‘Little House on the Prairie’: What Almanzo Wilder Actor Dean Butler Did to Make Laura Ingalls Actor Melissa Gilbert Think of Him as ‘Chester the Molester’
One of the major plot points in Little House on the Prairie is Laura’s meeting and falling in love with Almanzo. But Laura grew up before Melissa Gilbert, the actor playing Laura, was quite ready. When it came time to kiss, marry, and get in bed with Dean Butler (the man who played Almanzo), Gilbert was terrified.
Melissa Gilbert was shocked when ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cast Dean Butler as Almanzo
Gilbert knew that Laura Ingalls was going to fall in love and start a life with a man named Almanzo Wilder someday — she’d read the books. But she expected casting to find someone closer to her age. Butler is almost 10 years her senior.
“When we finally met I was hit by a perfect storm of disappointment, fear, anger, and nausea,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “I can imagine what my face looked like. No, I don’t want to imagine. It couldn’t have been nice.”
At that point in her life, Gilbert didn’t have hardly any experience with romance, and especially not with grown men.
“Dean was a grown-up man,” wrote Gilbert. “I looked at him as if he’d risen from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. He was in his twenties. He shaved, drove a car, and lived in his own apartment.”
Melissa Gilbert was incredibly nervous for her first bedroom scene with Dean Butler as Laura and Almanzo in ‘Little House on the Prairie’
During the seventh season of Little House on the Prairie, Laura and Almanzo started their lives together as a married couple. Gilbert was particularly nervous about having to act with Butler in their bed.
“My head was full of vivid images of the vile things that could happen to me in there,” she wrote. “Not that I had a clue what any of those things looked like; for me it was all imagination, and what I was imagining scared the sh*t out of me.”
Gilbert remembers feeling a lot of pressure surrounding Laura’s relationship with Almanzo. Just like their first kiss and their wedding, there was a lot of anticipation for their first scene together in bed as a married couple.
“But make no mistake, this was no love scene per se…this was prairie lovin’,” Gilbert described the scene.
Laura and Almanzo’s first bedroom scene as a married couple on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
As Little House fans may recall, the scene involved Laura and Almanzo reading the Bible under the covers and eating popcorn — “Even Kermit and Miss Piggy had spicier scenes on Sesame Street.”
Just as Gilbert and Butler were getting ready to film the scene, the Almanzo actor did something that made his co-star feel uncomfortable.
“Dean turned, put his mouth close to my ear, and like a slimy lounge lizard crooned ‘Strangers in the Night,'” wrote Gilbert. “He cracked up, thinking it was the funniest thing ever.”
Gilbert didn’t get the joke and didn’t find it funny.
“Had I been a little older and more experienced, I probably would have laughed with him, but that was not the case,” she wrote. “Singing that song in that place at that time was a fatal mistake. All my fears were confirmed. I thought I was in bed with Chester the Molester.”
Today, Gilbert and Butler are “great friends.”
“He knows he scared the crap out of me,” wrote Gilbert.