Michael Landon arrived in Los Angeles at age 19 and immediately started landing roles as tortured outcasts and juvenile delinquents, such as the gay-vague protagonist in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). He also cut some teen idol records and posed for innumerable beefcake shots before landing the role of Little Joe, youngest of the three sons of widowed rancher Ben Cartwright (Lorne Green) on Bonanza in 1959.
When Bonanza finally ended in 1973, Landon had acquired a reputation as a stable, solid, and "wholesome," a conservative remedy to the endless sexual innuendo found elsewhere on prime time.
But his next series, Little House on the Prairie (1974-83), was not exactly conservative. It offered cynicism, backstabbing, contemporary social issues -- and an endless supply of beefcake. According to Alison Arngrim, who played the bitchy Nellie Oleson, Michael Landon was quite aware of the program's gay male fans, and catered to them by mandating that the cute guys on the show often appear shirtless -- and engage in some buddy-bonding plotlines.
Never far from a tv screen, Landon continued after Little House with Highway to Heaven (1983-89), about a wayfaring angel who displays little heterosexual interest and travels with a male companion (Victor French).
He was in declining health, but he lived until 1991, long enough to express his support of his gay son, 16-year old Christopher.