The Tragic Real-Life Stories Of These Brady Bunch Stars

The Brady Bunch is just about as wholesome as wholesome gets. The 1970s relic depicts six children in a happy blended family, who somehow share a single bathroom (one that's mysteriously lacking a toilet) and don't even get into a single fist fight. The worst thing that happens on the series is Marcia breaking her perfect nose when her step-brother accidentally hits her in the face with a football. Meanwhile, our childhood selves reenacted scenes from the WWE with our siblings over whose turn it was on the PlayStation — and an original one, to boot, not even the cool, internet-connected ones you can actually make a living playing on today. But anyway...  

In real life, the stars of The Brady Bunch had some issues — especially the actress who played Jan's seemingly perfect older sister Marcia. At the height of her fame, Maureen McCormick fell into a dark world of cocaine addiction and more, but she wasn't the only cast member to give in to their vices. Her on-screen brothers also battled drug use while one of her on-screen sisters actually became (sort of) a drug dealer ... but more on all of this below. The tragic real-life stories of these Brady Bunch stars serve as a testament that even the most functional of All-American families might not be what they seem.

Inside this Brady Bunch star's tragic battle with addiction

Maureen McCormick's life was absolutely nothing like that of the clean-cut, eldest Brady daughter she portrayed on television. The Marcia Brady actress nearly became a child star cliché when she developed an addiction to cocaine around the age of 18. Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! (You knew that was going to be in here somewhere, right?) In her 2008 tell-all memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, McCormick admitted her addiction was so severe that she had "sex with a cocaine dealer in exchange for drugs" (via the Daily Mail). She was also consistently missing out on acting opportunities because she'd show up for meetings high and on absolutely no sleep.

However, McCormick's rock bottom didn't come until she stayed up on a three-day cocaine binge and missed her audition for The Brady Brides in the early '80s. According to Today, her agent climbed a ladder to break into her bedroom and dragged her out of her closet: "He tore my clothes off, threw me in the shower and told me we're going to Paramount."

Thankfully, McCormick found sobriety in 1985 after meeting husband Michael Cummings. He threatened to leave after she relapsed while they were dating, she told US Weekly in 2018. "It was like the coldest shower you could ever take," McCormick explained. "There's just no way I'm gonna lose somebody that I love."

The Brady Bunch's Maureen McCormick made many sad choices

Maureen McCormick's drug-addled lifestyle led her to lose more than just a few movie roles like a coveted spot in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. According to Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, the Brandy Bunch star also had three unwanted pregnancies. "I was 18, 19 and 20 when I had each abortion," she wrote (via the Daily Mail). "It shows how careless I was. It shows what drugs did to me and how far I went."

That said, the TV star's biggest fear at the time was contracting an STD. While speaking with Today in 2008, McCormick revealed, "My grandmother died in a mental hospital from syphilis, going insane. Her husband committed suicide a week later." While the actress was terrified of suffering the same fate, penicillin has been used to cure the disease since 1943, according to Business Insider. "My mother contracted syphilis. And I thought that I had syphilis growing up my whole life," McCormick continued. "I thought that I would also go insane and end up in a mental institution. It was awful. I was battling depression for a long, long time."

Susan Olsen went from Brady Bunch cutie to cannabis farmer

As the youngest Brady daughter, Susan Olsen didn't really get into very much trouble while she was on the The Brady Bunch. Sure, the Cindy Brady actress kissed on-screen brother Mike Lookinland in the set's doghouse at nine years old, but that's merely the stuff of innocent playground crushes. Though the family sitcom was truly a product of the '70s, Cindy was a little young to try the devil's lettuce like some of her on-screen brothers (we're looking at you, Greg). Olsen only ventured into the (literally) seedy world of drugs once she was an adult.

The former child star addressed these drug dealer rumors in an interview with years later. Her answer? "I guess technically, but I was really a [marijuana] grower, my husband at the time and I grew it hydroponically," Olsen explained. "I have never really enjoyed smoking it, it makes me very paranoid. But it was my husband's idea."

To be clear: Olsen was growing cannabis years before it was legalized for recreational use in some states. Though the TV star found her foray into illicit gardening "fascinating," Olsen resented the fact that she was doing something "so illegal." It ultimately became one of the reasons she filed for divorce. 

This actress was balding by The Brady Bunch's second season

As we know from The Brady Bunch theme song, the girls have golden hair just like their mother, which is a seminal feature of the bunch's blended family. According to Mental Floss, producers of the series specifically set out to have the children's hair match their respective biological on-screen parents. They had two sets of children ready for their close up: a group of dark-haired boys and blonde girls and a group of blonde boys and dark-haired girls. Eventually, a blonde Florence Henderson was cast as the Brady matriarch and the rest was history.

Unfortunately, Susan Olsen, who was just eight years old when she first starred as the youngest Brady child, reportedly wasn't the right shade of blonde and had to bleach her hair. Anyone who's ever become a bottle blonde knows that bleaching can be painful. Not only can it melt off swaths of your hair, it's also crazy itchy — and that's not even counting the potential chemical burns. Nonetheless, producers allegedly bleached Olsen's hair so much that by the second season it was "falling out in clumps," according to Mental Floss. Thankfully, creator Sherwood Schwartz eventually stepped in and allowed the poor child star's natural hair color to shine freely.

Robert Reed tragically hid his sexuality for his entire life

Robert Reed, who was best known as patriarch Mike Brady, never publicly came out as a gay man. While he didn't explicitly discuss his sexuality with The Brady Bunch cast, you can't always hide things from those who know you best. According to the Miami Herald, Florence Henderson first discovered his sexuality while they were rehearsing a kiss scene for the pilot. Years later, Reed's on-screen kids realized they all knew their TV dad's secret while attending Maureen McCormick's wedding. "He never meant for us to know," Susan Olsen later told "He never ever had any intentions of coming out of the closet, and I think he might have been mortified to know that we knew ... None of us ever talked about it because we didn't think it was a big deal."

However, the cast fully supported Reed, even if he wasn't aware of it. Years after his 1992 death of a cancer battle which was hastened by HIV, Olsen took to Facebook to open up about her belief that "being gay killed" the on-screen father she was "blessed" to have (via HuffPost). "Because it was so taboo, he could never make peace with himself. He never allowed himself to have a genuine love," she wrote in part. "Had he been allowed ... he would have been the best husband ever and might still be alive."

Florence Henderson caught an STD amid an affair

If The Brady Bunch cast was duking it out for the title of least controversial, Florence Henderson (who played Carol Brady) would have given the late Ann B. Davis (a.k.a. Alice) a run for her money — at least until she dropped some major truth bombs in her 2011 memoir. As it turns out, Henderson wasn't quite as monogamous as her on-screen counterpart, and admittedly got crabs after cheating on her husband with the former mayor of New York City.

In Life Is Not a Stage, Henderson owned up to waking up with "little black things" crawling all over her after having an affair with John Lindsay, who was also married, in the 1960s (via the Daily Mail). She claimed she was lonely, knew it was wrong, but did it anyway. Lindsay ended up sending her flowers and an apology note after hearing he gave her the minor infestation, and we can only imagine what it said. Sorry about the crabs? My bad? "Guess I learned the hard way that crabs do not discriminate but cross over all socioeconomic strata," Henderson wrote. At least she had a sense of humor about it.

The Brady Bunch's ​Mike Lookinland became an alcoholic

Mike Lookinland, who played the youngest Brady brother Bobby, fell into a similar trap as many child stars who came before him. Following his run on The Brady Bunch, the actor became embroiled in a life of drugs and alcohol in his '20s as he tried to live out the childhood he never had. 

In a 2013 episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, the star admitted he thought alcohol was "the greatest thing in the world" the very first time he had a drink (via HuffPost). Lookinland developed a problem shortly after, and went on to explain, "When it became clear that the choice wasn't between sobering up or drinking, but the choice was actually between living or dying, then it became a simple choice for me." Lookinland previously told People that he also did drugs for a while, but managed to kick the habit when he married his college sweetheart (he studied film at the University of Utah) and found a "niche career" he deeply enjoyed (he makes custom concrete counter tops). As of this writing, the former actor has been sober for more than 20 years.

Christopher Knight dabbled with cannabis and cocaine

Christopher Knight, best known as middle brother Peter Brady, struggled to find his footing following his TV fame. When The Brady Bunch ended in 1974, the actor enrolled at UCLA. However, he lasted less than a year before Hollywood drew him back and he dropped out to do The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. According to a 1992 interview with People, the star was worried about finding work through much of the '80s, so he turned to cocaine and pot. 

Knight eventually did settle down, at least temporarily. After taking a sales-rep job that was offered by his old high school friend, the celeb ended up reprising his role for the 1990 spinoff The Bradys and played a coach in 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie alongside some other smaller TV and film projects. However, his main gig was as Visual Software Inc.'s general manager. "The only way to have salvation with this Brady Bunch thing is to leave show business," he told People

At the time of this writing, Knight's last on-screen project was reprising a small cameo as Dr. Andrews in the long-running soap The Bold and the Beautiful in 2018. He also played Grandpa Clarke in The Last Sharknado: It's About Time the year before, because, honestly, how could you turn down being a part of Z-movie history with Tara Reid?

Maureen McCormick also battled bulimia during her Brady Bunch run

Marcia was always positioned as the prettier, more popular sister — at least in Jan's opinion. In truth, Maureen McCormick struggled with her character's image. But the TV star's deep-seated issues didn't begin and end with cocaine use; she also battled bulimia for a decade.

In a 2007 interview with People, McCormick admitted that pressure from the show wasn't what actually gave her an eating disorder. Instead, it was her experience as a teenager. She first developed disordered eating habits at age 17 when she enrolled in public high school. "I was with some girls, we had a gallon of ice cream, and someone mentioned how we could eat it all and not gain weight," she said. "It seemed ideal. Once I started [purging], it was hard to stop."

Being forced to don a bathing suit for the camera in her on-screen work following The Brady Bunch only bolstered her disorder. "That made me so self-conscious," McCormick told People, explaining that every time she gained weight, she'd go right back to purging, even if she thought she had kicked the habit. Thankfully, the actress ended up recovering from bulimia: "Being able to quit drugs and finding belief in a higher power gave me the tools to end the bulimia." 

Barry Williams was accidentally high on The Brady Bunch set

Barry Williams — a.k.a. The Brady Bunch's very own Greg — admitted that the following infamous snafu wasn't intentional. In a 2014 convention panel, the actor revealed that he was hanging out with some friends who came over with "this new sort of cigarette thing" on what was supposed to be his day off (hey, it was the '70s, after all). He decided to give it a try, but was called in to re-shoot some scenes in the episode "Law and Disorder." Disorderly, it was — from the moment the rehearsal ended and the real stuff began.

"I was jumping over the hood of the car, and making up lines, and you know, getting into the swing of things, and the crew were all staring at me," Williams explained. He added, "But I was having a ball doing everything I could to be, in my mind, creative. Until the little red light went off."

Williams ended up tripping over his lines and tripping over his bicycle pump in the driveway. His part had to be partially rewritten to reduce his role in the episode, but you can still see him visibly high — with a clear glazed look in his eyes — in footage from when papa Brady brings home a boat.

The truth behind these stars' real-life Brady Bunch feud

Jan and Marcia didn't just have some weird sort of rivalry on The Brady Bunch. On-screen sisters Eve Plumb and Maureen McCormick also didn't get along in real life. According to Radar Online, their feud was reportedly so severe that a 2010 reunion was completely nixed in its wake more than 30 years after the actresses shared the screen on the famed series. So, what could possibly cause a decades-long grudge? Apparently, it was Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

In a 2008 interview with Today, McCormick claimed the pair were best friends at one point, and that she missed Plumb "very much," but things were never the same after she got carried away on a late-night show decades prior. McCormick was promoting the 1981 spinoff The Brady Brides and making light of the rumors surrounding the cast when she jokingly claimed to have kissed Plumb, who was less-than-thrilled with the lesbian rumor her joke helped ignite. "I said I fell in love with everybody," McCormick explained, adding, "I was having fun, something I was joking with, and she didn't take it that way." McCormick alleged that she's since tried to make things right with Plumb, but to no avail, as she's reportedly refused to answer her calls.