Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 12, 1992

We're taking a little break from the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S RETROSPECTIVE to bring you the weekly edition of the Tuesday Timeline.  And as mentioned last week, for the duration of the retrospective, I will be choosing dates that fell between 1981 and 2015.

After all, if I'm going to be talking about things that happened to me in my life and times, I should really focus on dates that I was actually around for.

But, there's a lot of stuff that happened on May 12, and before we get to today's featured date that I actually remember, let's talk about all the other things that took place on dates I obviously do not remember.

Got all that?  I hope that made sense.

1780 - Charleston, South Carolina is taken by British forces during the American Revolutionary War

1797 - Napoleon I of France conquers Venice

1870 - The Manitoba Act is given the Royal Assent, which causes Manitoba to join the Canadian Confederation two months later

1885 - The Battle of Batoche comes to an end after four days of fighting between rebel Metis and the Canadian government

1907 - Actress Katharine Hepburn (d. 2003) is born in Hartford, Connecticut

1918 - Cosmetics maven/businesswoman Mary Kay Ash (d. 2001) is born in Hot Wells, Texas

1921 - Author Farley Mowat (d. 2014) is born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada

1932 - After ten weeks of searching, the body of kidnapped infant Charles Lindbergh Jr. is found in the community of Hopewell, New Jersey

1935 - Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith (the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous) have their first meeting together

1937 - The Duke and Duchess of York are crowned as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - on the same day that comedian George Carlin (d. 2008) was born!

1941 - The Z3 - the world's first working, programmable, automatic computer - is presented by Konrad Zuse in Berlin

1965 - Luna 5, a Soviet spacecraft, crashes into the surface of the Moon

1968 - Australian troops are attacked by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces which causes the Battle of Coral-Balmoral during the Vietnam War

1986 - NBC debuts its rainbow peacock logo during its sixtieth anniversary celebration

1989 - The San Bernardino train disaster occurs, killing four people

1995 - Former child actor Sawyer Sweeten (d. 2015) is born in Brownwood, Texas

2000 - NASCAR driver Adam Petty is killed in a car crash at just 19 years of age

2001 - Singer Perry Como passes away just six days before his 89th birthday

2003 - Twenty-six are killed during the Riyadh compound bombings, in an attack linked to Al Qaeda

2008 - Over 69,000 lose their lives in the city of Sichuan, China, following a devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake

And, here are the celebrities who are turning one year older on this twelfth day of May; Yogi Berra, Burt Bacharach, Miriam Stoppard, Linda Dano, Nicky Henson, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Riehle, Steve Winwood, Bruce Boxleitner, Gabriel Byrne, Billy Squier, Kix Brooks, Ving Rhames, Billy Duffy, Lar Park Lincoln, Bruce McCulloch, Emilio Estevez, April Grace, Deborah Kara Unger, Vanessa A. Williams, Stephen Baldwin, Joe McKinney, Tony Hawk, Scott Schwartz, Catherine Tate, Kim Fields, Samantha Mathis, Mike Weir, Jamie Luner, Robert Tinkler, Kardinal Offishall, Rebecca Herbst, Jason Biggs, Malin Akerman, Emily VanCamp, Kenton Duty, and Sullivan Sweeten.

Okay, so what date are we going to visit this week?

Ah, yes.  May 12, 1992.  I remember that day well.  I was just about to turn eleven, and I was three days away from one of the greatest birthday parties ever with my whole fifth grade class.  You know, fifth grade was actually kind of nice.

But in anticipation of my eleventh year, something was happening in Hollywood.  On May 12, 1992, a television icon to so many people drew his final breath.  And it wasn't really until after he passed that the world knew just how much he suffered while he was alive - not just from what eventually would kill him, but the despair and the stress of trying to separate his personal life from his professional life.  The agony of presenting the image of the perfect father and all around nice guy on television when in reality he hated the very role that made him famous.

This is the story of actor Robert Reed - who anyone who was around in the 1970s may remember most as the patriarch of "The Brady Bunch".

I'll admit, I missed "The Brady Bunch" when it first aired on network television.  The show, after all, did debut twelve years before I was born.  But when I was a teenager, the show used to air every afternoon at 4:35pm on TBS, and I would sit down and watch it.  Sure, looking back on it, the show was cheesier than a box of Kraft Dinner, but I have to admit, I can understand why a lot of people liked it.  Before the Keatons, the Huxtables, the Tanners, and the Drummonds came along, the Brady Bunch was the very definition of the family that every parent wanted their own families to be like, and that every child wanted to be a part of.  I have to admit, it would have been nice to have siblings who were closer to my age, and having an Alice around would have been fantastic.  That said, I am happy with the family that I did have, and while my family is definitely not the Brady Bunch (I would say mine is a cross between the Conners from "Roseanne" and the Bundys from "Married...With Children") - I'll keep them.

Honestly, given what Robert Reed went through during his own career, I imagine that he would have wanted to be anything other than Mike Brady as well.

Born in Highland Park, Illinois on October 19, 1932 as John Robert Rietz, Jr., Robert became interested in acting right around the time he was enrolled in high school.  He performed in several plays and even had a hand in producing radio shows while still a teenager.  After graduating from high school in 1950, he attended Northwestern University to study drama, where he would play the leading role in no less than eight different school productions.  Reed definitely had his heart set on becoming a dramatic actor.

Interestingly enough, one of his first roles was in a comedy series - he played one of the guest actors on the television series "Father Knows Best" in 1959.  But, that lead to a role on the CBS television series, "The Defenders" where Reed enjoyed a four season run playing the role of Kenneth Preston.  And it was because of this role that other opportunities would open up, including a stint on Broadway in Neil Simon's "Barefoot In The Park".  Reed was so successful in the role that there were talks to make the play into a television series, but when the network decided that they wanted to make the show with an African-American cast, Reed was given the chance to star in another show, also produced by Paramount.

That show was "The Brady Bunch".  And Reed won the part after the producer's first choice (Gene Hackman) was turned down.  Reed signed onto the show as the patriarch of the show, an architect who had three boys, Greg, Peter, and Bobby, from his first marriage.  He would marry Carol (played by Florence Henderson), who had three daughters, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy.  The show was designed to be a family comedy that specifically wanted to show people that blended families could get along and work together to bring forth family harmony no matter what the circumstance.  And for five seasons before the show wrapped up production in 1974, I think the show succeeded in that.  The show was never popular in the Nielsen ratings, and I think the show was almost cancelled during the show's first season.  But I guess you could say that like the Brady kids, the show kept on, kept on, kept on, kept on going!

Though, Robert Reed probably wouldn't have shed any tears had the show been pulled from ABC a lot sooner than 1974.  He instantly regretted signing up for the show and often believed that it was beneath him.  After all, he did train to become a dramatic actor, and really the only drama that was shown on the show was when Marcia got whacked in the nose with a football.

And needless to say, Reed's dissatisfaction with the show came from the scripts that he was given, which in turn lead to some blowout fights between Reed, show creator Sherwood Schwartz, and the production crew.  By the end of the show's run, Reed had grown so disenchanted with the show that he actually refused to appear on the show's series finale because he had hated the script so much.  Reed's attitude didn't really sit well with Schwartz, and Schwartz even considered replacing Reed with another actor had the show been renewed for a sixth season.

I should point out though that even though Reed was not a fan of the production staff of the show, he had a really great relationship with Florence Henderson, Ann B. Davis, and the six children who played the Brady kids.  In fact, Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, became really good friends with Reed's daughter, Karen. 

After "The Brady Bunch" wrapped up, Reed starred in various other projects, guest starring in several television shows such as "Charlie's Angels", "Fantasy Island", and "Murder...She Wrote".  But, he never really could get away from the role that he disliked very much.  He played Mike Brady in every single one of the Brady Bunch spinoffs from "The Brady Bunch Hour" to "A Very Brady Christmas".  I guess once you get typecast, it sticks with you.

Though, Robert Reed hid his disdain for the role that made him famous very well.  In fact, he hid something else about himself for many, many years.

Robert Reed was gay.  And until his death in 1992, only a select few knew it.

It actually makes me angry to hear this.  By Reed's own admission, he stayed in the closet for almost his entire life as a professional actor because he knew that had word gotten out that he was homosexual, it would brand him for life and he would never get work again.  And you know, it saddens me to know that Reed had to do that.  I hate the fact that anyone would have to hide who they are in order to be accepted in this world, whether it be for a job, a place to live, or even to be a part of a group of friends.  It wasn't right, and I feel as though part of Reed's frustration with his acting career was because he was frustrated with not being able to be himself.  He almost even seemed as though he was afraid to talk about it, as he never really discussed his sexual orientation with anybody, even though most of the people who worked with him on "The Brady Bunch" had known.

But then I think about it some more...and I understand why Reed kept quiet, even though I don't agree with it.  Imagine the scandal that would have erupted if word got out that America's best sitcom father was a homosexual during the 1970s.  Sure, the 1970s was a decade of great change and equality, but for homosexuals, they were still targets of hate and ignorance.  I hate that Reed had to deal with not being who he was due to fear of being shunned, but given the time period, what other choice did he have?  He just happened to have been born at the wrong time.

In fact, with Reed's death in May 1992 at the age of 59, many news outlets initially reported that he died of cancer.  But in fact, Reed had been diagnosed as being HIV positive just months before he died.  And while his HIV positive status had not developed into AIDS at the time of his death, it is believed that it played a factor in his early death.

It's been twenty-three years since that day, and Robert Reed will ultimately be remembered as being the dad on "The Brady Bunch".  But after reading this Tuesday Timeline, I hope that you remember him for being more than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment