Aug 3, 2019

Michael Landon, Gay Ally

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.

For the next 14 years, Little Joe played the part of "teen hunk," strutting about shirtless and bulging, giving thousands of boomer kids their first crushes.  Unfortunately, he had little significant buddy-bonding, as he was constantly consorting with women, culminating in a marriage -- and the tragic demise of his bride -- 1972.

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.


  1. Michael had his own place. He often flew to Texas to see his male lover there. I knew the man in Texas

    1. I've heard that story beore from a few differnt quarters.

  2. Michael Landon wrote and directed " The Loneliest Runner' (1976) starring Lance Kerwin as teenager who wets his bed and is punished by his unstable mother. Inspired by his own difficult childhood.

  3. Have you read Alison Armgrin's book, 'Confessions of a Prairie Bitch'? She spills some T on Michael, and about the show in general. I saw her perform her act, based on the book, in St Paul a few years ago.

    1. I never saw any episodes of "Little House on the Prairie," or for that matter "Bonanza" or "Touched by an Angel." I guess I know Michael Landon only from his reputation.

    2. It's tea not T. Though yeah, these phenomena can keep a show going with confessions decades later.

      It makes things harsher in hindsight, certainly.


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