Why ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert ‘Wanted To Die’ After Meeting John Travolta

Melissa Gilbert met plenty of celebrities while filming Little House on the Prairie at Paramount Studios. One meeting that sticks out is the time she first saw John Travolta. They were in the cafeteria getting lunch when Gilbert ‘wanted to die’ from embarrassment.

John Travolta and Melissa Gilbert
John Travolta and Melissa Gilbert | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images; Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

When Melissa Gilbert first saw John Travolta

The Paramount Studios commissary was always “a hub of activity and star-gazing,” according to Gilbert. She ran into such people like “Mork & Mindy stars Robin Williams and Pam Dawber or the guys from Happy Days.” She got along particularly well with Henry Winkler.

When Gilbert learned that Travolta would be filming Grease on the lot, she put herself “on red alert for any sightings.”

And then, one day, it finally happened.

“I was eating lunch with Katherine MacGregor, who played Mrs. Oleson,” wrote Gilbert in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “Katherine’s nickname was Scottie, and she was hilarious, one of my favorite lunch companions for her openness and sense of humor. But her lack of inhibition made her a less than perfect choice to be seated across from me when I literally went into shock.”

At the time of the sighting, Travolta was wearing his Danny Zuko costume: jeans and a leather jacket, and looking “gorgeous.”  

Why Melissa Gilbert ‘wanted to die’ when she met John Travolta

While Gilbert enjoyed eating lunch with Scottie most days at the commissary, she certainly regretted her lunchtime companion the day she first laid eyes on Travolta.

“As he walked toward the food counter, Scottie twisted around in her chair, leaned back, and signaled him to our table with an animated wave that could’ve guided a 747 to the gate, even as I pleaded ‘No, no, no, please don’t do it,’” wrote Gilbert. “Just in case he didn’t see her, she augmented her effort with a piercing warble: ‘Oh, young man! Young man! Over here!’ If you watched Little House you can imagine how she sounded… just like Harriet Oleson calling out to some young man in town. Oy!

Gilbert “wanted to die” she was so embarrassed.  

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“I literally slipped under the table,” she wrote. “It wasn’t like he wouldn’t know who I was. I was on a highly rated TV program and I was in my Little House wardrobe.” 

Despite the showy beckon, Gilbert says Travolta was “warm and gracious.” He didn’t even laugh at her.

But just because the interaction wasn’t a complete disaster doesn’t mean Gilbert condoned her lunchtime pal’s behavior.

“After he went to get his food, I turned to Scottie and said, ‘Please don’t ever do that to me again,’” she wrote.

Melissa Gilbert’s love for John Travolta only grew

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Even though they didn’t have the best meeting, Gilbert remained a fan of Travolta for years to come. In Prairie Tale, she writes about her memories of singing and dancing to the Grease album with her friend Tracy Nelson.

“We’d stage it and sing along like devoted cult members,” she wrote.

When they sang along, Tracy would often be Sandy and Gilbert acted as Travolta.