Thursday, May 31, 2012

Meeting Jan Brady

I remember Jan Brady: her middle child quandaries, and her hair. My God, as a little boy back in the 1970s, my greatest secret was that I wanted that hair: Jan Brady’s golden locks, those waist length strands of perfection.

Jan and I had more secrets. We both knew what it was like to be a middle child. We both knew the same cultural touchstones, since we were the exact same age. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to marry Jan Brady, or just be her.

I would find out. A few years ago, I made my first trip to Los Angeles, that fanciful, unreal place presided over by a giant sign built into a hillside (where else but Hollywood would a city so shamelessly call attention to itself?). As I left LAX in my rental car, I expected to check out the muscle at Venice Beach, to find the grave of Marilyn Monroe, to walk down Hollywood Boulevard, to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and soak in the surreal ambience of the city where creativity, greed, and marketing merged in an uneasy, passionate ménage a trios.

But I never expected to meet Jan Brady.

I stayed in a shameless clothing optional West Hollywood bed and breakfast for several days, and then moved on to the home of a married couple I knew. These friends were struggling actors (you might spy one of them on NYPD Blue as a distressed woman who finds a severed penis at an ATM or on Will and Grace as a wedding shower guest at Grace's apartment). The female half of this couple was interested in the small screen, the male half lusted after the stage, and he did find work…with Jan Brady.

My friend was starring in a play with Jan Brady and Charlene Tilton (of Dallas fame). I got the impression that the play wasn’t much, because I was forbidden to attend. However, around 11 o’clock, the call came. Charlene Tilton was having a cast party at her place; would I like to come?

Hell yes! I imagined Tilton’s mansion, the long line of limousines outside, dropping off Hollywood glitterati.

The thing I learned that night? Hollywood is all about façade. Charlene Tilton lived in a townhouse that looked like something even I could afford. She was making margaritas in the kitchen and was perky.

But it was Jan Brady, now known as Eve Plumb, that I itched to meet. And there she was, in the living room. Gone was the long blonde hair, in its place a mousy light brown bob that looked matronly. She was reserved, giving off a vibe that said “God help you if you mention the Brady Bunch.” We talked about what she was doing the following day: going to a flea market with her husband.

I looked longingly at the patio. Someone out there had just fired up a bowl and I didn’t even look back as I headed out into the California night, lured by the scent of sinsemilla and the prospect of meeting some chick who once played Blondie Bumstead. It doesn’t take long to lose your illusions once you come to Hollywood.
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  1. Oh dear, I hate it when that happens, having your highest expectations shattered like that must have left a pain inside you. They do say Hollywood is not so shiny once you're in the inside...

  2. Eve Plumb and Charlene Tilton? My ten-year old self is all a fluttter! We used to call Charlene Juicy Lucy. I guess no one there called her that.

  3. Wow. Jan Brady and Lucy Ewing ! Damn. When I staying with a friend in Hollywood back in the 90's, I was lucky enough to meet Lily Munster (Yvonne De Carlo) at a service station on Santa Monica Boulevard when she mistook me for one of the attendants, handed me her credit card and asked me to pump her gas. She was quite zany and very taken with my southern accent.