Melissa Gilbert

Photograph courtesy

I remember like it was yesterday leaving MGM when I was 17, driving my Toyota Celica convertible, wearing my Ditto jeans and a T-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut off and red heart-shaped Lolita sunglasses, and stopping at the corner of La Cienega and Wilshire because I was going to buy a dress for the Golden Globes. And meeting Rob Lowe in the car next to me. Our relationship started there. We were together for six years. He was the first real love of my life. He was a struggling actor, on his way to audition for a commercial, and I was the girl from Little House on the Prairie.

We started Little House at Paramount Studios. My lunch hours were spent mostly with Henry Wink­ler, when they were taping Happy Days there. When I met Scott Baio for the first time—he’s been a friend ever since—I got all googly-eyed over him. I took him to my homecoming dance. The line between real and reel is pretty blurry. It’s all mixed together.

I was almost 20 when I got my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was the youngest ever. Britney Spears beat me years later. My father, Paul Gilbert, has a star not far from mine. It’s outside a building that used to house Mannis Furs, where my mother worked. She’d leave for the day and walk across my father’s star long before they’d ever met. After my dad passed away, I got my star. Remember when they were building a subway under Hollywood? (It kills me that they were building a subway in a place that could be decimated by an earthquake at any moment.) Well, a huge chunk of Hollywood Boulevard became a sinkhole during construction. Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson on Little House, called me and said, “I just heard on the radio that your star is sinking.” And I said, “Is this some new kind of rating system or something? I’m still working!” She said, “No, schmuck! There’s a hole in Hollywood Boulevard, and your star is one of the ones that’s sinking into the earth.” But it got saved.

Another time my friend Sandy Peckinpah and I were at Ruby’s in the Valley having burgers with our kids, and the waiter came over—this is maybe ten years ago—and he was clearing the plates, and he said to me, “Are you still working?” I looked at him totally insulted and said, “Um, yes. I just did a movie for CBS. Hello?” And he said, “No, I mean are you working on your food?” » Gilbert, 46, played Laura Ingalls, aka Half Pint, on Little House on the Prairie and is a former president of the Screen Actors Guild.