Friday, August 25, 2017

Maureen McCormick: From Marcia Brady to Reality Star



"For most of my life people have expected me to be perfect. That's because I played the role of Marcia Brady—a pretty girl from a flawless family—from 1969 to 1974. She was perky, well-balanced and above all, always happy. It was an image I portrayed on screen from the age of 12 until I turned 17, but one I'd battle to overcome the rest of my life."

- Maureen McCormick
From "A Very Brady Confession," Newsweek Magazine, November 10, 2008 issue


Maureen!  Maureen!  Maureen!  What has she been up since The Brady Bunch went off the air all those years ago?  Well, for one thing, it took a long time for her to come to terms with the many expectations associated with playing Marcia Brady.  It wasn't easy, especially since she also had to battle drug addiction, depression and eating disorders.

Maureen Denise McCormick was born on August 5, 1956 in Encino, Los Angeles California, the daughter of Irene (née Beckman), a stay-at-home mother and William McCormick, a teacher.  She has three older brothers named Michael, Dennis (Denny) and Kevin.  Maureen's family, however, was nothing like the Brady family.  Her father had an affair.  Her brother, Kevin, battled heroin addiction in the early 1970s and there was also the challenge of caring for another brother, Denny, who is mentally impaired.

From an early age, Maureen enjoyed singing and dancing.  When she was six years old, she won the Baby Miss Fernando Valley contest.  This brought her to the attention of Pat Domigan of the Jack Wormser Agency, who thought she would be suited to a show business career.  In 1964, Maureen starred in a television commercial for Mattel's latest doll, "Baby Pattaburp." She followed that up with another commercial for the toy company's "Chatty Cathy" doll. Maureen also appeared in Barbie and Kool-Aid ads and provided voice-over recordings for many Mattel dolls.  At the age of seven, she was cast in the lead role  of the play Wind it Up And it Breaks at the La Jolla Playhouse, in the San Diego coastal suburb of La Jolla, California.

During the 1960s, Maureen made appearances on televisions series such as The Farmer's Daughter (1965), Bewitched (1964), (1965), in which she played the young Endora, Honey West (1965), Camp Runamuck (1965), (1966), I Dream of Jeannie (1966) and My Three Sons (1967). Below is a photo of Maureen with Barry Livingston in the 1967 episode of My Three Sons entitled "Ernie, the Bluebeard" (Season 8, Episode 10, Air Date November 11, 1967).  In the episode, she plays Sylvia Walters, one of two girls expecting Ernie Douglas (Livingston) to escort her to the school dance.




In 1969, The Brady Bunch began its run on the ABC Network and Maureen McCormick was elevated to television stardom.  Her character, Marcia, was the eldest of three daughters in a blended family.  When Marcia's mother, Carol Martin (Florence Henderson), married architect Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widower with three sons, the couple combined their two families. They raised six children, with the help of their devoted housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis).

For golden girl Marcia Brady, a traumatic experience was having to wear braces on her first date, as depicted in a 1970 episode entitled"Brace Yourself" (Season 1, Episode 20, Air Date: February 13, 1970.  Marcia's younger sister, Jan Brady (Eve Plumb), however, was the quintessential middle child.  Poor Jan felt eclipsed by her older sister.  In an episode entitled "Her Sister's Shadow" (Season 3, Episode 10, Air Date: November 19, 1971), Jan expresses her frustration about constantly being compared to Marcia and hearing about Marcia's accomplishments.  This is the episode in which Jan famously proclaims "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!"

Brady Bunch cast photo

Maureen McCormick's life became a lot more complicated than Marcia Brady's.  Maureen graduated from William Howard Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills, California.  Her teenage years were difficult ones, however.  In her autobiography, Here's the Story: Survivitng Marcia Brady and Findincg My True Voice, she wrote: "As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world. Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady . . . No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me even as I lent my voice to the chorus of Bradys singing ‘It's a Sunshine Day.’ ”

Maureen spent years battling an addiction to cocaine and Quaaludes.  She also suffered from bouts of depression and bulimia.  In her autobiography, she wrote of her addictions: "I was an example of the cliché that says an addict can't just do a little. One line was too many, one ounce was not enough. I thought of little else until I was in a position to get more."

The Brady Bunch was cancelled in 1974 after five seasons and 117 episodes.  Maureen, who was 17 years old at the time, reentered high school after having been tutored on the set of the show.  She claims her problems with bulimia began one day when she was sharing a large amount of ice cream with some girls and one of them mentioned how they could eat it all without losing weight.  After that, Maureen began purging.

Maureen says she has an addictive personality and that she started using cocaine due to the influence of a boyfriend whose friends who were drug users.  She became hooked and eventually hit rock bottom. According to her memoir, she traded sexual favours for drugs. She also messed up an audition for Raiders of the Lost Ark with Steven Spielberg because she was strung out on cocaine. During the filming of The Brady Brides, a 1981 series co-starring Eve Plumb, she disappeared for three days, getting high on cocaine and playing solitaire in her closet.

Still, Maureen is rather fatalistic about her addiction and refuses to categorize herself as a stereotypical messed-up child actor.  In at 2010 interview with Leslie Gray Streeter for in Cox Newspapers, she stated that she likely would have become an addict anyway.  She said, "It would have happened just the same.  I have a brother who was an addict.  It runs in my family, so I think it would have happened.  I grew up the the '70s, which was an experimental time, so I was an experimental kind of soul.  I would have fallen into it anyway."

In her post-Brady Bunch years, Maureen McCormick had guest spots on shows such as Happy Days (1975), Donny & Marie, The Love Boat (five episodes from 1977 to 1982), Fantasy Island (six episodes from 1978 to 1983), Vega$ (1978) and Lou Grant (1979).  However, she continued to portray her Marcia Brady character in television movies and spin-offs such as The Brady Girls Get Married  a 1981 television movie in which Marcia and Jan have a double wedding. This was followed by a 1981 sitcom spin-off, The Brady Brides, co-starring Maureen and Eve Plumb.

Maureen reprised her role as Marcia in the 1988 television movie A Very Brady Christmas. She did not appear in The Bradys, a short-lived 1990 revival of the original series, as she had just given birth to Natalie.  However, she returned a Marcia in the 1993 TV movie Bradymania: A Very Brady Special.

After an unsuccessful experience with therapy, Maureen began attending church with actor Jerry Houser, who portrayed Marcia's spouse,Wally Logan, on The Brady Bunch  TV spin-offs. It was at a church concert that Maureen met her future husband, Michael Cummings.  Michael had never watched an episode of The Brady Bunch, which Maureen described as a "total blessing" in a 2007 People magazine article by Mary Margaret.  The two wed on March 16, 1985.

"Marriage is seriously the hardest thing you can ever do," Maureen told Closer Weekly“  You just need to get through those times when they can make you so mad, or when you walk out that door, but don’t. Today I trust that man with my life!”

With Michael's support, Maureen worked diligently to overcome her addictions and the destructive elements in her life.  After her marriage, she underwent a series of stays in rehab and experimental treatments.  She began to get sober but still suffered from depression and paranoia.  Although Maureen and Michael were reluctant about relying on medication, Maureen began using antidepressants such as Prozac in the 1990s.

The couple have been married for 32 years now and have a daughter named Natalie Michelle Cummings (born May 19, 1989).  After Natalie's birth, Michael retired from acting and began a career in corporate sales.  He did, however, appear on the television series Castles.  As for Natalie, she is a yoga instructor, entrepreneur and yoga web designer.


Michael Cummings

Natalie Cummings

In 1997, Maureen appeared as Jodi in an episode of Touched by an Angel entitled "Clipped Wings"(Season 3, Episode 19, Air Date: February 16, 1997).  That same year, she starred as country music singer Barbara Mandrell in a television movie entitled Get to the Heart: The Barbara Mandrell Story.

In 2004, Maureen's mother, Irene, died of kidney cancer.  After Irene's passing, a grieving Maureen gained a considerable amount of weight. She neglected her health through lack of exercise and overeating.  Added to her grief, was the difficult decision of having to place her mentally disabled brother, Denny, in a group home.  In the People article by Mary Margaret, she describes how heartbroken she was over her brother.  "I cried every day.  I had so much guilt," she declared.  "He needs full-time care.  Now I can see he has more of a life, but everything was happening at once.  I was eating to cope."

In 2007, at the suggestion of daughter Natalie, Maureen McCormick returned to TV as a participant in a VH1 reality show, Celebrity Fitness Club.  She lost more than 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) and ended up winning the on-screen contest.  More importantly, though, Maureen was able to make a connection between her weight gain and depression. The experience gave rise to her decision to go public with her mental health and drug problems. In a 2008 interview with The Today Show, she said, "At the age of 50, I did Celebrity Fitness Club and I had to get on a scale and be weighed in front of everyone.  I felt like I was naked por the first time, there was nowhere to hide.  It was really cathartic, and I realized I could share my mistakes.  I could tell my story and not be ashamed, and show others with these same problems that they aren't alone."


Maureen in 2009   Photo Attribution: cesariojpn

In 2008, Maureen, a singer, joined the cast of a Country Music Television (CMT) reality show called Gone Country and competed for a recording contract.  That resulted in her appearance in a spin-off reality show, Outsiders Inn, in which she opened a bed and breakfast place in Newport, Tennessee.

In February of 2015, Michael Cummings told Daily Mail Australia that Maureen quit prescription drugs before heading into the jungle and  appearing on the Australian version of I'm a Celebrity . . .  Get Me Out of Here!.  Michael said it "it was another thing she felt she needed to do."  He explained that before she started taking Prozac, "Maureen struggled with a huge chemical imbalance that caused chronic depression."  

While a contestant on I'm a Celeb, Maureen ate insects, dived in fish guts and walked across a thin wire over a dam.  In March of 2015, she was evicted from the program.  Nevertheless, she said her time on the reality show was a great experience ant that she loved Australia.

In 2016, Maureen McCormick appeared on ABC's Dancing With the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev and the pair performed the Salsa to Gloria Estefan's "Tres Deseos." They were eliminated on the seventh week of the competition and finished in eighth place. Unfortunately, the dancing caused Maureen to suffer excruciating back pain.  She told EI News, "I'm getting an MRI, so that's good.  It's been one of the most painful things I've ever had happen to me, I think maybe the most. ‘Cause every time we've had a rehearsal, we've had to stop and it's like bone-to-bone, it's like a knife, just going all over . . . "


END NOTES

In 2000, Maureen McCormick played the role of Rebecca Crane on the soap opera Passions.

* In April of 2007, Maureen appeared on Dr. Phil to hash over a bitter family dispute.  She accused her brother Kevin of elder abuse and alienating their father from his other children in order to assert control over his finances.

* Maureen released her autobiography, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, in October of 2008.  It was published by HarperCollins and debuted at number four on The New York Times bestseller list and remained there for three weeks.  The memoir stirred up some controversy and Maureen appeared on a number of television talk shows to promote it.


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- Joanne

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