Actress Florence Henderson has died at age 82 apparently from heart failure. Henderson became a beloved TV icon on the long-running sitcom "The Brady Bunch" which aired between 1969-1974. Born in Indiana, Henderson always had show business in her blood. She was a star long before the "Brady" era, having impressed Rodgers and Hammerstein with her performance in a road show production of "Oklahoma!" in 1952. The famed composers chose her to play the female lead in a Broadway revival of the play. She also made TV history as the first female guest host for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". However it was her role as Carol Brady that ensured her enduring popularity. The show was the first to deal with a situation in which two single parents merged their families. The success of "The Brady Bunch" was somewhat improbable as it presented the image of a squeaky clean sitcom family during an era of radical social change. However, if older teens and twenty-somethings wouldn't be caught dead watching the show (or at least admitting to it), the series did catch on with pre-teens and older viewers, the latter audience primarily wanting to escape the images of hippies and protesters that permeated the evening news. In many ways "The Brady Bunch" was a throwback to the kind of comforting family sitcom that dominated TV in the 1950s through mid-1960s. The irony was that the male lead in the show, actor Robert Reed, who played Henderson's husband Mike, was a gay man. Although this information would have been damaging to his career if known publicly at the time, the cast and crew were aware of it and embraced him. Thus, the corniest TV sitcom family of all time was actually fighting back against prejudices in real life.
The series managed to thrive even after the 1970 debut of "All in the Family", which brought a new wave of realism into American households and changed the face of the traditional sitcom forever. Henderson, like her fellow cast mates, recognized the sheer corniness of the show but continued to embrace her image as Carol Brady. She and her co-stars reunited for several TV specials as the Brady family and over the decades she relished the fact that the show had developed a cult following. In 1995 Brady played the grandmother in the hit feature film spoof of "The Brady Bunch" that depicted the characters as being unwittingly out of touch with modern society. Henderson remained an active and popular performer and in recent years published her memoirs. Her last appearance on TV was earlier this week when she attended a taping of "Dancing with the Stars" to support her "Brady" TV daughter Maureen McCormick, who was competing. For more click here.