Maureen McCormick was introduced to America as the eldest golden child in the hit 1970s TV series, The Brady Bunch. But behind the happy on screen family, Maureen harbored a dark inner world. Now, she’s finally opening up about how fame nearly consumed her.
The Brady Legacy
In the years following her turn as Marcia Brady, McCormick’s fame allowed her inner turmoil to take over her life, sending her on a downward spiral that spelled the end of her budding acting career.
Brother Black Sheep
In 2010, Maureen appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil in an attempt to heal her broken family. She alleged on air that her middle brother, Kevin, who had always been trouble, had turned their father, to whom Maureen had once been close, against her. On air she said, “Kevin isolated him totally from me, totally took him away. My family is in a huge crisis. We can’t see our father any more. We have no contact with him. He wants nothing to do with us.”
The Nightmare Begins
Maureen was only 12 years old when she was cast as the eldest Brady daughter Marcia. While her on screen personality was pretty, popular, and beloved, for Maureen, the role ended up being anything but the blessing she thought it would be. Her character’s seeming perfection only amplified the deep-rooted insecurities Maureen felt inside. Upon the release of her autobiography in 2010, she wrote about starting The Brady Bunch, saying, “I thought my life was perfect, little did I know the nightmare was about to begin.”
A Volatile Father
Maureen wanted to pretend her childhood was idyllic, but the older she got, the more fiercely her parents fought with one another. It was during one of their nastiest blowouts that Maureen’s father revealed her mother’s dark family secrets, in front of the impressionable Maureen. Her father only revealed her mother’s and grandmother’s illness in order to humiliate his wife in front of their daughter. Maureen never recovered from the shock, being embarrassed to be around her infected mother in public.
The Sibling Rivalry Continues
While Maureen spent her early teenage years playing the often envied Marcia Brady, it was really Maureen who was envious of Eve Plumb, who played younger sister Jan. The rivalry between them has persisted for more than 40 years, with tensions running so high that they supposedly cancelled a Brady Bunch cast reunion because the two women didn’t want to be around each other. Their continuing estrangement is due in part to Eve’s resentment of allegations Maureen made about their off screen relationship in the 70s.
Fears Of Disease
McCormick spent much of her childhood and Brady Bunch years living in fear of contracting the disease that took her grandmother’s life. Her grandmother contracted syphilis from Maureen’s grandfather following his return from World War I, where he’d contracted the disease. Her grandmother tragically died from the disease in a psychiatric hospital, but not before passing it along to Maureen’s mother in utero. Maureen lived with a constant fear of contracting the virus, which became magnified when she started working on The Brady Bunch.
Hallucinating In LA
In 2008, Maureen shared a harrowing experience from the early 80s, saying she was once thrown to the ground while walking down the street in Los Angeles. As she was kneeling on the ground, she said she felt her arms raise to the sky, as a vision of Jesus reached out towards her. She wrote, “People stared and whispered, “Isn’t that Marcia Brady?” I didn’t care.” The hallucination was a wake up call to the troubled starlet to get her life back on track.
Her Father’s Accusations
Maureen enlisted Dr. Phil in order to help heal her family and reestablish a relationship with him, but during their first meeting in over two years, Maureen was seen being berated by him on air. Her father shot down every attempt she made to open up conversation, finally telling her, “You are a sociopathic liar. You’ve done nothing but lie, lie, lie. And that’s it. Goodbye!” However, Maureen wasn’t going to give up on him so easily.
Fighting Her Body
As Maureen grew older in front of the cameras, she struggled to accept her changing body, especially in light of feeling that co-star Eve Plumb had a better figure. Anytime Maureen had a scene where Marcia needed to be in a bathing suit or other tight fitting clothing, she would attempt to keep her midsection hidden by consistently holding other objects, like towels or bags, in front of her. Maureen’s physical insecurities would not be abated, until she started taking more drastic measures.
All About Eve
Upon the release of her tell-all autobiography, Maureen’s books made waves not least for the secrets she shared from the set of The Brady Bunch. Among the allegations, Maureen shared that she’d had an affair at some point with her on screen sister, Eve Plumb. Plumb was not happy about the allegations, claiming the rumors are false. However, according to several slightly differing accounts by Maureen, the ladies only shared a kiss or two after Maureen developed a crush on Eve.
In Her Genes
Maureen’s deep rooted fear of becoming infected with syphilis like her mother and grandmother wasn’t so far off base, as she seemed to have inherited some of their struggles with mental illness from them. Though much of her maternal family’s mental illness was related to their disease, which Maureen’s was not, Maureen was still aware that her mother had undergone a horrific round of electroshock therapy in the aftermath of a nervous breakdown. With such intense anxiety, Maureen was on a similar track.
From Brady To Party
After production on The Brady Bunch wrapped, Maureen struggled to find her place in Hollywood. She already had a number of demons consuming her at only 17 years old, and was poised to fall victim even more. Though she had ambitions about continuing to grow her career as an actress, she ended up derailing it all as she became ever more involved in the rock and roll partying lifestyle ripping its way through Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Even as Maureen’s on screen family life remained idyllic, her home life was far from it, but Maureen didn’t know how to find an outlet for her pent up sadness. She revealed that when she finally had a scene on the where Marcia needed to cry, it was the first time she had grieved about her tumultuous home life. She later wrote, “Little did anyone know it felt so good to cry.” Maureen used Marcia has her only emotional outlet throughout her teens.
The First Falling Out
As Maureen was in the midst of her struggles with substances, it began to take its toll on her relationship with her father. In a recent interview, McCormick spoke about just how bad things eventually got, though this was only the beginning of their long standing rift. “I remember my father saying that he was going to turn me into the police… I wish I could take back all the pain that I caused them,” she said.
A Bad Influence
In a 2008 excerpt from her upcoming book, Maureen shared that though the seeds of her struggles with extreme partying, it was having to go back to high school after five years on The Brady Bunch that got her bad habits started. Her friends began by offering her substances to keep her awake while she was trying to study, something Maureen said she wasn’t interested in, but she quickly lost control, being consumed by the desire for more thrills.
Dr. Phil Pushes Confrontation
In the course of Maureen’s 2010 appearance on Dr. Phil, he pushed the actress into a confrontation with her estranged brother and father, who Maureen claimed were deeply paranoid, as they had been continuously on the run as she tried to get in touch with them to salvage the relationships. The controversial talk show host pushed Maureen into chasing after the pair, eventually leading to a parking lot confrontation, during which they hurled horrible accusations at Maureen. Dr. Phil praised her restrained responses.
Marcia And Greg
Though rumors had floated around about the teen stars’ off screen romance since the release of Barry Williams’s autobiography in 1992, McCormick confirmed the tryst in her own autobiography, nearly 20 years later. She shared that their relationship began when they were filming on location for an episode in Hawaii, and continued following their return to California. While McCormick also shared that she’d hoped to become more intimate with him at some point, the romance never quite got off the ground.
Her Father’s Secret
In the midst of the blow out that would come to define Maureen’s home life while she was starring in The Brady Bunch, her father not only aired out her mother’s dirty laundry, but also had a revelation of his own. He was having an affair with another woman, details about her parents that Maureen did not need to be aware of at such an impressionable age. The revelation just dampened Maureen’s spirits as she struggled to portray Marcia Brady’s happy life.
Struggle For Her Health
Maureen’s self consciousness about her body image caused her to take ever more drastic measures to remain thin. She soon turned to bulimia as an extreme method for maintaining her weight at the expense of her health. She wrote, “One day a friend showed me what it was, how to do it and how to hide it and I did it. And, I kept it hidden from friends and family for years.” It was only becoming pregnant with her daughter that eventually helped her.
Blowing It With Steve
In another incident that Maureen destroyed due to her dependencies, Florence Henderson, her on-screen mother, scored the younger actress a date with the comedian Steve Martin. Martin had passed along his interest through his friend, Chevy Chase, but Maureen showed up to their date rather out of sorts. She said she wasn’t fully engaged with him and ended up not laughing at his jokes. He never ended up speaking to her again, something Maureen later regretted.
So Long Spielberg
Maureen continued to fumble her acting career in favor of partying, which culminated in a disastrous audition for Steven Spielberg when he was casting Raiders of the Lost Ark. When McCormick arrived for the audition, she looked as if she hadn’t slept in days, and very likely hadn’t. She said while she was there she was very “messed up” and that the best case scenario was that Spielberg simply thought she was sick, as he only offered her an orange, and not a role.
Following Maureen’s confrontation with her father and brother Kevin on Dr. Phil, Maureen moved to take legal action against her brother, but they beat her to it, serving her with a restraining order against her father. Maureen was completely in shock, as the whole encounter had been an attempt to heal the family, but she was not ready to back down. McCormick filed a counter petition in court, and the judge ruled in her favor on the grounds that there was a lack of evidence.
Being Honest With Natalie
In an exclusive interview with People in 2008, Maureen revealed that between the ages of 18 and 20 she had terminated more than one unexpected pregnancy. She also opened up about sharing this history with her daughter Natalie, who was then 19 years old. Though her daughter was surprised by her mom’s revelations, she was also supportive of Maureen working to be more open about the difficulties she experienced as a child star who grew up in the Hollywood spotlight.
There were a number of times when Maureen could have said that she was at rock bottom, but one of her worst experiences happened as she was trying to get stable, following her marriage to her husband, Michael Cummings. She recalled one incident when she was so severely depressed she took off all of her clothes and walked out onto the balcony and threatened to jump. Her husband managed to pull her back from the edge. McCormick credits him for helping to turning her life around.
What She Did For Love
It took McCormick a long time to break out of her bad habits. In her autobiography, she is candid about the lengths she would go to in order to continue her partying, even trading intimacy for the fun that was slowly destroying her life on more than one occasion. There was another occasion where she allowed someone to film her without clothes on in order to get her fun. She tried a number of times to heal herself, but kept relapsing.
At Her Daughter’s Urging
Maureen managed to keep her past demons well hidden from her daughter, but as she grew older, Natalie was still concerned for her mom’s health, and eventually suggested that Maureen participate in a reality show titled, Celebrity Fit Club. Maureen wanted to lose some weight she had gained in middle age, but in a healthy way. She shared that the experience was difficult for her, nearly triggering a relapse in her bulimia, but McCormick was determined to stay focused on health for her daughter’s sake.
Losing Her Mom
Maureen’s mother’s death roughly a decade ago had tragic consequences the stretched beyond mere loss for Maureen. In the years following the loss, Maureen’s ever troublesome brother Kevin took it as an opportunity to split up the family, brainwashing McCormick’s father, even as he took ever more control of the elder McCormick’s life. Until their televised confrontation two and a half years later, Maureen had almost no contact with her father, and it was all catalyzed by her mother’s death.
When Maureen became pregnant with her only daughter, Natalie Michelle, she was determined to leave the worst of her bad habits behind. Some demons, however, aren’t so easy to shake. Following Natalie’s birth, McCormick became severely depressed, and it was only years later that she realized she had suffered from post-partum depression. It would take several more years of prompting from her husband to get help. Maureen eventually stabilized in the late 90s through a combination of therapy and medication.
Michael Makes Her Choose
Maureen says she would never have overcome the demons that arose during her time on The Brady Bunch if it weren’t for her steadfast husband, Michael. She wrote that though she had cut back enormously on her partying by the time they met, he finally gave her an ultimatum. He said to her,”You know, it’s either me or that, take it or I’m out of here. And I realized that I didn’t want to lose one of the greatest things I had ever found.”
Lucky To Be Alive
McCormick has recently started opening up about her past struggles in an effort to help others dealing with the same demons. At a recent speech she shared, “I am so lucky to be here, alive, and I feel like my mind is still really good. I feel very very lucky that I came out of it.” She also noted, “If you’re an addictive personality, it’s a disease and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” in hope that there will be less stigma on seeking help.