Most former child stars who reveal the sordid details of their personal lives don’t grab my interest. Exceptions have been Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge) and Maureen McCormick (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!). But I had loved, lived and breathed both The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch in their days. (Don’t judge me! I was a kid and as we all know, kids have no taste!) And now toss on the pile Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls Wilder) who has written a new book called Prairie Tale.
There were only a few shows that our whole family got together to watch. The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights was one of them. The Lawrence Welk Show was another, if Grandma was visiting. We’d all put on happy faces as if we really wanted to sit with her through the excruciatingly cheery and G rated wailing of the aging conductor and his cast of grinning warblers, stifling laughs when he gave his signature count, “Ah-one–ah and ah-two-ah!” And the third show was Little House.
My memories are vivid of rushing to the television in time to see little Half Pint tumble down the hill in the opening sequence. She was adorable. She had a cute overbite. She always overcame the taunts and stresses of being poor and unsophisticated. And then there was Pa, the gorgeous Michael Landon. Pa always did the right thing and was unquestionably faithful and supportive of his family. Pa was a good man in the truest sense. He had the patience to teach and an easy laugh that was infectious. I loved that fictional/factual family!
Now Gilbert is a Mom of 4 in her 40’s who’s telling her story of being a kid celebrity, an addict, a tabloid favourite from her days dating Rob Lowe in the 80’s and all of the other well known men she bedded and knew – those two things being mostly mutually exclusive in Hollywood.
Do I want to know my little pal Half Pint, warts and all? Yeah, I do. It’s been decades since there’s been any innocence to shatter about the secret lives of those we invite into our homes to entertain us. They’re just people. And it’s been 19 years since pancreatic cancer took Michael Landon a mere three months after it was diagnosed. I remember so well his talk show appearances after he was declared terminal. He was a brave and generous man to the end. I expect I’ll learn more about the real Michael Landon when I read Prairie Tales. I’ll get around to reading it eventually and be sure to review it when I’m done. It’s what Ma and Pa would want me to do!