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 Allison Article July 30th

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Davetucson
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PostSubject: Allison Article July 30th   Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:04 pm

Mean girl pioneer: 'Little House' star recalls days on TV's favorite prairie
You can bet Pa Ingalls never saw this one coming: Nellie Oleson and Laura Ingalls are Facebook friends.

Schoolyard enemies for so many years on TV's "Little House on the Prairie" in the 1970s, the two actresses who played the conniving, nasty Nellie and the spunky, tenderhearted Laura -- Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert, respectively -- have remained close despite all that hair pulling, name calling and pushing and shoving in fictional Walnut Grove.

Such good friends, in fact, that not only did Arngrim make sure she and her musician husband logged the maximum number of votes allowed each week for Gilbert during her recent run on "Dancing With the Stars," but she showed up in the audience to cheer her on.

For a moment, Arngrim was thinking she might like to put Nellie's love-to-hate-her popularity to the test with TV viewers by giving the show a shot herself someday.

"When (Melissa) got on, I was like, 'Awesome, because I'll be next,'" Arngrim said by phone recently on her way to LauraPalooza in Mankato, Minn., where Dean Butler (Almanzo) was also on the bill. "But then I was watching it, and oh my God, she almost broke her neck!"

Gilbert suffered a concussion and whiplash during the competition, but for Arngrim, the real eye opener came on another night of "DWTS."

"She was completely upside-down, her dress was over her head and you could see her panties. They were perfectly good panties and her legs looked really good ... Do I, at 50, if I was in top physical condition, do I want to stand on my head and show everyone my panties? I'd have to rethink it. I was all ready to do it, but then I watched Melissa do it and went, 'That looks terrifying and painful. I'm not sure.'"

Not that Arngrim has time, not now anyway. She's in full-on Laura Ingalls Wilder mode, zigzagging across Minnesota making appearances at events inspired by the author of the "Little House" books, including a stop last week in the real Walnut Grove, Minn., where festivities included WWND? merchandise, as in What Would Nellie Do?

Arngrim, who lives in California, also regularly performs her one-woman comedy show based on her well-received 2010 memoir, "Confessions of a Prairie #@!%: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated," all over the country and abroad.

Last month, she met up with Gilbert and fellow "Little House" actors Karen Grassle (Caroline) and Rachel Greenbush (Carrie) at the funeral for Ruth E. Foster, who played postmistress Mrs. Foster on the series. This week, she's in Green Bay, Wis., for appearances at the popular Laura Ingalls Wilder Days at Heritage Hill State Historical Park.

That's an awful lot of Nellie reminiscing for Arngrim, who has become an outspoken activist for victims of child abuse (she revealed in her memoir she was sexually abused by a family member) and those living with HIV/AIDS (her co-star Steve Tracy (Percival) died from complications of the disease in 1986). But you won't hear her complaining.

"If you had told me when I was young, all the things you've ever wanted to do, all the stuff you've ever wanted, the ways you've wanted to help people, help abused children, help your friends who are sick, you're going to be able to do that because of Nellie Oleson ... That I never would've believed in a million years, and, boy, has that happened."

Classic surprise

"Little House," which debuted in 1974 and ran until 1983, has gone on to become a TV classic, beloved by those who grew up on it and still being discovered by new generations through syndication. Nobody is more surprised by that than Arngrim, who says the saga of an 1800s pioneer family "was the most uncool thing in the world" during its original run.

"We were amazed that the show was even a hit then, and the idea that in 2012 -- the Jetsons' 21st century -- that people would still be sitting around watching 'Little House on the Prairie,' that they'd be watching 'Little House on the Prairie' clip mash-ups on their phone ..." she said. "Most TV shows, when they're over, they're over. Maybe, if they're lucky, they go into reruns for a couple of years and then everybody's like, 'Next!' and moves on to the next thing."

But after the show was over and Arngrim went on to do other things, including stand-up comedy, she was never able to escape people wanting to talk about "Little House" and TV's original mean girl. Once the series came out on DVD, "Boy, that was it," she said. "There was 'Prairie' fever everywhere I'd go."

Executive produced and often directed by Michael Landon, who played Pa, there was no shortage of tear-jerking moments on a show built around a tight-knit family and town -- no doubt part of its timeless appeal, Arngrim said.

"The show was very emotional. A lot of people reacted to it on an emotional level. People tell me they liked other shows, but 'Little House' was different. It meant something to them. It was their family. They'd watch other shows for entertainment, but 'Little House' was really their friends and family," she said.

"Everybody's got a bully. Everybody's got a family. Everybody knows a Mrs. Oleson. Everyone suffers through the same things, and so people could relate. They couldn't relate to most other shows."

Favorite brat

Arngrim's Nellie, the spoiled brat with the ribbons in her hair and candy from her parents' general store in her mouth who had it in for Laura, became a fan favorite. It's a testament to Arngrim's acting abilities (she was 11 when she started the show) that, 30 years later, people are still floored by how nice she is in person.

"People can't believe that I was acting. Like I was really that horrible and they kept me in a cage and let me loose when it was time do the scene," she says laughing.

Arngrim admits even she cringes now at some of Nellie's worst moments -- beating Bunny the horse and taunting the shy girl who stuttered -- but there was something therapeutic at the time to get away with the kind of bad behavior in front of the camera that wouldn't be tolerated away from it.

"It was awesome! I got to say and do all these terrible things that I could never say or do. I took enormous pleasure and glee in this," she said. "I talk about this in my book, but I had a hard life. I was abused as a kid, I had the usual teenage angst and being a child star all buckled together. I had a lot on my mind.

"The fact that I could vent and let loose all this hostility and all of this anger as the character, what a fantastic thing. I really got lucky."

But that's in no way an endorsement from Arngrim for naughty Nellie to be a role model to the show's young fans who meet her at Wilder events.

"There's a marvelous old expression: 'There's nothing so instructive as a bad example,'" she said, laughing once again. "I've had people tell me that they would use it that way. 'OK, if you act like Nellie Oleson, you're going to your room!'"
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Rob
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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:49 pm

Wonderful article, Dave! Thanks!
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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:13 am

Great article...And she is right. People uses to like to LHOTP, because it's a show in which you can feel empathy too characters in it. We know them in our daily life: there really are some mean Mrs. Olesons here and there, and spunky warm-hearted Lauras and "Marries "who loves books and to be quiet, inside house with Ma, rather than slpashing in the creek and climbing trees. It's a show to which we can sure relate...

And I laugh aloud every time I read that people really believed thet Allison was mean, like her character in the show and were not too nice to her because of it! HeeHee

Vanesa.


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:09 am

I was reading this interview with Alison, it came up in a related search. What caught my eye was the part about the contracts. I dont' know about them today, but a 7 year contract seems long and no raises? If all that was true, as Kevin Hagen said, it does seem very limiting. Alison also said she had to sign on for another 4 years, not 2, if she continued and no raise.
The show did well, I found that odd, but maybe back then, things were different, today stars get so much for doing much less.
She touches on the changes later in the show, the "missing" people you never see again, things like that.
It did give some talented people a stepping stone though for other pursuits, hopefully most have good memories.
http://www.retrocrush.com/archive2008/alisonarngrim/
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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:55 pm

Thanks for the link Miss littlehouselover, that was a fun read.
Davetucson, when are we gonna hook up? We both live in Tucson!


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:07 pm

I must say she is the most vocal of the bunch. It seemed like the guys hung with the guys (actors) and the girls with the girls..you never really hear of them interacting on the set.

I like how she said the crew was so nice to her and protective.
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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:56 am

I was at Laurapalooza and saw Alison's show. I was in the second row, it was really great. She really is a sweet person. I will post pictures next week.


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:01 am

Nice article in Chicago Tribune this Morning...By Joanne Cleaver

August 3, 2012


August 3, 2012
In 1974, disco fever was taking off. Everyone was wearing stretchy flame-pattern knit shirts and blindingly shiny Qiana dresses. Bell-bottoms were still in. And I was sweeping around my rural Massachusetts high school in a prairie skirt, complete with apron.

Like most American girls, I'd been weaned from picture books straight to the "Little House on the Prairie" TV series. Laura, Mary, baby Carrie — they were the extended family I hoped would materialize at family reunions, which were typically overpopulated with tobacco-chewing cousins. Even with Garth Williams' beloved line illustrations, much was left to the imagination: the chilling howling of the wolves, the dank air in the dugout home, the near-crises of drowning and of runaway logs in a house-raising. So you'd think that I'd have been right on trend when "Little House on the Prairie" do-si-doed into mainstream popular culture in the 1974 television series.

But no. I had a bigger point to make, as most teens do when they try to reinvent rebellion. My brown-and-blue paisley skirt and tucked blouse signaled "Little House" as a state of mind. Laura Ingalls had thoughts little girls of her era were not supposed to have. Laura Ingalls Wilder crafted a career as a journalist and author in an era when few women worked outside the home. I would live "Little House" forever, though, of course, integrating modern conveniences into my life, just like efficiency-loving Ma.

Did I outgrow it? Not really. And a few hundred others didn't, either. They are now called bonnetheads. I just spent a few days among them, and it was like meeting my high-school self all over again.

I went to Laurapalooza, the annual confab for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and "Little House," inconveniently situated in Mankato, Minn., that being the closest thing to a big city near key "Little House" sites. This time, I did not wear an ankle-grazing prairie skirt, though others did. Instead, my friend Lonnie and I cast ourselves as the Romy and Michele of the prairie, styling in real straw poke bonnets and wielding floral quilted iPad cozies.

For three days, we ate (tooth-cracking "long winter" bread), drank (lemonade!) and waded (in the actual Plum Creek). Retreating at the end of the day to a local chain hotel to indulge in"Toddlers and Tiaras"was cultural whiplash.

"I should have lived on the prairie," sighed a middle-age woman as she settled into a seat on the bus that was to take us to Plum Creek so we could observe the king-bed-sized slump in a field that is roped off as the site of the Ingalls family's dugout. "I hate cellphones," she said.

No, no, no. This is about a kinder, gentler, smellier, germier, tireder time. Popular culture might view the Ingalls family's experiences through a sentimental veil, but bonnetheads grapple with the harsh truths of pioneer life.

There is much to grapple with. Laura's childhood (from about 1872 through 1887) coincided with the rise of household technology, increasingly portable photography and cleaned-up property and census documentation — all rich furrows for academic bonnetheads to plow.

For instance, the Ingalls family's excitement at the arrival of a treadle sewing machine was likely fueled by one of the cutthroat financing deals offered at the time by the Singer Sewing Machine Corp. The eventual fates of about every character mentioned in the books, from class clown Clarence, the plague of Laura's first schoolteaching experience, to Dr. George Tann, the African-American doctor who helped the Ingalls family recover from malaria, have been exhaustively documented from property and census records.

And yet, there was breaking Laura news. "Laura witnessed weather history!" Barbara Mayes Boustead informed an edge-of-their-seats crowd. Come to find out that Boustead, a National Weather Service staff meteorologist based in Nebraska, is breaking new ground with forensic storm-chasing. She found an1884 photo of the unusual triple-tornado formation described in detail in "These Happy Golden Years," as Laura and her beau Almanzo beat it back to the storm cellar, on Aug. 18, 1884, outside of De Smet, S.D.

The implications were dire for feathers sewn onto bonnets, Boustead added.

"Utterly too-too!" exclaimed people and T-shirts alike, quoting Nellie Oleson. When librarian and Laura channeler Sarah Sue Uthoff launched into an hourlong show-and-tell about dolls mentioned in the books, she didn't have to explain the difference between Susan — Laura's first doll, a corncob wrapped in a scrap of cloth — and Charlotte, the cherished doll embroidered by Ma.

Commemorative dolls were just the beginning of the "Little House" industrial complex, though I have to say that the Laura bobblehead was the most awesomely awful of the lot, with Prairie Barbie a close second. Laura-autographed "Little House" first editions were asking $2,200. A close second: "Laura did it prairie-style" bumper stickers, $3.

I am unlikely to bake and fry my way through the "Little House Cookbook" and I'll pass on cinching into a corset. The bonnetheads showed me that what I really crave isn't cornbread baked over an open fire, but to understand a woman who was thoroughly herself before she was a celebrity. "It wasn't Susan's fault she was only a corncob," Laura wrote about her doll, giving us all permission to wear our skirts as long as we like.


Last edited by Davetucson on Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:20 am

Ah, sweet memories of the amazing conference. Who is the writer of the article?


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 10:27 am

Edited with Authors Name


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:00 pm

Great articles! I really like Alison Arngrim. Glad I met her and took a pic with her, although I lost it! :(
She really is sweet and really funny.
Love her book as well. The beginning of the article made me laugh when they mention who would have thought that Nellie & Laura would become Facebook friends in the future! laugh3


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PostSubject: Re: Allison Article July 30th   Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:05 pm

Those are great articles! Thanks for sharing them!

Carol, that's so sad that you lost the pic.
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