Karen Grassle remains infamous for her role as the loving and affectionate mother, Caroline Ingalls, on “Little House on the Prairie.”
In the show, she was married to Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon). The two started a family together as fans witnessed the tragedy and love on the “Little House on the Prairie.” Other star actors on the series include Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson, and Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush.
The show was immensely popular while it was on. It first aired with a two-hour pilot movie in 1974 and the last season was in 1982. After that, there was a brief new broadcast called “Little House: A New Beginning” without Landon and Grassle.
Karen Grassle’s Struggle with Alcoholism
Given the show’s popularity, Grassle made decent money portraying Caroline Ingalls. According to an article from the New York Post, at the height of her fame, Grassle could make about $2,000 to $4,000 a week.
She would then use that money to frequently go to expensive restaurants and cocktail bars. Grassle revealed just how much pressure she felt on “Little House on the Prairie” to be perfect. The filming schedule was also grueling and incredibly stressful.
Also, there happened to be a bar on set, which made it even easier for Grassle to slowly grow dependent on alcohol.
“I spent my drinking career trying to get a handle on it. I wanted to drink the way other people drank – just to have fun at the party. But it started to get bad. I’d get horribly drunk and would sob, cry and carry on. I’d feel like everything in my life was wrong,” Grassle said regarding her alcohol abuse.
She opened up a lot about her life in the ’60s and ’70s and how it directly opposed her sweet, wholesome, and very G-rated image on “Little House on the Prairie.” Off the screen, Grassle was an addict struggling with identification and stress.
During this time, she had two unwanted pregnancies, a plethora of unsuccessful attempts at love, an STD experience, and a toxic relationship with Michael Landon. He also happened to be the director and producer of the series as well as starring in it.
Future Publication, Work After ‘Little House on the Prairie’
She opens up about all her life struggles and her time on the screen in her memoir that comes out on November 16. It’s called “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma.”
Grassle reveals that her alcoholism partially stems from her father. She started this habit while she was at school at the University of California, Berkeley. At the time, however, her drinking habit was limited because her budget was limited. This is why as she became more famous and acquired her own money, things went downhill quickly.
After the series, Grassle decided to change her career path a bit. She became the co-founder of Santa Fe’s Resource Theater Company. She continues to perform for different productions today. Her most recent role was in “Not to Forget” with Cloris Leachman, Louis Gossett Jr., Tatum O’Neal, George Chakiris, and Olympia Dukakis.