You probably know Robert Reed for his role as Mike Brady, opposite Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch but there is a lot about his life that we’re pretty sure you’re completely oblivious to. Today we’ve going to blow the lid off of some of Reed’s best-kept secrets and some of the juiciest tidbits of behind-the-scenes drama that few have been privy to.
Turns out, there was a lot that Robert was trying to keep under wraps and out of the public eye but fortunately for him- not you- we’ve got the inside scoop about what his life really was like when he wasn’t playing one of the televisions most beloved patriarchs.
Who Is Robert Reed?
John Robert Rietz Jr was born on October 19, 1932, in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park. He was the only son of Helen and John Robert Rietz. His dad worked for the government and his mom was a homemaker. He moved around a lot when he was a kid. He spent some time in Navasota, Texas, and Shawnee, Oklahoma before moving to Muskogee, Oklahoma where his dad found work as a turkey farmer.
Reed joined the 4-H club when he was young but he quickly found out that he had more of an interest in acting and music than in agriculture. Once he was in High School he joined the theater club where he took to the stage to perform and sing. Around this time he also found work at a local radio station where he wrote and produced radio dramas.
After graduating from high school he enrolled at Northwestern University where he studied drama. During his college years, he performed in 8 different plays all in the leading role. After studying for a term at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London he returned back to the States to perform in summer stock renditions of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other Shakespearean staples.
Robert was quickly noticed by industry insiders and was promptly invited to join a Broadway production. In 1964 he joined the cast of Barefoot in the Park, a production written and produced by legendary playwright Neil Simon. Although he was very clearly a talented theater actor, Robert’s success would come primarily from his contributions to a very different type of platform, television.
He legally changed his name to Robert Reed when he moved to LA in the late 1950s to pursue his acting career It was his incredible talent and potent charisma that helped him rise to fame so quickly but he also had the uncanny ability to leave many pieces of his life hidden from outside observors. He preferred to keep his personal life private if at all possible – and for good reason.
Move To Television
In 1959 Reed made his first television appearance as a guest star on the popular sitcom Father Knows Best. He followed that up with guest-roles in shows like Men Into Space, Lawman, and his first film credit in 1961s Bloodlust.
That same year, he landed his first recurring lead role in The Defenders alongside E.G. Marshall. The duo made a dynamic father-and-son lawyer team. The show was a huge success. It was nominated for 22 Emmy awards but unfortunately, the ratings started to slip during its fourth and final season. The show was canceled by CBS in 1965.
For the next several years he had minor roles in shows like Family Affair, Ironside, Mannix, and Love American Style. In 1969, however, he was given the biggest role of his career when he was cast as Mike Brady on the comedy series The Brady Bunch. The show quickly became a national obsession is and is still considered a classic cult 70s series. The show aired for five seasons and was one of the most popular shows on television during its run.
Robert Reed and The Brady Bunch
Seeing as Robert played the leading role for five years, most people would probably assume that he was fairly content with being on the show, but that assertion couldn’t be farther from the truth. The show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz and Reed would constantly bump heads about the content being depicted in each episode. Robert was constantly irked about what he saw as sub-par script writing.
He wasn’t shy about how he felt either. In numerous interviews, he revealed that he and Schwartz would get into frequent arguments over his lines and some of the gags that the scripts called for. Reed would go as far as claiming that The Brady Bunch would have been an entirely different show if he didn’t vent his frustrations and request changes to be made.
Reed Was Close To His Co-Stars
Despite the fact that Sherwood and Reed never saw eye-to-eye, Robert enjoyed a close relationship with his fellow Brady co-stars. Over the years they developed a family-like bond and Reed developed several very close friendships that he would maintain until his death in 1992.
One of the most notable bonds that he formed while working on the show was with his on-screen wife, Florence Henderson. Mike Brady’s television children played by Barry Willams, Christopher Knight, Susan Olsen, Mike Lookinland, Eve Plumb, and Maureen McCormick also took fondly to him. He treated them almost as if they were his own kids.
The revealing book “The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch” disclosed more about Robert Reed than he likely expected. While his conflicts with Sherwood were relatively well known, the book also revealed the severity of Robert’s drinking problem. Apparently, he was drunk on set nearly all the time. He couldn’t put the bottle down.
Due to his alcoholism, Reed developed anger issues and would erupt at anyone and everything with no warning. There was one time that he got into a heated debate with a crew member about whether or not strawberries had a discernible scent. Another time he lost his cool over a prop that was used. There was no shortage of arguments on set when Reed was around – and he started 99% of them.
Hey, quick side note, do us a favor and give this video a like. It only takes a second, and while you’re at it, go ahead and hit the subscribe button as well.
Make sure you watch the rest of the video to find out more of Robert Reed’s deep dark secrets – some of which he took to his grave.
Reed’s Marriage to Marilyn
Even though he was prone to temperamental outbursts on many occasions, his fellow cast members still looked to him as a father-like figure. Off-set, Reed actually had his own real-life family. Robert met his wife Marilyn Rosenberger while they both still in college. They got married in 1954. Their marriage only lasted five years but during that time period, they had a baby girl whom they named Karen.
Robert’s daughter was quite close to her dad and over time she became close friends with several of the Brady Bunch cast members. She grew especially close to Susan Olsen. She even guest-starred in one episode during season 2.
Reed’s Life After The Brady Bunch
Seeing as how he skyrocketed to stardom while he was a cast member of the iconic television series, when he left the Brady Bunch behind in 1974 he continued to wow audiences and critics with his performances in Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976 and Roots in 1977.
For the next decade or so, he would continue to star in television films, series, and Brady Reunion specials. Oh yeah, and there was that baffling Brady Bunch Hour variety show in 1977 that failed to get off the ground.
In 1990 he reprised his Brady once more for the ill-fated sequel series ‘The Bradys’. The show sadly fell flat on its face. Critics and audiences alike were unamused and Reed had to look for other career opportunists to keep himself afloat.
That’s when he decided to pursue a path as a drama teacher at the University of California. Unfortunately, Reed wouldn’t have the chance to teach for very long before coming down with a terminal illness.
The Final Chapter Of Robert Reed’s Story
On May 12, 1992, Robert Reed died at the age of 59. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer just months before but according to his death report, he was also suffering from the ill effects of HIV which also played a noteworthy role in his swift passing.
It was only after he died that his sexual orientation was revealed to the public. Reed lived much of his life in a time period where homosexuality and LGBT issues were taboo. There was far less acceptence for people of non-heternormative orientations back in those days so he felt the need to keep that part of his life a secret. Reed had to live a double-life and according to Florence Henderson, he was miserable having to pretend to be someone that he wasn’t.
According to her, his suppressed homosexuality coupled with his alcoholism were perhaps the biggest contributing factors that brought out his anger-management issues.
After he passed, many of his closest friends and colleagues came forward to share their opinions about him. Florence shared that Reed was one of the most incredible friends that she ever had. He showed her what it meant to be a good father – even though their children were fictional characters on a TV show.
She also mentioned that she wasn’t the only one that knew about his double-life and the secrets that he held inside himself, but it was definitely something that no one dared bring up to Reed himself. Florence further shared that people around him were very understanding about the struggles that he faced and that they were all very compassionate towards him.
It was the network executives over at ABC that were the most uneasy about Reed’s sexual orientation. They knew that if they had an openly gay man on the cast of one of their flagship shows then their ratings and viewership would surely go down the toilet. If Reed had come out back then it surely would have meant the end of his career.
After all, The Brady Bunch aired back in the 1960s, a time when being gay wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today.
How do you think Robert Reed’s life would have been different if he had been honest and true about who he truly was? Do you think his career path would have taken a different route or do you think it would have been largely the same? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.
And before you go, make sure you show us a little support by giving us a like and subscribing to our channel if you haven’t already. Tap the bell icon to turn on notifications so you can keep up with all of our latest videos.