Ann B. Davis, R.I.P.: Remembering Brady Bunch icon's years in Denver

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News feeds are full of items about actress Ann B. Davis, who died yesterday in San Antonio at age 88. But almost lost within the salutes to her role as Alice the housekeeper on the iconic sitcom The Brady Bunch is information about the time she spent doing real-life housekeeping-type work -- in Denver.

Westword never forgot Davis's Denver years, even naming her Best Unsung Denver Celebrity in our 1988 Best of Denver issue. Here's more about her highly unusual years in Colorado.

The Brady Bunch originally aired from 1969 to 1974, and while TV's original blended family has remained on the air pretty much constantly since then thanks to syndication (not to mention assorted spin-offs, reunions and the like), Davis took a very different path, moving to Denver to join a religious community headed by William C. Frey, an Episcopal bishop. Davis, a two-time Emmy winner for a part that preceded Alice (Schultzy in the '50s era series The Bob Cummings Show), described her move in a 1977 article for People magazine. Here's an excerpt:

In 1974 when she was playing summer stock in Denver she met Episcopal Bishop William C. Frey and his family, who were planning to bring together several families under one Christian roof. "I decided to sell my house in L.A. and yield control to the Lord," the unmarried Davis says. She and 19 others, aged 3 months to 69 years, now occupy a remodeled Victorian home.

Davis's life in Frey's community was far from glamorous: Bible study got underway at 6:30 a.m. However, she clearly relished the lifestyle switch, telling People, "I was tired of show business -- tired of running around with my head cut off."

Not that she divorced herself entirely from Hollywood. Although most of her belongings were being used collectively by members of the community at the time of the 1977 article, she hung on to her 914 Porsche and flew back to California for occasional acting jobs, including Brady Bunch specials and commercials for Miracle Whip.

Her stay in Denver wasn't brief. As noted in a 1994 Orlando Sentinel piece, she continued to live with Frey and his brood in Denver until the late '80s, often spending part of her days "doing laundry at a homeless shelter."

The community set-up may put some readers in mind of a religious cult, but if such claims surfaced, they're not easy to find today. Frey was a mainstream Episcopal leader who was among the finalists to become the church's top bishop in 1985. But in late 1989, he abruptly decided to move from Denver to Pennsylvania to take over what the Los Angeles Times described as a troubled seminary. Davis followed him and his wife there and stuck with the Freys when they relocated to the San Antonio area a few years later.

After Davis died at a San Antonio hospital after injuring herself in a fall, Frey spoke to CNN. "What you see on The Brady Bunch was who she was. She was a very faithful Christian person," he said.

Our condolences to Davis's friends, family, loved ones and fans. Here are three clips of vintage Alice on The Brady Bunch.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Best of Denver archive circa November 2007: "Best of Westword Winners From 1988."

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