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  • Michael Landon bragged about his libido on the Little House on the Prairie set according to Karen Grassle.
  • He went on to have an affiar with an 18-year-old stand-in.
  • Landon’s affair led to some serious consequences both on and off the set, but it also led to one of the stars of Yellowstone.
Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon, son Sean Landon and daughter Jennifer Landon attend "The Wizard" Universal City Premiere on December 2, 1989 at Cineplex Odeon Universal City Cinemas in Universal City, California
Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon, son Sean Landon and daughter Jennifer Landon in 1989 | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Michael Landon had a scandalous affair on the set of Little House on the Prairie, according to star Karen Grassle. In her book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Life, Loss and Love from Little House’s Ma, Grassle writes that Landon’s behavior changed when he met 18-year-old Cindy Clerico. And it led to some serious consequences, both on the Little House set and in his personal life. Landon’s affair also led to one of the stars of Yellowstone.

Michael Landon started bragging about his libido on the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

As Charles “Pa” Ingalls on the wholesome NBC hit Little House on the Prairie, Landon became “America’s favorite dad” in the 1970s. When the series began in 1974, he was married to his wife Lynn and they shared five children together. Everyone on the set knew Lynn and the kids, and were friendly with them.

But by the early 1980s, Grassle says that Landon’s behavior started to change. In her book, she writes that Landon would openly talk about his “revived libido” on the Little House set.

“I didn’t want to think about his penis,” Grassle writes. “Mike began to arrive jubilant at the makeup table, crowing about the benefits of bee pollen for the aging male.”

‘America’s favorite dad’ had an affair with a teenage stand-in

Grassle says that it wasn’t long before the cast and crew of Little House discovered why Landon was bragging about his sex life. It was because he was having an affair with Clerico, a woman 20 years his junior, who worked as a stand-in for child actor Melissa Francis (Cassandra Cooper Ingalls).

Landon spoke to Clerico “longer than he talked to anyone else” on set, Grassle says. When the teenager loaned him a copy of the Nancy Friday book My Mother, My Self, they started separating themselves from everyone else.

“Then they began to walk further away from the action, engrossed in conversation and each other,” Grassle writes. “It was awkward as hell for us in the company. Everyone saw. Everyone looked away.”

Michael Landon’s affair led to one of the stars of ‘Yellowstone’

Because Lynn and the kids were well-known among the cast and crew, Grassle says Landon’s affair made things “incredibly awkward.”

“I knew his wife,” Grassle writes. “I had been in their home. She had been kind to me. And I thought about her children — there were three of them still at home … and younger than Cindy.”

Before Landon’s divorce from Lynn was finalized, Clerico became pregnant. Landon and Clerico eventually married in 1983 and welcomed their daughter Jennifer that same year. Jennifer Landon started working as an actor when she was a kid, and now she stars as Teeter on Taylor Sheridan’s hit western Yellowstone.

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cast and crew were not happy

After Landon and Clerico became an official couple, she was reintroduced on the Little House on the Prairie set as a makeup artist. Grassle says the cast would disparagingly call her “that makeup artist,” and they would get angry when she arrived on set driving a Porsche.

Landon’s affair damaged his clean-cut public image, and it caused him to lose a number of advertising deals. He also lost the respect of his co-stars, including a young Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls).

Landon had been a father figure to Gilbert since she was seven years old, and she often vacationed with his family. She wrote in her memoir Prairie Tale that she was surprised by Landon’s divorce, and she refused to attend his wedding with Clerico.

“I have to work with Mike, I can’t take sides, yet he’s done something that’s turned my world into angry, opposing sides.” Gilbert wrote. “I was put in a horribly, uncomfortable position.”

Michael Landon cast Jennifer Landon in her first acting role

Jennifer Landon landed her first acting gig at the age of five in one of the final episodes of her father’s 1980s NBC drama Highway to Heaven. But, she didn’t get the chance to get to know her father. He passed away in 1991 from pancreatic cancer when she was only seven years old. Still, he inspires his daughter to this day. Especially since starring in westerns seems to run in the family.


‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Recalls 1 Moment ‘Trapped’ in a Bed With Michael Landon That Was Just ‘Awful, Awful, Awful’

Little House was on in the morning so I used to watch it before school,” Landon told Vegas Film Critic and host, Jeffrey K Howard. “I had never seen the pilot of that show and right before I started working on Yellowstone I was like ‘I should make sure I watch all of Little House on the Prairie.’”

Yellowstone airs Sunday nights on the Paramount Network. All nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie are available on Peacock.