Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's All Very Creepy and Kooky, Mysterious and Spooky

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles Addams, the master of the macabre. Born in Westfield, New Jersey in 1912. He is known for his cartoon, The Addams Family.

Addams's first cartoon appeared in the New Yorker in 1938 and his biting, witty humor was a mainstay of the magazine for much of the 20th century. The cartoon featured husband Gomez, his wife Morticia (whose name was inspired by Addams flipping through the phone book and a list of morticians) and Lurch the butler, who had a beard. Uncle Fester, a bald ghoul who gave Addams the most room for wickedness, was described as "eyes are pig-like and deeply imbedded, circled unhealthily in black - no teeth and absolutely hairless."

Other characters that followed included Grandma Frump, Cousin Itt, Thing, and the children Pugsley (a nine-year-old troublemaker with a taste for torture) and Wednesday (a secretive daughter with six toes on one foot).

Addams's dark cartoons belied a dapper, sensuous man. Though he would have had the public believe otherwise, Addams in person was more Cary Grant than Vincent Price, debonair with a sunny disposition and a love of life’s pleasures. He liked to dress in Brooks Brothers suits and Saks ties and loved racing his expensive sports cars. Some of the things that gave Addams the most pleasure were glamorous company (he had love affairs with Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Jacqueline Kennedy), his collections of vintage cars and medieval armor, a good drink and a great meal. Addams was described by one biographer as "A well-dressed, courtly man with silvery back-combed hair and a gentle manner, he bore no resemblance to a fiend."
Linda H Davis, who wrote a biography called A Cartoonist's Life, said: "He was a most genteel, civilised, gracious, charming, witty normal person...with one exception. He did have a taste for unusual things. He decorated his apartment with real, working medieval crossbows and had a most unusual coffee table, made from a civil war embalming table. They called it a drying out table in those days and Addams loved to point out a sinister stain in the place where the kidneys would have been."

He once opened his West Fifty-fourth Street apartment front door to find "a fat little man standing there." It was Alfred Hitchcock, who had dropped by because he wanted to see Addams "in your natural bailiwick." It was no coincidence that Psycho, released in 1960, had featured an Addamsesque home for the psychopath Norman Bates. In Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, Cary Grant references Charles Addams in the auction scene. Discovering Eve with Mr. Vandamm and Leonard, he says, "The three of you together. Now that's a picture only Charles Addams could draw." The filmmaker was a friend of Addams', and owned two pieces of original Addams art.

The Addams Family television series began after David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist. All Addams had to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. The series ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966.

Sardonic by nature, Addams was also a fearful man. He suffered from claustrophobia and was deeply scared of snakes (giant snakes are a recurring theme of his work - drawn as a way of diffusing his fears). But there was always the wit. He used to answer fan mail on a letterhead inscribed "The Gotham Rest Home for Mental Defectives".

The elusive search for happiness was a theme of many of his cartoons. He replied to a priest's question about what he believed in once with the answer: "Mother Nature."

He signed all of his work Chas Addams, claiming it was "just a matter of design," that "it looks better than writing out 'Charles".

In September 1988, after having a heart attack inside his parked car (and dying later in a hospital), his third wife Marilyn (whom he had married in a pet cemetery) made a remark that could have been a caption for one of his cartoons: "He's always been a car buff, so it was a nice way to go," she told The New York Times.

You can especially enjoy today by watching both The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, both starring the late Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston.

You can also spend the day watching the entire series. I loved the humor in the show!

There is also Addams Family Reunion which stars Tim Curry (one of my favorite actors) and Darryl Hannah.

If you are looking for something macabre to make to eat, look at any Hallowe'en cookbook or website to find quite the variety. I was surprised to discover that Addams put out a cookbook, entitled Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook.

Hallowe'en may have been over for months now, but that doesn't mean one can't continue to scary fun! So, pop in one of the dvds I mentioned, grab the remote and settle in for some spooky fun. Creepy foods optional.

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