Downtown: The Real 'Mike Brady'

ByABC News
December 15, 2000, 4:08 PM

Nov. 6 -- On screen, he was the quintessential dad.

But the man who played Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, Robert Reed, had a real life that was not as picture perfect. Reed kept it a secret that he was gay until he died in 1992. While the cause of his death was cancer, his death certificate indicated that he was also infected with HIV.

Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband, says Florence Henderson, who played his TV wife, Carol Brady. He was an unhappy person I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.

Henderson says she knew of Reeds secret, as did others on the set. But no one brought it up with Reed.

I never challenged him, says Henderson. I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering.

Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, was friends with Reed for decades, but they never discussed his sexuality.

Robert didnt want to go there, says Williams. I dont think he talked about it with anyone. I just dont think it was a discussion. Period.

While homosexuality has been more visible recently on network TV with shows like Ellen and Will & Grace, when The Brady Bunch first aired in 1968, Reeds sexuality would not have been well received. Network TV executives, for example, didnt even want to make Carol Bradys character a divorcee, so she played a widow instead. Off network television too, Reeds sexuality might have been controversial, particularly for a public that was tuning in to watch the perfect TV family dealing with issues like growing up, responsibility and trust.

It probably would have caused the demise of the show, says Williams. I think it would have hurt his career tremendously.

I dont think The Brady Bunch could have existed at that time with the public knowing that Robert Reed was gay, says Henderson. I just dont think they would have bought it.