I can’t really remember the first time I saw the Addam’s Family. But I loved that show from the get-go. As a kid, I would try to catch it whenever it came on. But. That was a hard haul. My Mom didn’t care for the show. She didn’t want us kids watching it. So, I was always in stealth mode if I ever happened to tune in. That was not easy in a house filled with nine people. You couldn’t pee without someone being aware of your whereabouts.
Mostly, I would watch it at a certain friend’s house. Her Mom never really kept track of anything and her father wasn’t around. This never struck me as being an odd situation when I was young. On the contrary, it always seemed opportune. We could eat cereal whenever we wanted to. They even had Strawberry Pop-Tarts which we would ingest at will.
But that is another thing.
The Addam’s Family. Yes. That show was great. Of course, my favorite guy was Uncle Fester. I loved everything about him. His googly eyes, and his scrunchy face. And what was not to love about a show that had a kid named Wednesday. (We were nothing alike, I might add.)
Uncle Fester. Today, October 26, is his birthday. He was born in the year 1914, and his real name is John Leslie Coogan. Jackie Coogan.
Here is my deal with Jackie Coogan. (And I just sorted it out, on this very day.) For years I was confusing him / overlapping him / in my mind with Jackie Cooper. And things were not computing. But, Jackie Cooper was, of course, one of the kids in Our Gang. He later went on to be a lot of other things, but recently, he was Superman’s Uncle. And then, there was Jackie Coogan, who played “The Kid” across from Charlie Chaplin, in a masterful film. And Jackie Coogan grew up to be the beloved Uncle Fester. And now I have it right.
But his life. Whew. He had some things going on, that is for sure. His early stardom should have been enough. He busted out in Chaplin’s early movies, as mentioned, as well as a few others. And did regular kid things, like go to school.
In college, he attended Santa Clara University. It was there, that his good pal, named Brooke Hart, was kidnapped one day. They were in their early 20s. As it turned out, Hart was murdered by his kidnappers (Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes). They were sent for holding, to a prison in San Jose. A mob formed and overran the jail with the intent to lynch them. Which they did. They hung them right from a tree in a nearby park. Coogan was reported to be present and to have held the lynching rope.
Okay. That was one thing. It happened in 1933.
Then, in 1935, he and some family and pals went dove hunting. Why anyone would want to hunt doves (or anything else for that matter) is beyond me. But they did. The group was driving back from that excursion on a day in May. His Dad was at the wheel. The others in the car were his brother; his best friend, Junior Durkin (an actor); another actor; and their ranch manager. The car was forced off the mountain highway near Pine Valley by an oncoming vehicle and rolled down an embankment.
Everyone in the car died except for Jackie Coogan.
I bet that left a serious mark.
His father had been managing all the money he made as a kid. Somehow, as it turned out, his mother and step-father had spent every last penny on furs and jewelry and such. He was left with nothing.
The rest of his life took some other turns. He was in three failed marriages. Finally, on the fourth, he found his life-wife (Dorothea Odetta Hanson). At an old age, he suffered from many health problems, including strokes. He died in 1984. I was in college then. I didn’t notice.
But. He seemed like he was a pretty good guy, doing a lot of charity work, serving in WWII, and such. Well, except for holding the rope at the lynching thing. Which falls right in line with Uncle Fester. And today was his birthday, some 104 years ago.
The thing that strikes me the most, about all of this, is us. Yes. Us. We have no idea what someone’s life is like, when we see them on the screen, pass them on the street, or even call them friend. And we should remember this. That people go through their lives, one single moment to the next. And we don’t know what they hold. Sometimes, we don’t even know our own.
“Every moment before this one depends on this one.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
― Mother Teresa
“Every moment is a moment of decision, and every moment turns us inexorably in the direction of the rest of our lives.”
― Mary Balogh, Simply Perfect