Bad guy gone good

NAME: Tommy Bond

DESCRIPTION: “Butch” the bully in the Little Rascals.

LAST SEEN: Pitch man for Rascals videos on QVC.

When 8-year-old Tommy Bond rolled up his sleeves, the other kids scattered fast. That’s because Bond played “Butch,” the bully in “The Little Rascals.”

Today, at age 69, the former child actor is stumping the country in personal appearances at video stores and on the Home Shopping Channel to hype the “Little Rascals” home video collection, released by Cabin Fever Entertainment. The original prints of the series produced by Hal Roach were borrowed from the Library of Congress and remastered. A 12-volume series released in 1994 sold more than 3 million units, and a newly released nine-volume collection is hitting the shelves now.

Bond was 5 in 1932 when a talent scout for the Our Gang comedies spotted him on the street in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. His grandmother took him on the seven-day auto trip to Hollywood, where he was interviewed at Hal Roach Studios by a cigar-chomping Roach.

“Can you look mean? Do you like to fight?” Roach asked the kid.

Bond answered yes to both questions and got the job. He was originally cast as “Tommy” in 12 episodes. One contains the celebrated talent show sequence, in which he sings the tender love ballad “Just Friends” as if twisting the tail of a small pet.

He was later recast in the series as Butch, who – with his freckle-faced accomplice “Woim” – terrorized Alfalfa, Spanky, Buckwheat and the other Rascals. Bond did 10 episodes in the series, which by that time had been sold by Roach to MGM.

While he says it was a lot of fun, the business of being a child actor in the 1930s wasn’t exactly the paradise that other Depression kids might have imagined. The pay was peanuts, recalls Bond, who never received any residual payments. And school consisted of three hours a day with a state-mandated tutor who was constantly coping with the bad behavior of the worst Rascals – mainly Carl Switzer, who played Alfalfa.

And then there was the problem of growing up. When he reached 13, Bond left the show. “I was a head taller than the other kids,” he says. “Everybody could see I was outgrowing it.”

After a stint in uniform during World War II, Bond was recruited to play Jimmy Olsen in the original “Superman,” a film serial from Columbia Pictures.

He went on to take small parts in feature films but quit acting in 1951 to take up a 23-year career with KTTV in Los Angeles as a stage manager and head of the property department. He later moved to Fresno, where he worked at KFSNTV as a stage manager and assistant director until his retirement a few years ago.

Moving behind the camera, says Bond, “was an easy transition for me. I’m sorry some of the other kids didn’t. They couldn’t get used to the idea that they weren’t stars anymore.”

Indeed, several Rascals met sad fates. The late Spanky McFarland ended up slinging hamburgers in Hollywood until moving to Fort Worth, Texas, and ultimately repping Kitchen Aid products. Switzer was murdered in a knife-and-gun fight over a dog in 1958.

Bond now lives in Madera, a small Northern California town, with his wife, Polly, a 1945 Miss America contestant and former country singer who accompanies her husband on his promo tours. Their son, Tommy Jr. (“Everybody calls him Butch”), is an indie film producer. And Bond has published a memoir of his years with the Rascals titled “Darn Right, It’s Butch.”

As for his onetime partner-in-crime, Sid “Woim” Kibrick is a successful real estate developer in Beverly Hills.

“See?” laughs Bond. “The two bad guys were left alive.”

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