Knight Club: A History of Medieval Times Dinner Theater

Anthony J, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Anthony J, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the 1960s, on the small island of Mallorca, Spain, Jose Montaner had a thriving barbeque business. So did someone else. Montaner and his rival each vied for customers, locals and visitors from the island’s tourist trade.

One day, Montaner overheard some English tourists talking about medieval fairs, and an idea occurred to him: What if he could lure more barbeque patrons by seating them in front of an indoor dinner theater with dueling knights, serving wenches, and horses?

The smell of manure may not have earned him any Michelin stars, but Montaner was on to something. By the 1980s, he and a group of investors had taken his notion and expanded it into the U.S. under the Medieval Times banner, a sprawling bit of performance art that marries the spectacle of professional wrestling with a four-course meal. While it’s never been heavily franchised—there are only nine locations in North America—the marriage of simulated chivalry and free Pepsi refills has proven to be a surprisingly effective form of entertainment.


Kristen Menecola, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Part of what motivated Montaner’s pursuit of what would become Medieval Times was his interest in Spanish history. He was also influenced by the 1961 movie El Cid, a drama starring Charlton Heston that featured many of the tropes meant to transport his visitors to 11th-century Spain: sword duels, castles, and galloping horses.

Montaner put on a show in Spain for years before an investment panel was gathered to bring the idea to the States. Scouts visited Orlando, Florida in 1980 and came across a prime spot of real estate in Kissimmee, just 15 minutes from Walt Disney World. By 1983, the first Medieval Times on American soil was open for business.

Then as now, the concept of “dinner theater” was not held in the highest of regard. The first stage production that served meals opened in 1953 in Richmond, Virginia, and initially kept their meals separate from their plays until audiences who drove distances to get there complained about getting hungry during the shows. After experiencing a surge of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, the idea of combining a live performance with a plated meal started to collapse. The aging actors who could provide publicity for such shows started gravitating toward television spots and commercials, where they might earn as much for one day of shooting as they did doing several weeks of stage-and-steak work.

While Montaner briefly flirted with the idea of having Heston appear at the opening of his Florida location (ultimately, the actor proved too expensive to hire), Medieval Times wasn’t dependent on marquee names. The appeal came from the idea of seeing what amounted to a live stunt show, with armored knights hoisting broad swords and ramming into one another in jousts. Their stage would be a massive sand floor; attendees could enjoy Cornish hen and cheer for one of six knights depending on which section they were seated in. In keeping with their (loose) interpretation of medieval practices, no utensils would be allowed.

Whatever stigma had been attached to dinner theater for veteran actors didn’t apply to patrons. The Kissimmee location of Medieval Times saw its attendance rise steadily, from 183,000 in 1984 to 600,000 by 1993. The investment firm opened a second location in Buena Park, California in 1986, and a third in Lyndhurst, New Jersey in 1990. The last castle in their expansion opened in Atlanta in 2006.

Initially, fight choreographers at each location were left to develop their own house style, with knights dueling using titanium swords that had been dulled and edged to create a spark. In 2000, management decreed that the moves become uniform in the event knights had to substitute for one another due to illness or, more rarely, injury. (Knighthood is largely safe, though the occasional bruised finger is not unheard of.)

The duelists appearing in the show normally start out as stable hands for the horses. (Medieval Times uses so many Andalusian, or Spanish, horses that they have their own breeding farm in Sanger, Texas.) After three to 12 months of training, they’re expected to take a physical fitness test—running one mile in under 10 minutes, performing 30 push-ups and 50 sit-ups—before taking hold of the 20 pounds of weaponry.

Although the company tends to tweak the shows slightly every four years, the narrative remains largely the same: A king will read birthday notices or offer retirement congratulations to attending parties. He’s then blackmailed by the Herald of the North, who insists on compliance or the King’s daughter will be held hostage. Six knights duel; a falcon flies over the crowd. At the climax, the winning knight plucks a female patron from the crowd and anoints her the Queen.

For this experience, tickets are typically $66, or $46 for children under 12. The price includes a four-course meal of one half-chicken, tomato bisque soup, garlic bread, and various side dishes, all served by “serfs” and “wenches.”


Boris Kasimov, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While the nine locations still admit roughly 2.5 million peasants annually, things have not always gone swimmingly at Medieval Times. In 1997, two locations in Buena Park and Kissimmee filed for bankruptcy after being hit with $10 million in IRS tax claims. They remained open. The company was also the subject of a 2011 lawsuit after one audience member at California's Buena Park restaurant alleged that he had been struck in the eye by a sliver of titanium. The suit was settled under undisclosed terms.

One torn retina notwithstanding, Medieval Times has remained stable in a fluctuating economy and evolving entertainment landscape. In a nod to the times, the King will often remark on smartphones and make scornful references to cyberbullying. And while it might be a departure from historical accuracy, the theme restaurant will concede to modern approaches to both hygiene and diet: Moist towelettes and vegetarian dishes are provided.

David Hasselhoff's Strange Connection to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

re:publica, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
re:publica, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Americans might know David Hasselhoff best as the star of pre-peak television series Knight Rider and Baywatch. But in Germany, he’s been a popular singing attraction since 1985, when his album Night Rocker became a sensation. In June 1989 Hasselhoff released Looking for Freedom, an album with a title track that seemed to speak directly to citizens in European countries seeking democracy. That track had been playing since 1988 in anticipation of the album’s release.

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Was it coincidence, or did Hasselhoff help incite a revolution?

In a new interview with Time, Hasselhoff takes no credit for that seismic change in Germany, despite the fact that some of the actor's fans have knitted the two memories—his popularity and the dissolution of the wall—together, leading some to believe he was partly responsible. Some of the same people who began chipping away at the wall dividing East and West Germany had been humming the song for months prior. Some have even told Hasselhoff his music helped inspire change. Others held up signs thanking him for the fall of the wall.

“You’re the man who sings of freedom,” a woman once told Hasselhoff, before asking for his autograph.

The wall, of course, came down rather abruptly, shortly after a premature announcement that East Germans could take advantage of relaxed travel restrictions, and Hasselhoff demurs when asked if he played a role. “I never ever said I had anything to do with bringing down the wall,” he told Time. “I never ever said those words ... There was the guy from Knight Rider singing a song about freedom. Knight Rider was sacred to everyone and hopefully we’ll bring it back as a movie. I was just in the right place at the right time with the right song. I was just a man who sang a song about freedom.”

After the wall fell, Hasselhoff was invited to sing on a crane hovering over its remains on New Year’s Eve in 1989, which you can witness in the video above. Hasselhoff recently returned to Berlin for another series of concerts to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the wall being torn down.

[h/t Time]

42 Big Facts About Little House on the Prairie

Melissa Gilbert stars in Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Gilbert stars in Little House on the Prairie.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

When the very popular TV series Bonanza left the airwaves after 14 years, Michael “Little Joe” Landon went looking for a new project. NBC executives approached him with the idea of producing a made-for-TV film based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular Little House on the Prairie series of books.

The movie was a huge ratings hit, and since it had a sort-of cliffhanger ending, the network was deluged with inquiries from viewers asking “What happened to the Ingalls family next?” Thus, a series was born. And while the show itself was very family-friendly and wholesome, the antics behind the scenes of the long-running series weren't always so PG-rated.

1. Pa Ingalls’ hair color came out of a bottle.

Michael Landon had gone prematurely grey during his Bonanza days, while he was still in his twenties, and used Clairol Medium Ash Brown to color his crowning glory. He continued using the same product once he started on Little House on the Prairie, dyeing his hair himself. But the scorching, unrelenting sun in Simi Valley, California (where the series shot) would turn his hair an odd shade of lavender after a few days, which caused production delays (lights would have to be adjusted so as to not reflect on his head). Eventually Landon gave in and allowed a professional on the set to color his hair.

2. Michael Landon asked Karen Grassle to change her name when she was cast as “Ma” Ingalls.

Karen Grassle and Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Actually Michael Landon asked her to change back to her real name, which is Karen Grassle (pronounced “Grass-lee”). When she auditioned for the role of Caroline Ingalls, she did so as Gabriel Tree, her stage name at the time.

3. The novelty of period clothing wore off quickly for the young girls in the cast.

All the exterior Little House on the Prairie scenes were filmed at the 10,000-acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California, where a “cool” day meant temperatures in the low 90s. On most days, the mercury hit triple digits—and the young actresses were clad from head to toe in heavy cotton stockings, petticoats, pinafores, and bonnets. Both Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson, and an assistant director passed out from the heat on the very first day of filming.

4. Most of those dinners Ma served were really Dinty Moore beef stew.

A scene from 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Any dinner scene that showed some sort of generic meat and gravy on the family’s plates—regardless of whether Ma announced that it was rabbit, chicken, or squirrel—actually consisted of canned Dinty Moore brand beef stew. Those instances when Laura was seen pulling a drumstick out of her tin lunch pail at school? Well, those came not from the Ingalls’ chicken coop, but from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

5. Nellie Oleson’s perfect curls were actually a wig.

For the first few weeks of filming, Arngrim’s own hair was transformed into a series of sausage curls via a torturous old-fashioned curling iron that had to be heated in an oven. Finally it was decided that a custom-made wig would be more humane, not to mention both time- and cost-effective. The wig had to be held in place with an enormous metal comb plus dozens of long, straight, metal hairpins, all of which frequently dug into Arngrim’s scalp and caused it to bleed.

6. Sean Penn made his acting debut on Little House On The Prairie.

Sean Penn appears in 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The season 1 episode “The Voice of Tinker Jones” was directed by Leo Penn, who cast his wife, Eileen Ryan, in the episode—and also brought in his 13-year-old son Sean to play an uncredited schoolboy.

7. Michael Landon kept the young actors entertained.

According to People, Michael Landon would pretend to pick lice out of Melissa Gilbert’s hair after an emotional scene. Frogs were also a big hit. “We used to go with Melissa [Gilbert] to catch frogs in the creek,” Rachel Greenbush, who played Carrie Ingalls, told Closer Weekly. “We would bring them back to Michael, and then he would put them in his mouth and walk up to people, open his mouth and the frog would jump out! People would freak out.”

8. Charles Ingalls’s manly swagger was the result of special boots.

Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Michael Landon was just 5-feet-9-inches tall and didn’t want any other actor to tower over him, so he wore four-inch lifts in his boots. If that boost wasn’t quite enough in a particular scene, he would make sure that Charles was positioned on a staircase, a ladder, or even a slight mound of dirt.

9. No one ever got very close to Mary Ingalls.

Both Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim reported in their autobiographies that Melissa Sue Anderson (known as “Missy” on the set), who played Mary Ingalls, remained somewhat cold and aloof during her time on Little House on the Prairie. There were rumors among the guardians on the set that Missy’s mother was overprotective and controlling and that was the reason the young actress tended to keep to herself.

10. Carrie Ingalls was played by a set of identical twins.

Rachel and Sidney Bush (credited onscreen as “Lindsay Sidney Greenbush” and known as “Sugar Lump” and “Foxy Robin” to everyone on the set) were just 3 years old when they were cast to play the youngest Ingalls daughter. That’s Sidney falling down while running during the opening credits; the director rotated the girls every few hours in accordance with California labor laws for such young children. In this case, just prior to filming the hillside running scene, he had called for a “Fresh twin, please!” and Mrs. Bush hastily awoke the napping Sidney and quickly put her little shoes back on … unfortunately, on the wrong feet. Michael Landon thought it was adorable when she tripped and hit the ground and left it in the sequence.

11. Michael Landon was very proud of his physique.

Landon never passed up an opportunity to appear shirtless on camera, which is why Pa never broke an arm or leg in any of his farming mishaps, only a rib or two. He also reportedly preferred to go au naturel underneath his tight-fitting prairie trousers.

12. Jason Bateman starred in 23 episodes.

Jason Bateman in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 1981, future Emmy-winner Jason Bateman landed the role of James Cooper Ingalls; it was his first TV role. Like Landon, Bateman became a TV director—in 2019, Bateman won an Emmy for directing himself in Ozark. "The only thing that I remember really soaking in was that first big job on Little House on the Prairie,” Bateman told Variety. “That group of actors had been together since Bonanza, and the way in which everybody functioned was very familial. It was a warm place.”

Bateman said that Landon influenced him both as a director and as a sort of father figure. “He was the George Clooney of that time. The crew loved him, the industry loved him, guys wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him,” Bateman said.

13. Nellie and Laura were actually best friends.

Mean ol’ Nellie Oleson got her lights punched out more than once by rival Laura Ingalls, but in real life Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert became the best of friends shortly after they first met in the makeup trailer. They had sleepovers at each other’s homes and became partners in crime when it came to playing pranks on their co-stars.

14. Michael Landon’s off-screen affair permanently damaged his relationship with Melissa Gilbert.

Melissa Gilbert became very close to Michael Landon’s family after she was hired for Little House on the Prairie—especially his son, Michael Jr., and daughter Leslie. Lynn Landon and Melissa’s mother, Barbara Crane, became best friends and the two families often vacationed together. One day Barbara broke the news to her daughter that, “Auntie Lynn and Mike are separating.” Gilbert had noticed that Landon had been extremely attentive to “that makeup girl” (as makeup artist Cindy Clerico, 20 years Landon’s junior, was referred to by some cast members) on the set, but she’d never dreamed that he’d leave his wife of 19 years for her.

Gilbert remained polite and professional while working with Landon on the set after he married Clerico, but she stopped socializing with him after hours. After Little House on the Prairie ended, she didn’t speak to Landon again until 1990, when she saw him at Leslie Landon’s wedding. Landon’s highly publicized breakup with Lynn also cost him some lucrative endorsement deals, including his longtime contract with Kodak.

15. Adult beverages were regularly imbibed during the workday.

Alison Arngrim often caught a nap in the prop truck during her breaks, and it was there—while she was hunkered down on the front seat—that she overheard Michael Landon say “Hit me” to propman Ron Chiniquy at the rear of the truck. She lifted her head to peek and saw Chiniquy pour the requested four fingers of Wild Turkey into Landon’s coffee cup, even though it was only 10 a.m. She later found out from Ron that the crew usually went through two cases of Coors beer per day while working. Particularly stressful days, when rewrites and retakes were necessary, were referred to as “three-case days.” After filming was wrapped for the day, a makeshift bar with hard liquor was set up on a sawhorse for the “real” unwinding to begin. Yet both Arngrim and Gilbert said that despite all the alcohol consumption going on, no one (neither cast nor crew) ever appeared to be the least bit tipsy, nor did their work suffer.

16. Victor French briefly left the to show to star in a short-lived sitcom.

Victor French in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Victor French, who had starred in Gunsmoke and Bonanza, played Isaiah Edwards on Little House and directed a few episodes. He left the show in 1977 to star as a small-town Georgia police chief in sitcom Carter Country, which was sort of a comedic version of In the Heat of the Night. In 1979, when ABC canceled Carter County after two seasons, Landon welcomed French back. And in 1984, French joined Landon in Highway to Heaven. In 1989, French died of cancer, two years before Landon’s own death from cancer.

17. Mary INgalls's blindness was challenging for Melissa Sue Anderson.

During the fourth season, Mary Ingalls went blind. “It was the only time in the history of television that a series regular had lost their sight and not gotten it back … ever,” Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary, told Albany Daily News. “Therefore, it was exciting and challenging at the beginning … but a very difficult thing to sustain over a period of years.” At first, Anderson thought the plotline was used as a way to write her out of the script. But Landon assured her “to trust me,” he told People.

In 1978, Anderson’s performance garnered her an Emmy nomination, but a few years later she left the show. “As far as what Mary could do, my character became limited because she couldn’t see … This, ultimately, is the reason why I decided not to stay with the show and only do three episodes in the eighth season,” she said.

18. Michael Landon didn’t want to pay Karen Grassle more money.

Karen Grassle in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Despite the set being mostly drama-free, Grassle did have one issue with Landon. “When we were in the top 10 [TV shows] and I said, ‘Gee, it is time to renegotiate my contract,’ Michael did not want to pay me,” Grassle told Closer Weekly. “It was very difficult.”

19. They filmed on the same set as The Wizard Of Oz .

In the late 1970s, the production moved from a Paramount soundstage to MGM. “They were ripping up the floor of the set, and what Melissa [Gilbert] and I see, lying beneath, was the Yellow Brick Road!” Arngrim told Closer Weekly. “Melissa and I went nuts. We were dancing around, singing the song, pretending to be Dorothy!”

20. Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks played a criminal.

Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul
Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul.
NICOLE WILDER, AMC/SONY PICTURES TELEVISION

Nearly 30 years before he played Mike Ehrmantrautin Breaking Bad (and then on Better Call Saul), Jonathan Banks played a frontier criminal in the 1980 Little House episode “Darkness Is My Friend.” Banks’s Jed and two other guys take Laura and Mary hostage at Mary’s school for the blind. Thankfully, Pa Ingalls saves the day.

21. Wildfires have destroyed the Little House on the Prairie sets—more than once.

In 2003, a fire swept through the Simi Valley, California set, known as Big Sky Movie Ranch. The fires destroyed a replica of the Ingalls' homestead, which had long been a tourist attraction. It also wiped out a lot of cattle. In May 2019, lightning propelled another destructive fire on the ranch.

22. The Simi Valley ranch may have been a “sick” set.

Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory was the site of one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in U.S. history back in 1959, and illegal disposal of nuclear waste continued in the area until the 1980s. No actual link has ever been admitted or proven publicly, but there have been murmurings for years that the number of cancer cases among Little House actors and crew members may have some connection to the chemical and radioactive contamination in that area. Michael Landon died of pancreatic cancer; Victor French (Isaiah Edwards) died of lung cancer (he and Landon were heavy smokers, though); Merlin Olsen (Jonathan Garvey) died of mesothelioma; Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) succumbed to esophageal cancer; and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle) is a breast cancer survivor.'

23. Nellie’s broken arm and screams were both real in that famous runaway wheelchair scene.

“Bunny,” the episode where Nellie gets thrown from the horse she’d won from Laura in a previous episode and ends up paralyzed, is a fan favorite. The climactic scene occurs shortly after Laura discovers that Nellie can, in fact, walk and has been faking her paralysis just to get attention. She gets her revenge by taking Nellie to the top of a hill in her wheelchair and giving her an almighty shove. In reality, Arngrim had recently broken her wrist in a skateboarding accident, so the plaster cast on her arm was real. And while a stunt double was used for the shot where Nellie flew out of the chair and into the pond, Arngrim was required to ride the rickety, 1870s-era wooden wheelchair down a rocky slope so she could be filmed screaming for the close-ups. The chair was attached to safety ropes, but just prior to the second take, as the director yelled “Action!” one of the crew members cried out “Oh no, the rope broke!” It hadn’t, but Arngrim didn’t know that and her terrified screams as she bounced and rolled down the hill, struggling with one hand to stay in the chair, were authentic.

24. Laura and Manly’s wedding night was not as romantic as it seemed.

Although on the show Laura was 17 when she married Almanzo Wilder, in real life Melissa Gilbert was a very innocent, romantically inexperienced 15-year-old whose first kiss was on a sound stage. Her initial kiss with 23-year-old Dean Butler (the actor who played Wilder) was only the third time she’d kissed a “boy” and it squicked her out because he had the tiniest bit of beard stubble. The thought of having to cuddle in bed with him (after the pair had wed on the series) was even more frightening to the teenager.

In an attempt to try to joke Gilbert out of her nervousness, Butler quietly crooned some lyrics from “Strangers in the Night” into her ear before the cameras rolled. Unfortunately his effort had a cringe-worthy opposite effect on Gilbert, and she pleaded with Michael Landon afterward for any romantic scenes between Laura and Almanzo to be limited to hugs or a peck on the cheek.

25. Laura and Manly’s lack of chemistry was a cause for concern among the producers.

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

A “secret” memo was circulated at one point discussing the romantic pairings on the show; Laura and Almanzo just didn’t look like they were in love, and couldn’t the actors do something to generate some “sparks” between the two of them? The same memo pointed out that when Nellie and Percival were together they “looked like they f*** like crazed weasels.” Unbeknownst to the production staff, Steve Tracy, who played Nellie’s husband Percival, was gay. But he and Alison Arngrim were great friends and used to swap passionate, open-mouth kisses during their love scenes just because they knew it grossed Melissa Gilbert out.

26. Michael Landon directed almost half of the series’ episodes.

Not only did Landon play a lead role, but he also wrote, directed, and produced many of the episodes. Out of 205 episodes, he directed 90 of them, including the two-hour pilot, the final episode, and additionally TV movies Little House Years and Little House: The Last Farewell . He continued his directing and producing career in Highway to Heaven , which debuted in 1984.

27. Michael Landon didn’t "tinker" with perfection.

A scene from Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In her book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim wrote about what kind of director Landon was. “Michael was very much a fan of the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy, and if something worked well enough in the first take, don’t bothering tinkering with perfection—just say ‘print’ and move on.”

28. NBC and Michael Landon canceled the show because Melissa Gilbert was all grown up.

In 1984, Landon told The New York Times why he and the network decided to end the show. One reason was partly because of declining ratings, and the other had to do with Melissa Gilbert’s Laura. “I didn't think a married woman should still be coming to her father for advice,” he said. “But when we started this show, we never imagined it would last this long.”

29. When filming on Little House On The Prairie finished, they blew up the sets.

In 1984, Landon directed the last TV Prairie movie, The Last Farewell, which involved the townspeople blowing up Walnut Grove so a land baron couldn’t have it. In real life, Landon ordered the sets to be blown to bits. Producer Kent McCrary explained that NBC leased the land from Getty Oil Company and the Newhall Land and Development Corporation and had to return the land back to its “original state,” meaning it had to look like it did before production moved in. McCrary suggested demolition, however, Landon said: “What if we blow up the town? That would get the buildings all in pieces and you still can bring in your equipment to pick up the debris and cart it away.” So he wrote the explosions into the script but made sure to leave the homestead and church untouched.

“I think it makes for a good strong pioneer ending,” Landon said. “It was also a nice catharsis for the cast and crew. There were lots of tears when we finally blew up the town. The actors had all become very attached to their own buildings, so it was very emotional.”

30. they did test runs before they blew everything up.

Karen Grassle in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

“We did quite a few tests first to make sure nobody would get hurt,” Landon told The New York Times . “So when we finally blew everything up, it went off like clockwork. We did it all in one day.”

31. Actor Stan Ivar kept his homestead.

During the final season, a new family, the Carters, move into the homestead. Ivar played head-of-the-family John Carter. Landon didn’t want the homestead destroyed, so according to Laura’s Prairie, Ivar disassembled the set and took it home with him. He supposedly has the set in storage or in his barn. At one point he tried to donate the set to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, but Ed Friendly, the owner of the Prairie brand, blocked it. The replica home might be gone, but at least the original still exists.

32. Little House on the Prairie gained a cult following in France.

Today, Little House on the Prairie can be seen in 140 countries, including France. Arngrim spends a few months a year touring the country. “It’s similar to David Hasselhoff and Germany,” she told The New York Times. “They don’t think Nellie is mean. They just think she’s French.”

33. Alison Arngrim learned to embrace "Nasty Nellie."

Alison Arngrim in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 2017, Arngrim said that she gets “recognized more now than I did when the show was running.” And somehow she has not tired of her most famous role. "I thought I’d be sick of it, but now, it just makes me smile."

34. Baby Grace published a book called Prairie Devotional.

Wendi Turnbaugh (a.k.a. Wendi Lou Lee) was literally a baby when she was cast to play Grace Ingalls, the youngest Ingalls child. In August 2019, she published a faith-based book about the show. “My husband actually gave me the idea, probably about 10 years ago,” Turnbaugh said. "I thought it was a really good idea. But I didn't have the confidence.” But when she was recovering from a brain tumor, she started writing the book. “It started out as a blog just to inform people of my health and what was happening, and it became this,” she said.

35. Wendi Turnbaugh was also a twin.

A still of the cast of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Identical twins Rachel and Sidney Greenbush played Carrie Ingalls, and Turnbaugh also had a real-life twin (named Brenda).

36. One viewer really hated Nellie.

Nellie made quite the villain, and one person in particular took their hate too far. Arngrim explained that when she was 16, a person threw a half-filled cup of orange soda at her head while she was participating in the Hollywood Christmas parade. “I was actually impressed,” Arngrim said. “I mean, how good did you have to be to make someone so angry? I won’t ever forget it. Maybe that person will finally come forward and confess.”

37. Wendi Turnbaugh thinks people are drawn to the show’s faith.

Little House debuted 45 years ago, yet it still resonates with fans. In an interview with The Christian Perspective, Turnbaugh explained why she thought people still gravitate toward the series. “People are starving for family values and faith-filled content,” she said. “I think people might say that they don’t want that or need that. But that is what draws people in.”

38. Nellie became a gay icon.

For decades, Arngrim has immersed herself in the gay community. Her father was gay, and she worked for an AIDS charity. She told The New York Times how gay men adopted Nellie as one of their own. “I turned toward the people who were still clapping the loudest for her,” she said. She performed a one-woman show “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” at a gay resort in Orlando and sold copies of her book at Nellie’s Sports Bar. “Little Nellie was hilarious with that hair and those petticoats, kind of like a drag queen in training,” Lady Bunny, a DJ, told The New York Times. Most recently, Arngrim was a part of Los Angeles DragCon.

39. The show may have led to more people reading books.

Little House on the Prairie Book at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, Wisconsin
Lorie Shaull, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In a 1974 interview with People, Landon mentioned that book stores and libraries kept calling him and praising him. “Because of the show,” he said, “there are going to be an awful lot of kids reading.”

40. Alison Arngrim wants to play Mrs. Oleson if the show is ever rebooted.

Arngrim said that fans constantly request for the cast to reunite. “There’s only so much of us left, but we’d definitely all do it,” she said. She suggested casting Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown to play Nellie, and the old cast could make cameos. “Also, I am the correct age now to play Mrs. Oleson and I’m available, so I have no shame,” she said. “I would play her in a second. I would totally do that,”

41. A Little House on the Prairie feature film was announced.

Melissa Sue Anderson, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, and Matthew Labyorteaux in Little House on the Prairie
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

In 2016, Paramount was working on a Little House movie, but no word if that project is still happening.

42. And, just because: here’s disco Half-Pint as we never saw her in Walnut Grove.

We hope you enjoy the singing and dancing talents of Melissa Gilbert on this 1978 installment of the short-lived variety series Dick Clark’s Live Wednesday.

Additional sources:
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, by Alison Arngrim
Prairie Tale, by Melissa Gilbert
The Way I See It: A Look Back on My Life on Little House, by Melissa Sue Anderson
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter, by Melissa Francis

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