'Little House on the Prairie' cast reunited on TV last month, in person this month

offBeat with PHILIP POTEMPA
2007-06-05T00:00:00Z 'Little House on the Prairie' cast reunited on TV last month, in person this monthPHILIP POTEMPA ppotempa@nwitimes.com 219.852.4327 nwitimes.com

Prairie home companion

In case you missed it, NBC "Today" show weekend anchor Lester Holt reunited the cast of NBC's hit series "Little House on the Prairie" last month and interviewed eight of the show's actors.

"Little House on the Prairie," which aired from 1974 until the series finale in 1983, was a huge ratings success for the peacock network, which recently made headlines for its lagging ratings, across-the-board cuts (axing anchor Stone Phillips among others, the axe) and management shake-up.

Holt gathered cast members Karen Grassle, 65, who played mother Caroline Ingalls, Richard Bull, 83, who played shopkeeper Nels Oleson and Katherine Scotty MacGregor, 82, who played his pushy wife Harriet Oleson, Alison Arngrim, 45, who played snotty Nellie Oleson, Dean Butler, 51, who played Almanzo Wilder, Charlotte Stewart, who played school marm Miss Beadle and Rachael Lindsay Greenbush, 37, who was one of the twin girls who played Carrie Ingalls, all joined the late Michael Landon's daughter Leslie Landon, 44 at the TV ranch just 30 miles outside of Los Angeles that served as the now famous "Minnesota prairie" backdrop, where so many of the shows exterior scenes where filmed, including the opening sequence of the Ingalls girls running down the hill.

For some reason, the entire reunion segment was edited down to a mere 2 minutes. Many cast members never had their interviews aired. Holt also made reference that the show's two most famous actresses -- Melissa Gilbert, 43, and Melissa Sue Anderson, 44, who played Laura and Mary Ingalls -- declined to appear in the segment.

Since it's very rare to get this entire group of actors and actresses together, and many are getting up in age, I would have been curious to hear more about the show's production and the cast's experiences. In particular, actress MacGregor, barely seen in the "Today" show segment because of her sunglasses and wide-brim hat (necessary since it was so bright outside while the segment was filmed), rarely participates in "Little House" events and reunions.

In fact, she refused to be part of the show's grand finale episode in 1983 (maybe a wise decision, since I always thought it was a ridiculous plot which had a land developer buying all of Walnut Grove and the townspeople rebelling by exploding all of their homes and business and moving out of the area to resettle in a new location) or any of the follow-up reunion specials.

But if you're someone who is a true "Little House" fan (and there are many out there, considering some fans complained about the "Today" show segment having actress Greenbush on rather than her sister Sidney, the little girl seen falling as little sister Carrie in the show's opening credits), there's another opportunity to meet and greet cast members in person.

The National Park Service is holding a "Little House on the Prairie" reunion this month as part of their annual Nebraska Homestead Days in Beatrice, Nebraska June 16 and 17. As of Monday, confirmed cast members attending include Grassle, Arngrim, Stewart, Brenda and Wendy Turnbaugh, 29, the twin actresses who played Grace Ingalls and Radames Pera, 46, who played John Sanderson Edwards and one of the show's original writers Vince Gutierrez. Sorry, though originally scheduled to appear, actor Butler and actress Lindsay Greenbush had to cancel.

For more information about the reunion festival, call (402) 223-3514 or visit www.nps.gov/home/planyourvisit/homesteaddaysevents.htm.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or 219.852.4327.

celebBirthdays

Harvey, Ill. actor Bill Hayes ("Childstar" "Days of Our Lives") is 82. Actress Connie Hines (Carol Post on "Mr. Ed") is 77.Political columnist Bill Moyers is 73. Singer Floyd Butler of Friends of Distinction is 66. Country singer Don Reid of the Statler Brothers is 62. Guitarist Fred Stone of Sly and the Family Stone is 61. Singer Laurie Anderson is 60. Country singer Gail Davies is 59. TV hostess and finance guru Suze Orman is 56. Drummer Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden is 55. Saxophonist Kenny G and singer Richard Butler of Psychedelic Furs are 51. Actor Ron Livingston ("The Practice," "Band of Brothers") is 40. Singer Brian McKnight is 38. Musician Claus Norreen (Aqua) is 37. Actor-singer Mark Wahlberg is 36. Actor Chad Allen ("Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman") and bassist P-nut of 311 is 33. Actresses Navi Rawat ("Numb3rs") and Liza Weil

("Gilmore Girls") are 30. Bassist Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy is 28. Guitarist Seb Lefebvre of Simple Plan is 26.

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