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Hollywood comes to Howell: Gilbert and Busfield are the biggest stars we’ve had, but not the first

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Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield are Howell’s newest (and, currently, most-famous) residents. (Photo from Gilbert’s Instagram site.)

Every “Little House on the Prairie” fan I know – which is pretty much every woman I know – was thrilled to learn that actress Melissa Gilbert had moved to Howell. And by “thrilled,” I mean the kind of thrilled that I might experience if the Michigan football team were to beat Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, all in the same day. We’re talking thrilled.

In any case, yes, it’s true. Melissa Gilbert and her new husband, Michigan-born-and-bred actor Timothy Busfield, are now Howell residents. They packed up their belongings in L.A. a couple weeks ago and moved it all to the city of melons, McDonald’s and teeny-tiny roundabouts.

Why, you’re wondering? Why would a famous TV star like Melissa Gilbert – someone who has spent her entire life living in the shadow of Hollywood – why would someone like that decide to pack up and move to little old Howell, Mich., of all places?

Well, according to her blog, the first reason is that her husband loves it here. “Not only is he from Michigan but he loves Michigan and I am really starting to as well,” she wrote.

But the main reason Melissa Gilbert moved here is that she was looking for a change in her life, and when you’re talking about change, you can’t have a much bigger one than moving from Hollywood to Howell.

“I need a place where I can be at peace and create,” she wrote. “Whether that is writing or doing theater or cooking, needle pointing or gardening. I’m ready to live somewhere that I can have neighbors with casseroles, drive-in movies and Dairy Queen.”

Yep, aside from the drive-in movies (sorry, Melissa, we don’t have one), she pretty much nailed it. She even referred to Howell as “my very own version of Bedford Falls.”

And while all the women I know might be thrilled that Melissa Gilbert is living here (because of the “Little House on the Prairie” thing), I’m just as excited that Timothy Busfield is living here. After all, aside from his memorable turn in “thirtysomething,” he was in two of my favorite movies of all time: “Stripes” (he played the soldier who was forced to fire the mortar in the wrong direction) and “Revenge of the Nerds” (where he starred as Poindexter, of course).

The fact that we have a guy who was in “Stripes” and “Nerds” living in our county is beyond cool to me.

In any case, I’ve already heard of a few folks who have run into Gilbert and Busfield around town, and they said they couldn’t be nicer. I’m sure they’re going to love it here. Bedford Falls, indeed.

And I’m also happy that we have a couple new famous people living in Howell – especially famous people who are apparently very nice. Because until now, the most famous person from Howell was a guy who’s been dead for 21 years – and wasn’t even from Howell.

That would be former Klansman Bob Miles, who hosted cross-burnings and racist rallies on his farm in Cohoctah Township before dying in 1992. Plenty of out-of-towners still think he’s roaming the streets in front of the Livingston County Courthouse today. Miles’ legacy has been a stain on this community for years, so it’ll be nice to be famous for someone else for a change.

And if you’re wondering whether these are the first real, live, honest-to-goodness Hollywood stars we’ve ever had in Howell, well, the answer is no. We’ve had a few brushes with Tinseltown before:

• Lee Meriwether has a strong Howell connection. The former Miss America – who went on to star as Catwoman in the “Batman” movie and had a long run on “Barnaby Jones” – is married to Howell native Marshall Borden. Meriwether rode in the Howell Melon Festival parade many years back, and has made numerous trips to town. Marshall himself also has some TV credits to his name (mostly soap operas).

• Andrea Moen, the daughter of longtime Howell Mayor Geri Moen, was a regular on “The Love Boat” back in the mid-1980s. Moen was an excellent dancer who was one of the “Love Boat Mermaids,” a dance troupe that only lasted one season on the show. (Fun fact: One of the other Mermaids was a future Desperate Housewife named Teri Hatcher.)

• And, of course, we have comedian Heywood Banks, who has appeared on numerous national TV shows, and is still the funniest person I know.

In terms of a big-time Hollywood connection, though, nothing can top Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield living in town. I hope they’re settling in nicely.

And if you see them at the Dairy Queen, tell them I said hi.

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  1. m patricia starr

    I moved to southern California 10 years ago from rural southern Michigan because I could no longer handle the winters or the gray days after 48 years of them but I sure miss the small town Michigan hospitality and friendliness! Still don’t miss the winters though.

  2. m patricia starr

    I moved to southern California 10 years ago from rural Genesee County because I could no longer handle the winters or the gray days after 48 years of them but I sure miss the small town Michigan hospitality and friendliness! Still don’t miss the winters though.

  3. m patricia starr

    I moved to southern California 10 years ago from Swartz Creek because I could no longer handle the winters or the gray days after 48 years of them but I sure miss the small town Michigan hospitality and friendliness! Still don’t miss the winters, though.

  4. BT/Brighton

    We do have a “drive-in” experience during “car cruise” season, sponsored by the Ford Dealership in Milford off of I-96. My husband knows more about that, but I wanted to give the Busfields a heads up.
    Barb/Brighton

  5. Scott B.

    I went to school with Tim… great guy… I was playing a show in Brighton last summer with my band.. and Tim came up from behind and grabbed my shoulders as a nice jester while I was playing the drums…scared the crap out of me… he told me he moved back to Michigan…. he was living in Holly.. now he has sold his house there and moved into the great city of Howell with Melissa…
    P.S. Great guy to hang out with… life of the party…. Welcome to Howell……:-)

  6. GeeMa

    I definetly know them both as fine actors. I remember when he was in 30 something and mentioned he was from Michigan. I was thrilled being from the northern part by Traverse City Mi.in one direction and Gaylord,Mi. in another. I hope that for a Autumn drive they will come to our neck of the woods,maybe to the bridge and enjoy the Straits and 2 of the Great Lakes. Michigan on the left,and Huron on the right and go across to St. Ignace and down 2 to wonderful ..I had no clue where Howell was,now I do. Enjoy pure Michigan,the two of you. We have so much to offer for peace and comfort.

  7. Tom Tolen

    Gilbert, with her infectious and bubbly personality, was always my favorite of the children in Little House on the Prairie. Busfield (who has always been very conspicuous on the screen by his shock of bright, red hair) also had a major role in A Field of Dreams – one of my favorite movies of all time. I first became familiar with his work when he starred in the TV series “The Byrds of Paradise” – a well-crafted, but ill-fated, show which just lasted for a season. I remember it not only for Busfield and his keen acting abilities and the exotic setting (it was filmed in Hawaii) but because it was one of the first major TV roles for a teenaged Jennifer Love Hewitt, who has perhaps become more memorable for her face and figure as her acting ability! Anyway, it’s great to have the new residents to our area!

  8. Amy Parker

    Oops, on last comment …I mean “Melissa”….I can see it must be hard to live the name “Laura” down.

  9. Amy Parker

    Oh, how exciting! Welcome Laura and Tim!!!! Hope you love it and can enjoy some peace and quiet. Maybe I’ll see you out and about :)

  10. Douglas Peterson

    It’s nice news for us, but terrific news for them. Here, they will find a friendly people, less traffic, a slower pace and lower taxes. They can always hop on a plane to return to the buzz of big cities. Melissa, let us know how you like winter after you’ve been here a while. That might be a toughy. Don’t worry. There are good therapists in the county. :-)

  11. Buddy Moorehouse

    Thanks, everyone. (And thanks for asking about the Woman I Drive Around With, Candy! She’s doing just fine!)

  12. judy

    I met Melissa the other day and she is so sweet and yes a NORMAL human being not uppity or snobbish at all. I look forward to becoming good friends with her.

  13. Jennifer Lynn Barry

    I hope Melissa and Timothy enjoy a nice quiet life together working
    hard all these years they deserve to relax and enjoy life together, hope
    the towns people Treat them with normal resect. Melissa gave us years on
    Little house on the Prairie and other movies she’s done the most we can do
    For her is let her have the happy quiet life she wants, Best wishes Melissa and Timothy!

  14. Candy Spiegel

    I love this column, Buddy. Your references brought back fond memories of past columns of yours I love. You just forgot two thing: Taco Bell and the lady you drive around with. Thanks for the memories!

  15. Vanessa

    I think that’s great. I think they should be able to live life in the midst of us non celebs, to be treated as regular folks. Not gauked at, just live life as peaceful as they can.


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