Vintage Hunk: Robert Reed

By: Mike McCrann

Robert Reed will always be remembered as Mike Brady from the famous series The Brady Bunch. The fact that Reed hated the series and was also a closeted gay man were two facts most fans were totally unaware of. While most people tuned in to see Florence Henderson and all those kids, I used to watch for Robert Reed. Earlier this sexy man had been in the highly regarded series The Defenders with E. G. Marshall.

Robert Reed was born John Robert Rietz, Jr. in Chicago in 1932. Growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, Reed caught the acting bug and eventually went to Northwestern University. Reed later studied in London at the equally famous RADA. An early appearance on the iconic series Father Knows Best led to his co-starring role in The Defenders. This critically acclaimed legal series ran four years.

After appearing in the Julie Andrews flop musical Star, Reed landed his most famous role as Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch. This story of a man and woman who each have children and marry is probably one of the most iconic of all TV sitcoms. The fact that it was pretty treacle only makes it more fun now to watch in re-run heaven. But Robert Reed hated the silly antics and would present series creator Sherwood (who did not attend Reed's funeral) with detailed notes on how to improve things. But trying to bring Shakespearean touches to a main stream Hollywood sitcom was not going to fly. By all accounts Robert Reed got along famously with his co-star Florence Henderson and the various children on the show.

After The Brady Bunch went off the air, Reed worked on numerous TV shows and was Emmy nominated 3 times in 1976-77 for the popular miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots and Medical Center. Robert Reed was married for 5 years in the 50s and had a daughter but he was a gay man hiding his "secret" - fearing it would destroy his career. Co-stars Florence Henderson and Brady Bunch son Barry Williams were aware of Reed's sexual status and were totally supportive.

Robert Reed died 1992. He was only 59 years old. Although he had contracted the HIV virus his death was due to colon cancer but the press had a field day splashing the story of "Robert Reed dies of AIDS" throughout the press.

Robert Reed was a handsome man who was a really fine actor when given the material. Although he may have resented the sitcom nonsense of The Brady Bunch, the constant repeat shows of this time capsule series let gay audiences see this really sexy man at the peak of his physical beauty. In a perfect world, Reed could have been lucky like Neil Patrick Harris - openly out and playing a straight man on TV. But 40 years ago things were very different. Robert Reed - like many actors of his generation - paid the price of career survival by having to hide their sexual orientation.