time you saw Maureen McCormick?
BW: [Casually] Two, three weeks ago.
GI: And what was she doing?
BW: Lying down.
GI: [Laughs] I'm sorry?
BW: Lying down. [Laughs]
GI: Where did you see her?
BW: Some cheap hotel room somewhere. In the San Fernando Valley.
GI: Really? Okay, well... Do you use Wesson oil? [endorsed by Brady mom Florence Henderson]
BW: Yes, and it's important always to warm it. But only to 94 degrees. If you go past that, it -- it works the opposite way.
GI: I'm not even sure what that means.
BW: Well, it means -- don't use cold oil.
GI: Ah, right. Got it. But seriously, how would your own parents compare to Florence Henderson and Robert Reed? That's something I think everyone has wanted to ask you.
BW: Actually, I have not been asked that. Um, let's see. [Sigh] Well, let's keep in mind that there is no family that exists like the Bradys, you know. They're totally idealized. It's not a real family.
GI: Say it isn't so, Greg!
BW: There are similarities in that I think the Brady kids all felt a very solid, stable family behind them -- and my parents have been married now for 56 years. But I don't think I could talk, let's say, to my parents quite as easily and as openly as maybe Greg did.
GI: In [the book] Bradymania!, and also in People magazine, I read that at some point after The Brady Bunch went off the air, you found "solace in a bottle" and gambled away your unemployment checks.
BW: Well, I don't think it was a very long period. And the point of that is, when adolescence is delayed because of the demands of responsibility -- you know, being a teenager and having to really be an adult -- somewhere you've got to do that teenage rebellion.
For child performers, and people who are under that kind of discipline, it pops up in their 20s, which is when you have a lot more wherewithal to do damage. So instead of breaking curfew, or sneaking off to see the R-rated movie, you find yourself maybe speeding recklessly or, uh, drinking, or gambling with money that you don't have. And that was the case for me.
GI: In your book you talked about smoking marijuana as a teenager and listening to Barry White while making a successful pass at Maureen McCormick. Did you ever try LSD?
GI: There were rumors going around that Christopher Knight [Peter Brady] was a Deadhead and doing lots of drugs. Did you ever...
BW: No. Michael Lookinland [Bobby Brady] was a Deadhead, but not doing a lot of drugs.
GI: Just going to the concerts?
BW: Yeah. He saw over 100 concerts.
GI: A picture in your book shows the Brady kids meeting rising superstar Michael Jackson. Do you have any memories of Michael Jackson?
BW: Michael as a kid; I always felt that he was under a great deal of pressure to meet the responsibilities that were in front of him. He didn't have a real lightness about him, particularly. He always had a very professional kind of aura.
GI: So he didn't have the same environment that you Brady Bunch cast members had?
BW: No, they -- I mean, they toured non-stop! Since he could walk!
GI: But that's the life you're craving now, though, it looks like.
BW: Exactly! I wanna be Michael Jackson! [Laughs]
GI: Think you'll pull it off?
BW: [Laughs] Well, I don't -- I've got the suit! I've got a start.
GI: So is there a rivalry between you and David Cassidy?
BW: Oh yeah, it's tremendous. I always try and one-up David. So whenever I'm about to do something -- like the CD... I sent him an advance copy, and wrote: "Ha ha."
GI: And did you hear back from him?
BW: No, from what I understand he locked himself in his room for about a week.
GI: He's probably crying, no doubt. Now in your book, you said that when you recorded "O Holy Night" for The Brady Bunch you thought you "made the recording guy's ears bleed." In the 20 years since, you've obviously learned how to sing. How did you go about doing that?
BW: A lot of practice. I'm trained, so I was taking lessons and I started that during The Brady Bunch years. I developed it with a lot of consistency, and practice, and due diligence.
GI: You also wrote that you told Florence Henderson someday you wanted to sing and do your own shows -- and she was very encouraging. Have you talked to her about your Johnny Bravo album?
BW: Oh, sure. We talk fairly often. All of us. We got together to shoot the cover photo for People. [Hits newsstands September 24.] They had rented a beautiful multi-million dollar home in Malibu to shoot this picture, and we were all talking about our latest projects and what we're doing.
[Florence] is very proud and very happy, because this is something that I've always wanted to do. Our group is very supportive of one another in all projects. You know, kind of like a happy second family.
GI: Before you did The Brady Bunch you did a movie called Wild in the Streets.
BW: Um hmm.
GI: We watched it here in the office. The character that you play as a young boy grows up and says "We're gonna make 30 a mandatory retirement age and we're gonna set up rehabilitation camps... Citizens will report to them after five years, at the age of 35, and then, in groovy surroundings, we're gonna psyche 'em all out, babies, with LSD." Have you seen Wild in the Streets recently?
BW: Yeah. That's an exact quote. It was a great -- great, fun movie for the time. But in real life, when you get to be 30... [Laughs] I'm not ready for the old-age home yet!
See also: Defiling the Bradys Online
David Cassel last interviewed Elvis' karate instructor.
Barry Williams' press agent asks us to remind you that you can pre-order your special collectors edition of Growing Up Brady or The Return of Johnny Bravo CD by calling (800) 555-1470.