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Michael & Cindy Landon  

- February 14th 1983     

 

The following are extracts from articles on Michael and Cindy.                  

 

By Tony Brenna and Donna Rosenthal (July 1980)

 Cindy Clerico first met Landon three years ago. "I was a stand-in for Melissa Sue Anderson (who plays Mary) and that’s how we met.” But it wasn’t until recently that romance blossomed. "Michael’s deeply involved with her and has been for about six months,” said a source. “Their relationship has grown to a point where they are obsessed with each other. Michael is with Cindy all the time now. They are very close and loving at the moment. Cindy and Michael have been very private about their relationship. It was nothing they flaunted. It was nothing they wanted the world to know about. I know that many evenings they would drive out of town, stroll for hours along secluded beaches on the Pacific coast. Sometimes they would eat in little-known restaurants. They kept away from the glitter and glamour of Hollywood.”  

                                      

 

By Tony Brenna, Ken Potter and Donna Rosenthal (May 1981)

 Observers say that the couple are inseparable during the week, often taking long strolls along the water, sometimes kissing tenderly as the ocean waves roll around their feet. “She has given his ego a passionate boost,” said a source close to Landon. “Michael has told me he feels like a young man again.” And a friend of Cindy revealed, “Cindy’s absolutely in heaven now that she’s living with Michael.”

                              

By Tony Brenna & Donna Rosenthal (May 1981)

 Ever since Landon walked out last spring to pursue his romance with young makeup artist Cindy Clerico, Lynn said, she hoped desperately that her wayward husband would return to her. She and Landon even spoke occasionally throughout the separation, keeping Lynn’s hopes for a reconciliation alive. “I love him and I just couldn’t shut the door. I honestly hoped and prayed that it was some form of temporary middle-aged love affair. And I hoped if I was patient my husband would come to his senses and return to the family that loves and needs him. Then the months dragged on, and Michael didn’t return. I was on Easter vacation in Acapulco, Mexico; with our children when I got the news from my brother Bob that Michael had filed the divorce papers. I flew back to Los Angeles in shock, hoping to see Michael, but he was boarding a plane for London with his girlfriend just as I arrived. I know that Hollywood is littered with wrecked marriages, but I sincerely believed ours was different. Now it’s another statistic. But 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.” Insiders, though, say Landon isn’t counting his losses yet. Instead, he’s making the most of his newfound freedom, vacationing in London with Cindy – and possibly considering another marriage. It would be his third. “Michael hasn’t taken this step lightly, and he is obviously thinking of getting married to Cindy,” said a close friend of the actor. “Michael’s destruction of his marriage and family life for the sake of his new love has been anguishing for him. But he and Cindy have established a foundation of love. The divorce will cost him a fortune – but he’s willing to pay the price.”

           

By Ray Finch (December 1982)

 Michael Landon has lashed out at charges that he was an abusive prima donna on the set of the new movie that he has just filmed with Priscilla Presley. And the 47-year-old star, who is going through a bitter divorce battle, also admitted for the first time that he and girlfriend Cindy Clerico will probably tie the knot early next year. Landon says his love for Cindy has helped him through the turmoil surrounding the movie and the heartbreak of his divorce. “She’s a great lady,” he says. “We’re having a wonderful time together and we’re very much in love. We don’t like being apart and I think in the New Year we’ll think seriously about making out relationship more permanent. I couldn’t be happier in my life right now."  

                     

 (January 1983)

 The way that Michael Landon’s young girlfriend took his real-life Little House on the Prairie family into her heart proved the clincher in his decision to make her his Valentine bride. The 45-year-old Landon, who ties the knot February 12 at a star-studded wedding at his posh Malibu beach house, was captivated by the way gorgeous 26-year-old Cindy Clerico brought happiness into his home and made him the model father he portrayed in the popular TV series. Bursting to tell the wedding news, Landon had only one word to describe his beautiful bride: “Fantastic. She’s absolutely fantastic,” he told a close friend. “I’ve never been with anyone like her before. I’m the happiest man in the world. I’ve never been more contented in my life. The kids think the world of her. She’s a great cook, a wonderful mother to them and a good person to talk to and fun to be with.” Hollywood thought Landon’s 19-year marriage to Lynn would never end. But in a shocking surprise, Landon divorced her in July 1981 and moved out of their Beverly Hills house to a roomy beach house in Malibu. Michael and Cindy can’t stand to be apart, their friends say. “He took the whole family with him to Nassau where they were filming his new movie, Comeback. And when they were shooting it in Thailand locations, he took Cindy and Michael Jr. with him,” a friend said. “She’s always waiting for him on the set, taking him in her arms after the shooting, just like a loving housewife welcomes home her husband from the office. This marriage comes as no surprise to their close friends. Everyone knew they would do it. They had kept it a secret until now, and they were just bursting to tell the news.”

                                      

By Brian Walker (January 1983)

 Michael Landon’s popped the question to live-in love Cindy Clerico – and they’ll wed in late February or early March. Insiders say Landon made the decision over the Christmas holidays, after a little gentle nudging from Cindy. A close friend revealed that Cindy was chatting quietly to Landon about their future, when he said to her: “It’s time we got married!” A long-time friend of Landon confirmed: "Michael told me that they’re planning to marry in late February or March, right after his shooting schedule on ‘Little House: A New Beginning’ is wrapped up. They’ve tried to keep the marriage plans a secret. But Michael plans to marry Cindy in a quiet ceremony, with only a few close friends and relatives.” For a long time, Landon had hesitated about making his three-year love affair official – fearing that his four children by his ex-wife Lynn would not accept Cindy. “But now the children have accepted her – as a real member of their family,” said a close friend of the couple. “Over the Christmas holidays, Michael and Cindy told the youngsters they’d decided to get married. They were all very happy, running over to Cindy and giving her big hugs. The real turning point with the four children came when Michael’s oldest – his 19-year-old daughter, Leslie – came to accept Cindy as a friend. Cindy had always tried to be there whenever the kids needed her, and to offer help without being pushy. As Leslie got older, Cindy became more of a friend – helping her to choose makeup, styling her hair and picking out clothes. It was almost an older sister relationship, and it broke down any resistance Leslie may have had.” And that helped Landon’s other children – Michael Jr., 18, Shawna, 11, and Christopher, 7 – accept Cindy. Said one of her close friends: “Just before Christmas, Cindy talked to Michael about marriage. She told him she thought the problems with the children were solved – that they now saw her as someone who genuinely cared about them and made their father happy. She also told him she’d stood by him through all his problems in the past couple of years and stayed pretty much in the background – never making demands on his time. But now she wanted some of the spotlight as Mrs. Michael Landon. More importantly, she said, she wanted the respectability of marriage and the chance to have his child. Cindy said she was both surprised and relieved at Michael’s reaction. He told her, ‘You’re right. It’s time that we got married.’ Then they got together with the children, and Michael told them he wanted to marry Cindy. The children all approved.” Another close friend of Cindy revealed: As a combination Christmas/engagement present, Michael gave Cindy an emerald and diamond ring. He also gave her a new Mercedes car, a diamond watch and thousands of dollars worth of jewellery. And he presented her with membership in a high-priced Malibu exercise club.” Landon – who’s been married twice before – is looking forward to having children just as much as Cindy, said one of his close friends. “Michael has mentioned several times that he’d like to have more children because he enjoys being a father.” Said a source close to Landon’s family: “Michael’s madly in love with Cindy. He told me, ‘Before Cindy, I didn’t know what love was. She’s opened up my heart like no one ever did before. I want her with me forever.”

                                             

By Alan Braham Smith and Barbara Sternig (February 1983)

 Michael Landon has an astonishing wedding secret – his love Cindy Clerico is more than two months pregnant! The handsome 46-year-old actor, who already has seven children, was delighted when Cindy, 24, broke the news to him shortly before Christmas – and just a few weeks later he told the world he planned to marry her. “It was great news – just what I wanted to hear!” the star of “Little House on the Prairie” told a source. “We had pretty much made up our minds to get married in a couple of months, but this news locked it up for us.” A friend continued, “Cindy is definitely pregnant, and both she and Michael are thrilled. But despite what some friends think, the pregnancy didn’t force then into marriage. They had tentatively planned to marry in the spring. Then came the pregnancy. Cindy discovered it about the middle of December. That was when everything became definite. The caterer was booked, and everything was set for a wedding at Michael’s Malibu home in mid-February.” An acquaintance very close to Landon revealed, “The whole thing doesn’t surprise people who know Landon best, because they are all aware he has a thing about having children. Michael recently told his other children about Cindy being pregnant. Even though he may paint a rosy picture about how happy his children are with Cindy, they’re a little bewildered about this. Some of them weren’t thrilled at the prospect of their father starting another family. They’re coming around but it has taken more conversations with them than Michael had anticipated.” Incredibly, when Landon publicly announced he was marrying Cindy, he jokingly implied his fiancée was pregnant. Landon went on “The Tonight Show” January 11 when he told host Johnny Carson, “I’m going to be married in about a month. You know, I had to.” The audience roared, and Carson laughed off the remark. But the few people in the studio who knew Cindy really was pregnant gasped, thinking Michael was about to spill the beans on TV,” a Little House insider said. A pal who ran into Landon recently recalled, “Michael floored us when he said, proud and laughing, ‘I’ve got seven children, my oldest is 32, and I’ve got a baby on the way!’ He certainly wasn’t trying to hide the fact that Cindy is expecting a baby.”

                 

(1983)

 Valentine’s Day will always have special meaning in the Michael Landon household. That is the day he made gal pal Cindy Clerico the third Mrs. Landon. And it was a most romantic ceremony. Just 30 guests were invited to participate in the wedding itself which took place at Michael’s Malibu Beach home. Among the witnesses were his four children from his marriage to Lynn. After the ceremony, they all drove off to the Malibu La Scala for the reception that included several hundred friends and co-workers.

                                      

(September 1983)

 Michael Landon’s devotion to his young bride calmly pulled her through the agonizing 17-hour ordeal of her first birth – and now she is learning from his experience as a dad how to care for the baby. “I don’t think I could have made it without Michael,” says his 26-year-old wife, Cindy. Landon, now the father of eight, couldn’t be dragged away from Cindy during her gruelling labour and the birth of their new daughter, Jennifer Rachel. Landon, 45, has seven children from two previous marriages, but this was the first time he had watched any of them being born. But his experience as a father came shining through. “He was showing his wife how to change diapers and things like that,” said a hospital insider. He comforted and encouraged her through the birth, then curled up on a couch in her hospital room for three days before the couple finally went home with their new daughter, Jennifer Rachel. “His encouragement throughout the entire day was something else,” says Cindy.  Landon slept on a pullout couch in Cindy’s hospital room until she was ready to go home three days later. The baby also spent the whole time there with her parents. “It’s unusual for a couple to keep a new baby in the room with them but that’s the way they wanted it,” says a source at the hospital. "The mother looked very tired after the birth, of course, but she wouldn’t let go of the baby. She just adored her. It was obvious that Mr. Landon was the experienced parent,” adds the hospital insider. “His wife kept joking: ‘I’ve got the expert with me.’” Another insider reveals that the Landons kept the baby in their room the entire time for security reasons and that all phone calls were screened. Landons first call after the birth was to his other two youngest children, Christopher, 8, and Shawna, 11. They were the only visitors the couple allowed into the hospital room following the birth. The children live in Beverly Hills with their mother, Lynn, to whom Landon was married for 19 years. He collects them each Friday on his way home from work and spends weekends and vacations with them. Some of Landon’s older children were out of town during the birth, but the whole family were united over the Labour Day weekend to celebrate.

               

(December 1984)

 Michael Landon surprised wife Cindy with a new $157,500 Rolls Royce Corniche convertible. Cindy was flabbergasted – but two days straight she showed up on the set and asked Landon if she could borrow her old car, which he’d driven to work. Reason: Her Rolls wouldn’t start.

                      

By Barbara Sternig  (December 1986)

 “Now that I’ve got enough kids for a baseball team, I may stop,” quips Michael Landon, who is ecstatic over the birth of his ninth child. “Seeing your own child being born brings a feeling that cannot be compared to anything else in life – it’s just awe-inspiring,” said the handsome 50-year-old star of “Highway to Heaven.” Sean is the second child he’s had with his wife Cindy. “Just as I did for the birth of our daughter Jennifer three years ago, I videotaped the whole proceeding. Even though I work with cameras every day, I had all I could do to hold the camera still as I taped Cindy in labour. I was actually kind of upset that I had to put the camera down because suddenly the baby was popping out, and it was my job to catch him! I cut the umbilical cord, welcoming the little guy into the world with my own hands. As we gazed at our new baby, we were just filled with feelings of love for each other, and for our expanding family. Cindy cradled Sean in her arms, and we just sat there cooing at him and enjoying the precious moment." 

                    

By Ann Ryan (April 1987)

 Michael Landon is planning his first “vacation” away from TV in 30 years so he can play his favourite real-life role – family man. But he isn’t hurrying Highway to Heaven off the air. The producer/director/writer/star of the series will happily stay with it as long as NBC wants it. Then he’ll take a yearlong break. Landon is already keeping his schedule clear by accepting no projects other than Highway. He has “doubled up” with TV movies in the past, but insists he won’t “kill” himself like that again. “I don’t know what kind of life these people have who work all the time and never see their families,” he says. “This business isn’t that important. No way. When we’re in production, I always have all my people home for dinner, myself included. And I don’t believe in taking work home unless it is something I can handle early in the morning before everybody is up. Home should be a place for family, not business.” There is one decision about Landon’s life that he didn’t make for himself. His family made it for him. He may be the master of his home, but he is not allowed to smoke there. “My wife actually started it, and now Jennifer won’t even let me light up,” he says. “She’s very tough about it. I have to go outside if I want a cigarette. That’s why I have a cold,” he says sheepishly. “Running outside naked on these cold nights will do that to you.”

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(December 1989)

 Michael Landon and his family have just settled into their new rambling ranch house in the Malibu Mountains. It’s big he says, but clarifies: “It’s a ranch not a resort.” The veteran TV star and his wife Cindy, sold their Malibu Beach home not only because it wasn’t large enough “for all the kids” but because “it’s not much fun to have to wipe off windows from people pressing their noses against the glass. Summers on the beach were really looky-loo time. I’m about as easygoing as you can get with fans, but when they start using your Jacuzzi and walking in the door….” Then it’s time to go.

                        

By Harry Hurt (July 1990)

 Michael Landon is one Hollywood exurban cowboy who always had a make-believe home on the range – and secretly longed for a real dream ranch house. The eternally youthful actor-writer-director-producer grew up on the mythical Ponderosa Ranch, where he played the role of Little Joe Cartwright on the long-running television series Bonanza, and later matured into fatherhood in Little House on the Prairie. Off-screen, Landon and his wife, Cindy, and nine children from present and previous marriages used to live in a contemporary Malibu beach house. But after ten years of oceanfront living, the couple agreed that the area was just too crowded. “We had no privacy,” Michael Landon says, “because all the houses are right next to each other. The woman who lived next door to us used to tape-record the sounds of our dogs barking. And there weren’t many kids for our children to play with.” On weekends, the Landon’s and up to thirty members of their extended family headed for “the ranch,” an undeveloped ten-acre spread north of Malibu. Nestled within a semi-suburbanised patch of rolling canyon country, the ranch overlooks a fifty-thousand-acre state park full of waterfalls, horse trails and bobcats. “At first, the ranch wasn’t going to be a place to live in,” Michael Landon says. “We’d sleep in Malibu and just use the ranch for family sporting events, such as horse riding, tennis, touch football, croquet and kickball. Then we moved a camper onto the property and slept in the camper on weekends. After awhile we built a modular house with three bedrooms, and lived there on weekends for about a year. But the more time we spent at the ranch, the less we liked going back to Malibu.” The Landons kept looking for potential getaway houses farther up the coast in Santa Barbara and Montecito. But according to Cindy, they decided those otherwise enticing locales were simply “too far away from Michael’s work.” Finally the couple realized that their weekend recreation ranch would also make an ideal site for a year-round residence, and they commissioned Los Angeles architect Robert L. Earl, a trusted friend, to design a permanent principal dwelling. Before preparing a formal plan, Earl spent several weekends observing the Landons’ active life at the ranch and at the beach. The architect then translated his firsthand research directly to the drawing board, and says that Michael Landon often modified or revised certain details. “I tried to provide facilities for all I had observed,” he says. “I noticed, for instance, that family members enjoyed riding three-wheel vehicles on the ranch, and that they’d need a lot of terrain for that. Toward the end of the day, Michael would always prepare to cook for a large group, and I realized they’d need large indoor and outdoor cooking facilities similar to those in commercial restaurants."

                                                                    

(April 10 1991)

 Television star Michael Landon said yesterday he was determined to beat cancer of the pancreas and liver.  “I want my agent to know that this shoots to hell any chances of doing a health-food commercial,” Landon said. He said he started doing push-ups when he first learned of the possibility he had cancer. “I wanted to make sure I was just as strong as I was the day before, and I was, so I figured I can beat it,” he said. Landon, who endeared himself to television audiences with starring roles in such series as Bonanza, Little House of the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, explained he had taken the unusual step of holding a press conference in the hope that he and his family would not be hounded by the media.

 

By David Grogan (April 22 1991)

 As Bonanza’s Little Joe, Little House on the Prairie’s kindly homesteader Charles Ingalls or Highway to Heaven’s angelic drifter, Jonathan Smith, Michael Landon always specialized in happy endings. Now he needs one himself. On April 5 the 54-year-old actor was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, which had spread to the liver: according to the American Cancer Society, only 1 percent of patients with this dire combination survive as long as five years. At a press conference at his Malibu home, Landon was brave and touchingly honest. “We each have our own miracles,” he said. “I’m still hoping to beat it.”

              

By Barry Levine, Beverly Williston, Stephen Viens, Dana Blanchard, Jennifer Pearson, Alan Grimes (April 23 1991)

 "Michael lives for his children, they’re his pride and joy,” long-time confident Harry Flynn told Star. The actor bravely hid stabbing stomach pains from his wife and kids to take them on an Easter ski trip to Park City, Utah. After a day with his kids on the bunny slope April 2, Landon finally doubled up with severe pains. Flynn told Star that Landon “hid the pains” from his family for six weeks, lest he upset them. On April 3, Landon was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre. He was taken to room 8215, a private suite with a bay window that offered a view of the famous “Hollywood” sign. Dr. Leonard Makowka, director of surgery and transplantation services was alerted to Landon’s condition within 24 hours. “A liver biopsy was ordered,” says a source. “Landon’s stomach was on fire – and he knew something was terribly wrong.” The biopsy was rushed through as quickly as possible. “His doctor was shocked that Michael waited so long to come in,” says the source. Flynn told Star Landon didn’t want to hear the diagnosis in the hospital. He insisted on being released to go home. “Two days later, Michael was given the news. The doctor was very blunt. He told Michael, ‘It’s inoperable cancer.’" According to the source, Landon’s cancer began in his pancreas and spread to his colon, where cancerous nodes formed “out of control.” The biopsy showed that cancer had spread throughout his entire liver. A cancer expert said that only three percent of those diagnosed like Landon can live for five years; most will die within the year. Star learned that Landon first called an 83-year-old aunt to break the news. His wife and children were next. Flynn said, “After spending Friday night talking with wife Cindy, Michael had all his children assemble at his house the following day. That’s when he broke the news to them. Michael was very straightforward with his kids. He asked them to be positive and give him their prayers. Michael is very spiritual – he told everyone, ‘I’m going to beat this.’” Landon said after receiving the devastating news from his doctor: “At first you don’t believe it, especially if you’re a physical kind of guy. I think what I did right after that was to start doing pushups. I think it was to prove to myself that I was as strong as the day before, which I was.”  

                     

By Barbara Sternig, Lydia Encinas, Eric Munoz (April 23 1991)

 Dr. Gerald Murphy, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, told the Enquirer: “Pancreatic cancer is a tough one. We have difficulty diagnosing it early and because of that treatment is sometimes limited. Cancer of the pancreas typically is a silent disease that occurs without symptoms until it is in its advanced stages.”  In a case such as Landon’s, Dr. Murphy said six months to live “might be optimistic.” Landon’s symptoms – painful stomach cramps – didn’t strike him until about six weeks ago, sources say. Once a robust 163 pounds, the star dropped down to a gaunt 150, but he refused to see a doctor. Finally, when the cramps became almost unbearable, Landon’s wife Cindy convinced him to make an appointment with his doctor, said an insider close to Landon. On April 3 Landon met with his personal physician, Dr. Allan Metzger, who immediately referred him to a pancreatic specialist, the insider said. That same afternoon Landon checked into Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. The next day the specialist put Landon through an exhaustive battery of tests. Landon left the hospital later that day.” On Friday, April 5, the doctor called Michael and said he wanted to see him and Cindy as soon as possible,” said the insider. “Michael never expected a death sentence. He thought at most that he had stomach flu or an infection.”

 

By Barbara Sternig (May 14 1991)

 Michael Landon has been told by his doctor that he has less than four weeks to live – and he’s given up seeking treatment for the cancer that’s ravaging his body. The news came as a terrible shock for the beloved 54-year-old star, who had been told he had six months to live when he was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer April 5. He had vowed to use that time to find a cure for his deadly disease. He visited several doctors, underwent chemotherapy and was preparing for experimental surgery. Then on April 24 came the devastating word the cancer had spread to his colon…and the end was near. Now Michael’s resigned to his fate and has decided to spend his last days with his wife and nine children. “I don’t want any further treatment – I’ve made the decision to let death take its course,” Landon told a close friend. The close friend revealed: “Michael had been consulting with doctor’s, hoping to find the miracle treatment that would buy him more time. He was making preparations to travel to Washington, D.C., to see a cancer specialist who’d had promising results with a new, experimental type of cancer treatment involving surgery in which a human gene is inserted into the diseased pancreas. To give the doctor an up-to-date medical record, Michael made an appointment for a cat scan – an intense x ray. Full of hope, he went to the lab on April 24 for the cat scan. When the radiologist told him he’d have the results the next day, Michael insisted he get the results that very day. He told the radiologist, ‘I’ll sit right here and wait.’ In a short time the radiologist came out to the waiting room, shook his head and gave Michael the news: ‘The cancer has spread and begun to invade the colon.’ At Cindy’s urging, Landon contacted a Los Angeles doctor he’s been seeing and told him what the radiologist had revealed. Michael asked bluntly: “How long do I have?” And the doctor was just as blunt: “Three to four weeks maximum.” “Michael dropped the phone,” the friend said. “Cindy rushed to him and put her arms around him. They wept as they clung together. “He told her, ‘I’m changing my plans. I’m not going to have any more medical treatments. Now I want to spend whatever time I have left with you and the children’” In the weeks since Landon learned he has cancer, he’s been unable to eat anything but fruit and carrot juice and has lost 15 pounds. He’s become so thin that his gaunt appearance upset his youngest son Sean, 4, an insider disclosed. “One day Sean was sitting on the sofa crying softly. Cindy came over and said, ‘What is it, Sean?’ Sean told his mom, ‘I’m being sad.’ Cindy asked why and Sean replied: ‘I don’t want Daddy to be sick. I want Daddy to be all better again.’ When Cindy told Michael about this, he got tears in his eyes. The guy won’t cry or show emotion over his own approaching death – but seeing his little son sad like that grabbed him by the heart.” Landon is determined to spend the precious time he has left sharing happy moments with his children. “He’s in the car when his wife Cindy drives the kids to school,” the friend revealed. “After he’s dropped the kids off, he works with lawyers on settling his estate.” Landon goes out later with his wife to pick up his son and daughter. After dinner, he plays video games with his children. “One evening Michael went to a ballet class for his daughter Jennifer,” confided the friend. “It was the first time he had seen her dance in the class. He cried almost the whole time. He also went to a PeeWee League baseball game at his son’s nursery school. Sean wanted his daddy to see him play and Michael, although weak and easily tired, wouldn’t miss it for the world. His kid hit a home run and Michael stood up and cheered. Then he burst into tears and said, ‘This will be the last time I’ll ever see my son hit a homer!’” But as his strength dwindles Landon is trying to prepare his children for a life without him. “In the evenings, Michael talks with the kids,” said the friend. “He tells them what it was like to grow up in poverty. Michael confided to me, ‘I told the kids that money isn’t everything; it’s only a tool. You’ll have money all your lives and mustn’t let it run your life.’” Surprisingly, Landon’s even been spending time with Cindy planning their summer vacation. “He’s told her, ‘You’ll need this vacation like you never needed a vacation in your life,’” the close friend disclosed.

                

By Barbara Sternig (May 28 1991)

 Michael Landon’s two youngest children have convinced him to make a last-ditch attempt to beat his terminal cancer – by trying a highly experimental cancer vaccine he prays will be a miracle cure. In addition to the vaccine, doctors are using specially treated anticancer drugs that directly target the tumors in Landon’s body – instead of attacking his entire system. The star had given up conventional medical treatment in late April after doctors told him that his pancreatic and liver cancer had spread and he had less than four weeks to live. But he changed his mind – deciding he had to fight the killer disease to buy more time with his children Sean, 4, and Jennifer, 7. That’s why he’s undergoing the experimental treatments, even though they leave him exhausted. “If I could have a few more months with my kids, I’d be happy. But my real dream is to get two more years,” Landon told a pal. “With two years, I could teach and guide them. Buying that much more time would let me rest easy.” Landon is the first pancreatic cancer patient to receive the new treatment. Doctors have warned the 54-year-old actor there’s no guarantee of success, but he’s keeping his hopes high, say insiders. “I’ve got nothing to lose – and there’s always the outside chance of a miracle,” he told a close friend. After getting the news that his cancer had spread, Landon resigned himself to his fate and vowed to spend his last days with his wife Cindy and his nine children instead of wasting precious time on treatments he felt were useless. But just days later, he changed his mind – after a heart-wrenching remark by his 4-year-old son Sean inspired him to fight,” say insiders. “Sean came down with a cold – and then something wonderful happened,” confided Landon’s friend. “Michael told me: ‘my boy was taking his cold medicine, and he asked Cindy why Daddy wasn’t taking his medicine when he was sick too. Sean said, “Is Daddy better?” With tears in her eyes, Cindy told him that Daddy wasn’t better. Then Sean began to sob and said he wanted to give Daddy some of his medicine. When Cindy told me about that incident, she said with a smile, “You know he has a point. If he has to take his medicine, so should you.” I was deeply moved. And I thought, “Hell, why just lie down and die? Why not fight this thing to the end?” I’ve never been a quitter.” On May 2, he had his first chemotherapy treatment. It was a rough day – the treatment was tiring. In the chemotherapy procedure, doctors fill synthetic fat cells – called liposomes – with various cancer-fighting agents, and then inject the cells into Landon’s body. These fat cells zero in on tumors and attach themselves to the cancer cells – delivering high dosages of drugs without harming the body’s normal cells, say researchers. Preparations also are under way to treat Landon with a cancer vaccine. To create the vaccine, doctors used a needle to extract tumor cells from Landon’s body. They plan to expose the cells to radiation before reinjecting them in the hope of stimulating his immune system to destroy malignant cells. Both treatments are highly experimental and have not yet been proven effective, said Dr. Gerald Murphy, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

                           

By Michael Landon told to Brad Darrach (June 1991)

 We have a little bedtime ritual in our family. Every night Jennifer and Sean are allowed to ask a question. Last night it was Sean’s turn to go first. He’s four, and he always asks the same question: What was the worst thing you did when you were a little boy? It’s getting hard to think of things, but last night I told him about the time we held a cigarette lighter behind a boy who had more gas in his body than any other kid in school. Well, the results were spectacular, and Sean thought that was a great story. Then it was Jennifer’s turn. And Jennifer, who is seven, looked me straight in the eye and asked: are you going to die? There it was, right out in the open. I took a deep breath, looked back at her and told her the truth. I said, “I don’t know. But I’m going to do the very best I can not to die.” I told them some of the things I was doing that could help me get well, and I explained that the kind of cancer I have could not be handed down to them. Then I said that even if I were to die, they would be all right. They would miss me terribly, and I would miss them terribly. But nothing would change. They would live in the same place, and their friends would be the same. They have a big, wonderful family of older brothers and sisters, and they would all be there. Their mother would be there, and she is very young and super-healthy. So they would be absolutely safe. They lay there looking up at me with wide eyes. I could see Sean get a little tight, but then the big kiss and the big hug, and he was off to sleep. In the morning he was just great, a real prince. He wants to dress himself right in front of Dad, to show Dad. He does it all himself, needs no help with anything. Good stuff. But I knew that Jennifer’s fears couldn’t be put to rest so easily, and sure enough while her mother was driving her to school, she began freaking out about her daddy. So I spoke to her, and she said she wanted to spend more time here at home. I told her that was a good idea – she and Sean could have a three-day weekend from now on. She felt better. But she still has a long way to go. Whatever happens, all this won’t be easy for her. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. There was no real warning, you know. It’s true I hadn’t been feeling quite right for a couple of months. I have a huge appetite, and it had dwindled a bit and I was having an uncomfortable feeling of fullness I’m not used to. But the symptoms were mild, and I didn’t think a hell of a lot about them. Then about four weeks ago, right before I took Cindy and the kids skiing in Utah, I started having stomach pains. I wondered if maybe I had a blockage in my colon or possibly an ulcer. So before I left I had an upper G.I. done. Nothing showed up except a lot of stomach acid, so they gave me some antacid pills. I figured the symptoms might be stress-related, but I never feel stress, at least not in my work. I like what I do. Any way, in Utah it really got bad, so I flew back to L.A. a day early and had a CAT scan. I knew something was up because the doctor said he would check the results and call me about 10:30 that night. Doctors tend not to work till 10:30 unless something is cocky-doo-doo. So he called me at 10:30 and said, “You better get Cindy back here,” I said, “What have I got?” He told me there was a large tumor in my abdomen. The next step was to take a biopsy. It was cancer, about as bad as it gets. Adenocarcinoma. I don’t know why they give the longest names to the diseases that give you the shortest time to live. In plain English, I’ve got inoperable cancer of the pancreas that has spread to my liver. The scan showed two spots on the liver, one about an inch across, the other about a half-inch. Since then the cancer has spread to an area near the kidneys. So far it’s had no major effect on the functioning of my liver, but the tumor on the pancreas is the size of a softball, and it’s pressing against my stomach. So I can’t pretend I’ve got a hangnail. Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal, and when you go you usually go-fast. Well, the news shocked the hell out of me. Nothing was further from my mind, since I’m only 54 and, with rare exceptions, I’d been healthy my whole life. Not that I don’t deserve to have a cancer. I’m a good athlete, and I work out hard – before this happened I could bench press 300, 350 pounds, no sweat -  but I’ve abused my body over the years. I don’t want people to think that everybody is a candidate for cancer of this type. I think I have it because for most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much. I also smoked too may 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. I never did the standing on the hilltop and screaming kind of thing. There was so much to do, so many people I had to break the bad news to, it never really occurred to me to rail against my fate. Besides, I had to get ready to fight. There’s a kind of person who, when he gets a jolt like this, says, “Well I’m gonna die, and that’s the end of it.” They just put on the pyjamas and waste away. But that’s not fair. Not fair to yourself, not fair to your family, not fair to people you don’t even know. Because if you fight and win, it pays off for thousands of people. It gives them hope, and hope can work miracles. Anyway, I’m not the kind of person who gives up without a fight. If I’m gonna die, Death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me. I’m not just gonna lie down and let it happen. I’ve got too much I don’t want to leave. Mainly my family. I’m in the fight of my life, but I don’t know if I’d be fighting if I didn’t have my family. The doctors would say, We can’t really do anything for you, you’re going to die. And I would say, O.K., I’ve had a good life. Enough happiness, enough success. Now I won’t have to worry about the new series making it or not. And that would be that, if it was just me. But it isn’t just me. I want to see my kids grow up. I want to play baseball with Sean. I want to know if Jennifer turns out to be as good an actress as I think she will be. I want to watch Chris, my 16-year-old, become a man. I love my wife, Cindy, very much, and I don’t want to leave her. I love my work too. I’ve had three successful series, and I want to find out if I can make a fourth. And I’m close to doing it. The pilot for US is ready to air, and it’s a good pilot. Yesterday I called Jeff Sagansky, the entertainment chief at CBS, and I told him, “Jeff, this is the worst goddamn deal you’ve made since you bought baseball.” And he was great. I told him I had to stop work on the series until I got better, and he said he wouldn’t air the pilot till I had the next 12 episodes ready. Gives me one more thing to shoot for. And I’m shooting. I’m going to beat this cancer or die trying. And how the hell do I know I can’t? Yes, the odds are bad, but I’ve fought bad odds before. In the first year of Little House I got encephalitis and my temperature shot up to 105, 106, and they told me that even if I lived they didn’t know how much of my brain would be alive. They said at very best I couldn’t work for six months because I would be too weak. Well, a week later I was back on the job. I come back fast, always have, and my machine works long hours without getting tired. All I need is four hours sleep a night. But now the machine is way out of whack.

 I believe in God, I believe in family, I believe in truth between people, I believe in the power of love. I believe that we really are created in God’s image, that there is God in all of us. So I deal with the God I really know, and that’s you. When I need to ask forgiveness, I don’t ask a God up in the sky. That’s too easy. I ask you. All along, and especially recently, my beliefs have deeply disturbed some of my children, who have been terribly afraid that I will not have a place in God’s house because I do not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. But we’ve come to an understanding now. They understand that I have my own way, and that I can’t just change to make them feel better. God doesn’t want a hypocrite. Besides, I don’t believe that the God I know will judge me on that basis. So I don’t see why I should fear death – and I don’t. I don’t want to die, and I’m going to fight like hell no to, but I’m not afraid to die. In fact, I’d hate to be kept alive if I were a horrible burden to my family, a bedridden object they had to visit. A hospital isn’t my favourite place to draw a crowd. No, I don’t want to be kept going by machines. It’s my life, and I think I’m the best judge of when it should be over. But while life lasts, it’s good to remember that death is coming, and it’s good that we don’t know when. It keeps us alert, reminds us to live while we have the chance. Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. I’m going to survive if I can. If I can’t, I’ll know I fought the good fight. Look, there are only two things that can happen. I can win or I can lose. And I can handle both. Is there some sort of life to come? I don’t know. I do know that the people I love on this earth, I will be with them always. I’ve tried to be a good, strong figure for my kids, as fathers should be, and I will always give them strength. And if my wife remarries – and I certainly hope she does – I know there will always be, maybe somewhere in the left ventricle, a place for me in her heart. We’re closer than ever now. The other night we were in bed, holding each other. And Cindy said, “Let’s just stay like this.” So we did. Her eyes were closed, and she was stroking me very gently, stroking my stomach. And I was stroking her forehead. We lay like that, holding each other, for a long while. It was a very loving time. Then she sighed a little and lay back. And I said, “Well, did you make it go away?” And she looked at me in surprise. “How did you know that’s what I was doing?” And I said, “Come on. Two people who love each other as much as we do know everything.”   

                    

By Barry Levine, Dana Blanchard, Dave LaFontaine, Alvin Grimes (June 4 1991)

 Michael Landon was fighting for his life after suffering a major setback in his battle against inoperable cancer of the pancreas and liver. Less than six weeks after first being diagnosed, and only days after publicly declaring, “I’m not just gonna lie down and let it happen,” the 54-year-old star found himself in the exact place he had vowed to avoid – the hospital. Star learned that Michael, doubled over from excruciating pain and with a severely bloated abdomen, was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles shortly after 6.15p.m. on May 20. “He apparently collapsed onto his bathroom floor,” a source told Star. “His wife, Cindy, put him into her car and sped from their home in Malibu – a 30-mile drive that she made at rush hour in less than 40 minutes.” Landon was admitted to a private room. According to the source, he was instantly given a “morphine drip” – an intravenous painkiller. A cot was taken into his room for Cindy, who looked shaken.

                                                                       

By Larry Haley (June 4 1991)

 Cancer-stricken Michael Landon revealed his dying wish – that his wife Cindy remarry so their two young children will have a daddy after he’s gone. In a heart-wrenching talk, the beloved 54-year-old actor begged Cindy to look for another husband – a responsible man who can be a father figure to 7-year-old Jennifer and Sean, 4. Stunned, Cindy threw her arms around Landon’s neck and cried: “But I never want to marry again! There isn’t a man on earth who can take your place with me or the children!” But Landon convinced his precious 34-year-old wife that marrying again was the right thing to do. But it took every bit of Landon’s failing spirit to confront his dear wife with his dying wish. “Both Cindy and I were in tears when we discussed it,” he confessed to a close pal. “We’d kissed the kids good night and gone into my study for a quiet chat. We sat down and I told Cindy, ‘When I’ve gone, girl, you’ve got to marry again. You’ve got to get a new father for Jennifer and Sean. I don’t want them to grow up without a father’s hand to guide them.” Soon after his heart-to-heart talk with Cindy, Landon gathered his entire clan at his Malibu home in mid May. The actor bared his soul to his nine children, including three adopted, from three different marriages. “Michael told them all, ‘Children, you know how much I love each of you,’" said a family insider. “Now I’m going to tell you something you may not want to hear.. But it’s for the good of you all. After I’m gone, I’ve told Cindy I want her to remarry and keep this family together. And I want all of you to rally around her and accept whomever she chooses. It’s my special wish. I want you all to stay close and keep this family intact. I don’t want you to split up or forget each other or stop seeing each other. Cindy will become the beacon for you all – and I want you all to gather where Cindy and the little ones are, just as if I were still there.’ The kids were stunned at first. Then some began crying softly. They embraced each other, then their dad. Then they all embraced Cindy who had tears streaming down her face. The kids all promised their dad to do as he asked.” Landon arranged for Cindy to head his production empire with one of his business associates, sources say. The actor also set up trust funds for each of his nine children and other loved ones. With his business affairs in order, Landon was able to face death calmly, said the family insider. The brave actor began undergoing last-ditch experimental treatments for the disease and vowed to give his all to try and whip it. But sadly, on May 20 he was rushed to Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre suffering from internal bleeding and blood clots in his body. Cindy stayed by his side as doctors gave him clot-dissolving drugs. They then performed surgery to insert a clot-filtering device in his groin, say insiders. Yet even in the midst of his own difficult battle, the devoted family man’s top concern was the continued happiness of his wife and children. Landon told them that if he didn’t pull through: “Remember me by living according to the values I taught you all – love, family, togetherness and fun.”

     

By Timothy Carlson (June 8 1991)

 Dismayed by tabloid headlines, which predicted that he had “only four weeks to live" - and outraged that the lies were making his children cry – he called his Malibu neighbour Johnny Carson and asked to appear on The Tonight Show. During his appearance there last month, he gave a pep talk to others in his situation: “For any of those families out there who have a relative who has cancer, they know how tough the fight is, and how you pull together and you keep a very up attitude, because mental attitude is more than 50 percent of your medicine.” Besides his optimism and strong will to live, viewers got to see a fiery side of Landon previously reserved for intrusive reporters and network executives who disagreed with him. “That a tabloid would write ‘It’s over’ …  can you imagine that? It’s unbelievable that people can be that insensitive. That’s the cancer in our society!” 

 

 

By Jennifer Pearson, Roger Hitts, Dave LaFontaine, Diane Mannino (June 11 1991)

 Looking ravaged from his battle against cancer of the pancreas and liver, his body frail under a loose black shirt and grey slacks, 54-year-old Michael Landon won a significant victory – he walked out of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre unassisted. His wife, Cindy, extended her hand, but the rugged star of Bonanza, Highway to Heaven and Little House on the Prairie made it down the few steps to the waiting car on his own. Pain was evident as he limped, favouring his right leg. The scene took place on the hazy, overcast Friday afternoon of May 24. Only two days before, Landon had undergone emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot in his leg. Although he’s been battling a high fever since the surgery, Landon still insisted on going home to his Bonanza-style home in Malibu to fight his next battle surrounded by Cindy and his nine children.

                                  

By Barbara Sternig (June 25 1991) 

 “I want to die at home!” With those words, a brave Michael Landon refused to spend his final days in a hospital. He wanted to feel the comfort of his family –and tell them he would love them forever. And as he lay in pain at home, the beloved actor showed only courage to his two youngest children, Jennifer, 7,and Sean, 4. “When they first came into his room he was rigged up with tubes, both Sean and Jennifer were taken aback,” said a source. “Sean asked, ‘Daddy, does it hurt?’ Michael told them, ‘Daddy is having a hard time and he may not make it.’ The he added: ‘I love you and I’m gonna love you forever, from wherever I am.’” The cancer-stricken actor decided on May 29 that he would not face his fate in a hospital room. Michael – who’d been hospitalised for emergency treatment of blood clotting nine days earlier – was taken that day to St. Vincent Medical Centre in Los Angeles, where doctors tried an experimental chemotherapy treatment to stop the disease that struck in April. But Michael suffered a violent reaction. “He became severely nauseous and sick – too nauseous to even eat. This was a terrible side effect of what was hoped to be a miracle cure,” said an insider. At the time, Michael was already rapidly deteriorating. In sharp contrast to the robust appearance he gave May 9 on “The Tonight show,” the beloved 54-year-old actor was now too weak to walk, in agonizing pain – and his handsome features were growing skeletal as he lost at least three pounds a day. Said a family friend: “Doctors found he was suffering massive internal bleeding, with blood clots showing up everywhere – not only near the heart, but in his limbs, everywhere. The abdominal pain had become almost unbearable. Michael told his doctors after that chemotherapy treatment, ‘Let’s don’t prolong this hospital thing. I want to die at home.’” He knew he was losing ground and wanted only to spend all his time with his wife Cindy and his nine children. Michael’s doctor, Cary Presant, agreed it was best and arranged for an intensive care unit to be set up in the Landon Malibu estate. A hospital bed was delivered and nurses were assigned 24 hours a day to care for the actor. Every conceivable piece of equipment and medication – oxygen tanks, intravenous devices, morphine, anti-nausea drugs and blood for transfusions – were provided to make him comfortable. Although Michael’s celebrity friends wanted to visit him, he did not want them to witness his agony, said the source. He preferred only the company of his family.

 

By Carolyn Ford (July 2)

 Hollywood lost one of its nice guys when Michael Landon died yesterday. The star of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie had just finished a series of chemotherapy treatments for cancer of the pancreas and liver and was resting at his Malibu, California, home when he died, aged 54. He is survived by his wife, Cindy Clerico and nine children. Landon announced he had inoperable cancer on April 8 this year. But he was so determined to beat it, to create his own miracle, as he said, that news of his death came as a terrible shock to everyone. It seemed such a short time since he appeared on the Johnny Carson show to talk about his condition, looking healthy and cracking jokes about health food commercials now being out of the question. And his spokesman had just released a statement saying he was in a weak state but was still able to move around. The news of Landon’s death was immediately broadcast around the world and the tributes began to flow in from people who first got to know Landon as the baby-faced young rancher in the hit TV series Bonanza.

     

 

 

 

Contents                  Young Love            A New Love

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