Karen Grassle played the on-screen wife of Michael Landon for nearly a decade on Little House on the Prairie. And even though the show made their characters out to be the perfect husband and wife, the reality isn’t always that clear cut.
From 1974 to 1982, Karen Grassle portrayed frontier mother and wife Caroline Ingalls. She spent the better parts of those years working alongside Bonanza star Michael Landon on the adapted television show. And even though Landon’s Charles Ingalls looked to be the perfect husband on Little House on the Prairie, Grassle felt the actor’s behavior beyond the show didn’t always live up to his character.
According to Grassle, he was perhaps a little too open about his sex life. Today, we would refer to the behavior as “oversharing.” In an upcoming memoir titled “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma,” Karen Grassle recalls that time.
“Mike began to arrive jubilant at the makeup table, crowing about the benefits of bee pollen for the aging male,” she writes.
The Little House on the Prairie star went on to explain the reasoning behind Landon’s sudden excitement. Apparently, he was involved in an affair with an 18-year old stand-in actor named Cindy Clerico.
The reported incident didn’t sit all too well with some of the cast. Harriet Oleson actor Katherine MacGregor felt so disappointed in how Michael Landon behaved that Grassle says she refused to participate in the 1984 Little House on the Prairie reunion movie. It didn’t help that she already had qualms stemming from her disproportionate salary, either.
“It was mostly the lack of appreciation. But it was also the way he treated women in general,” Karen Grassle told The New York Post of MacGregor.
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Michael Landon Married Cindy Clerico
Michael Landon eventually married the Clerico. Bear in mind, most of this went down while Little House on the Prairie was still running. And the cast was less than pleased.
“Then they began to walk further away from the action, engrossed in conversation and each other. It was awkward as hell for us in the company. Everyone saw. Everyone looked away,” Karen Grassle continued in her memoir.
The good news is that Karen Grassle and Michael Landon made amends before he died of pancreatic cancer in 1991. Michael and Cindy remained married until his death and had two children together.