CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Interviews: Here’s the Story of ‘The Brady Bunch’ in the Present Day
CHICAGO – In 1969, amid the turbulent decade of the 1960s, a landmark TV sitcom made its debut with the simple phrase, “Here’s the story…” “The Brady Bunch” has endured in entertainment culture ever since, and four of the actors who comprised the Bunch – Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) have evolved to adulthood with varied interests and pursuits.
They appeared last March at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ a twice-a-year event in which fans can mingle, take photographs and get autographs from the celebrities – like The actors who portrayed the Bradys – who appear there. There is also a great opportunity to purchase memorabilia from a host of showbiz vendors, all in one room. The fall session of The Hollywood Show will take place at the Hilton Rosemont Hotel on River Road in Rosemont, Ill, on September 7th, 8th and 9th, 2012. For complete details click here.
HollywoodChicago.com was at the event to interview all four of the 1970s icons, with photographer Joe Arce capturing a memorable group photo.
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com
Barry Williams, Greg Brady on “The Brady Bunch”
Barry Williams, as the oldest of the Bradys, has been the family member who has kept his show business career going, touring with Broadway musical companies and developing a new Brady Bunch revue in Branson, Missouri.
HollywoodChicago.com: What was the attitude towards your TV career in your real family, and did you find it strange that you were in essence participating in two families?
Photo credit: Paramount Home Entertainment
Barry Williams: My parents were reluctant but supportive. I never found it strange because my television family was a professional one, and I was always clear about who my real family was. What is nice, is that my professional family has now become my second family in real life.
HollywoodChicago.com: What kind of realizations did you have about the realities of the era when you were participating in the pop icon nature of The Brady Bunch? Did you follow the crimes of Watergate or have an opinion regarding the Vietnam War?
Williams: I was always intrigued by the anachronism our show portrayed, because there was so many real problems coming out of the world, especially after the 1960s, when we started, and even through the 1970s and the wind down to Vietnam and the beginnings of Watergate. We created a little cocoon of idealism, positivism, morality, values and communicated all those things. I was and have always been proud of that.
HollywoodChicago.com: You had so many different performance opportunities playing Greg Brady in the various incarnations. Which one of those talents did you enjoy learning the most, and which one stuck with you?
Williams: Singing and music. Particularly now in my current adventure, which is called ‘The Brady Bunch Lunch.’ I’ve opened a show in Branson, Missouri.
HollywoodChicago.com: You had a long run doing touring Broadway musicals and theater. What is the most vulnerable or difficult stage role you’ve taken on, and how did you make it your own?
Williams: Probably ‘The Music Man,’ playing Harold Hill, because Robert Preston left such enormous shoes to fill. So I felt vulnerable with that, because it’s such a powerful role it’s like a runaway train, once the character of Harold Hill gets started it just never stops. The way I got around it was to study Robert Preston, and steal everything he had. [laughs] It worked just great, because it was so definitive.
HollywoodChicago.com: You have a show in Branson called The Brady Bunch Lunch, where you perform and tell anecdotes. What still surprises you about how our generation connected to that show?
Williams: Let me put it another way. It doesn’t so much surprise me but fills me with gratitude, because of the multi-generation appeal. I put on a show that goes through the various stages of The Brady Bunch, and I use actors and singers to represent the kids. We perform the music and wear the costumes, from the beginnings all the way up to the variety show. We even have a competition between the Bradys that wishes Greg wasn’t the big brother, but Keith Partridge was. And if that doesn’t work, how about Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson?
We branch into all styles of music, and I just think it’s fun that literally grandparents can bring their children and their children’s children, and there is always a touch point of familiarity. I’m proud to represent it and to deliver it.
Christopher Knight, Peter Brady on “The Brady Bunch”
Christopher Knight has branched out far beyond his Brady roots, being involved early in the technology revolution, with interests in 3D rendering, kids software, hardware and video add-ons. He kept his performing toe in Reality TV, appearing on VH1’s “The Surreal Life,” which led to meeting model Adrianne Curry. They were eventually engaged, and made their wedding plans into another reality show, “My Fair Brady.”
HollywoodChicago.com: What was the toughest thing about doing a reality show [‘My Fair Brady’]? Did you feel at times like your relationship only lived on television?
Christopher Knight: No, that it lived at all was the hardest part. [laughs] Reality TV is by far the hardest thing. Outside of the obvious, first you have to live within the craziness of it. And then, it’s put together and aired, and you have to live it again, but differently. Because what has happened is pretty intimate, it was just us and the crew, and they never commented on it. And then it plays on TV.
Oftentimes we would say things that are being captured by a camera, then it is seen by the person we are talking about – not that it happened to us that often, we were just two people. That’s all going to come out, though, what we we thinking? Because of that, I had to be really present, to understand the implications. If I couldn’t say it in front of the person, don’t say it. I only recognized the power of it later when it all played out.
HollywoodChicago.com: I read in your bio that your actor father got you involved in auditions in the first place. Did you initially do it reluctantly or were you willing to go along with it?
Photo credit: Paramount Home Entertainment
Knight: I think I was only seven, so the conversation was ‘we’re going to get you an agent and do commercials.’ I said okay, even though I didn’t know what it meant. Once I learned what that meant, I hated it, because it meant coming home from school and seeing my mother dressed up. I knew that whatever I had planned with my buddies, that wasn’t happening. I was getting in the car, and she smoked, and we drove a hour in traffic, and then we’d get home late. My brother did it with me. He went on every interview with me for at least three years, and he never worked. He was eventually released from that, when it became futile. [laughs]
HollywoodChicago.com: Like many of our generation, did you have a period of mistrust or disillusionment regarding the U.S. government following the Watergate era?
Knight: I was a bit young during that time, but the mistrust did start even before Watergate, just with the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. I remember that. It was a difficult era, and there is still a mistrust when anybody is too righteous in representing our actions.
HollywoodChicago.com: Since you are also involved in tech industries, and our world is changing so fast because of it, what do you feel are the most positive and negative results of it?
Knight: How much time do we have? [laughs] What is most positive is that communication is so simple. The era has brought the world closer together. And the negative is that communication is so simple. [laughs]