ALICE doesn't live here anymore, but she still has to clean up
"All of us wish we had an Alice," says Ann B. Davis, better known as Alice Nelson, the ever chipper, ever busy Brady housekeeper. "I wish I had an Alice." Especially because these days Davis, 66 and living in Ambridge, Pa., finds herself helping out with the chores in the three-bedroom house she shares with William Frey, an Episcopal bishop, and his wife, Barbara. Davis, who met the couple in 1974, first joined them in 1976 in Denver, where Frey had formed a sort of religious group house of 26 parishioners. When Frey became dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in 1990, Davis decided to go with the family to Ambridge. The three are dedicated to prayer and Bible study.
By the end of Brady's run—and after a 40-year showbiz career that included two Emmys for playing peppery gal Friday Schultzy on The Bob Cummings Show in the '50s—Davis realized that her life lacked the fundamental contentment of, say, Alice Nelson's. "I wasn't satisfied," she says. "I thought, 'What is it I haven't got?' " She explains the answer with a memory from her childhood in Erie, Pa.: "My mother would write letters when I was away at camp and say, 'There's an Ann-shaped space around the house. Nobody fills an Ann-shaped space except an Ann.' I'm convinced we all have a God-shaped space in us, and until we fill that space with God, we'll never know what it is to be whole."
Unlike Robert Reed, though, Davis did not consider the show hell on earth. The cast "got along beautifully," she says, and adds that as an avid knitter, "I had the boys hooking rugs and the girls doing needlepoint." Surprisingly, she says, "I basically don't do that well with children, although my sister [an identical twin, Harriet Norton, a mother of three living in Leonia, N.J.] says I'm a great aunt." Also unlike Alice, Davis hates to cook: "When it's my turn in the house, we just eat out."
Davis, never married, still acts occasionally (including a Canadian production of the comedy The Cemetery Club last year) but lives comfortably on her Screen Actors Guild pension. (She recently bought a bright red Mazda Miata.) And she takes classes—aerobics in town, theology at the seminary.
"It is obvious," she says, "I am where the Lord wants me to be."
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