The Quick 10: 10 Facts About Charles Addams
Happy Birthday to Charles Addams! You guys might already know that I have a love of the macabre, so old Chas is right up my alley. I loved the old show, of course, and even enjoyed the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston revival of the ‘90s. But the original cartoons are the best, I think. Anyway, here are a few freaky facts (OK… some of them are downright tame) about Mr. Addams in honor of what would have been his 97th birthday.
1. Many of the gags from the series and the movies are taken right from Addams’ old comics. For instance, in the movie, when the family prepares to pour boiling oil on Christmas carolers instead of enjoying their cheery tunes, that’s a throwback to an old cartoon that first appeared in The New Yorker.
2. Charles and his third wife, Tee, got married in a pet cemetery to reflect their ghoulish sense of humor.
3. He was close friends with Ray Bradbury. They met in New York when Bradbury was 26 and Addams was about 34. Bradbury said he saw a painting that Addams did for Mademoiselle and knew they were kindred spirits at once. And they were – they got on so well that they planned to do a book together, with Bradbury writing the text and Addams illustrating. Wouldn’t that have been fantastic? But they couldn’t find the funding for it and ended up going their separate ways career-wise. Addams created his family, and Ray Bradbury created the Elliott Family.
4. There were lots of rumors about his personal life, including that he slept in a coffin, responded to fan mail on paper with the letterhead of a mental institution, and loved to wear a monogrammed straitjacket. But if any of this is true, you’d never know it from looking at the man. In public, he wore very dapper Brooks Brothers suits and neatly-styled silver hair and was mistaken for Walter Matthau more than once.
5. Even if he didn’t dress the part, he decorated his apartment in exactly the manner you would expect. He collected crossbows and had them displayed everywhere; he was also very proud of a suit of armor he had purchased for a mere $700. Other interesting objects including a “drying-out table” that had once been used for drying out bodies, a sewing basket made out of an armadillo, a human thigh bone and gilded human skulls. He said fans sent him a lot of the stuff – “they want me to be a man who likes shin bones,” he said. “People must feel I need a skull.”
6. He was quite the ladies’ man. He was married three times, and in between marriages dated the likes of Greta Garbo, Jackie Kennedy and Joan Fontaine.
7. He loved to perpetuate the dark and creepy rumors about himself, whether they were true or not. He liked to tell reporters that fans gifted him with their severed fingers, human remains and cow organs. He once gave an interview and said that he woke up and felt like screaming and decided that no one would hear him. “So I let out a long, thin scream and felt much better,” he said.
8. He opened his door one day and found Alfred Hitchcock standing there. Hitch said, “I’ve just come to see you in your natural balliwick.” And from then on they were good friends. If you’ve ever noticed that the Bates house in Psycho looks suspiciously like an Addams creation, it’s partially because of the friendship with Addams. It’s also been said that the Edward Hopper painting House on the Railroad inspired both the Addams’ house and the Bates mansion. I think the similarities are pretty clear!
9. Charles was distantly related to John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Sam Adams, even though the spelling of his name got changed over the years. He was also related to Jane Addams.
10. I can’t find a picture of her, but multiple descriptions say his first wife, Barbara Jean Day, was a dead ringer (pardon the pun) for Morticia. Edit! Intrepid _flosser Carolyn found this great picture of Addams’ first wife here. Carolyn, I bow to your research skills! And check out the picture of his second wife as well (it’s the third picture on the page). Did Addams have a “type,” or what?
Mental Floss: The Quick 10 by Stacy Conradt (January 7, 2009)