No other family managed to do it: symbolize the impossible perfection and still stay on the air 47 years after its appearance, as a wild card of channels and platforms of the world. That candid phenomenon of The Ingalls family continues to generate news. Now it is the mother of the eternal frilly hat and the kind gaze that breaks several myths through an autobiography. Karen Grassle comes to give a jaw blow to all those who believed that the immaculateness of the story was transferred to the actors. Neither saints nor sinners.
In his book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love, Mom Caroline Ingalls doesn’t skimp on dirty laundry. Salary fight against the gap between men and women, harassment, machismo, addictions. What NBC producers managed to camouflage for years, she spits out in chapters, but with a fine line. It is not revenge. It is liberation.
One of the first confessions to tear down that image of an invincible woman is her personal history with alcohol. If Mrs. Ingalls was the image of the pond water toast, Karen was her opposite: “I had an alcohol dependence inherited from my father, who died of cirrhosis“He writes. On some occasion he arrived at the filming in dire condition, and hairdressers and makeup artists had to work to hide the ravages of the hangover.
Grassle and Michael Landon in a scene from “The Ingalls Family” (Video capture)
“I was half retired and did not have as many friends as in Los Angeles once I moved. All the memories began to surface, then I began to write them,” she explains about the decision to tell her truth. “I thought that maybe one day my son would be interested in reading all that. The truth is that I had to lower my guard. I am quite a reserved person, so I had to be willing to share many of my vulnerabilities about my family, my alcoholism , the tests I went through. Many things I had never spoken publicly. It was liberating and I am glad I did, “he admitted to Fox News.
Dizziness, vomiting, lack of balance and memory to fix some phrases of the script, reddened eyes, they were not a rarity for Grassle the first years of the almost decade of Little House on the Prairie. The public did not suspect.
A peasant teacher with high moral values. That was Caroline, Karen Grassle. (TV capture)
“I resisted receiving help for a long time. I tried to keep everything under control. I did not realize to what extent my problem with alcohol was playing a negative role in my life,” says the actress who will turn 80 on February 25.
“It was my friend Toni, whom I have known since we were seven years old, who confronted me and told me that I needed help. There was no way I was escaping from him. I couldn’t fight the truth of what he was telling me. I left. I came home crying full of self-pity. I felt like everything in my life was wrong and everyone was turning against me. The next morning, I woke up and said, ‘I must never drink again, whatever happens.’ I thought that I would break down, that I would lose my job, my boyfriend, that I would never go to a good restaurant again. How can you go to a good restaurant and not drink? How can you go eat Mexican food and not have a beer? “
The behind-the-scenes parties were a nightmare. “I had a glass of wine once. The first and only time I drank while working, but all hell broke loose.I went back to recording, I could only think about the bottle of wine and I wondered, ‘what is happening to me? I went to the bathroom, washed my mouth, went out to smoke, tried to distract myself however it was, but it was impossible, my head told me ‘take that bottle and drink it all’. I got sober in 1977. “
A scene with her fictional daughter, Melissa Sue Anderson. (TV capture)
The bond with her fictional husband (Charles, the protagonist, and also producer of the series, Michael Landon) was far from the sweetness and understanding that was reflected in the history of that misfortune-proof marriage. The climate became tense when the first season was devastating in terms of ratings and new contracts had to be negotiated.
“If you were in a successful series, it was common to renegotiate based on popularity. Michael did not want to give me a raise,” he encourages. The tightness became indisputable on set. “I made the decision to go to work anyway, but it was difficult because people knew he was upset with me. And he showed it in so many ways. So I had to go through it. I didn’t want to give up.”
Karen Grassle Today (Video Capture)
The angelic, paternal, sensitive and empathetic facet of the actor who would later star in Way to heaven It didn’t go backstage. “He started a campaign to try to lower my value. He decided to humiliate me while we did the scenes in bed. This was so horrible for me, so unbearable. I just tried to get over it. He made terrible jokes about female anatomy, he made the parts of the A woman’s body would sound disgusting. Men laughed at her jokes and I couldn’t help it. We didn’t even have a word for sexual harassment. “
By then, she was making $ 2,000 to $ 4,000 per episode, while he was making $ 175,000. Karen had performed Shakespearean texts and had been on Broadway. His resume was relentless. “We were all worker bees. There was no one on that set to hang around. It took about a year and a half before I got an excellent, time-appropriate contract. It meant a lot to me, but I paid a very high price. I just wanted a salary. just”.
Exemplary love in fiction, work tension in real life. Michael Landon with Karen Grassle. (Video capture)
The ridiculousness faded and Landon – who died of pancreatic cancer at 54 – was able to leave in peace with Karen. “I wrote him a letter, we had a long phone conversation and we patched things up. I felt there was a lot of forgiveness on both sides. We remember the best of our relationship.”
Escape from fame
His real name is Gabriel Tree. Hollywood agents advised him of another identity and only during bureaucratic procedures does he remember that it is called that. Although he was born in Northern California, he moved at the age of five to Ventura (northwest of Los Angeles on the California coast) a city that then had about 20,000 inhabitants. She remembers her walks through the hills, the beach and feeling “always safe, so much so that the doors of the house were not locked.”
From the age of 6 to 13 she was part of a local dance academy. Raised in a “loving” home, but with her father’s alcohol problems, she sought comfort in church. At 17 he graduated from the only high school in that city, Ventura High. He won a Fulbright scholarship to study in London, then returned to the United States and settled in New York. It was then that his first marriage “derailed.”
Karen Grassle, in a scene from the new film she stars in, in which she plays a grandmother with Alzheimer’s (video capture)
The hit of fame came without choosing it. It didn’t take long for her to become the favorite mother on television. Inspired by her own mother (“she went barefoot and on horseback to the school where she taught, so I instilled that strength and wisdom in Caroline”) when Karen was offered the role, her wallet had holes and her job inconstancy it disappointed her. In debt, sheltered in alcohol, she was about to give up the dream. In motion, the character did not impress her. “She’s a prude!” He thought the first time he read the script. Over time he understood “the added value, the nobility it represented.”
Caroline Ingalls, a neat creature, out of a fairy tale, went through all kinds of misfortunes: she experienced the death of a son and a grandson in a fire, suffered an infection and was about to mutilate her leg, mobilized an entire town to rescue his other daughter trapped in a deep well. In addition, he had to juggle financial hardships that led the clan to several moves.
Many women saw Caroline as a lady who within the corset of those years – late nineteenth century – could catch up with her husband handling the plow or allow her daughter Laura to play whatever she wanted regardless of the mandate on “the correct games for girls “. A small feminist seed “within the entrenched system of that time.”
A scene from the remembered Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle)
The first days of filming, he thought he would not last a week. Filming was in Simi Valley, California, they were filming outdoors in sweltering heat, and the women’s thick clothing (and heavy boots) made them dehydrated. “The job was physically exhausting, 12 hours a day under bright lights in the California heat. And I had to drive two hours to get there and back, so I spoke to producer Kent McCray – he hired me as a driver.” For her it was a total of eight seasons.
“My first impression of Michael was, ‘Wow, he’s very handsome.’ He was tremendously charismatic and very sensitive in the reading we did together at my audition. Afterward, people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God, the chemistry between you two.’ I didn’t think other people could feel it. “
“Nearly 20 years ago I moved to a house across the bay from San Francisco, just two miles from where I was born. I had lived in Berkeley when I was a baby and there was always something calling me back here,” he says. the delicacy of always on its official page. His paperback book is available for $ 15 on Amazon (and $ 8 in digital version).
Reading via YouTube. His new favorite hobby, dedicated to his fans. (Capture TV).
Zach’s mother, with sporadic appearances today in film and TV (a decade passed between jobs) Karen has just released Not to Forget, a film by Valerio Zanoli in which she stars and in which she plays a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. In addition, at 79, advised by centennial friends, she opened a YouTube channel in which she tells children’s stories. On her official page she offers her services as a narrator. Its sweetness is still intact.
Reference from clarin