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The actor who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert, was good friends with executive producer, writer, director, and Charles Ingalls actor Michael Landon’s children, Leslie and Michael Landon Jr. (or, Mike Jr.), from the start of filming. When Gilbert and Mike Jr. became teenagers, they developed feelings for one another and dated for a time. Gilbert recalled one date, in particular, when Mike Jr. made her a unique (to put it nicely) twist on spaghetti.

Michael Landon Jr. and Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Michael Landon Jr. and Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert says her relationship with Michael Landon Jr. wasn’t ‘contrived for PR purposes’

In her memoir, Prairie Tale, Gilbert writes that her relationship with Mike Jr. “was a sure sign of change.” Up until that point, she’d only had crushes on fellow celebrities—teen heartthrobs she felt were unattainable. And she was getting worried she’d never be on the receiving end of a crush. Then Mike Jr. popped up from right under her nose. They’d always been close.

“I was also close to Mike Jr., who was a year younger than Leslie and me,” she wrote. “I slept at their house and they at mine, often enough that they felt like my weekend family.”

All of a sudden, Gilbert saw Mike Jr. in a different light.

“He was adorable; he had blond, curly hair and a great sense of humor,” she wrote. “I would lie in bed at night and his face would flash before my eyes as I tried to fall asleep. It was the first time I experienced butterflies in my stomach when I thought about a boy.”

Gilbert’s feelings were real, the relationship “hadn’t been contrived for PR purposes like so many teen romances in Hollywood.”

Michael Landon Jr.’s attempt at spaghetti for Melissa Gilbert

In her memoir, Gilbert recalls a date night she shared with Mike Jr. where he attempted to make her dinner.

Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon Jr. attend Third Annual Media Awards on January 22, 1981 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California
Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon Jr. | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

‘Little House on the Prairie’: The One Time Melissa Gilbert Rendered Michael Landon ‘Speechless’

“One time he cooked dinner for me, spaghetti with, in lieu of marinara sauce, a can of Hormel chili poured all over it,” she wrote.

As unconventional as the dish sounds, Gilbert swears “it was actually quite delicious.”

Melissa Gilbert’s ski trip with Michael Landon Jr.

Another monumental moment in their relationship was when Gilbert and Mike Jr. got to go on a ski trip together (with several other people, including adult chaperones).

“My mother also sent a bunch of us kids on a ski trip to Sun Valley, where she had a condo,” wrote Gilbert. “The gang included my brother and Mike Jr. Despite the fact I had multiple adult escorts, it was a big moment for me to be going away with a boy.”

Gilbert was nervous so she spent much of the weekend playing pranks.

“On that trip, I knew how to open the bathroom door when it was locked, and so Mike Jr. and I snuck in while my brother was in the shower and dumped a bucket of snow over him,” she wrote. “Jonathan had never screamed as high or as loud in his life.”

The Little House actor described her relationship with Mike Jr. as innocent. As much as he gave her butterflies, she wouldn’t quite call it “a romance.” But they made some wonderful memories together that Gilbert still looks back on fondly.