Today I thought we’d talk about what else . . .Uncle Fester! This year for my birthday my husband bought me the complete Addams Family series on dvd. It’s awesome, and it’s just what I wanted! You should know that when I discuss the Addams Family I am really only referring to the original series that was based on the comics by Charles Addams. I don’t really mind the movies, but I prefer the series and that’s what I’m talking about today.
The Addams family started out as a cartoon created by Charles Addams and ran in The New Yorker Magazine.
The television show, like the cartoon, was a satirical inversion of the ideal American family. Adapted to the small screen, it became an iconic TV series running from 1964-66. Beloved for its macabre running gags, this 1960s TV series starred John Astin as wealthy, passionate family patriarch Gomez and Carolyn Jones as his cadaverous wife, Morticia — the heads of the close-knit and extremely spooky Addams clan. Jackie Coogan starred as the eerie and yet goofy and loveable, Uncle Fester.
But behind the wacky Uncle Fester, Jackie Coogan lived an amazing life! He began his acting career as a child and starred in many silent films, most notably as the co-star of Charlie Chaplin in “The Kid” in 1921.
He was an absolutely adorable little boy – with big eyes and and a sweet face, it’s easy to see why he became a popular child star.
When child actor Jackie Coogan turned 18, he found out all his money (apx $65 million of today’s dollars) had been spent by his mother and father. His mother argued, “No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything. Every dollar a kid earns before he is 21 belongs to his parents.” Coogan sued them in 1938, but, after legal expenses, received only $126,000 of the approximately $250,000 remaining of his earnings. Because of his legal battles, and the public outcry, his case resulted in the enactment in 1939 of the California Child Actor’s Bill, often called the Coogan Law or the Coogan Act. This requires that a child actor’s employer set aside 15% of the earnings in a trust (often called a Coogan Account), and codifies such issues as schooling, work hours and time-off.
Go Uncle Fester!
Think Uncle Fester was at the shallow end of the Addams Family gene pool? Think Gomez got all the girls? Not so! Jackie Coogan was married to none other than Betty Grable – the most famous pin up model of WWII, and known for her sexy legs and all-American charm!
Coogan and Grable were married in 1937 and their marriage lasted three years.
Coogan enlisted in the United States Army in March, 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he requested a transfer to United States Army Air Forces as a glider pilot because of his civilian flying experience. He volunteered for hazardous duty with and flew British troops, landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles behind Japanese lines. Yes, Uncle Fester was actually an American hero!
After the war he worked in many B-films (one of my favorite being The Space Children. It also stars Russell Johnson, The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, but that’s a story for another day). He started working on The Addams Family in 1964 and quickly became America’s favorite creepy uncle!
In the first season’s Halloween episode, Pugsley and Wednesday dress up like “normal people,” and Morticia finds their costumes to be “a little too startling.” Uncle Fester advises them not to frighten the neighbors too much: “When you knock on peoples’ doors, you’d better say, ‘Do not be alarmed. We are only little children.’”
Mar 1st, 1984 – Jackie Coogan, died at 69 years of age from cardiac arrest at Santa Monica Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. He is buried in Culver City’s Holy Cross Cemetery. He’ll always be our Uncle Fester and now you know what a truly remarkable man he was!
Let’s not leave on such a downer note – let’s make some Uncle Fester Cinnamon Buns (aka Sourdough Cinnamon Buns)*
Begin with a sourdough recipe – here’s a good one from the kitchn that’s easy to follow!
Uncle Fester’s Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns
2 cups active sourdough starter
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
– In a large bowl combine Sourdough Starter, flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and eggs until well blended
– Knead dough in bowl for 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture is smooth
– Let rise in warm place until doubled. Punch down. On a lightly floured surface, press dough into rectangle.
– Combine melted margarine, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread mixture over dough
– Starting on long side, roll up dough, jellyroll fashion.
– Press ends together to make a seam. Score and Cut in 1-inch slices, place in an ungreased pan.
– Allow rolls to rise to double their size. Preheat oven to 325F.
– Bake at 325F for 20-25 min until lightly browned.
Optional: Add a simple milk/confectioner’s sugar glaze overtop while they were still warm! (mix couple tablespoons of milk with enough confectioner’s sugar to desired thickness)
These are so good . . . enjoy them right out of the hot pan . . . preferably while you are relaxing on a bed of nails or resting comfortably in the stocks!