Michael Landon Remembered As A Man Of Honor and Humor
Jul. 06, 1991
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Michael Landon was remembered as a man who shared his warmth and good- humored ways by family and television co-stars who gathered for his funeral.
''Michael's heart was full of love. He was loved by everybody,'' said Melissa Gilbert-Brinkman, who played Landon's daughter on the ''Little House on the Prairie'' series.
''He was so special and so basically good. With him, you always knew exactly where you stood. The man had integrity.''
Former President Reagan and his wife Nancy were among 500 mourners at the Friday ceremony at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary.
The Reagans, who sat at the front of the chapel, were such fans of ''Little House'' that they sometimes called Landon following episodes they especially liked.
Landon, born Eugene Maurice Orowitz, had said his attraction to TV shows portraying family harmony and humanistic values was prompted by a childhood scarred by religious prejudice and a suicidal mother.
His Roman Catholic mother and Jewish father fought bitterly over his upbringing.
''I know that dad wants us to think of him and be filled with love and happiness and laughter,'' said Landon's daughter, Leslie Landon Matthews.
She read a poem her father wrote for an episode of ''Little House.''
''Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all,'' she read. ''If you can only remember me with tears, then don't remember me at all.''
The 54-year-old actor, familiar to a generation of TV viewers as Little Joe on the long-running ''Bonanza'' series, died Monday of liver and pancreatic cancer at his Malibu ranch. His body was cremated a day later.
Jay Eller, Landon's lawyer, read a statement from actor Eli Wallach.
''Little Joe has left us,'' Wallach wrote. ''Television will miss the richness of his talent.''
Landon's ashes will be interred at the cemetery.
Landon, star of ''Highway to Heaven,'' was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in April and began a battle for life that was marked by humor.
Eller said Landon was asked what would happen if the curly locks he cherished were lost through chemotherapy.
The attorney said Landon replied: ''I'm rich. I'll buy a hat.''
The funeral service was closed to the public. A dozen guards and sheriff's deputies only admitted those on a guest list and turned away flocks of news media.
But paparazzi lined a hillside behind the glass and stucco chapel and press helicopters droned overhead, the whirring of the blades sometimes interfered with the eulogy for a crowd that overflowed into a patio.
Merlin Olsen, a ''Little House'' co-star, said people often asked him what Landon really was like.
''What you saw was what you got,'' Olsen said. ''He was a genuine and loving human being, about as fine a boss as you could ever have.''
Also on hand were actor Ernest Borgnine, former NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff and CBS entertainment president Jeff Sagansky.