The Terrible Catsafterme

Brad’s Musings and Meanderings

random acts of quoting

"Dad prefers a number two pencil, while I prefer a two and a half." - Bill Williams Jr., "It's Your Move"

buck3.jpgI’m never really sure if people are as impressed as I think they should be when I tell them that I once met the original “Buckwheat.” The date was Thursday, July 31, 1980 and the event was the Our Gang Mixer in the Sierra Room of the Los Angeles Hilton at the Hollywood ’80 Sons of the Desert convention. All I had with me at the time was my little blue autograph album so this is what I had him sign. You might say that as far as I’m concerned, meeting Buckwheat is one of my personal claims to fame. So bear with me as I relay the details just one more time…

William “Buckwheat” Thomas, of course was one of the most famous of all of the Little Rascals, appearing in 93 of the Our Gang comedies. He was made even more notorious by Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of him on “Saturday Night Live” in the mid-1980′s. The reason that it is so rare to have met Buckwheat is that he only made one single Sons appearance and this was it. Outside of this, he only made one additional known appearance at a Los Angeles greeting card shop. Needless to say, he was far removed from the public spotlight when he passed away unexpectedly on October - just ten weeks after I met him.

Being only eight, I was quite naive in thinking that all of the celebrities of Hollywood ’80 would be accessible for the entire duration of the convention, when in fact, many of them only appeared for one night. This was the case with Buckwheat. So although later I purchased a nice postcard with his image – the one seen above – I never had the opportunity to have him sign it or any other photo. Also unfortunate was that I never got my picture taken with him either.

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The good news is that I do have a rather distinct memory of meeting him since I did something quite unusual. After I had waited in line to have him sign my album, I abruptly walked away and re-entered the end of his queue. As I approached him for the second time, I asked him if he might sign his real name. He obliged and I ended up with what is probably a one-of-a-kind memento: a single page with his real name and his character name, each signed in a different pen! Also good news was that my Dad did take a picture of Buckwheat while I was standing nearby waiting in line – I’m just not in it.

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Twenty-four years later at the Columbus Sons convention of ’04, Chicago Bacon Grabbers Tent member Alan Garfield was selling off some of his autograph collection. One of the items was an autographed picture of Buckwheat that had actually been signed at Hollywood ’80. I snapped it up (for only $100) faster than a speeding locomotive. I’m eternally grateful that not only do I now own a signed picture of Buckwheat (below), but it was most likely signed within the same hour that I met him. Could it be karma?

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Hollwood ’80 autographs will continue…

8 Responses to “Yes, I Met Buckwheat”

  1. That’s great! I wish I could find more photos of him as an adult.

    Bill Tracy

  2. This is a wonderful endearing story, especially because he was with us for such a short period. William “Buckwheat” Thomas will always be remembered among the best of “Our Gang.”

    Linda

  3. This is awesome, I am jealous!!

    James

  4. I knew Willie as a close friend in my early 20′s in Hollywood and he mentored me as a young man working in Hollywood as a film technician at Techincolor.
    I’m glad that you had a chance to meet him. He was a kind man who had been forgotten by so many.

    Robert Jackson

  5. Mr. Thomas was a remarkable child actor. A natural in his ability to act and present a realistic character of his time. The product was the Best children’s show ever. With the controversy , it’s a show all children ,anytime ,would enjoy.
    They were “Our Gang”, and always will be.
    Dr. Nosakhere

    Dr.Okpara Nosakhere

  6. Great post and comments. Lucky for you your dad was there with a camera.

    I too met “Buckwheat”. It must have been at the same time as the convention in 1980 (wish I had known about Sons of the Desert, but these were ancient pre-internet times!). I had heard on the radio or read that “Buckwheat” was going to be at a bookstore in Hollywood signing autographs.

    When I got there, there was a long line. They were selling little notepads with his name on it if I recall correctly. I bought two postcards (same as the one at the top) and waited in line.

    He was standing and not sitting like the photo above, but he was wearing the same or very similar blue denim “leisure suit”. We talked for a short while. To me this was amazing. I mean, here I was, a nobody punk kid from New Jersey, talking to a living icon. I mean, here I am talking to Buckwheat! Being in awe is an understatement. Nobody would ever believe this back home.

    Mr. Thomas was very humble, genuine and seemed a bit dazed by all the attention. It wasn’t that I was at all disappointed by his lack of star “aura”, but he did come across as your average working-class fellow. No judgment passed….just an observation. Part of growing-up and realizing that celebrities are just people.

    I asked him to autograph the postcard “To Banky” (the way young Buckwheat and Porky mispronounced Spanky’s name) but even after I explained why I wanted it personalized that way, Mr. Thomas still didn’t seem to get the reference. So I had to spell it out for him: B-A-N-K-Y. And that’s just the way he signed it: “To BANKY”- in all caps!

    David Corwin

  7. I was a member of the Unitas VI Band (The Navy Show Band) on a good will tour of South America in the fall of 1965. We had performed at Corrientes, Paraguay and we were on a river boat to nearby Resistencia, when band members were introduced to an employee of the United States Information Service (USIS), who, it was claimed, was “Buckwheat”. We were rather thrilled by that. So far I have been unable to verify if: (1) that was really “Buckwheat”; and (2) whether he was ever employed by USIS. If anyone has knowledge of such, I would appreciate getting it.

    John E. Cline
    Houston, Texas – Dec. 30, 2013

    John E. Cline

  8. CORRECTING PREVIOUS ENTRY THIS DATE: Although the cities mentioned are NEAR Paraguay, it turns out they are across the border in Argentina.
    Dec. 30th, 2013

    John E. Cline

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