Last night I watched my favorite movie -- The Adams Family -- probably for the millionth time. But it was with my best friend Miki that noticed for the first time what preceded the credits.
A special thank you to "Lady Coylton".
Needless to say, we were both intrigued - this is what I found out:
Elaine Benson, a Bridgehamptom gallery owner, was married to Joe Kauffman. Her friend, Tee Addams, was married to the cartoonist Charles Addams. The Addams and Kauffmans had met only a few weeks earlier through Elaine's art gallery, had hit it off, and decided to become friends.
At the age of 20, Joe inherited a sizable fortune after his mother's death. Over the next 30 years, he married and divorced five times. Each time, his ex would get half of his fortune. When it got down to the fifth one, he gathered up what little remained, came to America and found Elaine.
In describing all of his wives to Charles, one after another -- Charles Addams perked up at the mention of one particular woman. By a remarkable coincidence, he too had been married to her.
The conversation moved on.
The wife in question was Barbara Barb. She was married to Charles Addams for only two years, from 1954 to 1956. And yet, even when Joe and Elaine hosted Tee and Charles at the beach years later, she was still making all business decisions regarding Charles' work -- and pocketed 75% of everything that came in.
How in the world had she arranged that?
Barbara Barb was born in Brooklyn, in 1920, as Estelle Barb, taking the name “Barbara” during law school. She became Barbara Addams for the two years she was married to the cartoonist, and then shortly after they were divorced became Lady Coylton by marrying an English Baron named Henry Lennox D’Aubigne Hopkins, the first Baron Coylton, who had been a diplomat during the administration of Winston Churchill. Somewhere in between, she married Joe Kauffman, living with him in post-war Paris.
How she talked Charles Addams into signing over 75% of the rights to his work is not known, but from the documents presented by Lady Coylton to Tee’s lawyer after Charles’ death in 1988, it happened while they were married. There was nothing that Tee could do, except wait for checks to arrive from Lady Coylton for Tee’s 25% share. Substantial sums were involved too, as for The Addams Family film, Tee recieved a million dollars, while Lady Coylton apparently received four million.
Lady Coylton got considerable press during her lifetime, and those who wrote about her present her as a manipulative, seductive, attractive woman out for money. However, Lady Coylton agreed to donate nearly $10 million to the University of Pennsylvania for the construction of a lecture hall honoring Charles Addams’. So perhaps her motives were misrepresented in the media.
Lady Coylton died in 2002.
In effect, Lady Coylton was Lady Addams, the mistress of The Addams Family.
See related article: The Addams Family: The Unusual Life of Lady Coylton, Wife of Baron Henry Hopkins by Dan Rattiner