For decades — during the original run and then countless reruns — Florence Henderson, who presided over the Brady Bunch, was America’s perfect Mom.
We’ve invited Henderson to play a game called “They said you were mad at the Academy! Mad, I tell you!” In September, the Annals of Improbable Research handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real, if ridiculous, research. We’ll ask three questions about the far horizons of science.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where the rewards of a rich, full life can be taken when a moment – we call it Not My Job. For decades, both during the original run of the TV show “The Brady Bunch” and then through countless reruns, Florence Henderson became America’s perfect mother. As Carol Brady, she presided over a blended family famous for its love, mutual respect and what must have been a lot of repressed sexual tension.
SAGAL: I mean, they weren’t actually siblings, right? Florence Henderson, welcome to WAIT WAIT …DON’T TELL ME.
FLORENCE HENDERSON: Thanks Peter, I’m happy to be here.
SAGAL: So we were reading your biography and it’s extraordinarily impressive prior to you getting the role of Carol Brady. You were, among other things, the first female guest host for Johnny Carson?
AMY DICKINSON: Whoa.
HENDERSON: Yeah, I go back a long way, Peter.
SAGAL: I can imagine. So you were a theater actress. In fact, you were an award-winning actress here to Chicago, I was proud to read. And then they came to you, presumably sometime in the mid-60s. The creator of “Gilligan’s Island” had an idea for a show about a blended family – mother with daughters, father with sons. What was your reaction when you first heard about this show?
HENDERSON: Well, it was in 1969, and I thought, wow, you know, I really didn’t want to do a TV series. You know, I had my own act and I was performing in Vegas and doing all of these exciting things. And my manager said, well, just go down and meet them. I thought it was great and it was fun, but I thought, well I guess it didn’t sell. And then I get the lead in the movie “Song Of Norway.” And I’m over in Norway filming and I get a message that “The Brady Bunch” sold. And so they started the show without me. They did six episodes without me and then I filled in when I got back to the states.
SAGAL: And “The Brady Bunch,” as I don’t need to tell anybody – well, certainly my age, became like the signal to…
HENDERSON: How old are you?
SAGAL: I am old enough to have watched it in the original series. How’s that?
HENDERSON: You sound like a baby.
SAGAL: Oh, thank you.
BRIAN BABYLON: I was always curious – they never been through the back story about how Carol and Mike met, they just go straight up in this relationship. Was it like a meet up, ’cause it was pre-Internet? This was pre-Internet.
HENDERSON: Well, they never talked much about our spouses, you know. And people often ask me what happened to my first husband? And I say I killed him.
SAGAL: Really? You were like the stepmother and nobody knew.
HENDERSON: Well, that’s right. If you don’t behave, look out.
SAGAL: Well, you were raising your own family at the same time you were doing the show, right?
HENDERSON: Right. I had four children. And my youngest when we started was like, oh gosh, two or a little less. And sometimes my kids would say to me, you know, how come you don’t scream at those kids on television like you do us?
SAGAL: And what did you say?
HENDERSON: I said because they’re not my real kids and you are and I want you to turn out to be wonderful human beings – and they have. I have four of the most incredible children. And I have five grandchildren.
SAGAL: And do the grandchildren watch “The Brady Bunch”?
HENDERSON: You know what, I don’t sort of encourage it. I mean, they know I’m on television, but I’m just kind of grandma Flo, you know?
SAGAL: I understand.
BABYLON: That’s a cool – that’s a rap name.
SAGAL: Grandma Flo. Got the flow.
BABYLON: That’s a hip-hop name.
SAGAL: You might look into that for your next career. You’ve had a lot.
HENDERSON: Yeah, and I’m still hot.
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: I’ll tell you you are.
SAGAL: Here we go.
DICKINSON: She opened the door. She opened the door.
SAGAL: I was – I was looking for a segue into this topic. You handed it to me.
HENDERSON: Oh, great. I could read your mind.
SAGAL: I know you could. One of the great myths of my childhood – I should say my adolescence – you know, when you get to like at junior high school at my age, somebody said did you know that Mrs. Brady went on a date with Greg Brady – i.e. you the actress, Florence Henderson – rumor was dated Barry Williams I think his name was, who played Greg Brady?
HENDERSON: Yes that’s right.
SAGAL: Is it true?
HENDERSON: It was the most innocent, sweetest date. And he couldn’t even drive without a licensed driver. His brother drove him to my hotel and then he drove and I, you know, I was the licensed driver.
SAGAL: Wait a minute, stop. How old was he?
HENDERSON: He was about 15.
SAGAL: Wait a minute.
HENDERSON: Now wait, Peter.
SAGAL: This is even weirder than it seemed in junior high school. Go on.
HENDERSON: No, it wasn’t weird at all. But listen…
SAGAL: No, I am sorry.
HENDERSON: Oh, Peter, you’re so melodramatic.
HENDERSON: I think you’re a little jealous maybe.
SAGAL: A little bit. Especially because Greg Brady – rather Barry Williams wrote a book called “Growing Up Brady.”
SAGAL: And in his book, he described you as quote, and I’m going to go on for a while, so be patient – quote, “a totally white-hot babe. I mean, just once put the apron and the six kids out of your mind and take a good long look at her. Almost from day one my feelings towards Florence were more carnal than filial,” unquote.
BABYLON: Carnal – it says carnal?
SAGAL: Carnal. So did he say that? You’re driving him around ’cause you have a license and he doesn’t, and he looks across at you and says, you know, Florence, my feelings for you are more carnal than filial.
HENDERSON: No.(Laughter.) He wrote that book much later.
ROY BLOUNT JR.: Can I ask, what was your Vegas act like and what did you wear?
HENDERSON: You guys just sound like a horny bunch of old guys.
BLOUNT: You got that right.
SAGAL: I am guessing that you run into that a lot.
HENDERSON: Oh gosh, I have a website and I get apropos of what you’re talking about. So many emails saying, you know, I’m in my 40s and I’ve been in love with you. You know, everybody thought Marsha was this and that, but you are the one. If you ever are in Vancouver, call me. I’d love to take you to dinner. And it’s very sweet.
SAGAL: I’m sure it is.
HENDERSON: And I answer them.
SAGAL: Do you? What do you say?
SAGAL: Florence Henderson, we’ve asked you here to play game we’re calling…
KURTIS: They Said You Were Mad At The Academy. Mad, I Tell You.
SAGAL: Now a few weeks ago, the Annals Of Improbable Research – that’s a journal – handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real – if ridiculous – science. We’re going to ask you three questions about the far horizons of science.
HENDERSON: Oh, my gosh.
SAGAL: Answer two of these questions correctly, you’ll win a prize for one of our listeners – Carl Kasell’s voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is the immortal Florence Henderson playing for?
KURTIS: Sharon Gavin of Atlanta, Georgia.
SAGAL: All right. Are you ready to do this?
HENDERSON: Oh, my gosh, I’ll feel terrible if I don’t win. Can I send her something?
SAGAL: You may.
SAGAL: Or perhaps her husband might be more appreciative.
SAGAL: Whatever works – but let’s play the game.
SAGAL: OK, here we go. Here’s your first question. The Ig Nobel Prize in physics this year went to a team in Japan that investigated what? Did they investigate A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were really to step on it? B, the actual amount of friction between a person’s shoe, a banana peel and the floor; or C, how big Angelina Jolie’s lips could become before they explode?
HENDERSON: You know what, I’m going to go with A.
SAGAL: You’re going to go with A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were to stop on it?
SAGAL: OK, no. Actually was B, the banana peel.
HENDERSON: Are you serious?
SAGAL: I’m very serious and so were they. According to their exacting measurements, we can now say for sure that a banana peel on a linoleum floor is slippery.
HENDERSON: Now, please.
BABYLON: And funny.
SAGAL: And funny. You have two more chances, so you can do this.
SAGAL: And we always know Mrs. Brady always had a happy ending, so here we go. A special prize was given in Arctic Science and that was given to an international team of scientists who explored what question? A, if ice cubes taken from the polar ice cap can improve a cocktail; B, if putting up big fans on the poles to blow on the Arctic ice can help reverse global warming; or C, how reindeer behave when they are approached by humans dressed as polar bears.
HENDERSON: Oh, jeez. What was A again?
SAGAL: A was if ice cubes taken from the ancient polar ice cap will actually make your cocktail taste better.
HENDERSON: I think I have to go with that.
DICKINSON: That’s like a Dean Martin kind of question.
HENDERSON: It is, absolutely.
SAGAL: It is a Dean Martin kind of question.
DICKINSON: Can I weigh in? It doesn’t…
HENDERSON: Yeah, help me out here.
DICKINSON: I don’t know. Think that sounds wasteful. What was the second one?
HENDERSON: Blowing a fan is going to help global warming.
SAGAL: Yeah, that sounds ridiculous.
DICKINSON: That’s kind of crazy. And the other one was the…
SAGAL: The last one was how reindeer behave when they’re approached by humans wearing polar bear suits.
DICKINSON: I’m liking that one. I’m liking that one.
HENDERSON: Oh. I think I have to stay with A.
SAGAL: Really? I want to point out you may not know this, but Amy is an advice columnist.
HENDERSON: Oh, Amy. My gosh, yeah, I like three. I like number three.
SAGAL: There we go. Yes, you’re right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: It turns out – and this is again according to this very scientific study – that reindeer are kind of freaked out when people dressed as polar bears approach them. All right, Florence, get this one right, you win.
The Public Health Prize went to a team that tried to determine if doing what was detrimental to your mental health? Is it A, trying to get your cable hooked up; B, playing the computer game Candy Crush; or C, owning a cat?
BLOUNT: I own a cat.
HENDERSON: It’s bad for your mental health.
BLOUNT: And Roy just said he owns a cat, which to me is sort of proof right there.
DICKINSON: That’s true.
HENDERSON: Well, all right, let’s go with number three.
SAGAL: You’re going to go with number three, owning a cat?
SAGAL: Yes, that’s right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: So they published a number of studies that involve various things like parasites that cats sometimes have, but the short answer is yes, cats make you crazy.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Florence Henderson do in our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, Florence and Amy got two out of three.
DICKINSON: Thank you.
SAGAL: Florence Henderson was, is and always will be America’s favorite TV mom. Florence Henderson, what fun to have you. Thank you so much…
HENDERSON: Thank you Peter.
SAGAL: …For being with us.
SAGAL: Take care Florence.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill sleeps like a baby in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air.
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