Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the death of a troubled Little Rascal who brought so much light and joy into the world, but ended his life in darkness and loneliness.
There are few things that spread happiness across generations like The Little Rascals. Over the years I have had fun sharing quotes, moments and favorite episodes with my Grandparents, Parents, and Daughter. The shenanigans of Spanky, Darla, Waldo, Buckwheat, Butch and Petey are timeless. Building clubhouses, starting fire departments, playing hooky, Our Gang was a group of perpetual smile makers.
The Rascals were just that, rascals, with one big standout as the show changed directions in the mid 30’s. The addition of ladies’ man, style aficionado, and “world class” crooner, Alfalfa. Alfalfa had his trademark strand of hair that stood straight up and he brought a new era of protagonist and antagonist as he vied for Darla’s attention and outsmarted Butch.
Alfalfa was played by Carl Switzer and breathed new life into the franchise and developed a character that has transcended the years. A character that fascinated by my then twelve-year-old daughter Sonja. Twelve is a key year, because that is how old Carl was when he aged out of Our Gang. Thrown away by Hollywood, and without much screen action in the following years except for a small role as the guy who opened up the pool in It’ a Wonderful Life.
Sonja and I spent hours watching The Little Rascals as she developed a little crush on Alfalfa. When we visited California in 2015, part of our adventure included searching for his gravestone. A journey that left us with the realization that even one of the most recognized people in the world can end up lost and forgotten.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a picturesque place with flamingos roaming the grounds, beautiful stones, and a life-sized statue of Johnny Ramone (Another of Sonja’s favorites). It soon became very clear that there were no life-sized statues of Alfalfa. In fact, we stepped over his grave marker several times as Google tried to map out the exact coordinates.
Alfalfa got into the hunting dog rental business after he left Hollywood. The story goes that he was shot and killed over $50 after a deal went bad in 1959. A tragic end for such a beloved character. The real tragedy was that Sonja and I finally found the grave marker. Under our feet. Overgrown and uncared for. The Hollywood that cast him aside was still punishing him using the vilest tactic it could muster up…. being forgotten.
Being forgotten is cruelest of all fates, especially for an actor. It reminds me of the quote about leadership. There are two types of leaders. Leaders who are humble, and leaders about to be humbled. Fame/success/money…..it’s all fleeting.
Sonja and I cleaned up his grave, and made it look great for the next family who were searching him out. We left hoping we made a small difference in the memory of someone who made a big difference for us.
So, I raise a toast to Alfalfa, and all the forgotten ones who once brought joy into the world………. you still are……And to all the new joy makers, live in the moment.