Naturally, Angrim had her issues with child stardom, and she spares no gory details. She was exposed to drugs and alcohol from a young age (she was doing LSD at age eight), she worked long hours in brutal heat and uncomfortable costumes and even once fainted in the middle of a scene, and was beat up by other children and called names for playing "the bitch" on T.V. Meanwhile, she was often left alone by her absent parents (also in show business, her mother was the voice of Casper the Ghost and Gumby) to be babysat by her older brother, and says she was molested multiple times by him. She would later become an advocate for children's rights, both on and off the set. (Angrim even came out to Pennsylvania to testify at hearings about reality T.V., spearheaded by Rep. Murt. The inquisition would ultimately result in P.A. tightening its child labor laws, which go into effect this month.)
But ironically, Angrim was part of a production that was widely regarded as very protective of children, even ahead of its time. Michael Landon fiercely guarded the children on set, and the child actors have almost all grown up to be very stable and successful adults, avoiding the typical pitfalls. Coincidence? "Mary" and "Laura" continued to act into adulthood and have families. The twins who played "Carrie" quit acting and went back to high school to live normal lives, both of them riding and breeding horses. "Albert" founded a charity in Los Angeles for troubled children. "Alisha" married a real estate agent and now appears on the Real Housewives. "Willie" is a stockbroker and never acted again. "Cassandra" was a finance reporter for CNBC and now FoxNews.
Oh, and this cute little moppet of a cowboy? Remember sad orphan "James" who ended up shot by robbers?
Yeah, he's this beautiful man now:
Be still my heart!
And of course Alison Arngrim grew up and became an advocate for children, as well as a comedian, and has made a real difference for kids. Here is Arngrim's recounting of how Michael Landon guarded his child stars:
Melissa and Alison became best friends and have remained so ever since.
A must-read, Arngrim's memoir is widely available on Amazon.com, including for Kindle, and even many local libraries.