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Addams Family Print Media > The Star Ledger - They're creepy and they're kooky

20 Nov 2006

CHARLES ADDAMS was haunted by his New Jersey childhood.

And what pleasure that would bring to others.

It wasn't that Addams had an unhappy upbringing. But growing up in Westfield, he was fascinated by old gothic houses and graveyards, leading him, years later, to create a series of New Yorker cartoons about a macabre clan.

In turn, the cartoons inspired ABC's "The Addams Family," whose first season was released recently on DVD by MGM. The sitcom premiered in 1964 at the same time as CBS' "The Munsters" and was created by producer David Levy, with the cooperation of Addams, who set about giving his theretofore unnamed cartoon family an identity.

Thus, the Addams tribe: eccentric arm-kisser Gomez, passionate for his beautiful, black-clad wife, Morticia; mischievous boy-pudge Pugsley and little Wednesday, full of woe, a goth ahead of her time; Grandmama, Uncle Fester, hairy Cousin Itt, towering butler Lurch, and Thing, a disconnected hand and odd-jobber.

The cast has so many links to pop culture that it might warrant its own Trivia Pursuit edition. John Astin (Gomez) was once married to Patty Duke and fathered the couple's actor-sons, Sean and Mackenzie Astin. Until 1964, Carolyn Jones (Morticia) had been married to Aaron Spelling, who went on to become one of TV's most successful producers.

Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley) was the nephew of both Rudd Weatherwax, Lassie's owner and trainer, and Ruby Keeler, a mainstay of '30s film musicals such as "42nd Street." Jackie Coogan (Fester) had been the child star of Charlie Chaplin's silent "The Kid," while Blossom Rock, a k a Marie Blake (Grandmama), was the sister of film songbird Jeanette McDonald.

Ted Cassidy (Lurch and Thing) became the (uncredited) narrator of the opening credit sequence of "The Incredible Hulk," while Lisa Loring (Wednesday) would marry, and divorce, porn star Jerry Butler.

Though "The Addams Family" lasted only two seasons, a cartoon series, a TV reunion film, an updated series version and two feature films of the '90s would follow.

What was Morticia's maiden name, also Uncle Fester's surname?

Les Mizzy

When Vic Mizzy remarried in 2001 at the Bellagio Chapel in Las Vegas, his bride walked down the aisle to the tune of "The Addams Family" theme.

What is this, here comes the Bride of Frankenstein?

No, it's just that one of Mizzy's claims to fame is having created the theme back in 1964.

Poe folks, the Cleavers with real cleavers, Gomez Addams et al were a comical film negative of the standard sitcom family. So when Mizzy's close friend, the series' producer and creator David Levy, asked him to compose a theme, he came up with a whimsical ditty in 6/8 time, an elephant walk with a touch of menace and the aptly descriptive opening stanza: "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky, the Addams Family."

The added finger snaps made it all very cool.

Money to record the theme was limited, so Mizzy played the harpsichord both for the theme and the music played by Lurch in the episodes, and sang the lyrics by triple-tracking his voice, aside from writing other instrumental themes for the show.

A year later after "The Addams Family" premiered, Mizzy came up with another deathless theme song, "Green Acres."

According to "The Addams Family" theme, where do the Addamses live?

Nom du film

In a featurette on the DVD release of "The Addams Family," John Astin recalls that he and the show's producers felt fortunate to land Carolyn Jones for the role of Morticia, since Jones already was a very familiar face in films and TV.

Indeed, a Carolyn Jones film festival would be a well-spent weekend. Before "The Addams Family," the Texas-born actress had roles in "House of Wax," "The Seven Year Itch," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "King Creole," "The Tender Trap," "A Hole in the Head," "How the West Was Won" and "War of the Worlds," among other films.

And she earned an Oscar nomination, for 1957's "The Bachelor Party," in which she played a Greenwich Village sex kitten called "The Existentialist." As Hollywood columnist Army Archerd wrote, "Carolyn Jones is a standout as the nympho."

Too kooky!

What's more, she had less than 10 minutes screen time, but nabbed a nomination anyway. She lost to Miyoshi Umeki for "Sayonara."

Before her death from cancer in 1983 at age 54, Carolyn Jones played Queen Hippolyta on what series of the '70s?

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