Butch

Tommy Bond Interview

Following are portions of a conversation Steve Ramsey had with Tom Bond in October, 1996. Unlike Butch, Tom is an extremely friendly and charming man. He loves talking about his days with the Rascals and relating his vivid memories.
-Steve Ramsey


How do you account for the enormous popularity of the Little Rascals, after all these years?

 

We grew up with you guys (baby boomers) on television. At that time there was only one or two channels on TV and the Rascals were on one of them! So you either had your breakfast with us in the morning or you had us in the afternoon with your Oreo cookies and milk. So the Rascals became very close to the kids who were born after the war. Now since then, they have their own kids who they are putting in front of the set and playing a vcr tape of the Little Rascals. And the kids love them! Isnít that wonderful? Four generations of kids.

 
Yes indeed. I am continually amazed at how popular the Rascals are with todayís youngsters.

The kids of today like to see a good picture and can get right into the Rascals. As far as Iím concerned, the Rascals are good, clean family fun. Itís not the Power Rangers or the Ninja Turtles or the rest of this stuff. Itís teaching kids how to make do out of practically nothing. We were Depression kids; weíd go to the junkyard, get some wheels and make a fire engine! Kids today donít seem to have that self-reliance. Whatever they want, Daddy goes out and gets for them. But they are very proud if they can build something themselves, or put up an old blanket over a clothesline and do a show.

  As a child, were most of your friends outside of the gang or did you maintain friendships with the kids you acted with?

The only real friend that I had who I hob-knobbed a lot with was Alfalfa. We were the worst of enemies on screen, but the best of friends off the screen. Alfie was a friendly kid. Only problem he had was that he had a short fuse, which is why he got shot.

Would you care to elaborate on Alfalfaís death?

He was into Bloodhound dogs with his dad. I remember one night he and his dad, along with me and my dad went over to Topanga Canyon chasing raccoons which we never found. We found everything else BUT raccoons; dogs, cats, people. Anyway, he and his dad just loved those dogs. Well he sold one of them to a guy for $50. He went over to the guyís house to collect the money and the guy told him to take a hike. Alfie got mad and pulled a knife on the man who then reached into a drawer, pulled out a gun and shot him. Of course it was justifiable homicide. Like I say, Alfie had a short fuse.

One of my all-time favorite scenes in The Little Rascals is when you, as little Tommy , sing "Just Friends, Lovers No More". (Mush and Milk) Sooo dramatic!

Thatís my wifeís favorite too! We did that scene in one take. Marvin Hatley, the musical director was backstage with a piano when he called me over, "Tommy, come over here! You think you can do this?" He had me sing this number when Hal Roach happened to be walking by and heard it. "Good song. Letís put it in the movie!"

 
It seems to have been a common refrain among actors at Hal Roach studios that it was a pretty darned fun place to work.

Well, we were all friends. Thatís why we were called the "lot of fun", and thatís what it was! Laurel & Hardy would visit us, weíd visit them, Hal Roach would visit the kids. Weíd also show up in each otherís films. I played with Charley Chase in "Iíll Take Vanilla" and one called "Cracked Ice". I was lucky enough to play with Laurel & Hardy in "Blockheads", and I was lucky enough to play with Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly.

 
And what did you think of Hal Roach?

Hal Roach was a great guy. The thing about Hal Roach was that he had the Midas touch when it came to picking kids for Our Gang. He could just look at a kid and pick them. He wasnít looking for pretty boys or girls, or acting experience, or anything like that. None of the kids had any acting experience. He would look at you and see something inside of you and say "thatís the kid I want".

Looking at the Rascals from adult perspective, I really enjoy watching you play Butch. It seems as if you were just having a ball. Playing the tough-guy mustíve been a lot of fun.

Oh yeah, I loved being the tough-guy, because everybody always remembered the tough-guy even though they hated him! Iíve talked to a lot of baby-boomers today who say "Boy, you really scared me!". Well, then I did my job.

  And what did other kids your age think of Butch?

I was living in Encino and going to public school. Of course I had a fight every day. They all wanted to beat me up!

Kid actors today just donít seem to be very good actors to me. Itís like they are too aware of being "stars". Any thoughts?

Absolutely. Theyíre too sophisticated, too worldly. Theyíve got too much in their heads about whatís going on in the world.

Anything new to report with the Little Rascals, such as new video releases?

Iíve been going around the country promoting the Cabin Fever videos. Iím amazed at how many people remember the Rascals. I think these videos are partially responsible for todayís popularity, because they havenít been on the tube at all. There is the possibility of an upcoming Our Gang CD-ROM , which we should know about shortly. Also, from what I hear, King World is going to colorize the Rascals and re-release them on television, so thereís a whole new crop of kids.

What do you think about all this colorization?

I donít object to it. Iíll tell you why; weíre playing for the kids of today who are used to color. I donít think it will do anything but enhance them. Now, I would never colorize anything like Casablanca or Citizen Kane. That was mood, set with black & white. But with a kids comedy show, I donít see any objection to it.

Is there anything youíd like to say specifically to the viewers of the Our Gang Web Site?

I'd like to get kids to watch good clean entertainment and comedy. Thereís too much trash on television. I just wonít represent it. My morals are of the old school, but itís the best school. I think parents today want to see this kind of thing. They are tired of junk. The kids watch the Cabin Fever videos and they absolutely love them.



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