Why Billy Idol Called ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert ‘Priscilla’ When They Were Dating

In the ’80s, Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert‘s most famous relationship was with The Outsiders star Rob Lowe. But somewhere in their six-year-on-and-off relationship, Gilbert had a brief romance with musician Billy Idol, which “shocked the hell out of people, including myself,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. During their time together, Idol had a nickname for Gilbert: Priscilla.

Melissa Gilbert and Billy Idol after a date at Le Dome Restaurant in West Hollywood, 1986
Billy Idol and Melissa Gilbert in 1986 | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

How Melissa Gilbert and Billy Idol started dating

One evening when Gilbert and her friend Katie Wagner were out on the town, they found themselves at Idol’s VIP section at a club in Los Angeles called Tramps.

“My first thought was wow, he is gorgeous,” wrote Gilbert. “We started out shouting at each other over the loud music pulsing through the club. Then I moved to his end of the table.”

Their conversation surprised Gilbert.

“He impressed me as a sweet, gentle, and soft-spoken charmer,” she wrote. “He wanted to know all about Michael Landon and he asked what it was like to grow up on television. At the end of the night, we exchanged numbers and a few days later he called and asked me out.”

Why Billy Idol called Melissa Gilbert ‘Priscilla’ when they dated

The paparazzi was obsessed with the unique pairing at the time.

“The tabloids had a field day trying to figure us out,” wrote Gilbert. “In the public eye, we were the ultimate odd couple.”

Elvis and Priscilla Presley Posing near Airplane
Elvis and Priscilla Presley | Bettmann, Getty Images

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Their vast differences in image did not escape the musician. He nicknamed Gilbert “Priscilla,” after Elvis Presley’s wife.

Presley also had a reputation as a “bad boy.” Priscilla was much younger and more innocent. Idol couldn’t help but see the parallels between the King of Rock and Roll and himself.

There was one person, though, who didn’t question their relationship. Gilbert’s mother “liked Billy a lot,” according to the Little House star.

Why Melissa Gilbert and Billy Idol broke up

At the end of the day, it was their differences that tore Gilbert and Idol apart.

Gilbert started to drift when she attended a party Idol threw at the Bel Age Hotel in Beverly Hills, where there was “serious drug use and people out of control.”

“I stayed until the following afternoon, but afterward I was bothered by the glimpse of darkness I saw that night,” she wrote.

Not too long after the party, Idol brought Gilbert to Rick James’ house, where she “felt a bad vibe,” calling it “the scariest place I’d ever been.”

“Twenty minutes later, I made him take me home,” she wrote.

After that, Gilbert and Idol parted ways.

“That I was even with him shocked the hell out of people, including myself,” she wrote. “But I didn’t want to get involved any further and then have to disentangle myself from something I sensed could turn ugly fast.”