Celebrities

'Little House on the Prairie' Star Michael Landon Once Said Reading Tabloid Reports About Himself Was Worse Than Getting Cancer

Michael Landon had a lengthy television career that began in the 1960s. With the success of shows such as Little House on the Prairie, he became a well-known face on magazine covers. Unfortunately, not all of the news regarding the Charles Ingalls actor’s life was positive. 

Michael Landon from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ had an interesting personal life

When Landon worked on Bonanza from 1959 to 1973, he was best known for being Little Joe Cartwright. As his career progressed, however, his audience wanted to know more about his personal life. By the time he booked Little House on the Prairie as Charles Ingalls, Landon had already been married twice. He met his second wife, Lynn Noe, while he was legally married to his first wife, Dodie Levy-Fraser. After his divorce from Fraser, the Highway to Heaven star married Noe in 1963. They went on to have two children together-Leslie Landon, Shawna Landon, Michael Landon, Jr, and Christopher Landon. 

In the early 1980s, Landon’s reputation as a family changed. It was then that he met Cindy Clerico, a stand-in on Little House on the Prairie. Clerico was in her 20s while the actor was in his late 40s. However, they engaged in an affair, and Landon eventually asked Noe for a divorce. The split made headlines in the tabloids, as the public viewed the actor as a wholesome, devoted, and faithful husband and father. However, his Little House co-star and TV daughter, Melissa Sue Anderson, said the news wasn’t shocking to those who knew Landon personally. 

“For most of our Little House ‘family’, the adults, in particular, this seemed to be a TV star’s midlife crisis,” Anderson wrote in her memoir, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. “Even taking into account his squeaky-clean, family-man image, this was not shocking; he had been married and divorced once before.”

Michael Landon despised the tabloids

Landon’s affair became tabloid fodder throughout the 1980s. Although he defended his romance in an interview with People, he lost multiple endorsements and millions of dollars from Noe’s public divorce. 

The relationship with the tabloids got worse as Landon got older. In May 1991, he told The Tonight Show host and friend Johnny Carson that he had pancreatic cancer. During his interview, Landon also shared that the headlines he read about himself regarding his diagnosis were worse than living with cancer. Many tabloids would even count down the days leading up to Landon’s death. Landon said he often worried that the headlines would upset his nine children. 

One report suggested that the actor was planning to have another child with Clerico so she could remember him when he died, which he denied. 

“I mean, I got nine kids, nine dogs, three grandkids, one in the oven, and my wife Cindy needs something to remember me by?” Landon said during the interview, defending the rumor. 

Michael Landon’s wife once sued a tabloid

The tabloid reports regarding Landon also affected the people who loved him. After the Us star died of cancer on July 1, 1991, his wife faced more rumors. In January 1999, People reported that Clerico sued The Globe for $5 million because of a story they ran on her husband. The report stated that Landon engaged in “such things as illegal drugs and pornography.” 

Additionally, the story claimed that the couple was on the outs before the TV star died. 

“I am outraged that the press feels that it can make any statements it wants about a person, no matter how damaging and no matter how false, when that person is dead and unable to defend himself,” Clerico said at the time.

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