A lot of kids in my generation grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. Melissa Gilbert’s portrayal of Laura Ingalls as she grew up, dealt with Nellie Oleson’s stuck-up attitude, and fell in love with Almanzo Wilder left a lot of girls with an affection for gingham, bonnets, and horse-drawn carriages. It also brought Alison “Nellie Oleson” Arngrim a life-changing friendship and a cause.
Steve Tracy played the man who would become Alison Arngrim’s on-screen husband, Percival. A gay man off-screen, Steve was like far too many men in the 80s and practiced unsafe sex. This led to Tracy contracting HIV, and he died of AIDS in 1996. The friendship that blossomed between Tracy and Arngrim on the set of Little House on the Prairie led her to take on the task of AIDS activism and safer-sex education.
Steve Tracy’s life is thus a part of Alison Arngrim’s new memoir, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, and the one-woman Broadway show she wrote that gave birth to the book. Currently running at the Laurie Beechman Theatre inside West Bank Cafe on West 42nd St in New York City, it’s been a worldwide hit since it launched in 2002. Alison kicked off a book tour this week in New York as well.
As for Arngrim’s activism, she specializes in demonstrating safer-sex practices using fruits and vegetables to serve as substitutes for human anatomy, going beyond the usual cucumbers to incorporate cantaloupes with the latex condoms and dental dams. She also advocates for ending child abuse and exploitation through the Protect organization. Stemming from her own experiences of childhood sexual abuse, Alison fights both battles in hopes of improving the world for all.