Standing: Buckwheat Thomas, Edith Fellows, Pineapple Jackson, Marvin “Bubbles” Trin, Sidney “Woim” Kibrick, Joe Cobb, fan Bob Satterfield, “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, Leonard Landy, Spanky McFarland, “Butch” Bond, Delmar Watson, “Butch” Bond Jr. – Front row: fan Armand Lewis, Dorothy “Echo” Deborba, Verna Kornman, Peggy Ahern, Mildred Kornman, fan Dick Bann, fan Earl Kress
Dad didn’t make many notes about the Our Gang reunion that occurred on Thursday, July 31, 1980 at the Hollywood Sons of the Desert convention. In his little Mead notebook, he only noted “Went to mixer at 6:30 till 8:00. Brad got lots of autographs. Everyone listened to Marvin Hatley play.” In fact, we only attended the ‘mixer’ which was in fact specifically an ‘Our Gang mixer’ and session for pictures and autographs – and not the official reunion. I now mildly regret that we did not go to the following Bullfighters banquet / Our Gang Reunion that began at 8:00pm – but hey it wasn’t my money that was paying for this.
The fabled little blue autograph book
Most likely following the mixer, Dad and I went to the film room and hung out there for the rest of the evening. I have only the vaguest recollection of peeking in on the banquet at some point and seeing a silent film clip of some kids running around on the screen – which possibly served as an introduction to one of the silent Our Gang members. And I’m not sure if it happened on this particular night, but one other memory that sticks out is of me hanging around after one of the banquets that we did not attend and seeing an unidentified object sitting behind one of the draw curtains in the banquet hall. When I reached down to see what it was, I felt a tremendous pain in my fingers. It had been a mousetrap! And finally, one other random thought – Dad remembers seeing Jack Riley from The Bob Newhart Show walking around one night. He pointed him out to me, but I don’t recall it - and I probably didn’t have any idea who he was at that time.
But back to the topic at hand…the Our Gang reunion. I’m sure I had no idea at the time, but attending this mixer and autograph session was probably one of the coolest opportunities I have ever had in my life. This was the single largest gathering ever to take place of former members of the Our Gang since they had ceased production of the films in 1944. Other Our Gang reunions would follow from time to time, but none ever approached the enormity of that Hollywood ’80.
The idea for the reunion came from Darla Hood, a very prominent member of the Gang herself. Darla had attended the Chicago ’78 convention (which was a little before my time), and while riding back to Los Angeles on the plane, sitting next to my future friend Bob Satterfield, she mentioned how much she would like to see a reunion of the Little Rascals at the next convention - which had just been decided would be hosted by Bob and the Way Out West Tent two years from that point. Most unfortunately, Darla passed away before the Hollywood ’80 convention ever took place.
Another devastating blow to the roster of attendees was the loss of Allen “Farina” Hoskins – the Our Gang member who had actually appeared in the most films. Although scheduled to attend, he passed away just five days before the reunion. This was not only a disappointment to me and the other fans of the Gang, but to Hal Roach himself, who professed that Farina was his favorite of all of the kids.
‘Stymie’ Beard was yet another who was alive at the time, but was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. It would be less than six months later that he would pass away. And of course getting Jackie Cooper there was beyond the realm of possibility. Same goes for Dickie Moore.
With all of the Our Gangers who did attend this gigantic event, it still amazes me that Bob and other Sons members (even me, in my own small way) were later able to contact and get participation in future events of more than twenty other Our Gang members – among them (and in no particular order): Porky Lee, Peggy Cartwright, Beverly Crane, Jacquie Lyn, Jerry Tucker, Janet Burston, Robert Blake, JR Smith, “Bouncy” Wertz, Sherwood “Spud” Bailey, Buddy McDonald, Jackie Lynn Taylor, Patsy Barry, Hugh Chapman, Joy Wurgaft, Gary “Junior” Jasgur, Donnie “Beezer” Smith, Lassie Lou Ahern, Jerry Maren, Mary Ann Jackson, Billy Wolfstone and more. If beggars could be choosers, we might lament all of those who didn’t attend this event in 1980 - but as it was, this was still an absolutely incredible occasion.
There are individual postings about most of the Our Gangers who attended the reunion, but for those of whom there were not an abundance of photos snapped, here are a few others:
I’m not sure what L&H film John Guedel was involved in when he professed to be a “Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang writer,” but he did in fact contribute to the writing of the screenplay to General Spanky (1936), Our Gang’s one and only feature film.
Marvin “Bubbles” Strin appeared in six of the Our Gang talkies – although never uttering a word. He was conspicuous for his derby hat and spit-curl bangs. He passed away in 1986 without ever attending any further functions.
Marianne Edwards is one Rascal whom I consider to be a somewhat-of-a-biggie in the Our Gang films. Although she only starred in seven of the films, she is instantly recognizable for her large role in Sprucin’ Up as the object of Spanky and Alfalfa’s affection – as well as her appearance in L&H’s Babes in Toyland. She all-but-disappeared from the public eye after her appearance at this convention. She didn’t show up for the reunion photo above and nary a photo of her from the convention can be found – but she was there and I met her! Later on in the mid-1980′s, she signed a handful of photos for Bob through the mail including the one for me below - but never returned to another function and has been completely silent since…
Click here to see the Our Gang stars of 1980…
Click here to continue with the convention…