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Posts Tagged ‘Brady Bunch’

  1. I Am So Done with You, Half-Pint!

    January 28, 2010 by Wendy

    Recently, I went on a little spree of reading autobiographies. I shouldn’t have done that.

    You see, two of them were the memoirs of two of my favorite childhood heroines: Laura Ingalls and Marcia Brady. (Don’t judge my 11-year-old intellect here. Anne Frank and Nancy Drew were also my heroines.)

    Every little girl (at least the ones I rolled with back then) wanted to be Half-Pint. She was so feisty, so adventurous and she didn’t take crap from anybody. Plus, she was all freckly cute, even with those buck teeth of hers. I wished I had brown hair and freckles. The braids I could do, but they were blond. And I only had three freckles on my nose from the sun. And I didn’t have buck teeth, but I did have big, crooked teeth with a gap.

    And Marcia. What girl growing up in the 70s didn’t want to be Marcia? What girl didn’t brush her hair in the mirror 100 times each night, just trying to get it half as shiny and straight as Marcia’s? She was like the Jennifer Aniston of our day. Even when she went through her dorky stage, with her braces and facial moles, she was still pretty and popular, despite that tearful breakdown in the mirror one day, screaming, “I’m ugly! I’m ugly! UGLY!!!” Marcia, you were never ugly, even when you got that football thrown in your face. (So there, Harvey Klinger and Doug Simpson!)

    Childhood heroines amassed during your formative years tend to follow you into adulthood, I guess. (Which is why I’m glad my girls have never really latched on to Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus.) So when the autobiographies of two of my heroines came out, of course I was going to read them.

    But I sort of wish I hadn’t. Reading these books has shattered my image of both of them, and with that, a little bit of my childhood innocence.

    First, I read Maureen McCormick’s Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.


    Of course, I knew what was coming, from all the press she did preceding its release. I knew she had a cocaine issue and a drinking problem, and of course, I knew that she and Greg had a little thing going during filming back then, having previously read Greg’s own memoirs, Growing Up Brady. (Did I mention I was a Brady Bunch fan?)

    Reading about how imperfect her family life really was, and how it (and/or her sudden but pretty shortlived fame) led her down all sorts of very un-Marcia-like paths was certainly interesting, but not a fun read by any means. I didn’t enjoy reading about my calm, cool, pretty and popular heroine lying in bed for days strung out on cocaine. I didn’t enjoy reading about her promiscuity (and not just with Greg; I wish) or her desperation to revive her sinking career. (A country singer, really Marcia?)

    It really took away a tiny part of my childhood. I know, no one is as perfect as they seem (except for the Bradys), but I think some of those childhood fantasies should remain as just that. You start reading biographies and you’re messing with your memories that should maybe be left innocent and intact.

    After I got over that hot mess, I delved into Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale:


    This one was even worse for me, because when I was younger, when I wasn’t busy trying to be Nancy Drew, I wanted to be like Laura.

    But after reading her book, I couldn’t stand her. She came across as so full of herself and seemed to think she was a bigger star than she really was. After Little House, I don’t recall her ever starring in anything but a bunch of Lifetime movies (which I don’t watch). I know from reading her book that she did go on to do a lot of movies, just not a lot that I (or anyone but the Lifetime crowd) ever saw. (Except for the Helen Keller movie that was supposed to have re-energized her career.)

    But you would think she were of Julia Roberts or Meryl Streep caliber by the way she dropped celebrity names throughout the book, and on a first-name basis like the reader was supposed to know who she meant: “Marty” (Martin Sheen), “Tom” (Cruise), “George” (Clooney, duh) and, get this, “Bill” (Clinton)!

    Sure, she was well-connected, as her father was in show business with the big-time names of that generation. But I don’t think she ever got as famous as she wanted, or as famous as the people she surrounded herself with were (especially the “Brat Pack” of the ’80s, including Rob Lowe), and she came across as jealous, resentful and even vengeful at times.

    I admit, it was interesting to read about her complicated years-long relationship with Rob Lowe, seeing as I had the biggest crush on him all through high school (who didn’t?) and I still have a little crush on him as Governor McCallister on one of my favorite shows, Brothers and Sisters. It was sad to read about how he dumped her just before their wedding, and about how she had a miscarriage with their baby.

    But I would’ve liked to read more about her days on Little House on the Prairie. I did learn that she and Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson) didn’t get along, but that she was BFFs with Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Mary always did seem like a stuck-up crab, even before she went blind. And Nellie, well, she cracked me up.  Strangely, she barely even mentioned Ma Ingalls.


    Mary Ingalls.


    Nellie Oleson.

    Obviously, one person she did talk about a lot throughout the book was Michael Landon, my beloved Pa Ingalls. Just look at that man:


    To me, he embodied everything a man should be. And I’m so thankful I married a man like him. A man who can be sensitive but who can also fix and build things, oh, and fight off the Injuns once in a while. I often say that BK is my “Pa Ingalls.” (I think my sisters just threw up a little.)

    But then Laura—I mean, Melissa—had to ruin that, too.

    In her book, she refers countlessly to his drinking ways, his volatile temper, his signature scent of cigarette smoke and alcohol.

    Yuck. Thanks a lot, Half-Pint. I’m sure he and his family appreciate that portrait you painted of him as he lies in his grave.

    R.I.P., Pa.

    Of course, I didn’t expect this book to be all about life on the Little House set. But I also didn’t expect it to be bragging proudly about her promiscuity. (She was a bigger skank than Marcia, by the way. Those buck teeth sure didn’t stop her from getting any action.)

    I don’t mean to be so judgmental of her; I just don’t like her anymore after reading this book. It’s not because of the things she did. Obviously, everyone makes mistakes and it’s especially difficult when it’s done publicly. Some might say  say she is brave to tell her story, sordid parts and all. (Maybe, but she’s also getting paid a lot to tell it.) What I found off-putting was her snarky attitude and her overabundance of self-esteem that permeates the book.

    Making it even worse was her use of foul language throughout the book. It’s one thing if you talk that way, but entirely another to write that way. It’s not like it’s something that accidentally slips or is used without thinking. When you’re writing a book, obviously every word is more carefully thought out and then goes through multiple editors before it’s published. (Unlike blog writing, by the way.) I mean come on, using the “F” word as an adjective every few pages? She’s an actress; she is supposed to be more creative than that.

    Plus, Half-Pint isn’t supposed to be dropping F-bombs.

    Now if Chelsea Handler wants to use it in her books (yes, I’ve read a couple, so what, I love her, she’s funny) , that’s another thing. It’s part of her shtick.

    Now that my childhood innocence has been ripped away, I think I’ll take a break from reading autobiographies. Well, maybe after I read Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. I don’t think reading her book is  going to shatter any images of her for me. Sadly, she’s already done a pretty good job of that herself. Or maybe it’s the media that has. We’ll see after I read the book.

    And then I’m done with autobiographies for a while, at least until a good one comes out. (But at the moment, I can’t think of anyone whose I would be interested in reading.) You certainly won’t catch me reading Mackenzie Phillips’ recent release (too gross!), nor her co-star Valerie Bertinelli’s.

    I’m pretty sure even Screech from Saved by the Bell has written an autobiography. I can’t imagine anyone would care much to read his, even when his show was in its fluorescent-clothes-and-mall-bangs heyday.

    Now I promise, that was the first and last time Screech will ever be mentioned on this blog.

  2. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

    December 3, 2009 by Wendy

    Yesterday, Twin A and Twin B found out they both placed in their school’s science fair. This was big news in our house, because as anyone whose kids have participated in a science fair knows, science fair takes over your whole life. Grandparents, aunts and uncles anxiously awaited the results along with us, probably because they were all sick of hearing us talk about it.

    red hot

    Twin A's project on heat absorption.


    Twin B's project on springs.

    Science fair has always been a big part of our lives since the girls were in second grade. I guess this is what happens when there’s a rocket scientist in the house. And it ain’t me. The science gene certainly didn’t come from my pool—I like biology, but that’s it, and only sort of. But the twins get into it, and have actually won and gone on to compete in the district science fair three years in a row, twice even winning gold medals.

    Last year was the first time they didn’t place at all for their project on paper-towel absorbency, which was hard to believe after watching them meticulously soak and weigh a Costco pack of paper towels over the course of an entire weekend. Really, an entire weekend. And really, an entire Costco pack.

    To be fair, Twin A was preoccupied with studying for the regional spelling bee, which happened to be on the same day as the science fair, so it was a pretty stressful week for all, to say the least.

    They were totally fine with their first-time science fair loss, but Mr. BK, well, that was a different story. He felt that he let them down. I found myself consoling him with platitudes like, ”It’s OK, they can’t win every time; you did the best you could and that’s what matters.” (Of course, secretly thinking, “Well maybe if you guys had listened to one of my ideas,” but whatever.) Meanwhile, the girls were over it about 30 seconds after seeing their ribbon-free board.

    In middle school, the rules of the science fair change: no group projects (they had always shared their project), and best of all (for us!), it had to be done entirely at school. Parent involvement was limited to financing the projects, providing the necessary supplies, and allowing for Internet time. We were even given specific guidelines on what was and was not “appropriate” to discuss at home.

    Well, OK, we get the point. Parents, pony up the cash and mind your own beeswax.

    So that’s what we did. And they won. Twin A in first place, Twin B in fourth. We couldn’t be prouder of them. But…

    Along with the coolness of having and being twins—especially same-gender twins—comes a little thing called competition. I’ve always said a little competition is good, and it has proved to be so for them. But…

    You know how Jan Brady was always feeling in the shadow of the ever-popular, ever-successful older sister Marcia? (Note: You’ll find many of my posts reference The Brady Bunch. The Bradys are and always have been a huge part of our daily lives. The Brady Bunch theme song is my ringtone, and “Sunshine Day” is my sister’s special ringtone when she calls me.) So anyway, it’s not that Twin B is the underdog; not at all. Both girls have consistently gotten the exact same grades on their report cards since kindergarten, both tested into the gifted program in elementary school, and both are equally outgoing and ambitious. But somehow, some way, Twin A always seems to squeak ahead in every competition and contest, while Twin B always finds herself in third place, no matter what, whether it’s a Halloween costume contest (twice), the spelling bee (three times) and a storytelling contest at Barnes & Noble. It really is uncanny.

    Jan, I mean Twin B, handles all this surprisingly well, although last year in exasperation, she did tell me, “I’m beginning to really dislike the number three.” (Although she didn’t say it in the breathy, whiny tone that Jan would.)

    A few days after she said that, the jerseys for her basketball team were handed out, and you can guess what number she got. Yep, three. Two seasons in a row. Luckily, Marcia, I mean Twin A, does not like basketball. She’s too busy winning her blue ribbons in gymnastics. (Remember all those trophies on Marcia’s dresser?)

    So it should be understandable why, for days after the projects were judged, there was much anticipation between them over not only if they’d place, but who would place where if they did. Both really just wanted to place, because that would mean they  would be exempt from the major research project in the spring. That was a huge incentive for them.

    They discussed at length every scenario, and both agreed that it would be best if neither of them placed at all than if one did and one didn’t. Talk of places never even came up. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if they’d place at all, as we had seen a lot of awesome projects on the day parents were invited to the fair.

    So yesterday when I picked them up from school, Twin B got in the car with the biggest smile on her face and blurted out,  ”I don’t have to do the research project next semester!”

    “Did you place?” I nearly screamed.

    “I got fourth place!” she said, just as excited as I was.

    There, in the pickup line, I got a huge lump in my throat and tried not to cry. I would’ve turned around to hug her, but I didn’t want to crash into the car in front of me. After much congratulations, I said, “Hey! You didn’t get third place!”

    “I know! I’m so happy!” she exclaimed.

    And then came the inevitable out of my mouth, and with a slight wince: “How did A do?”

    “Better, but I think she’d want to tell you.” Uh-oh, I admit I thought.

    Just then, I saw Twin A come bounding toward the car, big smile on her face.

    “I got first place!” she shouted, barely closing the door behind her.

    The lump in my throat came back, but this time, I had to try not laugh, not cry.

    “Are you serious?” was all I could muster. Of course, I was thrilled for her and congratulated her, but I was a little surprised since both BK and I said many times over the past few weeks that we thought B’s project was more complicated and thought she put a bit more effort into it. Not that A didn’t deserve it, I was just surprised. Happy, but surprised.

    I gave them my phone so they could share the news with their father, whom I knew would have the exact same reaction as I did. Twin B broke her news first, then handed the phone over to A so that she could tell hers. A glance in the rear-view mirror assured me that she really was OK with it. No fighting back tears, just a genuine shiny smile. Phew!

    And then as soon as we got home, and this is going to sound really bad unless you understand the dynamics of our unique situation, I texted my sisters and sister-in-law the following: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. That’s all I’m saying. Call later for details.”

    Immediately, I got a text back from one of my sisters. All it said was, “NO!”

    Next came the text from my sister-in-law: “So I take it A won again?”

    This is just the way it is. It’s not that no one is happy for and extremely proud of Twin A, and it’s not to take anything away from her; she certainly deserves every one of her wins. It’s just that, well, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

    Later when I got a moment alone with Twin B, I again told her how proud of her I was, and asked if it bothered her that her sister placed first.

    “Not at all,” she said. “I’m just glad I placed. I would’ve been happy with an Honorable Mention, just as long as I didn’t have to that research project next semester.” And I believed her, especially when I heard them sharing the news over the phone throughout the evening with family members. She was just as excited saying “fourth place” as she would’ve been saying “first.” In fact, my mom thought she did say “first”  and had to be corrected. (Yikes.)

    Later, Twin A told me that when the winners were announced over the loudspeaker that morning, she didn’t think she heard right. And then her very next thought was that she wanted to hear her sister’s name.

    So, yes, they’re competitive, but they’re sweet about it, and they truly do want the best for each other. But it would be nice for Jan to capture a first place sometime.

    There’s always that upcoming essay contest…

    Wait a minute. I just remembered: Didn’t Marcia win that “Father of the Year” essay contest?

    Uh, buoy. Stay tuned…