Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It's not every night that one encounters the opportunity to meet the one and only Nellie Oleson.

Yes, that Nellie Oleson - the little blond bitch from Little House On The Prairie who terrorized Laura Ingalls and the rest of the kids in Walnut Grove, Minnesota for eight glorious television seasons.

Alison Arngrim is the actress who portrayed Nellie Oleson, ringlets and all. Arngrim was here in Vancouver this past weekend to appear at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The hotel's rarely-unwrapped rooftop restaurant (yup, there's a restaurant up there) was the site of a swishy-do last Saturday night. It was the Vancouver Men's Chorus 3rd annual Legacy Gala & Auction fundraiser.

One of the singers in the chorus is a cousin of Alison Arngrim. That would make two big nellie's in one family! Anyhoo, Arngrim is now a stand-up comedian and was featured as the headline entertainment at this fun, charity event.

Alison Arngrim's show is called Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Let's break it down: her act is actually very, very funny and really, really crude. Example? A powerpoint slide on a large screen next to Arngrim's stage displays a magazine article she uses in her act to illustrate the terrible things that are *still* written about poor little Nellie Oleson. The article describes the actresses days as a child star and her tv character as a C U Next Tuesday.

Aaah! Yikes, that's a nasty word to pin on a little girl. But really, it basically set the tone for the feel of Arngrims' stand-up act, not to mention the language.

She riffed for a good hour on growing up with a father who managed Nellie Oleson and Liberace for a living, meeting Hollywood's first transexual (a friend of her parents) when she was 7 or 8, and being called a bitch by every girl at her public school after her first appearance as Nellie Oleson aired in primetime.

So... her dad, Thor Arngrim, was the manager of Liberace. No wonder Nellie Oleson was infused with a quality of enduring appeal to gay men everywhere! She was the queen bitch child - and that's exactly the quality that alot of gay men had to have when growing up in defense against homophobic ridicule from other kids at school.

Her mother, Norma MacMillan was also an actress. She voiced Casper the Friendly Ghost, Gumby and Davey (from Davey & Goliath).

Here's another aspect which endears Nellie Oleson to homo hearts in little houses everywhere - later in the series, the character married Percival. The actor who portrayed Percival, Steve Tracy, was gay. Sadly, his short life ended at the age of 34 when he passed away from AIDS complications. Arngrim and Tracy were close in life and after his death, she became an AIDS activist and is still active in this pursuit to this day. Good on ya, I say!

Oooh, and she had some good dish on other Little House cast members. Here's one. When she was about 14 or 15 years old, at a Little House on The Prairie cast party, Michael Landon pulled one of the straps on the spaghetti strap top she wore to the party. Poor Alison grimaced in pain when the strap snapped back into place against her chest. Upon seeing the expression of discomfort on her face, all he had to say was, "hmm, that didn't hurt last year, did it?" Well, I guess that's Pa Ingalls for you. She also said he was a great man while being a complete alcoholic.

Here's another one: even though Nellie was *the bitch* on the show, and Laura & Mary Ingalls were the *nice girls*, in real life it wasn't quite so on the Little House set. Alison and Melissa Gilbert were (and still are) great friends and were known as the nice ones. The real-life bitch, believe it or not, was the blind one... Mary Ingalls, portrayed by actress Melissa Sue Anderson! Who knew, eh? I was pretty surprised that she revealed this to a public audience, but I guess there's no love lost between these people.

But even though she was willing to expose a bitchy blind girl, she wasn't quite so open when it came to a question about Matthew Laborteaux, who played Albert Ingalls (the hot orphan who was adopted into the Ingalls family). A member of our audience asked if the actor is gay and all she said was "how the Eff am I supposed to know what he's into?"

Near the end of her act, she directed our attention to the screen one last time to watch what is def the most classic and unforgettable scene from Little House on the Prairie. It was a scene from the episode where Nellie, in a karmic twist of fate, is thrown from a horse and injured. However! She plays the injury card to full effect to solicit sympathy and attention and convinces everyone she cannot walk and needs a wheelchair. Laura Ingalls gets wise to Nellies' scam and cheerfully offers to take her out for a "roll" in her wheelchair for some fresh air. Once at the top of a hill, and ensuring Nellie's doting, awful mother happens to be at the bottom of the hill on her way through town, Laura pushes Nellie in her wheelchair right down the hill! Nellie screams in terror, unable to bail on the speeding, out of control wheelchair. At the bottom of the hill, the wheelchair hits a bump and launches Nellie from her seat, arcing high through the air and landing with a splash in a swamp. Her mother screams! Nellie *stands* up, out of the water, soaking wet and crying. But she's *standing*! Her mother witnesses what she believes is a miracle ... her daughter can finally walk again ... and has her own accident as she faints and falls backward off the end of her chuckwagon (remember, this is the 1800's). A true classic scene!

There's a few authorized clips of Alison Arngrim's "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch". Here, have a peek and a giggle:

After her show, I got her autograph and me and my friend Andrew got our photo with her...

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