I recently had the pleasure of meeting Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the evil Nellie Oleson on that classic 70s tearjerker, Little House on the Prairie.
Alison was appearing at the St. Louis Public Library to promote her new autobiography, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. The book chronicles her experiences as a child actor, her upbringing in the surreal environment among the hotels and mansions of Hollywood, and her life post-Prairie, including her extensive AIDS charity work and advocacy for children’s rights.
Not only is the book a riveting account of the realities of a young celebrity?s unreal life, it also is one of the funniest works I have ever read. (You know a book is funny if it makes you laugh out loud when you are alone.) The first chapter alone is entitled “Mom, Dad, and Liberace”-I think that says it all.
But as I sat in the library, surrounded by a standing-room only crowd also waiting for Alison to arrive, I became increasingly uncomfortable. One man sat calmly, “Little House on the Prairie-The Musical” proudly displayed on his t-shirt, stroking his copy of Alison’s book. Behind me, a young woman dressed in “Prairie garb” (complete with quaint Prairie bonnet and full-length Prairie dress) giggled nervously in anticipation.
I began to wonder if Trekkies would look around and think “Man, these people need to get a life.”
When the woman of the hour did arrive, the room erupted to such a degree that Alison, obviously grateful, used her cell phone to capture video of the cheering crowd. After introductions and a Q&A, she signed autographs and took the time to greet everyone there.
In addition to being very funny, she also was very cordial and down-to-earth. I have to say, I did feel a little guilty that the experience didn’t bring me to tears though, and I am sure the Prairie-ites around me disapproved of my laid back attitude about such a monumental, life-changing event.
This actually was my second attempt to meet Alison. During a trip to Los Angeles last summer, I spent some time with my friend Scott Michaels (owner of Dearly Departed Tours and creator of www.findadeath.com). Alison hosts a “Nasty Nellie” tour for his company, taking guests around Hollywood and spinning yarns of her brushes with countless celebrities and her experiences on the long-running series. Tentative plans for her to hang out with us during my visit fell through, and I was happy to have the opportunity to meet her in St. Louis.
And as I walked to my car, my autographed copy of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch in hand, I swear I heard the sound of Laura punching Nellie and Pa bursting into tears behind me