THE STORY…OF A FAMILY NAMED BRADY
By Chris Nigro
With special thanks to Dr. Peter Coogan for his advice, ideas, and use of reference sources
Few individuals in the annals of 20th century history have achieved the hybrid of cult fame and obscurity as the extended family of Michael and Carol Brady, whose combined clans formed a short-lived “mod” family singing group, an animated series following in the brief fame of the early ‘70’s singing group, an even more short-lived family variety show, and a fondly remembered “sugary” reality TV series…as well as a large number of sometimes pernicious rumors and scandals, including those alleging intra-family faux incest, connections to famous people that many members of the viewing audience never truly suspected, an unpleasant end to a cherished family dog, and even paranormal events[i]. Perhaps most infamous of all was the fact that the old Brady manse, designed by the late architect Mike Brady himself, was the setting for the bloody rampage of a psychotic fan of the Brady’s saccharine reputation in 2001[ii], years after the house had been completely vacated following Mike Brady’s untimely demise from pancreatic cancer in 1996, and left as something of a local monument in the sleepy San Fernando Valley town of Westdale. Most infamous of all was how this killer took the name of Carol Brady’s nephew, Oliver Martin (whether or not this was actually the long-lost nephew of Mrs. Brady, as the murderer and the tabloids alleged, or just a psycho fan turned deadly, as the FBI report and the formal press claimed, is not something that this author is going to get into here; see second footnote).
The family has also been subject to many confusing rumors, with so few people and even die-hard fans of their cult reputation knowing all of the facts, that this author felt some thorough research was in order to deconstruct the rumors and get closer to the truth of the matter. In light of the many conflicting stories involving all of the “Brady Bunch,” and some of the claims made by Dr. Gregory Brady in his 1991 autobiography GROWING UP BRADY and those made by his stepsister Marcia Logan in various interviews, this author cannot purport to have all of the facts. Some points of this article are, by necessity, educated guesses and supposition based upon a close reading of all of the available info, along with cross-checking this information with various reference sources in many different chronicles to see what accounts match each other and which do not. Future researchers are encouraged to add what they can to the mystery, and to both supplement the text in this article and correct any factual errors that may have been inadvertently made by this author.
Michael Paul Brady was born in
Brady (“Mike” to his friends and wife) appeared to grow up well adjusted and
well educated with a well-to-do family, and his talent in architectural graphic
design was evident since his high school days, where he wrote a well-respected
advice column in his school newspaper, The Bay Star4.
He graduated salutatorian in his class circa 1953, and decided to eschew
pre-med to major in graphic arts at the last minute. He became a cum lauda graduate of
Mike Brady was a surprisingly private man, despite his cordial personality, and upon graduation he took a job working for Westdale Architectural, moving to the quite little town where this firm was based. He designed his own home and had it built to his specifications. As all pop culture aficionados are well aware, Mike designed a very spacious house, having two bedrooms upstairs in addition to the centrally located master bedroom, with an extra bedroom downstairs off the side of the kitchen as the servants’ quarters. Soon after building the house and moving in (which he would greatly renovate following his marriage to Carol Brady as part of his wedding gift to her), he hired congenial and witty Alice Nelson as his housekeeper, who had joined the family unit when his first two sons were quite young.
Though few are aware of this, Mike and Carol met in a personal ad that both had placed in a magazine devoted to widows and widowers with children who were hoping to meet and become romantically involved with other family-oriented people. When Mike and Carol met through this agency, it seemed like the perfect match, the sweet but sassy blonde woman with the tall and handsome dark-haired man. Both were aged 34 at the time, as both had married their high school sweethearts. Carol Brady has always refused to speak of her late husband, and there have been numerous reports that she was actually divorced (or at least estranged), and not widowed. Some reports, not fully substantiated, have linked her to the well-known scientist Roy Hinkle,6 but Prof. Hinkle has proven as tight-lipped about the situation as Mrs. Brady upon his rescue.
Rumors of romantic intra-family love between the non-genetically related family members are abundant, including stories of Peter and Janet ‘Jan’ Brady once being caught fondling each other and making out in the back of a car whilst in a partial state of undress by a police officer when the two of them were 17, an incident reported in GROWING UP BRADY that both have flatly denied. Robert ‘Bobby’ Brady and Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Brady have reportedly done nothing more than experimented with kissing at a very young age in the dog house that their pet pooch Tiger once inhabited in their backyard, and once had a faux marriage jokingly set up for them by their older siblings as a lark. Of course, the biggest rumors of romance were between the two oldest, Greg and Marcia. Dr. Greg Brady reported that the two did indeed periodically engage in covert flirting, making out, and petting, but Marcia has denied that any such thing happened. Greg also professes that he harbored dreams of dating his stepmother, whom he thought was “quite a babe” when he first met her. Of course, true or not, nothing ever came of these pseudo-incestual liaisons, and if the rest of the family were aware of them, they scrupulously pretended not to notice.
Most of the Brady rumors have been well documented, and Dr. Brady did a good job of refuting or confirming many of them in his famous ‘90’s tell-all book, GROWING UP BRADY. The main point of this article from this point onwards will be to focus upon the reputed paranormal going-ons that occurred within the Brady family, and which allegedly surrounded the short-lived but memorable success of the kids’ musical group, the Brady Kids,8 and the whole family’s even more short-lived TV variety series, “The Brady Bunch Hour.” Both of these ventures, of course, came before “The Brady Bunch” reality series of the late ‘70’s, which ran for five seasons and pioneered the way for the reality TV upsurge of the early ‘00’s.
Some of these following events were re-enacted on their reality TV show as per producer Sherwood Schwartz’s added suggestions and direction, particularly that involving the mysterious probability altering entity called Tabu, but he wanted to leave their other reports for a Saturday morning animated series that he executive produced back in the ‘70’s and named after their musical act, the Brady Kids, which was brought to us by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott of the Filmation crew. Since Schwartz didn’t believe these stories that the kids often told him of paranormal encounters they supposedly had, he allowed the Filmation crew to feel free to exaggerate and distort the stories as they pleased, and it’s not entirely certain how much those flights of fancy matched up with the actual events…though this author believes that he is at least qualified to discern these particular rumors based upon the available evidence, and also as I have a friend and colleague who has at times been plagued by the same type of jinx-inducing, mischief-making entity as the Brady’s claimed to have come in contact with.
The first time
the Brady kids encountered the paranormal was during a trip to
Many have said that the sudden rise
to fame of the Brady Kids within two years of the
True to his word, Marlon attempted to help the kids in all of their endeavors during the next several months, but he was known to bungle many of his attempts ineptly; these entities were powerful in manipulating probability, reality-shifting, and the gift of materialization, etc., but they weren’t particularly wise. Many adventures evidently ensued, and the kids claim to have met, befriended, and assisted the super-heroes known as Superman and Wonder Woman on two separate occasions10, as well as having an alleged cross-time encounter with the Lone Ranger and his ally Tonto. Also as promised, Marlon has his fellow entities (who seemed to be assistants or ‘hangers-on’ to the chief entity) insured that the pop group met with success. The Brady Kids became a minor sensation, and cut several records and toured the country during the months the kids didn’t have school. The kids also began making money off of merchandising deals (e.g., lunch boxes, transistor radios, dolls), but an unscrupulous manager and the sudden rise to fame evidently caused the kids’ egos to boost to the point where they didn’t realize they were getting bilked financially. Their growing arrogance, fueled by their manager, would also cost them in another manner.
In discussion, the kids concluded that their fame was now assured, so they didn’t really need the help of Marlon and company anymore, and they didn’t truly trust these entities at any rate, considering their earlier encounter with Tabu, who they now knew hailed from the same reality. As such, they made a deal with TV producer Sherwood Schwartz to sell stories of their interesting paranormal encounters into a supposedly profitable animated TV series. Once the first season of the show was quickly produced and concluded in the space of a few weeks, Marlon was incensed that the kids violated the conditions of the deal. As such, Marlon refused to help the kids’ career to continue any longer despite the unscrupulous management forces guiding them, and promptly vanished from their lives (the entity possessing Mop Top caused the dog to run away, thus resulting in the Bradys losing another treasured pet11). When this occurred, not only did the kids’ unusual adventures cease, but the bilking and mismanagement of their group caused it to fizzle right off the pop charts, as Marlon and the other entities were no longer manipulating probabilities to insure the group’s continued success. Furthermore, the ratings of the animated series slid way down, so the hastily produced second season only had a few episodes, and conflicts with Filmation incited three of the kids to refuse to provide voice-overs to the show, thus causing the total downward slide of the series that was intended to duplicate the animated success of other groups, such as the Jackson 5 and the Archies. Moreover, Marlon would have his revenge in a manner similar to the way Tabu invoked his wrath on the kids.
Marlon realized that the girls’
cousin Oliver Martin had the perfect aura with which to attach a hex or “jinx”
spell to, and the entity insured that events occurred where Oliver’s parents
had to take an important business trip to
Of course, without the aid of Marlon and company, the venture in which Bobby Brady convinced his father to leave his architectural career and to accept an offer from Sid and Marty Krofft (long reputed to have informational connections with interdimensional entities) to do a mid-‘70’s variety show failed after only six weeks (the one successful TV special they did proceeding this succeeded due to the continuing help of Marlon and company at the time, insuring that the show would appear in a very pivotal time slot). That show has since become a cult classic, but it put the death knell on the family’s show business ambitions, and Mike Brady was lucky to get his architectural job back afterwards. This led to the family’s late ‘70’s reality show, which became a bigger and immediate cult classic and whose sugary re-enactments and depiction of the bunch as the quintessential American nuclear family unit was forever cemented into pop culture lore.
Regardless of how true any of these speculations and rumors in this article ultimately turn out to be, Greg Brady, now a successful gynecologist, would attempt to set the matter straight with his tell-all book, which followed the brief late ‘80’s resurgence of interest in the family once Mike Brady began getting involved in California politics. This interest would flare again in the 1990’s and up to the present when the advent of public access to cyberspace revolutionized communications and fully ushered in the Information Age.
Despite Mike Brady’s tragic death from pancreatic cancer in 1996, the legacy his family left to American pop culture, routinely both honored and ridiculed13, and despite numerous claims and counter-claims both within and outside of the paranormal realm, remains unforgettable and indefatigable.
[i] According to Dr. Brady, the rumors about his being the second pop singer to call himself Johnny Bravo is indeed a fact. See THE MANY FACES OF JOHNNY BRAVO: THE GREATEST SYNTHETIC ICON IN POP CULTURE HISTORY by Victoria Vale, Gotham Press, 1989; and GROWING UP BRADY: I WAS A TEENAGE GREG by Dr. Gregory Brady, M.D., Good Guy Entertainment, 1991 (second updated edition in 1998).
[ii] See THE X-FILES CASE STUDY 2002 Edition, edited by FBI Special Agent John Doggett. Also note that later research by this author, as mentioned in the body of this article, does appear to substantiate the rumors that psychotic Oliver Martin may actually be the nephew of Carol Brady, as her maiden name was “Martin” and a young bespectacled boy of great intellect named ‘Oliver’, alleged to be Carol’s nephew, appeared in the last few episodes of “The Brady Bunch” reality show, and promptly vanished off the proverbial map with the end of the show’s final season. Based on the available evidence, this author posits that the status of Oliver Martin is likely connected to the Bradys’ various dealings with the paranormal. See the body of this text and the book TABU, MARLON, GEFF, YOSHI And Other Bizarre Entities by Dr. Adam Spektor, Arkham Publishing, 1983.
[iii] This section of the city, known for its movie-star frequented night clubs, and reputedly taking its name from the famous Star City Symphonic Orchestra that was formed there in the 1920’s; rumor also has it that this section of the city acquired its name from Colonel Jeb Star, who supposedly claimed this area in the year 1797 due to its rich abundance of various valuable metallic ores. Referenced from Historical Society of San Francisco’s records and THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE (ALMOST) LEGEND: COLONEL JEB STAR by Michael Chad Norwick, Star University Press, 1962.
4 Copies of The
Bay Star from Mike Brady’s tenure at Star City High in
unsubstantiated rumor alleges that Brady was seen steadily dating a highly
attractive blonde woman shortly before he met Carol Brady. One of his
colleagues, George Hedges, claims he actually saw this strange woman refer to
Mike as “Master,” to which, in hushed tones, Mike reportedly replied, “I told
you, Jeannie…call me ‘Mike’ in public.” This, coupled with her servile attitude
towards Mike as if going out of her way to interpret every one of his requests
as an order, has brought up rumors that Mr. Brady may have had an interest in
the sado-masochistic domination lifestyle, though
this was never evident in his relationship with Carol Brady, who vehemently
denied any such inclinations on Mike Brady’s part. See MICHAEL BRADY: A TRUE
PORTRAIT by Jeb Dell,
6 See “I Was A Project: Castaway Love Child,” Mary Ann Hinkle, NATIONAL WHISPER, 1994.
8 During its
brief zenith in the early ‘70’s, before the variety show and the reality TV
series, the Brady Kids’ albums were selling as much as the two other famous
family musical acts of the time, the
8 See the article, “Mars Needs Women and Santa Claus,” John Strange, OMNIBUS magazine, April, 1976.
9 The Brady kids claimed, during one summer afternoon, they were displaced back to the ancient Grecian civilization, accompanied by the super-hero calling herself Wonder Woman, better known from her fictionalized depiction in DC Comics; all were said to be forced to participate in a version of the old Olympic games. If such an event occurred, it’s likely that this was the Grecian world of either an alternate past or a pocket dimension of the present whose physical, political, and cultural landscape resembles that of the Heroic Age of Greece on our world. Such pocket realms may exist much as various pocket universes contain inhabited, radically different versions of planets such as Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.
10 Assuming these claims are true, it’s uncertain which of the heroes who called himself ‘Superman’ these kids may have met, Kal-El or the man called Hugo Danner, as the animated episode depicting this meeting exaggerated the hero’s powers to an incredible extent, much as DC Comics did during the same era.
11 What happened to the cat, Fluffy, that the girls had prior to and just after Mike and Carol’s marriage, has never been revealed, but this author doubts the fan rumors that Tiger ate the feline or chased her in front of an oncoming car. Most likely, since the dog and cat didn’t get along, the kids simply left the feline with the girls’ grandparents.
12 Mike Brady insisted, up until the end of his life that, “there was no such thing as a jinx.” This author believes that he was incorrect, and I wish that I could personally challenge Mr. Brady on that uninformed assertion. Nevertheless, Oliver’s “jinx” incidents were re-enacted during the final season of the reality show, but with the animated series and the incidents behind them, the kids wisely kept all paranormal claims relating to Marlon and his fellow entities out of the show. See the article “A Jinx Among the Bradys,” OMNIBUS, John Strange, June, 1980.
13 We all know that the Brady family and their legacy was severely lampooned by the two motion pictures released in the late ‘90’s, which also revealed many uncomfortable truths about the Brady family that the old reality series attempted to conceal, including the fact that Marcia’s nerdy beau Charlie had no chance of punching out the jeering “big man on campus” Doug Simpson in defense of his date, but the feat was actually accomplished by a tough lesbian girl who had a major crush on Marcia, and that Carol Brady’s first husband wasn’t truly deceased. Some of the films’ sarcastic implications, including the final fates of Tiger, Fluffy, and cousin Oliver, leave something to be desired, however.