The fall and rise of the house of Addams
WHEN JOHN ASTIN AND HIS THEN wife-to-be, Valerie Sandoball, were dining in a Los Angeles restaurant a couple of years ago, they heard a distracting finger-snapping sound all around their table. It wasn’t customers demanding service. The diners were paying spontaneous homage to Astin, his cult TV series and its enduring theme: dah da da dum—Click! Click!
And no wonder. Although The Addams Family lasted only two seasons (1964-66), the ABC sitcom—based on New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams’s macabre vision of a family that cherishes pain the way other people welcome spring—hasn’t exactly laid down and played dead. Twelve episodes are out on videocassette, and a paperback history (The Addams Chronicles by Stephen Cox) recently hit bookstores. Now a Hollywood incarnation—starring Anjelica Huston as slinky Morticia and Raul Julia as her pinstriped, rhapsodically romantic husband, Gomez—is doing frighteningly well at the box office ($24 million in its first weekend).
“Eventually I’ll see the movie,” says Astin, 61, who just finished starring in the L.A. production of Lend Me a Tenor, “but I haven’t even seen Thelma & Louise yet.”
None of the surviving cast members were considered for the film. Sadly, there wouldn’t have been that many to consider. Blossom Rock (haggish Grandmama) died in her 80s in 1978; the 6’9″ Ted Cassidy, who lurked sublimely as butler Lurch, died, at 46, a year later during heart surgery. Jackie Coogan (gleeful, ghoulish Uncle Fester) suffered a fatal heart attack at age 69 in 1984. And Carolyn Jones (Morticia) lost her struggle with cancer in 1983. She was 54.
In addition to playing the tantalizing Morticia, Jones also provided some of the squeaky gibberish—her voice, speeded up electronically—that came from beneath the floor-length mat of hair that was Cousin Itt, played by 3’11” Felix Silla. “The show was so much fun,” says Silla, 54. “At the end of the day you didn’t feel tired.”
The Addams children, though, may have been less enthusiastic. Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley), now 37, and Lisa Loring (Wednesday), 33, have grown up and, for now, out of acting. Loring, in fact, matured very fast: marriage at 15, baby (the first of two daughters) at 16, divorce at 17. (There have been two marriages since; her current husband is porn star Paul Siederman.) Her one significant acting credential since the series was a two-year stint as Cricket Montgomery on As the World Turns in the early 1980s. Weather-wax, still pudgy, now works behind the television camera as a grip—and is disinclined to reminisce. Says his mother, Marge: “He builds sets, and he loves the work.” As for The Addams Family, “He didn’t like doing the show,” she says, “but he liked the people.” Click! Click!