Karen Grassle's Struggled With Alcohol Addiction & Was On 'Brink Of Despair' For Years
May 09, 2022 by apost team
'Little House on the Prairie' is one show that always manages to take you back to the good old days. The show's star, Karen Grassle, turned 80 years old in 2022. Even at her current age, Karen is still as gorgeous and active as ever.
Grassle played the family matriarch in the show, Caroline Ingalls, also commonly referred to as “Ma.” The show featured the everyday challenges of raising a lovely family in a stressful environment. Caroline and her husband Charles, played by Michael Landon, entertained viewers with their parenting skills, and most actors in the cast became household names due to the popularity of the series.
'Little House on the Prairie' ran on NBC from September 11th, 1974 until May 10th, 1982. On the show, Grassle played the matriarch of the family, known as the character 'Ma' whose name was Caroline Ingalls. Once Grassle left the series in 1982, it ran with a new title: 'Little House: A New Beginning.' Many of Grassle’s fans wonder what happened to her after her the show ended. Luckily, she never slowed down and continues to be a successful actress in Hollywood.
With all the success that she has achieved, it's no surprise that acting took a prominent place in Grassle's life even at an early age, and through to adulthood. Grassle loved performing in school plays, according to Biography.com. She was also an active member of her local Baptist choir. In 1965, she graduated from college with a degree in Dramatic Art and English.
Grassle spent two summers perfecting her stage performance in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and also appeared in one show under PBS productions. She also managed to make her debut on Broadway around that time.
Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video :-)
Grassle was born on February 25, 1942, in Berkeley, California and readers will likely not be surprised that acting took a prominent place in Grassle's life even at an early age and through to adulthood. Biography.com reported that Grassle loved performing in school plays, and added that she was also an active member of her local Baptist choir.
Grassle played the family matriarch in the iconic series "Little House on the Prairie" as Caroline Ingalls, also commonly referred to as “Ma.” The show featured the everyday challenges of raising a lovely family in a stressful environment. Caroline and her husband Charles, played by Landon, entertained viewers with their parenting skills, and most actors in the cast became household names due to the popularity of the series. As lovely as her life was on-screen, things were the exact opposite in her real life.
Grassle’s personal life was filled with plenty of ups and downs. She was married three times throughout her life. She first was married to actor Leon Russom from 1966 to 1970. Afterward, she was married to James Alan Radford from 1982 to 1987.
According to Closer Weekly, the couple adopted two children during this time, named Zachary and Lily. Radford also had three children from a previous relationship.
While Grassle had yearned to have children of her own, there had been some complications. “We wanted to have a child and we’d been having some difficulties,” she explained. “We were on the verge of beginning fertility treatment and started contacting people we knew about adoption.” Once Grassle and Radford found someone looking for a couple to adopt her child, they knew it was “destiny.”
Even though Grassle and Radford’s marriage didn’t last, they remained on good terms and raised their children together following their divorce. Afterward, Grassle went on to marry Dr. Scott Sutherland, and they were together from 1991 until 1997. However, not much about their relationship was very publicized.
Speaking to the New York Post, Grassle also revealed that she struggled in the 60s and 70s.
During the time, she described herself as "a self-hating addict who tottered on the brink of despair."
The set of "Little House On The Praire" had a bar on set and this certainly did not help Grassle to keep a check on her alcohol addiction. It was also during this time that she began to worry about the quality of her acting in the series. She added, "I spent my drinking career trying to get a handle on it,”
Her high-functioning alcoholism allowed her to work well, but it would not end well. "I wanted to drink the way other people drank — just to have fun at the party," the actress stated.
"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."
She also penned a memoir about her life titled “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma” in which she delved further into her life story. The book was released in November 2021, and in it, she revealed her thoughts about Landon, who was a major reason for the show's success.
Grassle wrote that initially found him a demanding boss who was also an "amazing, multi-talented person." She added, "He was very highly strung, but he was carrying the weight of the show on his shoulders."Matthew Labyorteaux, Michael Landon, Jr., Alison Arngrim, Dean Butler, Lindsay Greenbush, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson (2014), (D Dipasupil/Getty Images/Extra)
However, when Grassle asked for a raise and was rejected, things began to sour between her and Landon according to the New York Post. Grasse was even angrier when Landon used the excuse that her earnings should correspond with those of the child actors. Landon also told Grassle that she was not as popular with the audience as she believed.
"I felt insulted as his co-star on a hit series," she said "I didn’t want to gouge anybody, but I expected a fair wage." This, unfortunately, did not turn out well for Grassle, and soon, she was left out of storylines and her scenes were cut. Moreover, Landon would also elicit cheap laughs from the crew by mocking her figure and facial expressions whenever they would review the footage.
Most shockingly, however, Landon began to use foul language and rude conduct, and his behavior would be supported by other on-set males. Grassle said that Landon’s outrageous comments made her want "to disappear."
"It was almost like I was frozen," she added. "But, as a woman in the 1970s film industry, I was so accustomed to these putdowns, it never occurred to me to sharply rebuke him." She continued, "I kept up the professionalism. I’d be the good girl, play the part and hope."
Unfortunately, by this time, Grassle was relying on alcohol to get through the days, and would even arrive on set after a heavy night of drinking feeling exhausted and nauseous. The actress would rely on the hair and makeup artists to disguise the side effects of her drinking, such as puffy and red eyes.
However, she was able to overcome her difficulties and by 1991, she even reconciled with Landon. "I am very grateful that we mended our fences," Grassle said.
Karen Grassle is a living inspiration for overcoming her difficulties. What do you think about this phenomenal woman and her battle with alcohol addiction? Tell your opinions and let your friends and family remember this beautiful face that had once been a permanent fixture on our TV screens.