Steve Tracy was a television actor whose most notable role was that of recurring character Percival Dalton on the hit 1970s historical drama Little House on the Prairie. Despite this notable role, Steve later became best known for being one of the first actors to be diagnosed with and die from the AIDs virus. Soon after publicly revealing to fans that he had been diagnosed, Steve passed away in 1986 at age 34.
Little House on the Prairie was a historical drama that was based upon the book series of the same name. Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the books detailed the author’s life growing up in a pioneer settler family. Michael Landon played Laura’s father, Charles Ingalls.
The character of Percival Dalton was introduced in the show’s later seasons as a love interest for series side character Nellie Oleson. Nellie started off as one of the show’s antagonists, acting as a bully to Laura Ingalls. Eventually, the two became friends.
The characters of Percival and Nellie eventually married, had two kids, and moved off to New York so that Percival could work at his father’s store. In real life, the stars that played the two characters had developed a close friendship during the show. Actress Alison Angrim played Nellie, and she helped console Steve during his fight with AIDs. Join Facts Verse as we explore the tragic death of Steve Tracy, Percival Dalton from Little House on the Prairie.
In the 1980s, one of the first notable television stars to die from AIDs was actor Steve Tracy. Known for playing the recurring role of Percival Dalton on Little House on the Prairie, Steve publicly announced his AIDs diagnosis to shocked fans and died shortly afterwards. Join Facts Verse as we explore the tragic death of Steve Tracy, Percival Dalton from Little House on the Prairie.
Steve Tracy was born on October 3, 1952, in Canton, Ohio. He was born to parents of Irish-German descent, and attended Kent State University for his higher education. After attending Kent State, Steve travelled to Los Angeles and began performing in the Theatre Department at Los Angeles City College. The fledgling actor also performed at the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop during his early years in Los Angeles, which was named after legendary comedic actor Harvey Lembeck from The Phil Silvers Show.
After studying acting for a time, Steve received his first role, acting in the 1977 feature film Heavy Equipment. His next feature film role came in 1979’s Russ Meyer sexploitation feature Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, which has become historically notable for having been co-written by film critic Roger Ebert. In between those two feature roles, Steve could be seen on the television shows James at 15 and Quincy, M.E. It was in 1980 that Steve began playing the recurring character of Percival Dalton on Little House on the Prairie, which would go on to be the actor’s most iconic role by the time of his death several years later from AIDs.
Little House on the Prairie was an American television drama that aired on the NBC network from 1974 until 1982. A historical Western, the show followed the exploits of a family of settlers living on a Minnesota farm in the late 18th century. The show was based upon the book series of the same name by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who herself based the book upon her own childhood in a family of settler pioneers. The show featured Michael Landon as Laura’s father, Charles Ingalls, and actress Melissa Gilbert as Laura herself.
Little House on the Prairie had already been on the air for several years before Steve Tracy was brought on to portray the character of Percival Dalton. Percival was written onto the show as a love interest for one of it’s popular side characters, Nellie Oleson. Nellie had originally been written as somewhat of a villain on the show, acting as an antagonist to Laura Ingalls during her childhood years. However, each learned to appreciate the other when they got older, becoming good friends. The romance between Nellie and Percival further humanized her character.
The character of Nellie was originally written as a rich and spoiled girl who always got everything she wanted. In the story arc that introduced Percival, Nellie is tasked with running a restaurant as a way to both give her a future career and teach her some responsibility. Percival is the man that is hired to teach Nellie how to manage a restaurant, and she is initially hesitant to listen to his teachings.
The character of Percival was shorter than the character of Nellie, and Nellie brought this up to make fun of Percival whenever she could in an effort to undermine his authority. However, Percival ended up putting his foot down with the notorious spoiled rich girl and winning her respect, as well as her heart. Percival successfully managed to teach Nellie how to run her new restaurant, but also accidentally taught her how to love. When Nellie fell in love with Percival, Percival wasn’t immediately receptive to her advances. However, the two eventually learned to see eye-to-eye and got married.
The character of Percival had been born to Jewish parents, and was originally named Issac Cohen. However, the character’s backstory went that he decided to take his destiny into his own hands, changing his name to Percival Dalton to see what life had to offer besides the traditional ways of his Jewish parents. When Percival’s parents found out that he had fallen in love with the Christian Nellie, they were understandably devastated. As well, Nellie’s parents similarly believed that their daughter would be better of finding a husband of the Christian faith. However, Percival and Nellie’s love stood up to familial scrutiny, and the two ended up happily married by the end of the show’s run.
The characters of Percival and Nellie went on to have two children by the end of the show, whose names were Jennifer and Benjamin. By the end of the series, the family had moved to New York, where Percival was supposed to have taken up working at his father’s store. Actress Alison Arngrim portrayed the character of Nellie. Her and Steve became great friends while filming Little House on the Prairie, and stayed friends until Steve’s untimely death several years after the show’s end. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Little House on the Prairie stars Steve Tracy and Alison Arngrim kicked off a passionate friendship during the time that they were filming the show together. That friendship would continue on after the show came to an end. However, the two never became romantically involved due to the fact that Steve was gay. Alison was one of only a few people that knew the truth about Steve’s sexual orientation, and was thus one of the first people that Steve told once he found out that he had AIDs. Steve broke the news to his longtime friend over a television call, shortly before announcing it to the public during an interview on a radio show.
In the year leading up to his death, Steve performed in a theater piece that was titled AIDS/US: Portraits in Personal Courage. The piece was performed in Los Angeles, and featured several real-life AIDs victims sharing their stories with the audience. As a victim himself, Steve gladly participated. However, Steve ended up being one of the only professional actors in the production. Most of the other stars were simply AIDs victims that had become impassioned and wanted to share their tale in one way or another.
AIDS/US: Portraits in Personal Courage closed in August of 1986 due to the death of one of it’s cast members, as well as the increasingly failing health of two others. Those two others included Steve. Steve would pass away several months later, in November. However, Steve did everything within his power while he was alive to overcome the disease that had overtaken him, as well as to provide more knowledge for those suffering from the disease after his passing. Steve offered himself to experimental trials whose results would be used to garner important data on the newfound illness, and which could also potentially offer Steve an unlikely miracle cure. Sadly, these experimental trials didn’t do much to extend the actor’s life.
Steve had known that he was sick for a while before being diagnosed with AIDs, and had even suspected that the newly discovered illness may have been the culprit of his failing health. Not much was known about the disease at the time, so Steve had a hard time finding doctors that could make an accurate diagnosis. Once Steve found a doctor that was finally qualified to make the call, he was hardly surprised at the news. Initially, Steve told his longtime friend and former costar Alison that he was suffering from cancer. He even went so far as to fake going through chemotherapy, saying that he thought here was chance that he could make it.
At the time when Steve was diagnosed with AIDS, the disease was even more deadly than it is now. Nowadays, AIDs can be suppressed with drug cocktails, but there was no such solution at the time. The average life expectancy of someone diagnosed with AIDs at the time was only nine months. Despite the immense fear that Steve was likely facing, the actor didn’t let it show.
Steve eventually came clean to Alison about the fact that he was suffering from AIDs instead of cancer. Alison understood Steve’s hesitancy to admit the truth to her given that the actor had been largely unsure about it himself for much of the time leading up to that point, as well as due to the stigma surrounding the illness at the time. Steve was apparently incredibly courageous during the final year of his life and never once shed a tear. Alison spent plenty of time with Steve during his final year, acting as someone that he could have a good time with to escape his woes.
During Steve’s final year, Alison began volunteering with the AIDS Project Los Angeles. After Steve’s death, Alison continued fighting charitably for those suffering from the illness, having volunteered to work with several other AIDs organizations around the country. The actress is even currently married to someone that she met while volunteering for such an organization, her second marriage after being married to a friend of Steve’s. By the time Steve passed away on November 27, 1986, Alison had more respect for her longtime friend than ever before. Having watched him suffer unflinchingly through such extreme pain had made the actress question her own strength, as well as how she would’ve held up if put into the same situation.
At the time that Steve passed away, he was only 34 years old. He was one of the first notable actors to have passed away from the AIDs virus, after Rock Hudson in 1985. As the years went on, AIDs became more and more common, with celebrities like Magic Johnson and Charlie Sheen publicly living moderately stable and healthy lives after receiving it. Hopefully, those stars today that are surviving with AIDs have some respect for television actor Steve Tracy, who bravely fought the disease in the early days of it’s history.
Steve Tracy might not have been one of the biggest actors of his day, but he became notable for being one of the first television stars diagnosed with AIDs. Comment down below to share if you were surprised to learn about the story of Steve’s tragic death, or if you remember the character of Percival Dalton from Little House on the Prairie. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!