After the tragically young death of Little House on the Prairie icon Michael Landon, one of his oldest friends and longest-running producers stepped up to orchestrate his entire funeral.
On July 1, 1991, the entertainment world changed forever. At 54-years-old, Michael Landon died mere months after being diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. Family, friends, and fans the world over couldn’t believe how swiftly the prolific television icon left this world.
Landon died in Malibu, California, and was interred in a private family mausoleum at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, CA nearby. Before this could take place, however, someone had to step forth and organize what was surely to be an immense undertaking – Landon’s funeral.
In this 2018 interview for the Television Academy Foundation, the icon’s longtime producer for both Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie, Kent McCray, says he “got to know Michael better” on the latter show. McCray would pass later in 2018 himself after this interview. At the time, however, he lauded his late friend as a “genius” whom he “loved working with.”
All of this considered, McCray didn’t hesitate when it came time to plan Landon’s exit himself.
“I planned the entire service,” McCray says within, tears in his eyes. “I had to decide who could sit inside… Who could sit outside,” he recalls. “Some people were a little upset about sitting outside, [but] they had speakers.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’s Michael Landon Had Presidential Mourners at his Funeral
Then, something wildly unexpected happened.
“And at the last moment, Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan wanted to be there,” McCray reveals. With a knowing smile, McCray recalls how much this complicated the entire affair. The Reagans required that a friend be present with them, forcing the producer to rearrange the entire seating arrangement. Then, the president’s secret service requirements “cost six seats more,” as they were to sit at every corner of the proceedings.
Through it all, McCray made it work, then stationed himself at the door. “I knew everybody,” he told the Academy. Before that, McCray “decided who should speak” in addition to “why they should speak,” in order to best honor the late Little House on the Prairie icon.
In the end, the late producer’s hard work paid off. “I thought it was a beautiful service,” McCray concludes with a lump in his throat, before getting a confirming “it was!” from the interviewer.