102 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • OCTOBER 2018
LI’S ADDAMS FAMILY
Charles Addams posing with a mural he painted that once hung in a Hamptons hotel (Look magazine Library of Congress).
By ANNIE WILKINSON
Halloween was his holiday. Fascinated
by coffins and tombstones, as
a boy he played in a cemetery next to
haunted-looking old homes, some say.
Years later, he was married in a pet
cemetery in Water Mill. His bride
dressed all in black and carried a
feather fan — black, of course — because
the groom just liked black.
“He thought it would be nice and
cheerful,” she said.
His neighbors described him as a
fairly regular guy, though, an animal
lover with lots of dogs and cats who
was actively involved in East End life.
Who was the true Charles Addams?
He indulged his obsessions to
famously combine Gothic images and
gallows humor — and he was also a
“cheerful,” regular guy.
A KID CALLED “CHILL”
Born in 1912, the only child of devoted
parents in comfortable Westfield,
N.J., Charles Samuel Addams
was not your typical middle-class kid.
He broke into a deserted Victorian
house to draw pictures of skeletons
on the garage walls at age 8. He
explained his obsession to biographer
Linda Davis: “I was always aware of
the sinister family situations behind
those Victorian facades.”
When he was 12, a New York Herald
newspaper cartoonist said he
was untalented and should forget
his dream of an art career. But the
kid nicknamed “Chill” kept drawing,
creating cartoons as art director of
his high school paper before brief
stints at college.
In 1931, he enrolled in Manhattan’s
Grand Central School of Art. He set
his sights on The New Yorker magazine.
The next year he sold them his
first spot sketch for $7.50. In 1933, the
magazine bought the first of many
After his father died that year,
he went to work for True Detective
magazine. He relished retouching
and removing the blood from the
pictures of corpses.
In 1935, he joined the New Yorker
staff. America was transfixed by the
dark, shadowy Frankenstein and
Dracula films, which likely inspired
Addams to create his signature subjects:
a slinky, pale, black-gowned
vixen and her weird-looking clan in
front of a dilapidated, haunted-looking
Victorian mansion. Unlike movie
monsters, Addams’ characters had an
eerie yet healthy sense of humor.
The New Yorker started running
his immediately recognizable Addams
Family artwork that year. In
1942, his first anthology of drawings
People talked about breakdowns
and mental hospitals. They said he
tricycled around parties smoking a
cigar. They talked about the beauties
he bedded, from Greta Garbo to Jacqueline
Kennedy. They viewed his
apartment collection of crossbows,
maces, and a Civil War embalming
But in public, the stylish sophisticate
in tailored Brooks Brothers suits
was a throwback to the big-band, cigarette
girl era. Random House founder
Bennett Cerf called Addams “the gentlest
and kindest old schizophrene.”
Every celebrity from Cary Grant
to Alfred Hitchcock admired him.
Alfred Hitchcock once knocked on
his door to see how he lived; Hitch
was said to depict Addams’ Victorian
mansion in his 1960 masterpiece Psycho.
Over the next 40 years, the funny,
lovable, creepy Addams Family
starred in a TV series, feature films,
and a Broadway musical.
EAST END ETERNITY
Addams often worked at his
Westhampton Beach weekend home
and later in Water Mill. He called the
East End “Bugatti heaven” and raced
his Alfa Romeo Castagna in the early
1960s, went to vintage meets in Bridgehampton,
and entertained glamorous
stars, including Oscar-winner Joan
Fontaine, before marrying his third
wife, Tee, in Water Mill.
Made for each other, they loved
picnicking in graveyards.
In 1985, they bought the Sagaponack
home they named “The Swamp.”
In late September 1988, Addams
drove to Manhattan and died of a
heart attack in front of his apartment.
Tee reacted in classic Addams style,
saying, “He’s always been a car buff,
so it was a nice way to go.” She passed
away in 2002.
Their ashes, along with those of
their pets, were buried in their pet