Florence Henderson is still the quintessential American woman. Almost 20 years after starring as the perfect mom, Carol Brady, on "The Brady Bunch," she's still at it -- wife, mother, performer, author, TV and video star. And she's coming to Baltimore.
Monday she will bring her Christmas concert to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall along with co-star, Pat Boone. Their show, entitled "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," has been described as a "thrilling holiday feast for the entire family."
Henderson describes it as "more than a Christmas show." She will be performing a variety of music including a medley from the current Broadway sensation "The Phantom of the Opera," "My Favorite Things" -- with a special holiday flavor, and her own favorite, a medley of country-Western songs. The evening closes with a traditional Christmas finale in which she will be joined by Boone and a local chorus singing the world's most loved Christmas carols.
The local chorus hasn't been chosen yet, according to Henderson, but she knows it will be a pleasure working with them. "It always has been," she says, "and its been very successful for the audience too."
She has been touring "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" since the end of November, starting in the Midwest. After Baltimore and other stops on the East Coast, Henderson will take the show south and head for Florida. The tour wraps up on Dec. 22, just in time to return home for the holidays and join her husband and four children, all grown-up of course.
Henderson says the rigors of the tour haven't affected her yet. "This is the first time I've done something like this and I'm surprised by how well I feel." She attributes her energy to a strictly observed regimen of exercise and relaxation.
"I've learned how to pace myself," she says, "and truthfully, I've been picking up momentum as I go." She works out and then vocalises to ensure that both her body and her voice will be in shape for that evening's performance. She adds, "The performance is the top priority. I gear my energy to the audience and try to give a good show."
Henderson, a firm believer in the success her own health routine has brought her, wants to share it with others. She has just released a fitness video "Looking Great! Feeling Great!" She says the video is filled with quick and effective tips on exercise and stress reduction. It also contains her own make-up secrets and other stylish and inexpensive techniques for personal grooming. "No one needs a cute little leotard to watch my video," she says.
The other product Henderson has just released is the second volume of her successful cookbook, "A Little Cookin', A Little Talkin', and A Whole Lotta' Fun." The recipes are inspired by those on her popular cooking show "Country Cooking" on the Nashville Network. The book also has personal reminisces and hilarious anecdotes from the show's featured guest cooks and Henderson herself.
In spite of all the success Henderson has had with these other ventures, it still can be hard to escape the image of the perky and perfect mother. "I loved playing Carol Brady. She was a major part of my life. I'm proud that the show has become part of our culture," she says. "But I am not a mother figure. Audiences accept me for who I am. I just want to be a good entertainer."
Lowering her voice, Henderson admits, "In fact, there are spots in my concert where I even get a bit racy! Just last week I played a murderer on 'Murder, She Wrote.'" She then confides, "You can ask my own children. They say that I always yelled more at them then I ever did at the Brady kids."