The Terrible Catsafterme

Brad’s Musings and Meanderings

random acts of quoting

"Hey dude, do you wanna go on a date for a beer with a dork? Well, I've got one right here - it's me!" - Briana Pond

janet4.jpgI got the bee in my bonnet to track down Janet Burston way back in 1992 when my friend Dick Bann told me that he had nearly uncovered her whereabouts – his information indicated that she was working in a Denny’s restaurant in Fresno. He had no desire to contact her, but offered to pass on her phone number for me. By the time I followed up with him and tried to call her, the line he gave me had been disconnected. Flash forward to 1994 when I met Bill Cappello. He had already provided the whereabouts for both Harry Spear and Beverly Crane, when I asked him to see what he could find out about Janet Burston.

Janet Burston, for the record, was one of the last members of the Our Gang / Little Rascals comedies to be inducted into the series. She only worked at M-G-M during the 1940’s, acting somewhat as the female lead after Darla Hood retired from the series. In all, she appeared in 16 of the final films of the series including the very last short Tale of a Dog in 1944. In addition, she starred in two of the famous Blondie films. The general consensus was that she wasn’t very good, obnoxiously over-acting in all of her scenes. To me, though, it made no difference. She was a vital piece of Our Gang history.

It didn’t take Bill long to come back with an answer. Janet was indeed living in Fresno, now known as Janet Foy, her fourth married name! When I first called Janet, she was suffering from a broken leg and a little ‘out-of-it’ due to her pain medication. She sounded as if she may have been talking to me from a seedy, run-down trailer park amidst the stench of cigarette smoke. But I persisted and called yet again. During our second conversation, she really opened up to me. She allowed me to interview her about her life and her days with Our Gang, and during our many chats we ended up becoming fast friends. One day she called while my Mom was visiting me at the Woodman Park Apartment and she ended up chatting with my Mom as well!

Fresno is nowhere near San Bernardino where Bob lives – as any map will show you. In order to get to see Janet during my California trip of 1995, I had to convince Bob to make the six-hour drive to Fresno. He almost considering putting me on a plane to Fresno to protect ‘his gas and his ass,’ but in the end we took the journey by motorcar, leaving on Friday, June 30, stopping in Bakersfield to spend the night, and then continuing the journey on Saturday. I almost soiled my pants after we had nearly reached our destination and I discovered that I had left Janet’s phone number – which I need to get final directions – back at Bob’s. Fortunately she was in directory assistance.

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 Bob’s reaction to the Bakersfield phone book

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His mood improved when he found out they also had donuts

She was waiting on her porch when we pulled up. I told her “I’m Brad.” She gave me a big hug and said “no kidding.” We spent a few hours with her, taking her out to lunch at Denny’s (a restaurant she confirmed that she did in fact once work for, but not at this particular one), snapping a few photos, going through her collection of photos, and having her sign 100 duplicate photos (no joke – I still have a good portion of them).

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Froggy, Janet, Robert Blake, and Buckwheat in Calling All Kids

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Janet signs 100 photos

It was a very nice and worthwhile visit, and as far as I know, we were the only fans ever to meet with Janet Burston. I subsequently published a nice article on Janet in my Dante’s Info #13. Janet loaned me about 20 of her vintage photos, of which unfortunately, I did not save quality scans. I did however snap black and white photos of them, but they are too small to be of much value.

For some reason, I lost track of Janet for the next couple of years. When I returned to California in 1997, we were going to be traveling in her area and intended to look her up…but we found that her phone had been disconnected. I never found another good number for her. Amazingly, it was during a visit from Bob in the Summer of 1998 that I received a letter from Janet’s daughter Donette, informing me that her Mom had passed away unexpectedly on March 3 of that year.

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Janet poses at the piano

To this day I treasure the friendship I had with Janet Burston and relish knowing that I was really the only fan with whom she was ever close. And as for her ‘lack of acting talent,’ she once told me: “Oh, what a ham I was! But that’s what the studio wanted…the hammier the better!”

This concludes the Hollywood ’95 vacation. Up next: Meeting more stars back in Dayton

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22 Responses to “Meeting Janet Burston 1995”

  1. Well, Bravo to you and Bob for making the effort to contact Janet Burston! I have an autographed photo from her which must have come from you. I’ll treasure it even more knowing all the particulars. And just to nag you once again, these L&H and Our Gang postings of yours *really* should be on the Wax Apple. You don’t need to modify them, just stick ’em over there!

    Randy Skretvedt

  2. Great story. I stumbled across your site and the Wax Apple by accident last week and I’m really enjoying both. My love of L&H and Our Gang go back to the 70’s when I spent my summers renting Blackhawk 8mm films from the library. It’s great to read stories of someone who has met so many of the people who flickered on the screen those warm summer evenings.

    Sean Roper

  3. These are really wonderful stories! It is a shame that the fans never got the chance to meet and thank Harry Spear and Janet Burston. I don’t suppose I could talk you out of one of your Janet Burston Autographs, could I?

    Dave Chasteen

  4. wikied!

    Ashleigh Heath

  5. I met Janet summer/autumn 1997. I was the security chief at the Oakville Parkade downtown Oakville Ontario Canada.A very affluent area, Janet worked as Sunday evening radio host at AM740 a station still on the air that is dedicated to golden oldies. Janet autographed a B/W still of her with Robert Blake and 2 other Little Rascals. Janet was very funny and I enjoyed listening to her stories about how she was born in Canada, moved to L.A.during the war and became a child actor. I miss her.

    George J. West

  6. Well done to you for tracking her down. A lovely little actress who I fell for after watching her as the bunny rabbit in the Warner Bros short “Cinderalla” I shall be keeping her name alive on my site now I have her picture.I spent years tracking down Connie Marshall and Lori Martin who both vanished after stardom. I found them both sadly to late but now have sites to honour them.

    Malcolm James

  7. Wow; what a nice lady. I truly regret not trying to meet her in earlier years. I think she knew of her shadow as far the “Our Gang” is concerned, but I will remember her as a talent in her own right. Most people don’t get as far as Janet did.

    Elmer Pintar

  8. Oh my gosh I have been looking for info on my grandma for so long. I finally came across this. Amazing. I really would like to get a hold of Brad. This article is great. Brad if you ever get on here please contact me. I would love to talk to you and see if you still have any of her pics. Thank you, Nicole

    Nicole Pickrell

  9. Hi
    Im Janets daughter, and I want to thank Brad for the time spent with my mother. She truly enjoyed every minute she spent with you
    rekindling the past. I know she missed making movies and it did not stop by chioce. She could have kept going on because she was still a “shining star”, but life sometime takes a turn and one is not always able to follow their dreams. Hope all is well with you Brad.

    Thank you
    Donette

    Donette Soares

  10. It’s nice to see that you were able to contact Janet Burston and sad to note that she is now no longer with us; honestly, I just didn’t know. At the same time, it’s interesting that Richard Bann “had no desire to contact her”, though not too surprising, since her performing was trashed by Bann and Leonard Maltin in their Our Gang book. Judging from her response to her critcs(“Oh, what a ham I was!”), one could possibly give her a pass; after all, she was a child taking direction from grownups, and under MGMs watch, “Our Gang” had become less about the kids interacting with each other and having adventures than being treated by grownups with disdain, as pests under foot; in turn the kids wind up under the thumbs of the well-meaning adults. If the studios wanted “the hammier the better!”, then that’s what went into the film. I suspect in better projects, Janet Burston would have been less hammy. All that said, it’s good to see that her life was fairly balanced with marriage, jobs, children and grandchildren (4 marriages notwithstanding; some people who were never in show business have had more marriages than Ms. Burston).

    Keep looking for (and reaching out to) the stars. . .

    Debra Crum
    Fairborn OH

    Debra Crum

  11. Just the other day I remarked to you about how enough years have passed since the last edition of the Bann/Maltin Our Gang book to merit an updated edition. I guess I’ll come to you if I want updated info. Thanks.

    Dean

  12. Janet and I were sisters-in-law for over six years. She was a fun person. Janet also played the younger part in a Shirley Temple movie. I don’t know the name but she was the younger part of the same character played by Shirley Temple. I lost touch with her years ago so I didn’t know she had a grandchild. I do however remember her son (my nephew) Randy and his sister (my niece) Donette, an adorable little girl.

    Lorraine Stephens

  13. Hi, I’m a big “Our Gang” fan my self. With your permission, I’d like to include your photo of Jane on my site. Thanks so much for the update; I would have loved to have been there with you to meet her.

    William

  14. I was really excited to find out information on Janet Burston. My older brother and sister helped choose my name while watching Little Rascals. Lol. I’ve always been interested in finding out more about my namesake. Thank you for the info. 🙂

    Janet Dee

  15. I was very excited to find this. Janet was my grandma. So obviously Donette is my mother. Lol she passes away when I was 4. To hear that you got to know her, and spend more time with her then I did makes me feel warm inside. I don’t remember much about her but there are aome things I do. That piano we now have in my moms house, it’s out of tune but I still like to play on it, and her stinking puddle would always jump on me when I was over. I’d love to hear back from you and here the story’s she told you. Sincerely Michceala VanDyke

    Michceala VanDyke

  16. Janet bursting was my father’s cousin and I had the got to meet her for the first time before she died and her mother, my aunt Anne before she died. Janet died shortly after her mom. My dad would tell me and my brothers that he and Janet were kissing cousin. We looked at him with a smile. Janet’s mom was my grandmothers sister. They are both missed and loved by the family.
    by Melisa M DeMont.

    Melisa M DeMont

  17. I’d like to know whatever recollections she had of Froggy, Mickey (aka Robert Blake), Happy (Froggy’s brother), Spanky, Darla, and Buckwheat. At least she was far from the Alfalfa “terrorizing” era. Only a handful of those MGM shorts are truly funny but showed a lot of high product values (think “Wizard of Oz”). My favorite MGM Our Gang shorts are “Going To Press”, “Kiddie Cure”, and “Goin’ Fishin”. What’s everbody else’s favorites?

    Ronny Davis

  18. i met janet thru her son randy clark was my best friend n h.s..desperatly searching info on randy with no luck. also knew donette. please respond

    ross warden

  19. Ross I sent you an email. I am Randy’s daughter.

    Nicole Pickrell

  20. In the ’70’s, I was honored to work with Janet (Burston) Foy at Denny’s in Gilroy, Ca. She was a great lady! She taught me about always smiling at customers no matter how I was feeling. Great memories!

    Shanana Rain Golden-Bear

  21. Donette, and Nicole,

    If you see this could you look me up? I have been looking for you two, (and Randy, and Terry) for years. I loved hanging out with Janet, and the whole family, in Gilroy in the ’80s. Great memories!

    Nicole, I have a couple baby pics for you. One I am holding you on the couch, me wearing bell bottoms and my flannel. The other is me zipping down the street on my skateboard…with you in my arms. Yikes!!! We made it safely. 😉

    Hope you all are well, and I would love to hear from you.

    Jeff Rader

  22. Brad,

    You are QUICK! I posted less than two hours ago, looking for Janet’s daughter, Donette, and her granddaughter, Nicole. After all these years of searching you connected up ASAP. You’re a heck of a gent, and a top-notch writer. I’ve been enjoying checking out your meanderings. Great stuff!

    Thank for helping me end my long search for the family.

    Jeff Rader

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