Tag Archives: Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert Credits Back Surgeon for Her ‘DWTS’ Try

Melissa Gilbert

Former child star Melissa Gilbert credits her back surgeon for the fact she’s become one of this coming season’s contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” — and not just because he healed her broken back.  “It actually started with him, because my final day [of post-operative appointments] was the day that Jennifer Grey won.  He’s her surgeon too,” recounts the amiable actress.  “He started saying, ‘Now YOU need to do it.’  I said, ‘I’m glad you think my back is healed enough so that I can do that.  If I injure myself, though, you have to operate for free,’ and he laughed.”

You can count on the show highlighting her story of conquering tough physical challenges.  As you may recall, Melissa toured the country through much of 2008 and 2009, playing Ma Ingalls in the popular stage musical version of Little House on the Prairie.  For months, she was in extreme discomfort, but somehow, she finished the tour.  When she returned home and went to the doctor, “I found I had broken my back.  I knew the disc was herniated.  I didn’t know the back was actually broken.  If I had, I’m sure the

doctors would have said ‘Don’t go.’

“After the surgery, it was a really long recovery, and I didn’t get cleared to work really until February of 2011.”  Gilbert, who has written about her past battles with alcholism, enlisted the help of Dr. Drew Pinsky to guide her as she dealt with her intense post-surgery pain, due to her concern she might become addicted to opiates.  She would take her Dilauded, Percocet and muscle relaxers, and then take two days away from the pills “and just tough it out.”

By summer, she was pain-free.  And, “There’s nothing I can’t do.  I can do Pilates.  I can run.  I can jump.  I can do yoga.  I can do whatever I am asked to do.”  Including “Dancing With the Stars”!

There’ve been rumors — and tabloid stories — of her taking on the show before.  Last year also saw the breakup of her 16-year marriage to Bruce Boxleitner, and “The National Enquirer wrote some ridiculous story about me healing my heart by doing ‘Dancing With the Stars.’   They had me studying tape of other stars who had done it — which was funny, because at the time I was shooting my movie at the time,” she says, referring to last December’s Hallmark Channel movie, “The Christmas Pageant.”

As for why she’s taking on the show, Melissa tells us: “It’s just because it seems like a real challenge for me.  And you know me — if something scares me, I’m gonna do it, and this kind of scares me because I’m now part titanium.”

IF YOU ASK US:  It’s been a tough year for Oscar.  This year’s show was book-ended by the Los Angeles Times expose that delineated the Academy membership as 94 per cent white, 77 per cent male, and with a median age of 62 — and the New York Times piece that laid out a variety of indicators showing that the Oscar show’s glory days are over.  (And the ultra hard-campaigning Harvey Weinstein’s relatively little-seen films winding up at the forefront of the Oscars again and again hasn’t helped ratings.)   Scathing reviews such as the Hollywood Reporter’s “Oscars Become Badly Paced Bore-Fest” had to have hurt — and a little extra salt in the wound came in Forbes’ report that Best Original Screenplay winner Woody Allen not only wasn’t present, he watched the NBA All Star Game instead.  Of course, with Woody, nobody was surprised.

The rest of America — businesses and individuals alike — has had to get used to once-unthinkable cutbacks, shakeups and forced reinvention to survive in these tough times.  Now it’s the Academy’s turn.   Most obviously, it’s time to take the craft awards out of the primetime Oscar show — and to make a concerted effort to diversify membership.  Take all the negativity surrounding the 84th Oscars and use the energy for positive, deep and meaningful change, not just a few more young faces on the show.  It can work!  After all, America, like Hollywood, loves a good comeback story.

Barbara Bain

HELLO, AGAIN:  Esteemed veteran actress Barbara Bain is enjoying her turn in Claire Chaffee’s comedy, Why We Have a Body as directed by cast mate Tanna Frederick.  “It’s an extraordinarily heightened approach, a bit like a cartoon — fanciful.  It makes me think of Terry Gilliam’s films,” says the actress, who rose to fame as the sexy and soignee spy Cinnamon Carter in the original “Mission: Impossible.”  She adds, “It’s hard to believe this is Tanna’s first directing job.  My reaction was kind of, ‘Wow, look at what she’s done with this material.’  I was very impressed.”  That’s saying a lot, particularly since Bain has been spending much of her time in recent years directing plays as well as acting in them.

Bain is playing the globe-trotting, not-so-wonderful mother of two grownup daughters who are going through turbulent times in Why We Have a Body,  which is running at Santa Monica’s Edgemar Center for the Arts through April 8.  One daughter’s a career criminal, the other is married, but having a lesbian affair.

Meanwhile, she’s also in the indie film “Nothing Special” with Karen Black, about a woman trying to have a normal life while dealing with bipolar illness.  The film’s awaiting a distributor.  And she has a series of six one-act plays at the Beverly Hills Playhouse ahead on her agenda.

Melissa Gilbert Avoided Pill Addiction by Calling on Dr. Drew

Melissa Gilbert, Lennon Wynn and Robert Mailhouse, Hallmark Channel photo by Alex Henry

Melissa Gilbert says she has none other than Dr. Drew Pinsky to thank for keeping her on the straight and narrow path when she was on the mend after surgery to fix her broken back last year. Melissa, who went public about her battles with alcoholism in her Prairie Tale: A Memoir autobiography two years ago, says that she was afraid of becoming addicted to pain pills, so she sought guidance from the “Celebrity Rehab” host.

“He knew the pain I was going through could be intense, but there was a limit to how many days I could take the pain pills, the opiates, and then I would just have to tough it out for a day or two so that I wouldn’t trigger anything,” explains the actress, who’s in her seventh year of sobriety. She’s feeling fine nowadays, she makes it clear.

Gilbert has been doing the promotional rounds for her Dec. 11 “The Christmas Pageant” movie on the Hallmark Channel. She says she had a blast with her departure role — as a demanding, edgy New York theater director, who winds up with the chore of running a small town Christmas pageant.  The cast includes Edward Herrmann and hunky Robert Mailhouse, who plays Melissa’s love interest. After her long recovery and the breakup of her 16-year marriage to Bruce Boxleitner in March, taking on the movie was a welcome change of pace, she says.

Letting the public in on her alcohol addiction, especially fans who came to know her as loveable Half Pint in her child star days on “Little House on the Prairie,” was a big decision. Melissa says she has no regrets.

“It’s more important for people to know they’re not alone –because so many people are going through it — than it is for me to protect an image that has no reality,” she notes. “There’s always been this sort of assumption, because I’m lucky enough to do what I love and be paid as an actor, that my life is all about limousines and red carpets. Because of that, they don’t realize that there’s a human being in here, who hurt over things like the death of my father, the end of ‘Little House,’ and the death of Michael Landon. ‘She’s a star. How can that be?’ And I am flawed. God knows, I am flawed, as we all are.

“Thank goodness,” she adds with a laugh. “Who’d want to be perfect? Too much pressure.”