10 fascinating little things you never knew about Florence Henderson

From her Queen of Diamonds crown to her hypnotherapy license, she was one-of-a-kind.

As hard as it is to imagine anyone else as Carol Brady, Henderson was a late addition to the cast. The Brady Bunch may have been her first starring role on a television series, but she was hardly a newcomer. In fact, she had been popping up on the small screen for 15 years at that point — singing, hosting, acting showing off her multiple skills.

Let's take a deeper look at Florence's fascinating career.

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1. She made her TV debut alongside some major celebrities.


Henderson began her career on the stage. Her first big break came in landing the lead role in a touring production of Oklahoma! That gig led to a spot on General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, a 1954 TV special to salute the Broadway legends. You can see her here, circled, next to Rosemary Clooney at a rehearsal. Look closely and you'll find more big names — Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Mary Martin, Yul Brynner, etc.

Image: AP Photo

2. She was crowned "Queen of Diamonds" in 1955.


In 1955, the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America named Florence their "Queen of Diamonds." You can bet the tiara sparkled.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. She sold Oldsmobiles.


Those who grew up in the '70s and '80s will remember her pitching Wesson and Tang in commercials and print ads. Long before that — and before the Brady Bunch — starting circa 1958, Henderson modeled Oldsmobile cars. "The Girl Who Came to Supper," declares this '64 Olds ad. "Florence Henderson knows how to make a grand entrance." Indeed!

Image: Oldsmobile

4. She was the first woman to host The Tonight Show.


Henderson became the first woman to guest-host The Tonight Show in the months of transition between hosts Jack Paar, pictured here, and Johnny Carson in 1962. Henderson had been a frequent guest on Tonight Starring Jack Paar, as it was known then. Other temporary hosts in that transitional period included Jerry Lewis, Soupy Sales and Art Linkletter.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. She was a Today Girl on The Today Show


Henderson joined the ranks of Lee Meriwether and Barbara Walters by becoming the "Today Girl" in 1959. She was allowed to report on the weather and light news subjects, while the main reporters — who were men — were able to cover the hard-hitting news of the day.

6. She missed filming the first six episodes of The Brady Bunch.


When The Brady Bunch went into production, Henderson was stuck in Norway. She was filming a movie there, as seen here. As The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz recalled in his book Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of The Brady Bunch as Told by the Father/Son Team who Really Know: "Florence was cast in the series at the last minute and had a prior film commitment to Song of Norway. Not only did we film the first six episodes without her, she had to wear a wig until her hair was right for the show." Once Henderson wrapped in Scandinavia, she flew back to Hollywood to film her scenes.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. She and her best friend were competing for the same roles.


Henderson and Shirley Jones were more than the two leading TV moms of the early 1970s. They also happened to be BFFs. You know the bond between them was strong, as they remained close despite competing for the same roles. Paramount first offered Jones the role of Carol Brady. She turned it down, which allowed her friend to win the job. Henderson had previously lost the lead role to Jones in the 1955 film production of Oklahoma!

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Her daughter Barbara was on The Brady Bunch.


Henderson had four children with her first husband, Ira Bernstein. Their eldest daughter, Barbara, can be seen in a few episodes of The Brady Bunch. In "The Slumber Caper" she played Ruthie, seen here. She was also Peggy in "Everyone Can't Be George Washington" and Suzanne in "The Hair-Brained Scheme," the series finale.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. She was on The Love Boat a whopping 11 times.


Henderson took a cruise on The Love Boat a near-record 11 times, including a guest cabin aboard the original 1976 pilot TV movie. Not even Charo can claim that (she appeared 10 times). The only celebrity guest star to sail on The Love Boat more times was Marion Ross (14 times). However, Ross played Emily Stubing, wife of Captain Stubing, which kind of made her a smaller regular cast member. So we're okay with declaring Florence the most frequent celebrity guest star on the series.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. She was a licensed hypnotherapist.


Henderson struggled with stage fright — believe it or not — and a fear of flying until overcoming her phobias through hypnotherapy. That led her to take classes at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute and become a licensed hypnotherapist herself. She eventually married Dr. John Kappas, founder of the HMI. "I got tuned into holistic healing very young because I was swaybacked and suffered from back pain," she told Life Extension magazine in 2009. She also practiced yoga and pilates.

Image: The Everett Collection

SEE MORE: 9 fascinating facts about Ann B. Davis


She really was like a second mother. READ MORE

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Whitechapel 35 months ago
Anybody else read Florence's autobiography? She had a torturous, sad and abusive childhood. It's so wonderful she was able to overcome those obstacles and go on to protray the best ever tv mother!
RobCertSDSCascap 56 months ago
#2- Even better than this Queen Of Diamonds!
Art1957 56 months ago
How come there's no mention of "The Florence Henderson Show" which was a very enjoyable show
Moverfan 56 months ago
Does anybody else think that Queen of Diamonds photo looks more like Susan Olsen than Miss Florence? Talk about foreshadowing.
Jon 56 months ago
I've never seen any mention that Shirley Jones was up for the part of Carol Brady other than from Ms. Jones herself. I had the opportunity to ask producer Lloyd Schwartz about this possibility, and he hadn't heard about it either. It may have been a suggestion between a network exec & Ms. Jones' agent, but from what I've heard, only Joyce Builfant (who was originally cast as Carol Brady) & Florence Henderson were considered for the role.
Jon Jon 56 months ago
Sorry, typo there. Joyce Bulifant was originally cast as Carol Brady.
SalIanni 56 months ago
About #7 - Florence Henderson and Shirley Jones remained friends long after their great shows ended. I heard that they later teamed up with the other great Mom from 1970s TV, Marion Ross, of "Happy Days" to work together for charity, but I couldn't find much information about it online. Instead, here's a nice photo of all 3 making a milk ad:


OldTVfanatic 56 months ago
More info: Florence appeared on Broadway in 1956 with future rock keyboardist/singer Gary Wright of “Dream Weaver” fame.
Pacificsun 56 months ago
She definitely was one of a kind! Projected so much positive energy. Her smile was infectious! Just perfect for the Brady Bunch by giving the show a lot of life (enthusiam)!
Pacificsun 56 months ago
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Pacificsun JoeScheiss2 56 months ago
Like more than one, of the actors who "accepted" the role of being "fathers" in family sitcoms of the times, the never believed the "work" was worthy enough of their "real" talent. Robert Young (Father Knows Best) and Hugh Beaumont (Leave It To Beaver) and Robert Reed (Brady Bunch). Most of these actors were already over-talented being theater trained. Often with additional skills in writing and directing. Robert Reed was at odds (about scripts and plot) about several of those episodes. He wasn't a happy camper.
Pacificsun 56 months ago
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Wiseguy JoeScheiss2 56 months ago
I always preferred Eve Plumb over Maureen McCormick.
She was hot; too bad she was also bikini-shy!
RobCertSDSCascap Wiseguy 56 months ago
Same here. I thought she outshone Maureen, especially in the 3 part Hawaii episodes.
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