Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog
My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…
If you missed the season premiere of Monk last night, then run (don’t walk) over to USA Network while the episode is still available for streaming. You’ll find a show that affectionately satirizes the Brady Bunch phenomenon, from the dedication of trivia-spouting fans to dropped jaws at the most lurid revelations of a tell-all memoir.
In “Mr. Monk’s Favorite Show,” the obsessive-compulsive crime solver is excited at the prospect of meeting Christine Rapp, former child star of “The Cooper Clan.” Rapp has just written a shocking autobiography called “Re-Cooper-ating,” and when her publicity tour is interrupted by an attempt on her life, Monk’s devotion leads to an assignment as her bodyguard. Starstruck and preoccupied with memories of a show that provided an escape from his dysfunctional youth, Monk remains blissfully ignorant of the discrepancies between Rapp and her TV alter-ego, Cathy Cooper…until he finds time to read the book.
Though a number of artistic liberties are taken in the approximation of a certain iconic TV series from the 70′s, Brady fans will find many amusingly familiar references in the details, right down to the episode titles and groovy graphics of a “Cooper Clan” DVD menu. Check it out, and enjoy the pained expression on the face of a “Clan” costar as he endures Monk repeating the former actor’s well-worn catchphrase.
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Years before personal computers gave everyone the tools to become amateur graphic artists, my adolescent bedroom was adorned with an eye-catching movie poster. A man and two children were painted in the foreground, running toward the viewer while glancing behind them, as if being pursued. Towering over them on the horizon stood massive stone letters spelling out the title of the film: BLOCKBUSTER. Breathless testimonies (…the movie of the year! …the star of the century!) were accompanied by explosions in the sky and a jet soaring overhead. Above the legend Together Again As You’ve Never Seen Them Before! screamed red marquee lettering that proclaimed the stars of this cinematic event: ROBERT REDFORD and…well, and BOB HUNT! Or whatever your name happened to be, if you were a fan of Dynamite magazine and took a few minutes to ferret out the correct letters, lick the gummed backing, and carefully affix them to that month’s bonus poster.
Yes, Dynamite, the short-on-pages (36, including the card stock covers) long-on-content (no ads!) periodical that once competed with other Scholastic titles in those colorful Arrow Book Club fliers you might have brought home from school. So faithfully did I check its little box each month that my mother eventually decided that a subscription made more sense, and soon Dynamite was making its regular appearance among the scant mail I received. I looked forward to every issue, and what kid wouldn’t? With its bonus posters and punch-outs, magic tricks and tips for transforming your dull room into a cool place, Dynamite understood juvenile interests and unfailingly delivered.
Who will win the first-ever GBP Brady Awards?
Did you catch the Academy Awards recently? Greg Brady Project friend David H. did, and the sight of all those Oscars being handed out inspired him to propose “the first annual ‘Brady’ awards, honoring outstanding achievements in an episode of The Brady Bunch.” David suggested six award categories, with all us of collaborating to produce five worthy nominees for each category. After the nominations are finalized, winners will be decided by popular vote. We love the idea, David, and so it is that we now officially open the call for nominations for the award categories listed below. I’m really tempted to serve up a full slate of contenders, but I’m going to limit myself to the honor of choosing the first nominee for each award. The rest is up to all of you, loyal Brady fans.
BEST ACTOR (any male cast member can be nominated for a specific episode): I nominate Mike Lookinland for “Bobby’s Hero.” Not only does he create a credible change of heart for the Jesse James-obsessed Bobby, he conveys real terror (as coached by Lloyd Schwartz) during the fantasy train robbery.
BEST ACTRESS (same for female cast member): I nominate Eve Plumb for “The Not-So-Rose-Colored Glasses.” Eve has a lot of great moments in this one, from her glib dismissal of Marcia’s concern for her eyesight to the tearjerker scene in which Mike learns that Jan has sold her bike to pay for a second family portrait.
Ask anybody – Barry Williams is a friendly guy. Seasoned entertainer, keeper of the Brady flame, ever patient with perpetual repetitions of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”, the Real Greg Brady is as affable as can be. And now, like a new and improved box of Safe Soap, Barry is friendlier than ever before, thanks to Facebook. That’s right, if you’ve ever dreamed of counting Barry among your circle of friends, just head on over to his Facebook page and offer your friendship. He’ll be happy to accept.
I must confess that Barry is a whole lot friendlier than I am. Though we started our Facebook accounts at roughly the same time, his list of friends is currently more than 25 times greater than mine. I say currently because Barry’s list keeps growing like an unstoppable kudzu vine. Take note of when his name pops up on your “Live Feed” and you’ll see him add a dozen or more amigos in a single go. Me? I might have one or two adds, and that’s only once in awhile, not every time I sign on.
Of course, I sense that our friendiocity standards are likely different. I try to keep my account manageable by limiting my adds to people with whom I have actually had a conversation. This is comparatively easy for me to do because I do not have a legion of fans who wish to befriend me. Barry, however, has more people who’d like to chat with him than I can imagine. It’s time consuming just perusing his friend list. It’s also fascinating, considering that mixed in among hundreds of unfamiliar names are the well-known monikers of quite a few celebrities.
A while back we asked you to name your Brady Six, the sextet of classic episodes that you consider to be the best of the Bunch. Now it’s time to visit the other end of the spectrum with the Brady Basement. These are the half-dozen lesser shows that you recognize with a slight sigh of disappointment whenever they air, not because they are inherently bad but simply because they are not great. Though I truly enjoy all 117 episodes (call me the Father Flanagan of Bradyphiles, but I believe there are no bad Brady Bunch episodes), I am less likely to spend precious Brady Bunch-watching time with the following six installments, presented in the order in which they aired.
First season episodes of The Brady Bunch stand conspicuously apart from the rest of the series for many reasons: the kids are so young, the Peppermint Trolley Company warble the opening theme, and storylines focus on whether or not this whole blended-family experiment will succeed. A more playful tone would eventually emerge, but some of the initial shows get stuck in syrupy drama or lethally sweet cuteness. This episode has both, with director John Rich pushing Cindy to her most adorable limits and then casting her into the pit of melodramatic despair. Should she give Mommy the single ticket to her school play? Should she give it to her new Daddy? Modern Brady watchers with the benefit of multiple rerun hindsight can only watch helplessly, unable to reach through the TV screen and shake little Cindy out of the dumps.
I was in the beverage aisle of my local megamart this morning when a sparkle of green light caught my eye. There on the end shelf among a host of trendy boutique soft drinks stood several single bottles of 7UP. They were real glass, with a bona fide bottle cap affixed to the top and 12 ounces of soda inside. I was instantly smitten by these miniature replicas of the 16-ounce returnable bottles that were ubiquitous in the 70′s. Then I saw the price: $1.19. Each. And just down the aisle I could pick up a full 2 liters of 7UP for only pennies more. Still, I hesitated before the retro bottles. Why? Should I care in the least how the goods I buy are packaged? No. And yet, despite myself, I do.
Somewhere out there is a beverage marketer who knows what memories are triggered when I see that glass 7UP bottle. As I gazed upon its fragile contours, I saw a corner of my boyhood kitchen stocked with soda for a family gathering, the bottles standing upright in those cardboard carriers with handles that would cut into your fingers as you lugged them through the store. I felt the coolness of frosted glass upon my forehead on a blistering summer day. I heard the rattling of the conveyor belt that carried the empty bottles back to the bowels of the store after we had collected our deposit. Good thing I didn’t pick it up and feel the heft of a bygone packaging era, or I would have found it much too easy to place it in my cart instead of back on the shelf.
The funny thing is this: I wanted to buy that bottle of 7UP even though I had almost no desire to drink the product inside. It was all about the packaging, which I reflexively associated with fond memories of my childhood. Perhaps the strange psychological lure of clever product design, that dastardly method by which we are coaxed into buying things we don’t even want in the first place, was stronger than I thought. For as I wheeled my empty cart down the aisle, I recalled a copious amount of 7UP being consumed on my street in the summer of 1976.
1969-1974: The Brady Bunch appears in its initial prime-time run. As I was born in 1968, I am only dimly aware of its existence, but like Mozart played for infants, the show fills the space around my developing neurons and synapses.
1974-1979: The First Golden Era of Syndication, in which I am exposed to the Brady canon repeatedly until the episodes are more familiar to me than the oral histories of my own family.
1980: A friend shows me how he uses audio cassettes to record the sound from television shows by dangling a microphone in front of the TV speaker. His recordings are low-fi and filled with atmospheric noise like kitchen clangings and his sisters chatting. I immediately employ his technique to preserve a few Bunch episodes.
1981: My parents stun the family by being among the first on the block to buy a VCR. It’s a $500 top-loading behemoth with a wired remote that has one function: pause. Video cassettes sell for $15 each, and we try to use every inch of tape at the 6-hr. slow speed.
1982: The Second Golden Era of Syndication, in which I catch Ann B. Davis mentioning in an interview that there were 117 Brady Bunch episodes, the first time I have ever heard this magic number. Superstation WTBS runs the Bunch right after Leave It To Beaver five afternoons a week; 15 heavily-edited, commercial-paused episodes can fit onto a single videotape, and I’m on my way to capturing all 117. “The Voice of Christmas” is the most elusive, as it’s always skipped in the syndication package unless it’s December.
In the beginning there were the notes, and the notes were three short and one long, and they sounded like da-da-da-DUM! So it was that precisely 200 years ago today, Ludwig Van Beethoven unleashed a momentous big bang upon the musical cosmos with the debut of his 5th Symphony. Little did its audience know that they were witness to a spark of genius that would fuel artistic inspiration to this day and will likely continue to do so as long as humanity exists.
Consider the international fame and familiarity of those four notes. Adults and children alike throughout the world recognize the tune and cannot resist singing the next phrase. Orchestral performances of it are frequent, and personal listenings of its many recordings are constant. Every facet of modern entertainment employs it as a universal point of cultural reference, whether to set a period mood or simply to tell a joke. If only Ludwig had pioneered international copyright law and produced progeny that saw to its perpetual renewal, the world would now be owned by the Beethoven family.
But I speak with the jaded voice of a modern consumer, accustomed as I am to big, round anniversary numbers being celebrated for the ulterior motive of selling things. Ten years is more than adequate for today’s entertainment industry to roll out expanded editions of its popular inventory in deluxe packaging, and 25 years is a legacy. If only someone had harnessed the power of electricity and invented audio and video recording devices much earlier, I’m sure modern marketers would be salivating over the rights to Ludwig’s archival materials. Just imagine the Beethoven’s 5th Symphony Bicentennial Box Set: The Ultimate Collection, featuring umpteen CD’s of rehearsals and alternate takes; a plethora of DVD’s including interviews, performances, and making-of featurettes; and a coffee table scrapbook as big as Austria.
You may have seen recent airings of an entertaining credit card commercial starring Mary J Blige. In the spot, an everywoman in a hotel elevator is stunned when Blige comes aboard for a few floors. The dazzled fan tries desperately to compose herself, but she cannot. As her favorite singing sensation leaves the elevator, she manages to utter only a small and incomprehensible squeak. It’s a great vignette that perfectly captures the humiliating experience of being starstruck.
Perhaps it resonates with me because I once found myself in a similar situation (well, similar in the geekiest sort of way!). When I was a freshman at Ohio State in the late eighties, the great minimalist composer Philip Glass came to campus for a marathon performance of his epic Music In Twelve Parts. The piece was typical of his work in that it consisted of a seemingly endless series of subtly changing repeated arpeggios. Its length, however, was remarkable, requiring two fifteen-minute intermissions and an hour break in the middle so the audience could get dinner! As a wide eyed college student who fancied himself a patron of the arts, I ate it up, mesmerized by the hypnotic repetition. Besides, I was already a big fan of the score Glass had composed for the wordless arthouse film Koyaanisqatsi.
Brady fans, I bring you good news from the world of education. Those worries that have kept you from sleeping at night, the creeping anxiety that a true appreciation of The Brady Bunch might die with the passing of your generation – I’m here to reassure you that your fears are unfounded. Oh, I know that too many children today do not know Buddy Hinton from Harvey Klinger. Yes, I am well aware that the phrases “Oh, my nose!” and “Something suddenly came up” have no special meaning for a depressingly large portion of modern youth. But I shall not despair. For I have seen with my own eyes the very evidence that makes me believe The Brady Bunch will be treasured long after its initial audience is gone.
It was the threat of rain that started me on the road to this revelation. Before dashing off to my job teaching fourth graders, I tossed a Brady Bunch DVD into my bag of graded papers. If the forecasted precipitation arrived before noon, I would need an acceptable option to keep my class entertained during indoor recess. Sure enough, we spotted dark skies and a playground full of puddles when the recess bell rang. I had my makeshift theater ready to go, with a boombox wired to pump out the sound and our trusty LCD projector standing by to splash the vibrant blue opening titles across the length and breadth of our overhead screen. We arranged our chairs in rows, and soon a familiar theme resounded through the classroom. Well, familiar to you and me, that is.