Apparently a dog that Switzer was training for a relative got away. Switzer offered a $50 reward for the dog and paid it upon the animal's return. The owner of the dog, Switzer's uncle, did not want to reimburse Switzer and a fight broke out.
"It was more like murder," said Corrigan, today a 56-year-old restaurateur who sports the 10-gallon hats of his late father, western movie star Ray "Crash" Corrigan.
Corrigan rarely speaks of the night of Jan. 21, 1959, but, surprised to hear the Internet brims with conspiracy theories about the death of the man he called Alfie, he agreed to go on the record. While Web postings claim Alfie used a police badge to bluff his way into the house and that he was killed over a drug deal, the truth is simpler and sadder.
Just before dark on that January day, Tom heard a knock on the front door. Then Alfie said, "Western Union for Bud Stiltz." Tom recognized the voice instantly. Although Alfie was 32, his voice deepened only slightly from the cracking twang of his Little Rascals days.
Alfie had been around Tom's family as long as he could remember. Crash Corrigan and Alfie had a mutual friend in TV cowboy Roy Rogers. Washed up as a child star at 14, Alfie tended bar and along with Rogers guided celebrities on bear hunts. Young Tom worked at Rogers' Chatsworth skeet-shooting range. He often hung out with Alfie, stopping with him at the dingy bars that dotted the long boulevards of the San Fernando Valley.
Although Rogers landed Alfie small parts in movies, the rural Illinois kid who starred in 61 of the "Our Gang" comedies was broke. Syndicators were making millions running the shows on television, but not a cent was going to the gang.