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Affair with Sinatra Jr. helps 'Little House' star shed her little girl image

by Barbara Lewis


Melissa Sue Anderson, the child star of "Little House on the Prairie," is a little girl no more.

The golden-tressed actress is having an affair with a man more than twice her age and she's planning to leave home for a house of her own.

Melissa, who plays Mary on the hit NBC show, has set next September 26, her 18th birthday, as the target date for moving out. And she's been out hunting for a house with the aid of Frank Sinatra Jr., the 36-year-old son of Old Blue Eyes.

Their romance has been the talk of Hollywood, but Melissa makes no bones about the fact that she likes older men.

"I seem to relate better to older fellows," she says. "I find that guys my own age don't like me. Somehow boys my own age are very limited in their interests. I want to learn things when I go out with people."

She also wants to learn about how to launch a singing career, and Hollywood insiders believe she's hoping Frank Jr. will help open doors for her.

She made her singing debut on TV when she guest starred on "The Love Boat" and sang "Witchcraft," one of Frank Sinatra's greatest hits.

"Frank Jr. stood right next to the camera and cheered me on," says Melissa. "He was a great help."

Melissa says people have blown her romance with Frank Jr. out of proportion.

"He is just a very good friend," she says.

But her friends say she cherishes the beautiful gold chain necklace that carries a pendant inscribed with "To my Cinderella -- Love F."

Rumors are rampant in Hollywood that Melissa's mother, Marian, who has kept a close eye on her daughter, isn't thrilled about her daughter's relationship with the older man.

Says Melissa: "My mother and I are very good friends and I'll probably still see her often but I'm looking forward to having my own house.

"Moving out on my own is just a normal sign that I'm growing up."

Melissa's mother regularly accompanies her daughter to the set of "Little House." In the early days of the show, they were overshadowed by Melissa Gilbert and her entourage -- a maid, a chauffeur and a mother sparkling with diamonds.

Melissa Gilbert had originally been cast as the star child attraction on the show, but Melissa Sue rocketed to stardom thanks to a tremendous outpouring of fan mail.

Her appeal stems from her wholesome image.

And her popularity earned her the nomination for an Emmy in the "leading lady" category, the youngest actress ever to be nominated for that honor.