Michael Landon may have been considered a pillar of morality, but he cheated on his wife with a teen. The actor even bragged about their sex life on the “Little House on the Prairie” set.
While Michael Landon portrayed Charles Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie,” people believed he was the ideal family man. He was in a long relationship with his second wife, Marjorie Lynn, and was father to seven kids.
However, his seemingly perfect image took a blow in the early 1980s when he started having an affair with Cindy Clerico, a teenager working as a stand-in for Melissa Francis (Cassandra Cooper Ingalls in the show). Worse, he wouldn’t stop talking about his improved sex life.
MELISSA GILBERT ON LANDON’S AFFAIR
One of the people close to Landon who have shared details of his affair was Melissa Gilbert. Gilbert was his on-screen daughter, Laura Ingalls, in “Little House on the Prairie.”
In her memoir “Prairie Tale,” Gilbert confessed that her family was very close to Landon and Lynn. So when her mother told her that “auntie Lynn and Mike” were separating, she was shocked.
However, in the back of Gilbert’s mind, she saw it coming. She wrote that she thought Landon and Clerico’s relationship was way too friendly for some time, especially because they spent a lot of time together.
Gilbert was worried, so she told her mom about it. Since the actress’s mother was sure that Landon and his wife were meant to be with each other and could never divorce, she considered her daughter was crazy. But she certainly wasn’t.
According to Actress Karen Grassle (Caroline “Ma” Ingalls on the show), Landon started exhibiting unusual behavior shortly before the cheating was discovered.
He wouldn’t stop talking about his “revived libido” and the amazingly beneficial effects of bee pollen, a natural supplement he had been taking to improve his sex life.
Their relationship was “awkward” for everyone on set.
Grassle added that he began arriving “jubilant” at the makeup table and proudly talking about his intimate experiences. However, he was making other people uncomfortable. As Grassle wrote it herself, “I didn’t want to think about his penis.”
Landon’s boastful remarks made sense after his and Clerico’s romance went public. It is essential to point out that Clerico was just 18 years old and over 20 years younger than Landon at the time.
As expected, the affair negatively impacted the once tight-knit set. Not only was almost everyone good friends with Lynn, but they were also disappointed that their boss would do such a thing. Grassle wrote:
“I knew his wife. I had been in their home. She had been kind to me. And I thought about her children — there were three of them still at home.”
Landon and Clerico supposedly started flirting after she lent him a book. After that, Grassle noticed they started walking “further away from the action” and would spend a lot of time talking to each other.
Their relationship was “awkward” for everyone on set, and even though everybody saw it, they all chose to look away. The two were genuinely in love, though. In 1983, one year after Landon and Lynn divorced, the actor and Clerico tied the knot.
It was not the only revelation Grassle wrote in her book. She confessed that she and Landon, also the show’s producer, argued about her salary.
She requested a raise ahead of the second season, but he said she should earn as much as the child actors. It was “insulting,” as she wanted a fair wage. Things worsened after Landon told her the audience didn’t consider she was as popular as she thought.
Grassle’s character was slowly left out of storylines, and her scenes were also cut. While reviewing her footage, Landon would make fun of her figure and facial expressions.
He would also use foul language, and he became increasingly rude even during their bedroom scenes. As a result, the actress revealed that she sometimes wanted to “disappear” but kept up the professionalism.
In 1990, they reconnected at the wedding of Landon and Lynn’s daughter, Leslie. The following year, Landon passed away of pancreatic cancer. He was just 54. Rest in peace.