With an assist from the irreplaceable Mr. Frump (thanks, hon!), I recently came across this priceless interview with Christopher Knight. If you don’t know who he is, you are either much younger than I or, even worse, you actually had a life during the 1970’s. The rest of us know that Knight starred as Peter, the awkward middle son on TV’s family classic, The Brady Bunch.
Do read the interview, please; you’ll thank me later. (And you have to go through the whole slide show. I know it’s a lot of clicks, but trust me, it’s worth it!) Essentially, Knight’s main point is that he had little to no control over what he wore on the show. He was a minor; others were dressing him; the ’70’s were what they were; it wasn’t his fault.
Fair enough. But of course, the interview sent me reeling down Memory Lane. Because I, naturally, did not have a life during the 1970’s. Like many suburban children, I lived for my TV shows. I won’t say that I was obsessed……. but I did send fan mail to Brady Bunch stars. I looked forward to watching the show. I wanted to be Cindy Brady.
And, to this very day, when I think of Richard Nixon, I don’t remember that he engaged in dirty politics, lied to the nation about it, and resigned in disgrace. Oh no. What I remember about Nixon is that he was at least partially responsible for those damned Watergate hearings, which cancelled The Brady Bunch for a long, long time.
I must confess, though; I was not loyal to the Bradys. I was also seeing The Partridge Family on the side. I was a TV slut; what can I say? Hey, if one wacky TV family is good, two must be better, right?
The shows had a lot in common: Unconventional families; large numbers of good-looking, wise-cracking children; wacky hijinks; spontaneous musical numbers. And, of course, those delicious, delightful excesses of ’70’s fashion. But the deeper you look, the eerier the similarities become. Let’s begin:
Both are widows; both are blonde; both are wearing humongous collars that threaten to swallow them whole.
Both are also perky, blonde and attractive, but not too perky or attractive, if you know what I mean. In the ’70’s, there were no MILFs. The very idea of a MILF would have horrified us, no matter what ugly rumors you may have heard about Florence Henderson’s “did she or didn’t she?” affair with her TV “son” Barry Williams.
But I digress. Moving on:
The Glamor Girl:
Ah, the glossy hair, the pristine skin, the clear, vacant eyes. 1970’s female beauty at its finest! Yes, they’re lovely. But why is it that during the 1970’s — supposedly one of the defining, watershed moments in modern feminism — our heroines were so very childlike? Pure china dolls, untouchable, unknowable….. and unattainable as a beauty ideal for those of us who were unlucky enough to look up to them.
But that’s such a downer. Let’s move on:
The “Father” Figure
Sure, the similarity starts with a bad weave and a cheesy expression, but it doesn’t end there. Ruben Kincaid was the Partridge Family band’s manager: harried, sexless, providing fatherly guidance while having no inner life, let alone a love life, of his own.
Mike Brady, on the other hand, was the perfect All American father: similarly sexless, steadfastly and joylessly embodying virtue at all costs, never even intimate with his own wife, for God’s sake. We now all know he was played by an unhappy actor, struggling with both his own closeted homosexuality and the slow death of all his theatrical and artistic aspirations. This, of course, just adds to the myth.
Damn, this post was supposed to be light-hearted! Were the 1970’s really this dark and twisted? Let’s look for some relief:
The Awkward Middle Son:
Ah, much better! Aren’t they cute? Aren’t they wholesome? Look at those mischievous grins, look at those adorable freckles. We know that Christopher Knight actually had a life after The Brady Bunch: he dated figure skater Tai Babilonia, he appears to be married now, we’re told he’s had a successful career in high-tech business and marketing. And as for Danny Bonaduce, um…….. never mind. Let’s leave that one alone.
Now I’m depressed. There’s only one way to end this, of course. With gloriously awful, fabulously over-the-top, deliciously 1970’s fashion excess.
The Big, Closing Production Number
The Brady Bunch:
The Partridge Family:
Well, the Bradys clearly win. This photo captures that over-the-top, Bob Mackie, variety-show look that we all remember so well. But don’t dismiss the relevance of the Partridges’ photo. There’s something about that uniformed look — the hair, the matchy outfits, the pose. I’m pretty sure there’s a family portrait lurking in my closet that looks a little bit like that. I have some dim, murky memories of corduroy jumpers and oddly-colored velvet vests.
But discussing my 1970’s fashion nightmares is, blessedly, beyond the scope of this particular post. We don’t need to go there. After all, I’m not a celebrity! My childhood pictures don’t live forever on the Internet.
How about you? Do you remember Brady/Partridge fashions? What were you wearing at the time?