I can’t think of Culver City without thinking about the rich history of this city, especially the Little Rascals of the Our Gang show. My husband is a huge fan of the program and so, over the years, I have been forced to occasionally watch. I admit I’m not much of a fan but was excited to learn more about the Rascals’ dog, Petey.
This canine comedian from the Our Gang series was owned and trained by Harry Lucenary. I was surprised to learn that the unique circle around his eye was originally unplanned. When the spunky pup made his debut, he had just finished playing Tige' in the Buster Brown comedies, a series of silent movies released by Universal Studios. The ring was made with permanent dye, so Hal Roach, head of the studio by the same name, had no choice but to accept Petey in that condition. It gave him such an adorable and distinctive look and the studio decided to keep it. Watch closely; the circle often moves from right to left eye from film to film. Why? Because Petey was a star and had a few stand-ins for some stunts and close-ups, and the continuity of the era was not always up to snuff.
According to Cult Magazine, Petey was in films at the age of six months. “His father was Pal, The Wonder Dog, another performer. Pal was actually the first dog to appear regularly in the Our Gang shorts. Petey was signed in 1927 to a three-year contract with six-month options. His starting salary was $125 per week, which was raised in increments of $25 a week, to make him exclusive to Hal Roach Studios – making him the second highest paid actor in the show (behind Allen “Farina” Hoskins). Petey’s last appearance was in A Tough Winter, released June 21, 1930.”
Petey has been gone for more than 60 years but is still one of the most popular Little Rascals. Former owner Ted Lucenay, Harry Lucenay's son, is regularly bombarded with requests for pictures and information about his iconic pup. “He was a gentle, playful and warm dog,” Lucenay recalled. “He would sleep at the foot of my bed. He was just the regular family dog. I really miss him.”
Lucenay was a young boy growing up in California when his beloved friend was alive. When the pair would go for walks people would stop them so they could have their picture taken with the dog.
“He was always recognized,” Lucenay said. “Everybody loved him.”
Lucenay’s wife, Helen recalled that when the movies were brought back on television, “People would call for a story or want Ted to send them a picture. I don’t think Ted minds. This is something that’s a part of him.”
Petey made kids young and old laugh with his adorable puppy antics. He was everyone’s best friend: a wonderful Hollywood star representing a bygone era – the days of silent movies and Vaudeville. The memory of this American pit bull terrier still lives on in the hearts of many Americans – including me.
Lori Fusaro has been voted the best portrait photographer by FoxTV three years in a row. She lives in Culver City with her husband, four cats, and dog. Contact: Lori@FusaroPhotography.com, www.FusaroPhotography.com.