While making "Little House" in 1980, Michael fell in love with a younger woman through the camera on the set. He peered through the camera lens and he couldn't believe his eyes. He lingered for a second before zooming in for a closer look. That was the moment he fell in love again. Her name was Cindy Clerico, a 23-year-old makeup artist and stand-in for Melissa Sue Anderson and the other child stars in the series. No one would have guessed that first day on the set she'd soon be playing a permanent role in Michael's life.
"I began watching her through stronger and stronger lenses without her knowing it," says Michael. "It was as if I was just inches from her face--staring at her lips, looking into her eyes. And I thought, "What a fascinating woman. What a wonderful smile." Although the blonde beauty was just half his age--and he was a family man--she made him feel like a teenager again as they shared chewing gum and played pranks on each other. It was not long before their passion boiled over and they started openly kissing and cuddling on the set. His wife was the last to know.
His 19-year marriage to Lynn, with seven children, had been on the rocks for some time, but Michael was still wracked with guilt over his treachery. "But it became clear," he says, "no matter how painful it was for me and the kids, I had to be with Cindy. The more I saw her, the more I loved her." As a child, he'd encouraged his parents to stay together despite their unhappy marriage, but was not about to make the same mistake of his own life. "There's nothing worse than people who obviously should not be together." When he finally left Lynn for a younger woman, he was attacked for preaching his "Little House" series about wholesome family values while practicing the exact opposite.
Lynn confided in an interview, "Michael has made his choice and I think at this point it would be best for me and the children if he made his affair legal and married his girlfriend." Lynn invited the National Inquirer into the home for an "exclusive interview" less than a month after Michael filed for divorce. "I know that Hollywood is wrecked with littered marriages," she continued, "but I sincerely believed ours was different," she told the reporter. "Now it's another statistic. Life goes on, and the children and I will, too. I loved him very much. I've lost a lot. The children have lost out on having a father in the house. And I think Michael has lost a lot, too." She added, "We had everything. The Landon family was close, happy, and secure. We had it all, or so I thought. Our marriage was built on a foundation of trust. Or so I thought."
Unlike Dodie, twenty years before, Lynn was not amiable to the divorce. She was angry and she was bitter. She had been a devoted wife and mother to seven children, and she had been betrayed, callously for a younger woman. "I was too busy being the kind of wife Michael wanted me to be," Lynn later confided. As a result, I lost myself little by little. I made Michael my god."
Professionally, his relationship with Cindy was proving ruinous. Not only was he being lamblasted by the press, there were people at NBC who were questioning his ability to portray Charles Ingalls, happily married frontiersman and devoted father. Michael suffered an ever greater blow when Kodak announced it was removing him as its television spokesman since his image as a father at home was no longer positive and truthful.
"The relationship lasted 19 years," Michael would explain when interviewers inquired how a thrice-married man could portray such a saintly father on television. "I don't consider that a failed marriage. I don't think it was a disaster. We produced some terrific kids. We just didn't grow in the same direction. We became different people. We both changed."
"To stay with someone when you no longer have anything in common is the cruelest thing to do to a child. It's much better to divorce and have two parents happy. I don't know if Charles Ingalls would have stayed married to Caroline as long as he did, except that it was a long way to the next house in those days."
"I was not an aging lecher looking for a fresh young thing," he maintains. "You don't dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences to stop a relationship, after as many years as I was married." He continued, "With a wife and seven children, there's always a problem. Lynn and I fought a lot, about jealousy, about my being tied up with my work. I'd go into depressed moods, and then I'd go around screaming at people at home and in the studio--and at everyone in sight. Banging down phones, swearing and yelling." He had added, "But I figure if you don't have these kind of problems, life would just come up with some other unpleasantries for you. Nobody's perfect. Not Charles Ingalls. Not Michael Landon."
Michael filed for the divorce on April 16, 1981 and it cost him $26 million and cited "irreconcilable differences" between he and his wife. Although he gave her his $3.5 million-dollar, 35-room Beverly Hills mansion, the bitter divorce was very painful for Lynn, who admitted on TV that Michael had become "my god." Michael and Cindy moved into a five-bedroom beach house in Malibu that he found far more relaxing than his palatial home in Beverly Hills. He said of his second wife, "Lynn is a very aristocratic woman while I'm basically the blue-collar worker," he said. "I like being in my shorts. I don't like maids in my house. You can't have a decent argument." No wonder 1981 and 1982 were the most disastrous years in his life that he persevered through. Michael's divorce with Lynn was final in December 1982.
The final season of 'Little House on the Prairie' concluded on March 21, 1983, with the episode "Hello and Goodbye", with the final season of 'Father Murphy' concluding on September 18, 1983, with the episode "The Matchmakers". Both series were now behind him and considered a landmark achievement in television. Sadly, "Father Murphy" was doomed against "60 Minutes" in its Sunday timeslot and coupled with Merlin Olsen's lack of acting skills, it was cancelled by the network. "Little House" had been telecast for 9 seasons, with a total of 203 episodes made, aired from September 11, 1974 to March 21, 1983. Aside from the 96 minute pilot, there were nine full-length episodes made and aired, along with eighteen 2-part episodes made and aired in the nine year run of the series. The show was nominated for 17 Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.
Michael directed the pilot film and 89 episodes of "Little House", along with writing 50 episodes for the series. Victor French clocked in at directing 17 episodes, relieving the stress for Landon behind the camera, along with the other directors that Landon assigned to the series. The final 1982-83 season's production started up in June 1982, with filming completed in January 1983, with the final post-production in early February 1983.
On Valentine's Day, 1983, he married Cindy Clerico, his girlfriend since 1980, at his Malibu beachouse. He was 46-years-old and she was 26-years-old. Cindy was already two months pregnant with their first child, Jennifer. They took their honeymoon at the secluded, posh resort, La Samanna Hotel, on the island of Saint Martin in the French West Indies. When they came back to Los Angeles, they both had their first face lifts together, as a sign of their deep love for each other. Michael had to stay looking young for his audience, too.
In the spring of 1983, Michael and the crew were working on writing three "Little House" TV-movies that would wrap the series--and in an unusual way for the series to end. Three scripts were written and approved by NBC. They were "Look Back to Yesterday", "Bless All the Dear Children", and "The Last Farewell". The final film, "The Last Farewell" was written and directed by Michael Landon.
They were all filmed back-to-back in June and July of 1983. Post-production was from August through October 1983, with the network slotting them for airplay some months ahead. "Look Back to Yesterday" was aired on December 12, 1983, with Albert Ingalls contracting a rare and deadly blood disease. Many people were in question as to whether Albert lived or died at the end of this story. Producer Kent McCray revealed in an online interview in the 2000's, that it was Michael Landon's intention for Albert to die, although his death was off-screen.
"Bless All the Dear Children" was the second television movie made and later aired on December 17, 1984. Laura and Almonzo's infant, Rose Wilder, is abducted by a woman, but all turns out well at the end of the story.
"The Last Farewell" was the third and final television movie made and later aired on February 6, 1984. In the climax, the townspeople blow up all the buildings in Walnut Grove, to keep greedy land developers from building on their land. Only the church and the Ingalls' homestead remained intact on the property. The final scene has white rabbits outside the house, that the Carter's children were raising in the story.
This is a strange way to end a successful series, since the people of Walnut Grove lived there, but Michael Landon had other thoughts on his mind. First, he didn't want the land razed and second, he aimed this defensive gesture at Hollywood. Simply put, no one in that town was going to remake his series while he was alive and well.
Michael brought his next project to NBC in the fall of 1983. His concept was partly based on his favorite movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", and a promise he made to God, when his eldest daughter Cheryl was seriously injured in a car accident in 1973. He presented this unique and unused concept to NBC's Brandon Tartikoff in Burbank. NBC had a terrible 1982-83 season with a total of nine newly made TV series cancelled and was at an all-time low. Michael titled his new series "Highway to Heaven" and Tartikoff gave it the go-ahead. He wrote the pilot script in 4 days and gave it to the network and it was sold. They gave him the orders to shoot the pilot in April 1984.
The premise is about a convicted angel Jonathan who comes to earth to make better in people's lives, along with Mark Gordon, an ex-cop who worked in Oakland, who he saves from ruin. NBC wanted a good-looking guy to play Mark Gordon and Landon said it's either Victor French or it's no one. As usual, he won. After the pilot was completed, it was sent to the network's testing facility, where several hundred viewers sample it. The response was incredible. The pilot had gone through the roof, in terms of viewer response. It had the distinction of being the highest-tested show of any NBC pilot before or since.
The series made its debut on Wednesday, September 19, 1984 at 8:00 PM in a 2-hour time slot. The 96 minute pilot episode kicked off what would be the first of five successful seasons of the angel Jonathan Smith and his new partner Mark Gordon helping people and making better in their lives. This series emulated Michael's true and sincere beliefs in the American culture and even the rest of the world that people can make better in their lives in a socially self-destructive society that keeps getting worse. Michael also owned "Highway" outright. The series was attacked by religious zealots and the press, but Michael laughed at all of them-- and his fans had the last laugh with him those five years.
In August of 1985, while making "Highway to Heaven's" second season, Michael called his TV father Lorne Greene from their "Bonanza" days and asked him to guest-star on the series in the episode "The Smile in the Third Row". They had tried to do this ten years before in 1975 while Michael was making "Little House," but Landon could not let him have the part.
"Michael called me and said if we worked together, people would ask, 'Why doesn't he recognize his father?'" Greene reported. "He said he wants me to know he was thinking of me." He added, "When Michael started 'Highway to Heaven', I knew he would call me if the right thing came up and it did," said Greene. "He sent me this strange, different, and wonderful script. I read it and said, "Yeah, I think it's the right one. NBC advertised the November 20, 1985 telecast of the show: "A Bonanza of a Reunion!"
The majority of the "Highway To Heaven" crew was 90% of the same veterans who worked "Little House" and "Bonanza". Greene described the show as "old home week". Towards the end of the "Bonanza" days, Greene said of Landon: "No finer director exists in this business", and his opinion was unchanged in 1985. "Michael has a wonderful imagination and he knows how to touch people."
In May 1986, Michael hosted the Western segment of NBC's 60th Anniversary along with other segments hosted by Johnny Carson and Robert Conrad. Clips from the 1966 episode "Ride the Wind" were compiled with other TV Westerns that the network made and aired for the segment.
The announcement "Bonanza" fans had been waiting for since the summer of 1973 came in the summer of 1987: David Dortort had been writing a reunion movie to be syndicated on stations before the year's end. Rumors circulated Michael Landon would return to play Little Joe, but only in truth had Lorne Greene agreed to return to reprise the role of patriarch Ben Cartwright. Fate had other plans.
On August 19, 1987, Lorne Greene was admitted to Saint John's Hospital for abdominal hernia surgery and then was hospitalized again for prostate cancer in early September. Michael visited him several times and the day before his death on September 11, 1987. The next day was the twenty-eighth anniversary of "Bonanza". His other TV son Pernell Roberts also came to see him on his own visits to the hospital. He was deeply saddened and in tears at the loss of his friend.
According to the nurse on active duty at Saint John's Hospital at Santa Monica, during Michael's last visit, he had walked up to Lorne Greene's bedside, grasped the older man's right hand, with both of his, smiled, and said, "How ya' doin" Pa?" Although weakened from the cancer and obviously in pain, Lorne smiled and whispered "Okay."
The two had exchanged few words because it was difficult for Lorne to speak. So Michael stayed fifteen minutes without speaking. He just held Lorne's hand in his. Finally, he slowly got up and walked away. When he reached the doorway, he turned and looked at the older man halfway asleep in the bed. Then he strode quickly down the corridor. There were tears in his eyes.
Later after Lorne was gone, Michael recalled his visit. "He looked at me and slowly started to arm wrestle," he said, "just like we used to do in the old days on 'Bonanza'. He was Ben Cartwright to the end. He was ready to die without no complaints. I never stopped seeing him as my dad," he added. "Lorne was a solid pillar for both me and Dan Blocker. I'd known him for more than half my life and he'd been my father for fourteen years on 'Bonanza'. You don't just quit being a father and son. I'll always consider him my Pa."
Production of "Bonanza the Next Generation" started on October 10, 1987. Greene's replacement was character actor John Ireland who was written in to play his brother Aaron Cartwright. Ireland had guested in the 1967 episode "Judgement at Red Creek" as Sheriff Rimbeau. David Dortort denied reports that Michael was going to appear but had changed his mind when Lorne died. "That was more than likely just wishful thinking on the part of the hopeful viewers."
Michael was deeply involved with the production of "Highway to Heaven" and was not interested nor apparently very many others, as interest in reviving the series cooled for several years. Two sequel films were made in 1993 and 1995, starring Ben Johnson, who had guested on the original series, and were better made, but still paled and coupled with Johnson's death from a heart attack on April 8, 1996, sadly put an end to the Next Generation clan.
Perhaps it was the result of Lorne's death or perhaps because of Cindy's insistence that in 1987, Michael announced he would do three more seasons of "Highway to Heaven," then was taking a year off to travel around the world with his family. That same year, Michael's youngest son Sean Matthew was born in June of 1987.
Production of the fifth season in June of 1988 was initiated by a meeting that summoned Michael Landon, Kent McCray and NBC to discuss the show's fate. In their minds, they didn't want "Highway to Heaven" on their network anymore, and since Michael owned it, they couldn't cancel it. NBC made the series a mid-season replacement and Michael filmed the final 13 episodes. Both parties had made this agreement before the final season went into production that year.
The two-part 'Highway' episode "Hello and Farewell" was telecast on December 7th, 1988. It marked the 47th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. Coincidentally, it marked the passing of cameraman, Ted Voightlander. He was 74. He and Michael first met in June of 1968, while working on "Bonanza". He taught Michael many things about camera techniques and was a mentor and good friend, all in one.
Michael shut down the production, hired two buses, so the cast and crew's families could attend Ted's funeral and pay their respects to their longtime friend and co-worker. After it was over, they went back to work to shoot the next episode, "Merry Christmas from Grandpa", and the post-production wrapped in February of 1989. This atypical Christmas story was the final episode of the series filmed that December. It was subsequently aired the next year on August 4th, 1989.
"Highway to Heaven" spanned 109 first-run episodes on NBC, with Michael directing 90 of them, writing 18 of them, and with Victor French directing 11 episodes himself. There were nine 2-part episodes made, along with the 96 minute full-length pilot episode aired on September 19, 1984 and "Love and Marriage" which was aired as a 90-minute full-length episode on November 12, 1986. "Highway to Heaven" garnered seven Emmy nominations and eleven Young Artist nominations in its five-year run. Michael did win the People's Choice Award for his work on the series.
While "Highway to Heaven" was in final production in December 1988, Michael had a close encounter with death. A man named Nathan Trupp, a mental patient wanted in connection with several murders in New Mexico, shot and killed two security guards at Universal Studios, before being felled by a sea of police bullets. He had claimed to be on a "mission from God" and, as he toured the sprawling 420-acre studio lot on his general admission ticket, had asked several employees where he could find Michael Landon.
Unable to locate Michael, Trupp walked off the tour tram and went to the guardhouse at the entrance to the compound, where he demanded to use a studio phone to speak to Landon. When the guards refused, the forty-two-year-old man walked away, only to return a moment later. He pulled a gun and shot both men through the head, killing one of them instantly. The other died a short while later at the hospital.
While this real-life drama was being played out at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Michael was twenty miles away in Culver City, directing one of the last "Highway to Heaven" episodes on the backlot at MGM Studios. None of Michael's series (with the small exception of Little House's final three seasons) and projects before "Highway" were filmed at MGM, so it will remain a mystery why the gun-toting Trupp was so convinced Michael was on the Universal lot.
Michael cancelled "Highway to Heaven" that December. It was a hit series for five consecutive seasons on NBC. Four months later, in April of 1989, Victor French had just returned from directing a film in Ireland and was feeling ill. He thought he was sick with the flu and went to the hospital in Sherman Oaks and was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, from decades of heavy smoking. On June 7th, Victor was admitted to the hospital and Michael was devastated. He went to visit him at the hosptial and even included a special get-well message that was included with the June 9th first-run broadcast of the "Highway to Heaven" episode "The Source". Michael was at his bedside for an all-night vigil with Victor's family into the morning of June 15th, when Victor succumbed to the cancer. He was 54 years-old. Shortly before Victor's death, his son Victor Jr. asked his father for permission to hold a tribute in his memory. Victor agreed and immediately after his death, a lavish party was held at the Gene Autry Museum in Griffith Park. The event was by private invitation only. People who were invited included Ned Beatty, Stan Ivar, NBC publicist Bill Kiley and many cast and crew members from Little House. Michael and Cindy Landon attended but he was in no festive mood. By the time the party was over, the guests had either drank too much alcohol or eaten too much food!
Michael was rocked by his death and was so scared he might have lung cancer, went to his doctor and had a chest X-ray and nothing showed, except for the normal congestion found in smokers. With Cindy's encouragement, he cut down and quit smoking that summer. She also encouraged him to cut back on his fried food intake and began eating more vegetables, chicken, and fish. Earlier that year, on March 10, 1989, Michael once again made a guest appearance on "The Tonight Show", hosted by his good friend and fellow tennis player, Johnny Carson. His main message was to let his audience know that NBC was airing "Highway" as a mid-season replacement and were showing it whenever they wanted to, and he was not happy with the network's attitude. He announced the next episode, "The Silent Bell" would air on March 21st, 1989. The series concluded its run on August 4, 1989. That summer, Michael and his family went on vacation to the beautiful Caribbean and Hawaii for rest and relaxation. He initially told Cindy he was taking a year off from working, but that didn't work out. They also managed to go on some educational trips across the country as well.
Michael still had one more project to fill in his contract for NBC, and met with former "Little House" co-star Melissa Sue Anderson. She recommended the book "Where Pigeons Go to Die" to him, and said "it's your cup of tea." He hired Art Carney and Robert Hy Gorman to be in the film. Kent had flown to New England to do site surveys because Michael wanted to film the fall colors. But there were problems with the owners and it didn't work out. He decided to take a flight to Kansas to do more surveys and contacted the Kansas Film Commission, to get permission to shoot the regions he selected for Michael to film.
The regions in Kansas he choose were Reno, Lawrence, Overland Park and Baldwin City. The cast and crew arrived with Michael and Kent in late October 1989. They would film through middle November and wrapped it perfect. Michael and Art had become good friends while working together and would stay in touch frequently after returning to Los Angeles. The film was telecast as the NBC Movie of the Week on January 29th, 1990.
While Michael was shooting the film in Kansas, his wife Cindy was getting their new home in Malibu Canyon all ready for when he would return from Kansas. They had previously camped out there in recent years and loved the peace and quiet there. He decided to build their new "Ponderosa" on this land, as the final home they would spend the rest of their lives at, living happily ever after, with their two youngest children.
Michael was tired of all the noise and people around their Malibu beach-house and had previously gone looking to buy property. He flew to Lake Havasu City and Tucson in Arizona. He was thinking about buying the McCulloch Mansion at Lake Havasu. The giant home was built in the shape of the company's chainsaw, on top of a desert butte. He flew over in a helicopter and asked the pilot to land, so he could have a closer look. Air traffic control threw a fit over the attempted landing and threatened to fire the pilot in violation of FAA regulations!
Michael then went back into California and flew north to Sonora and had a look there, but decided it was too far for him to travel to work in Los Angeles. He went down to the southern coastline in Santa Barbara and Montecito looking for property, but that was a good three hours above Los Angeles. The beautiful property in Malibu Canyon was close to the studio, where he worked, so he decided to purchase the land to build his home on.
Michael appeared on "Larry King Live" and "The Tonight Show," the last week of January 1990, to talk about "Pigeons" and his career. Naturally, his longtime friend and producer Kent McCray made the transition with the crew to CBS. In the summer of 1990, his first job for CBS was a special called "America's Missing Children," which was aired the next year, in May of 1991. His next project he was developing was "Us," a new television series which would have been his fourth hit. He wrote the pilot script in less than 10 days. The concept was based on the character of Jeff Hayes, a journalist who was wrongly convicted of murder and 18 years later, it's discovered he's innocent and is released from prison, only to discover a new life with his estranged father and son, spanning three generations.
He described the show to TV Guide in October 1990, right before filming the pilot. "It's not a show where you're going to be able to guess what's going to happen," he had explained. "It's like life really is." Aside from his very long, wavy hair, sporting various T-shirts, tennis shoes, and black denim jeans with a trim, healthy and virile look, more like Michael Landon himself with traits of Little Joe, Charles Ingalls and Jonathan Smith in the new character of Jeff Hayes. The first half of the pilot was filmed in 10 days in November and the second half was filmed for another 10 days in December of 1990. Michael taped a segment for the talk show "Entertainment Tonight" that aired on Christmas of 1990. He was sporting a green T-shirt and was speaking about the children and Christmas gifts. At 54, he couldn't have looked or felt better in life.
After more than three decades in front and behind the camera, he had written 107 hours of television, directed another 208 hours and produced over 330 hours. As an actor, he had logged well past 800 hours, becoming America's quintessential Family Man. On "Highway to Heaven," he was the father to all mankind. "Little House on the Prairie" found him at the head of a Minnesota farming family. And he began as the youngest member of a Western dynasty named Cartwright.
With "Us" not scheduled to begin production until June 1991, Michael was enjoying the New Year with his family. He begun to experience a loss of appetite in January. Something like this had never happened before. He was bench pressing 300-350 pounds with no problem and felt fine. In February, he attended his daughter Leslie's wedding on Valentine's Day and his family noticed he was tired in appearance and didn't look well. He told them it was nothing to worry about, and he was working hard. He and Kent were working on post-production of the "Us" pilot at the studio. Michael was editing the final cut and converting it to digital videotape for a private screening at CBS Television. One day, Kent asked Michael, "How are you feeling?", and his reply was, "I feel tired". This was something unusual for Kent to hear, since Michael always felt great when working. He assured Kent he was tired from the long hours of editing the pilot and nothing more. In mid-March, he attended a private screening of the "Us" pilot, with CBS executives and his good friend and cinematographer Haskell Boggs, who noticed Michael, sitting next to him, appeared different, with an elongated face, a departure from the way he normally appeared, a hint something was wrong. CBS was highly satisfied with "Us" and it was a go, but fate had other plans.
Michael planned a ski trip to Park City, Utah for fun and games on the slopes with the family, the last week of March 1991. The trip was cut short by Michael's severe abdominal pains he was experiencing. He didn't confide to anyone, not even his wife Cindy, the abdominal pains he had been experiencing since February. He thought it was a hiatal hernia and Cindy made an appointment for him to see their doctor, but he never went to get examined before leaving for Utah. Michael sensed something was seriously wrong with him, and flew back to Los Angeles on April 2nd, leaving Cindy and the children behind. He checked in Cedars-Sinai on April 3rd for an MRI scan, which revealed a large tumor in his abdomen. Cindy and the children followed on their flight from Utah back to Los Angeles. On April 4th, the biopsy was performed and the diagnosis was grim.
Two days later, on Friday, April 5th, the doctor called Michael and gave him the news. It was adencarcinoma, the medical name for cancer of the pancreas. It was inopearable and had already spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Michael was stunned. He had never expected anything like this. A few days later on April 8th, he held a press conference at his Malibu home and unlike in the "Us" pilot, some five months back, he had a set to his jaw and chin and looked healthy, but was losing weight, and very ill. He made his last public appearance on "The Tonight Show" on May 9, 1991 and resembled less the character he portrayed some six months back in the pilot. Landon's one-time TV brother, Pernell Roberts issued a statement with his reaction, "I am deeply grieved."
"The news shocked me," he would admit an exclusive issue of Life magazine that was published in June 1991. "Nothing was further from my mind, since I'm only fifty-four and, with rare exceptions, I'd been healthy my whole life. Not that I don't deserve to have cancer. I'm a good athlete, and I work out hard--before this happened, I could bench press three hundred, three hundred fifty pounds, no sweat. I think I have it because for most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much. I also smoked way too many cigarettes and ate a lot of wrong things. And if you do that, even if you think you're too strong to get anything, somehow you're going to pay."
A short time later in the month on May 21, he had a near fatal blood clot in his left leg that was successfully treated at Cedars-Sinai. That same night he was hospitalized, on television was a special Michael had taped the year before for CBS, "America's Missing Children," and bore a minimal resemblance to the ill Michael. After being released from Cedars-Sinai on May 25th, he decided to live out his final days with his family.
On July 1, Michael died at his Malibu home at 1:30 in the afternoon. His family and closest colleagues were with him. Michael's services were held at Hillside Memorial Park in West Los Angeles on July 5.
Cindy and Michael's family were joined by 500 other mourners including former President Ronald Reagan, with whom Michael had once chopped wood, and his wife Nancy. Merlin Olsen, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Keith and many of Michael's costars, such as Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson were present. Although Michael's first wife Dodie, accompanied by her two sons were present, his second wife, Lynn was noticeably absent.
Jay Eller, Michael's close friend and attorney conducted the service during which many of Michael's friends eulogized him as a loving, kind person and also recalled his tremendous sense of humor.
Following the memorial service, family and friends moved to another spot, not more than fifty yards from where Michael's beloved TV father, Lorne Greene had been buried only four years before. With a rabbi conducting the service, Michael's ashes were entombed in the mausoleum.
He left $100 million, and according to his videotaped will, forty percent of his worth was to go to Cindy, and the other forty percent among his nine children. The rest was to go to charity and cancer research. Shortly after his passing, it was revealed he had changed his will and Cindy and the two youngest children were entitled to receive more than his other children.
Although he loved his entire family, he had a new wife and two young children and without his support, they would be in trouble. That was the reason. All his other children were of adult age and could work.
"Michael Landon," Ronald Reagan had eulogized, "was a man whose tragic battle with cancer touched the hearts of every American, as does his indomitable spirit."
Through sheer courage and determination, Michael Landon had imprinted his vision of the American Dream on television throughout the world. Rising from nowhere, he had become a living symbol of all that is good, positive and industrious about the country. He was an American visionary creating a world in which truth, decency, and sense of fairplay prevailed, in a land where all things are possible, no matter what the odds. He was, and will remain an inspiration to anyone seeking to better themselves or to inspire the worlds they live in.
The "Us" pilot made the year before in November of 1990 was aired on CBS on September 20, 1991, some two months after Michael's passing. It was later rerun in the spring of 1992 on the network.
Michael's older sister Evelyn, more commonly known as Victoria King, died on January 1, 2003 from diabetic seizures in Los Angeles. She was 69-years-old. She leaves behind a daughter, Chrissy. Fans and admirers of Michael adored her, as she would correspond with them on the Internet. She would talk about her memories of the family and her brother when he was in his youth, share rare family photos and spoke of when they would rarely see each other until he passed away in July. Michael and his sister spoke to each other over the phone during his battle with cancer in 1991.
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