Robert Reed from "The Brady Bunch" Kept His Sexuality a Secret until He Passed

Jaimie-lee Prince
Sep 30, 2019
01:30 P.M.
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Robert Reed was our favorite all-American dad from the 70s, but viewers only knew half the story of the troubled actor who left us too soon.


Born to act 

Born in Highland Park, Illinois on October 19, 1932, Robert Reed was a natural at acting. He went to Northwestern University and then London where he studied dramatic arts. 

Reed developed a love for Shakespeare. So much so that he joined a group named the Shakespearewrights in the early 60s and re-enacted the famous writer's plays, including "Romeo and Juliet." 


Early TV appearances

Eventually, Reed took his talents to the small screen with 1961's "The Defenders." Most people agreed that Reed was a more serious actor despite what he would later become known for. 

He remained on the drama until 1965. In 1964, he appeared in the film "Barefoot in the Park." He also made guest appearances on other shows including "Ironsides." 


Making his way to "The Brady Bunch" 

In 1969, Reed moved to Los Angeles to film the television version of "Barefoot in the Park." When the project didn't take off, Paramount Pictures offered him the role of Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch." 

According to a report from ABC News, Reed did not believe in the show. In fact, he held television in general in low regard. However, he needed to make money. 

The children of "The Brady Bunch" Maureen McCormick, Susan Olsen, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Barry Williams and Mike Lookinland pose with a cake to celebrate the 100th episode in 1973 | Photo: Getty Images


Staying in the closet

Florence Henderson, who held the role of Reed's wife Carol Brady, says that from the very first day, she knew something was up with her pretend husband. 

Speaking to the Miami Herald, Henderson described a kiss scene that she and Reed had to do for the pilot. It wasn't hard to notice Reed's curious reaction.

She said:

"The director wanted something different. I saw Bob get very antsy and protective of himself. All of a sudden, I realized, 'My God, Bob's gay!' "

Robert Reed and Florence Henderson stand in a hotel lobby with the rest of the cast of 'The Brady Bunch' in 1969 | Photo: Getty Images


Keeping it between them

According to Henderson, it didn't take long for the whole cast and crew to know that Reed was gay, but it's something that never got out because the repercussions for the show would have been disastrous. 

Unlike today, back then society was not as receptive or encouraging of people to be anything other than straight. As such, Reed's co-workers never pressed him to talk. 


Even the youngest knew

Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady on "The Brady Bunch," also talked about her tv father's secret. Olsen, who played the youngest girl on the show, said it was her mother who told her about Reed's preference. 

"He never meant for us to know," she said, adding that he would have been "mortified" to find out they did. Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, reflected similar sentiments. 


He lived a double life

It wasn't a discussion, "period," Williams said. "I don't think he talked about it with anyone." In the same interview, from ABC, Henderson added that Reed was unhappy due to living a double life. 

He had even been married to Marilyn Rosenberg in the late 50s and had a daughter, Karen Reitz. Yet Reed never knew of the level of compassion that Henderson said she had for him as he suffered in silence.


He was outspoken

Out loud, though, Reed would regularly make his case about the show's content. He felt there were too many gag jokes and that made the show unrealistic and impractical. 

"The Brady Bunch" creator Sherwood Schwartz would often have arguments about what should be said. Ultimately, Schwartz said, Reed would do his part in front of the camera quite well. 


A tight-knit tv family

As for why he stayed on a show he was dissatisfied with, Schwartz said the cast, including Reed, became a family and were "very attached to each other."

When the show ended it's run in 1974, Reed continued to find work including on 1976's "Rich Man, Poor Man, 1977's "Roots," and 1980's "Scruples" and "Nurse and Hunter." 

Ann B. Davis leads Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen and Davis of "The Brady Bunch" in 1972 | Photo: Getty Images


His later career

He became a UCLA teacher of Shakespeare in the 90s, which Henderson claimed were his happiest times. Sadly, Reed died in 1992 from colon cancer, which the public later found out was made worse by HIV.

After his death, the public learned about Reed's sexuality, but it made little difference to his tv kids. Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady, said Reed was an even better father figure than his own dad. 


An untainted legacy

The Huffington Post reported that Knight said Reed taught him that being gay "has no measure in the ability of somebody to be a fine representation of a good human being." 

The news may have been a shock to many, but in reality, Reed's portrayal as the quintessential, responsible, kind, and loving father wasn't far off from who he really was, and that's what matters.