Let’s designate this as the ultimate tourist experience:
One day in 2011, Susan Olsen says, a bus had stopped outside the house that used to be shown as the exterior of the “Brady Bunch” home. Tourists looked around at … well, not much. And then …
“The ‘Wienermobile’ pulled up and Cindy Brady got out.”
Really. The tourists’ friends may have scoffed when they heard the story later, but Olsen (TV’s Cindy Brady) says it’s true. She retold it as two key dates approach:
— “A Very Brady Renovation,” with “Bunch” stars helping renovate that house. It starts at 9 p.m. Sept. 9 and airs on three more Mondays … ending Sep. 30, the day Barry Williams (Greg Brady) turns 65.
— The 50th anniversary of the show’s debut, Sept. 26. Two days later, Decades (a digital channel) will launch a 41-hour “Brady Bunch” marathon.
Can we assume these actors have rich memories of the place? “I didn’t learn where this house was until 1996,” Christopher Knight (Peter) said.
The others shared his ignorance. They worked on a TV set; the house was just for “establishing shots.”
Well, Williams was in it once (shortly after the show ended), but didn’t realize it. Friends were “all looking at me and laughing,” he recalled. “And ‘Doesn’t this remind you of something?’” And I’m looking around going, ‘No.’ ….
“They had to walk me back outside to look at the photograph that we see on television.”
Olsen, 58, is the youngest of the Bradys and maybe the most skeptical. She was about 9 when she realized this “exterior shot” house (shown here with Bradys and other rehabbers) made no sense for a home that clearly has a stairway and an upstairs.
“I thought, ‘No way. …. It’s a one-story house.’ And so I asked the producers and they said, ‘I’ll have you know that if you walk into that house, it looks exactly like this set.’”
That’s when she learned that grown-ups lie to kids. (“Finally, my mother said, ‘They were just trying to shut you up, honey.’”) Inside, the house looks nothing like the Bradys’; after buying it – it was reportedly listed at $1.7 million – HGTV came up with a plan to add an extra 2,000 square feet, to re-create the interior that viewers know.
Over the years, Olsen has tried to separate herself from the Brady mood. “I was this rock-and-roller,” she said. “I hated the goodie-two-shoes image …. But now that I’ve been a mother, I think ‘The Brady Bunch’ is such a wonderful show because it helps teach your kids some really good values.”
Well, she’s the mother of a rocker. Her son, 22, is the bass player for Xerolithia.
Olsen got out of acting (except for “Brady” projects) early. She became a graphic and illustrator. “And oddly enough, I got talked into teaching acting for children” plus doing a Sunday radio show.
Mike Lookinland (Bobby) also left show business. He runs a concrete-countertops business in Salt Lake City. When a “Brady” job comes up, he said, “I borrow my (co-stars’) agents.”
The other have done acting and — for Williams and Maureen McCormick (Marcia) — music, often far from Hollywood. Williams plays banjo and guitar, living in the Ozarks entertainment city Branson, Mo.; Eve Plumb (Jan) has lived in New York for a decade, doing TV and theater.
But Olsen has stayed in Los Angeles, which is how she had her tourist moment.
A friend had a day’s use of the Oscar Mayer vehicle that’s shaped like a mobile wiener. As Olsen tells it:
“We’re in the ‘Wienermobile,’ riding along, and she said, ‘We’re very close to the ‘Brady Bunch’ house.’
“And I said, ‘I’ve never been there.’”
So they went. They emerged and looked around …. leaving tourists to spend a lifetime telling disbelievers they saw Cindy Brady get out of the Wienermobile at the “Brady Bunch” house.