OFFBEAT: 'Little House' TV shopkeeper Richard Bull dead at age 89

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-02-06T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Little House' TV shopkeeper Richard Bull dead at age 89By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Richard Bull, who played shopkeeper and put-upon husband Nels Oleson on TV's "Little House on the Prairie" died Monday at age 89.

Bull, who lived much of his retired later years in Chicago, died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's hospital in Los Angeles, according to the facility's spokeswoman Jaime Larkin. The actor, a resident of what was once known as the Motion Picture and TV Home, died of natural causes after being hospitalized with pneumonia, Larkin told the Associated Press Tuesday.

"Everyone loved him so much," said Bull's "Little House" co-star Alison Arngrim, who played his daughter, Nellie, and remained close to him.

"People are posting condolences in six different languages on my Facebook page. Bull was 'as Nels Oleson as' you'd possibly want someone to be. He was calm, rational, sensible," Arngrim said.

When I interviewed Arngrim in Chicago in September 2010, she told me Bull and his beloved wife were living in Chicago and she had dinner with them.

The Illinois-born character actor appeared in a wide range of TV shows, from "Perry Mason" in the 1950s to "Mannix" in the 1960s to Kelsey Grammer's "Boss" in 2011.

Bull also played opposite his wife of 65 years, actress Barbara Collentine, in several projects. Bull and Collentine, also 89, moved to the Motion Picture & Television Fund home from Chicago in September 2012, Larkin said.

Dean Butler, who played Almanzo James Wilder on the 1974-83 NBC series inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels about her 19th-century prairie family's life, recalled his friend to Associated Press TV Writer Lynn Elber.

He said another "Little House" cast member recently became a resident at the same retirement home: Katherine "Scottie" MacGregor, 89, who played Oleson's pushy, snooty wife, Harriet.

After Bull's death, Collentine and MacGregor had dinner together Monday night and agreed "they had both lost a wonderful husband," Butler said.

In June 2007, NBC's "Today" show weekend anchor Lester Holt reunited the cast of the hit series and interviewed eight of the show's actors. "Little House on the Prairie" aired from 1974 until the series finale in 1983 and was a huge ratings success for the peacock network. Bull and MacGregor were among the reunited cast interviewed, along with Arngrim and Butler. The reunion segment was held 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. Holt also made reference that the show's two most famous actresses -- Melissa Gilbert, 49, and Melissa Sue Anderson, 51, who played Laura and Mary Ingalls -- declined to appear in the segment.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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