(NBC News) – Florence Henderson, who wrangled six unruly kids in a blended family on TV’s “The Brady Bunch,” died Thursday night. She was 82.
Kayla Pressman, Henderson’s manager, said the actress died of heart failure surrounded by family and friends in Los Angeles.
At the time of her death, Henderson was hosting a talk show, “The Florence Henderson Show,” and a cooking show, “Who’s Cooking With Florence Henderson,” on Retirement Living TV — showcasing the versatility that kept her in the public eye for decades.
She started in show business as a singer and soon moved into acting, studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She was soon starring in musicals — notably the touring production of “Oklahoma!” — and she made her Broadway debut at age 18 in the 1952 musical “Wish You Were Here.”
Beginning in 1954, Henderson gave almost 1,000 performances playing the title role in the Broadway hit “Fanny.”
TV soon took notice. Henderson was one of what were then called “Today Girls,” delivering the weather on NBC’s TODAY.
But by far her best-known role was that of Carol Brady, which aired from 1969 to 1974 in its original format and never really went away. “The Brady Bunch Hour” aired 1977, followed by “The Brady Brides” in 1981 and “The Bradys” in 1990.
Maureen McCormick, who starred as daughter Marcia Brady, called Henderson “a dear friend for so very many years” on Twitter early Friday.
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called Henderson “one of the truly great entertainers,” saying in a statement: “Florence was not only America’s favorite TV mom, but television royalty as the first Today Show Girl on NBC to her own daytime talk show and, of course, the iconic role of Mrs. Brady on ‘The Brady Bunch.'”
In her autobiography, “Life Is Not a Stage,” Henderson admitted having cheated on her first husband, Ira Bernstein, whom she married in January 1956. One of her affairs, she wrote, was with John Lindsay, the dashing mayor of New York City during the 1960s.
Henderson and Bernstein, who had four children, divorced in 1985. Henderson later married hypnotherapist John Kappas, who died in 2002.