Alison Arngrim had a special connection with Steve Tracy, and neither his sexuality nor the disease that later killed him was enough to ruin their bond.
True friendship is a rare commodity in today's world, but some people have experienced it. An example of such a unique bond was the one Alison Arngrim shared with late actor Steve Tracy.
Arngrim loved Tracy dearly and may possibly have married him had the actor not been more interested in men. She married a friend of his sister's instead but even while she was getting courted, she always referred to Tracy as her "other husband."
Arngrim's friendship with Tracy was born when they both featured on "Little House on the Prairie." The actress once told Fox News that they "hit it off immediately" because of their perfect chemistry; however, their friendship did not begin to truly blossom until after the show ended.
THEIR SPECIAL BOND OUTLIVED THE SHOW
"Little House on the Prairie" was many things for many people. It was a great show for fans, but it also impacted the lives of the stars.
Before the show, Arngrim was a shy girl who started getting abused by a family member at age six. She got the part of Nellie Oleson at age 11, and it helped channel the rage she had locked deep within her as an abused child.
Her life on the set gave her the first experience of everyday family life, and then she met Tracy, who played Percival, who befriended her.
In the years after "Little House on the Prairie" ended, Arngrim and Tracy remained great friends. While other stars often drift apart after filming, the two seemed to get closer.
They shared dirty jokes and even perfected the skill of finishing each other's sentences without scripts. In her memoir, Arngrim described Tracy as a "friend," "teacher," and "confidant," one she ran to whenever she got in a fight with her boyfriend.
For her, he represented stability, and she often found herself clinging to him when things were spinning out of control. They were happy for years until one day, she received a voice message from him.
Tracy left it on her answering machine; the year was 1986. "Um, hi, it's Steve. Uh ... call me," the message said. It was a simple message but Arngrim, who knew everything about Tracy, including how he sounded in distress, knew there was nothing simple about it.
When they finally got to speak, he revealed that he "sort of" had cancer. Of course, he only said that because he was, at that moment, unwilling to admit to Tracy that it was AIDS he had.
Tracy continued to deceive her for some time, asking her not to worry since things were under control, but Arngrim knew him too well to accept his words at face value.
Still, she also did not want to dampen his spirits, so she was right there with the hype and support when he spoke about recovering enthusiastically.
HIS BATTLE WITH AIDS
Tracy kept the ruse up for a year before he finally came clean to Arngrim. It was around the same time he wanted to reveal it to the media, and he did not want her hearing it from them.
Arngrim admired his brave decision to reveal his health problems to people who feared the disease he had contracted because of its novelty, but it was not the only reason she looked up to him.
Tracy gave his best in the battle against AIDS, but it was not enough to rescue him from its clutches. By the time he went public with news of his ailment, he already knew he would not make it.
Still, that did not stop him from doing his best to make sure his death meant something. He took experimental treatments other patients ran from because of the pain even though he was aware they would not work for him.
Tracy did it because he hoped it would save someone else after his demise, and his best friend knew that. Tracy lived longer than most patients diagnosed with AIDS in the 80s, but in the end, he succumbed.
Aside from Arngrim, Tracy's mother and sister also stood by him, moving from their home in Florida to be with him at some point and inviting him to move back in with them when he became too ill to care for himself.
Arngrim was sad about him returning to Florida partly because she somehow knew that he would never return to her. He also knew this, and he comforted her by telling her whatever happened would only change the relationship, not spell its end.
Tracy passed away within two days of his return home, and the experimental drugs he tested on himself became the foundation of the modern medicine widely used to treat AIDS.
AFTER HIS DEATH
Tracy died on Thanksgiving day in 1986. While he lived, Arngrim was plagued by reporters trying to discover if she also had AIDS because of the copious amount of time she spent with him.
People were less informed about AIDS and were desperate to know how it was spread and where it originated from, which led to many silly questions Arngrim quickly got tired of.
It was not that she didn't have the answers; Tracy educated her well; she simply thought the questions were sometimes not worthy of being asked.
The questions continued to pour in from the masses, and after some time, Arngrim decided to use all her knowledge to help people understand the disease better.
The beautiful actress signed up for hotline training at the AIDS Project Los Angeles, and even though she hated school, she studied to pass the training exam.
Before long, she was speaking at different social functions about AIDS, enlightening the masses on its symptoms and mode of transmission.
Her status as a celebrity gave her access to places that would have otherwise turned away other speakers, and it helped her reach more people. Her campaign started before Tracy's death, and it did not stop even after his death as many of her critics thought it would.
It was through her AIDS Project that Arngrim met her husband Robert Paul Schoonover, who plays in the Southern California band Catahoula, and the two have been married for nearly two decades.