Remember the original Addam’s Family? No, not the one with that great hit song by MC Hammer. The black and white one. Ok, well, the guy who played Uncle Fester was a child actor named Jackie Coogan. And while listening to Paul F. Tompkin’s podcast, Spontaneanation, I learned three really weird facts about Coogan, as told by Kumail Nanjiani. The facts are so weird, I looked them up to be sure they were true. They are. Or at least they’re in his wikipedia entry.
- The Coogan Bill (or the California Child Actor’s Bill) is named for Jackie Coogan, because, as a child actor, he earned $3-4 million that was spent entirely by his mother and stepfather. He sued them and won only $250,000 of the money, and after legal expenses, actually received only $126,000. And after he fell on hard times, had to ask Charlie Chaplin for cash. Chaplin gave him $1000.
- In 1935, while driving on a mountain highway near Pine Valley, his father, best friend, actor Junior Durkin, their ranch foreman, and actor / writer Robert J. Horner were all killed when an oncoming car forced them off the road. Jackie Coogan was the only survivor.
- “In November 1933, Brooke Hart, a close friend of Coogan from Santa Clara University, was kidnapped from his family-owned department store in San Jose and brought to the San Francisco area San Mateo–Hayward Bridge. After several demands for a $40,000 ransom, police arrested Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes in San Jose. Thurmond admitted that Hart had been murdered the night he was kidnapped. Both killers were transferred to a prison in downtown San Jose. A mob broke into the jail, and Thurmond and Holmes were hanged in a nearby park. Coogan was reported to be present and to have held the lynching rope.”
So…. those are some Coogan facts for brunch / dinner table discussion. Yikes. Who knew Uncle Fester had such an f’d up life?