“People ask me, ‘Do you care if people buy one of your paintings because you’re Jan Brady?’ I say, ‘No, their money is still the same!’”
And with a girlish laugh, the attractive artist reveals, for a moment at least, a notable part of her past. But, refreshingly, she’ll never dwell on it.
Recently in this column, you read about Mary McDonough, who played Erin on “The Waltons” and lives locally and teaches acting to local youngsters (while still working in Hollywood). As if having one 1970s TV icon nearby wasn’t enough, McDonough told me about her friend, Eve Plumb, living in Laguna Beach. But on this day, here is Plumb in Huntington Beach, talking about art, “The Brady Bunch” and acting — but mostly art — because that’s what she does and that’s what is important to her.
In a day and age when many TV icons spend so much time managing and dealing with their past, Plumb has moved gracefully forward, letting the past be just that.
Staring thoughtfully at her mug of coffee, she speaks with the philosophical weariness of someone who has lived it.
“It’s hard to get away from it sometimes,” she said. “If you let your past define you, it can drive you crazy. My attitude is, find the good in it, work it into what you do now, and that’s enough. I don’t have a big interest in constantly living in the past.”
Of course, one could easily forgive her if she did choose to wrap herself in the characters she brought to life over the years. Already something of a veteran child actor (“I could read and cry on cue when I was very young,” she said. “That helped a lot.”) by the time she was cast as Jan Brady in 1969, post-Brady, Plumb also starred in the made-for-TV movie “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway,” “Little Women” and many other productions. She still acts when the part is right, but is far more at home with her paint, brushes and canvasses than she is with scripts and auditions.
Her still-life paintings (some of which are viewable online in a special gallery created for this column) are simple, elegant and introspective.
“People suggest I do ‘Brady Bunch’ stuff,” she chuckled, “but since I don’t think about it that much, it doesn’t really factor in my paintings. What inspires me more is my love of history, love of vintage things — and small, intimate moments from life.”
How does she compare acting versus painting?
“They both have emotional setbacks,” she said. “With the art, like acting, you set yourself up for rejection, pain — but you have to do it. That’s all part of the process.”
Plumb painted as a child and a teenager, and as she grew, the self-taught artist absorbed as much as she could while visiting museums and studying some of her favorites, including Norman Rockwell, along with a host of contemporary artists. Her work is on display at various galleries around the country, and special exhibits of her paintings are becoming more and more frequent.
If you’re wondering, Plumb is still in touch with Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) and occasionally crosses paths with her other TV siblings. But these days, she is focused on being an artist in Laguna Beach (she’s married, no kids). However, as much as she looks to the future, and as much as she grows and evolves as a painter, fond moments from the past will no doubt sneak up and tap her on the shoulder. In one moment of nostalgic reflection, Plumb smiles to herself and casually tosses out a memory or two.
“I loved working with Lassie,” she said. “And Barbara Stanwyck, Lucille Ball — so many others. If I only knew then what I was in the middle of! Those were nice days back then. When I wasn’t working, we’d visit Laguna, and it was like our vacation getaway. The farms, the fields — I loved driving down here to Orange County from Los Angeles. It had such Western charm, and the sense of romance and early soul of California — I loved it. I think Knott’s Berry Farm was my favorite — the schoolhouse, the button museum, panning for gold. I remember they had us Brady kids, when we had a singing act, perform there at Knott’s in the old John Wayne Theatre. The train goes around back, and we’d always put pennies on the track. Then Susan Olsen [who played Cindy Brady] and I would put old-fashioned bonnets on so we could go on rides in disguise and nobody would know it was us.”
And of course, she’s frequently reminded of the effect she’s had on popular culture.
“I was lucky to have a nice character, Jan Brady,” she said. “But what’s weird is how all of these people come up to me and say, ‘I grew up with you’ — yet they’re much younger than me!” She laughs once more, a TV icon who’s thankful for her other creative talents.
You can visit learn more about Plumb’s art (and buy prints) at eveplumb.tv.
I like to acknowledge local businesses whenever I can in this column. While Plumb and I sat and talked, we were drinking some great coffee, the Surf City Sunrise Blend from Poverello Coffee.
Company owner Mark Piva describes it like this: “Named after our home city of Huntington Beach, CA, our signature blend features a mélange of medium and dark roasted beans.
A great way to perk up your morning with our unique blend of Central and South American coffees. Spectacular coffee.”
“Poverello Coffee is an artisan roaster of specialty gourmet coffee beans,” Piva said. “Our main goal is to work with churches, schools and organizations that need to raise funds for projects.”
Little wonder he was named the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Member of the Year last week for co-creating a massive business-to-business scavenger hunt (along with Mark Chapman from Caught in the Moment photography). Poverello Coffee is community- and socially conscious and its coffees are wonderful. Visit www.poverellocoffee.com.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 14 books, including the new “Huntington Beach Then & Now.” You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org .