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The original Nellie queen
The original Nellie queen
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch
September 13
Re-Bar


Most people recognize the face of Alison Arngrim much faster than the name. Her alternative television persona has much more the evil reputation, but that just goes to show you how different actors can be from their characters. Alison played the royal bitch "Nellie Oleson" (1974-'81) on the long-running NBC series (1974-'83) Little House on the Prairie. Recently at Seattle's Re-Bar, Alison performed her one-woman comedy act, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. And what's more, she dedicated her time (and costs) to do two shows for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.

Speaking a mile a minute, Alison comes out on stage showing off her curvaceous body, the recognizable "Nellie sneer," armed with a fast-paced wit and ready to tell all. The opening of the show provided the audience with "Ask Alison Anything" cards so that they could get the questions they always wondered about answered. Before reading them, she announced the 10 most frequently asked questions: Are you friends with Melissa Gilbert? Do you get residuals? What's your favorite episode? Etc. and then surprisingly (or maybe not) she usually gets asked about the size of Michael Landon's privates. "Let's just say," Alison quipped, "the name 'Little Joe' was NOT accurate." She continued with a lightning-paced explanation. "No, I never saw it - I was only 12 - but when he plowed the field with just his pants and suspenders, well, you could tell he was Jewish."

Alison says that after the first airing of Little House, she went to school the next day, as usual. When she walked in, a rival girl screamed at her, "you bitch!" And with split-second thinking - a trait she keeps to present day - Alison took a bow and said, "thank you." It was this moment that allowed her to embrace her inner bitch. Current young audiences tend to call her (character) the "C-word" with great admiration, but Alison has little hesitation embracing either title. "Bitch you want," she boasts, "bitch you shall have!"

With a father that managed Liberace and a mother that did the cartoon voices of Casper and Gumby, Alison was always among the Gay community. She outed co-actor Steve Tracy (who played her television husband Percival) when she showed up unannounced at his party and was the only female there. Alison confided, "Melissa Gilbert and I were taking bets on whether or not he was Gay." They became good friends until his death from AIDS complications in 1986.

Since then, Alison has dedicated herself to two main themed charities: child abuse and AIDS. For the Lifelong AIDS Alliance shows at the Re-Bar, Alison donated her time completely to the cause. She also helped host two auctions, one silent and the other not-so silent. Prizes included a massage gift certificate, Nellie Oleson totes and shirts (graciously signed), the newly released Little House DVDs (signed) and the top prize, a private dinner with Alison herself.

With great thanks to Alison, the Lifelong AIDS alliance was able to raise $2,500 for the ongoing battle against the HIV illness. For more information on Alison, her work and merchandise, please visit her website at: http://www.hgd.com/alison.

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