A Valentine’s baby who stole the hearts of the American public, Miss Florence Henderson, proudly celebrated her 80th birthday. The world famous spokeswoman, Broadway and television star, found her roots and foundation in Daytime television.
In 1958, the great CBS newsman, Edward R Morrow said, “The Television medium has so much potential if used properly.” He was, of course, referring to the use of this revolutionary new idea called television to inform and educate as well as entertain.
“Today, television is not as exciting as it used to be, because everything was live then and you HAD to deliver,” says Ms. Henderson, “you either sank or swam without a safety net. It was very challenging and very educational. It is such a fantastic medium and I’ve seen so many changes in it over the years.”
“Prior to becoming Mrs. Brady, I had worked on television during the 1950s, emerging as the ‘Today Girl’ on NBC’s “Today” in 1959, and through out the early 1960s. I got to host and co-host for several shows, including TNN’s “Country Kitchen,” Faith & Values Network’s “Our Generations” with my daughter Barbara and NBC’s “Later Today,” opposite Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake. To date I think I have tackled just about every aspect of the industry from the Broadway stage to news broadcasts and singing with the Muppets to reality TV.”
Being the first woman to host the “Tonight Show” was a huge event for Florence but seemed like a natural progression in her career at the time. “It required a lot of homework,” recalls Florence, “one of the most challenging aspects of hosting the show at this important time was that there was a musician’s strike. So, instead of a monologue, I did an eleven-minute Vincent Youman’s melody with my four back up singers sung a cappella. It was a huge success!” “I suppose the best part of doing the “Today Show” on NBC, or “The Florence Henderson Show” now on the Retirement Living Network is the incredible guests – Carol Burnett, Judge Judy, Carl Reiner and so many others. I welcome conversations with those who have achieved success and sustained it. I love to know how they did it and remained a decent human being at the same time. The legends in our business could certainly teach the young “stars” of today about dedication to their craft, loyalty, responsibility and a little humility. I feel the over 50 population is sorely neglected in life and on TV. We are the fastest growing segment of the population and we are under appreciated, underestimated, underserved and we are the ones with the most money. Listen up advertisers.”
Some of her most cherished memories revolve around her four wonderful children and four grandchildren and, of course, getting to work with some of the “Greats” in show business. “And in this industry, the people you work with often become extensions of your own family. In this fast paced world, it is so easy to lose touch with family, let alone your friends and colleagues. It is so important to keep up communication between the generations. We have so much experience to share with them and, yes, they have things they can teach us … in fact, I still write to my very first teacher, in Indiana, Sr. Gemma.”
Attached images courtesy of FHB Productions
1.) Florence Henderson is welcomed as the Today Show girl in 1959
2.) Florence welcomes friend, Carol Burnett, to The Florence Henderson Show
3.) Florence receives her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February, 2003