Mickey Daniels was one of the original Our Gang kids. Freckle-faced and irresistibly likable, he helped make Hal Roach’s comedy shorts a hit in the silent-film era. He died in 1970 but decades later there was no headstone or marker at his gravesite.
That’s the thought that nagged at Bob Satterfield, a saintly man and stalwart of the Laurel and Hardy organization known as Sons of the Desert. Bob is a retired schoolteacher who has selflessly raised money (and spent his own) to install headstones at the final resting place of many Hal Roach comedy players.
Virtually the only source of information about Mickey Daniels is the book I wrote with Richard W. Bann, The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang. Dick received a letter from Mickey’s daughter Diane in 1995 in which she said, “My father had a gypsy spirit but he was a good-hearted, intelligent man. My cousin Marlene told me he helped her and her husband get their first home. He apparently never bought one for himself. My children definitely resemble him… as I do. You have made me very proud of him and his accomplishments… I feel he’s at peace now. It’s a very comforting feeling. I called the cemetery where he’s buried and they told me how I could find him if I’m ever fortunate enough to come to L.A.” She was living in Texas as the time.
Dick also has notes from his phone conversation with Mickey’s niece Marlene, who remembered him as a funny uncle that everybody liked. “He still had that crazy laugh,” she recalled. “The kids in our neighborhood all flocked around him. He was fun to be around.” About Our Gang “he said it was a whole other life. He looked back on it as something that wasn’t quite real. It wasn’t that big a deal to him.”
Only a handful of people were present to witness the unveiling of Mickey Daniels’ brass marker, including author Steve Cox, Dick Bann and myself. When we approached the designated location at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale we saw markers for Mickey’s parents, but until now his remains have been covered by nothing but grass. Bob Satterfield was in touch with his late daughter in Texas because he needed her permission to proceed with his plan. She was no longer lucid but her daughter was able to complete the necessary paperwork. A Go Fund Me campaign raised the $1,700 required. (Forest Lawn insists on manufacturing its own headstones, at considerable cost.)
The sun was blocked by clouds as we spent some quiet moments thinking about Mickey, while Bob propped up a framed photo of him alongside the handsome brass plaque that now marks his grave. As movie buffs, we like to think that the people we admire onscreen are blessed with carefree lives. The truth is usually more complex, as it was for Mickey. But I couldn’t help smiling as I looked at this beaming face in that 1920s picture. I hope that whatever transpired in his life, he is now truly at peace.