The member of the Addams Family — Morticia, Gomez, their children Wednesday and Pugsley, Grandmama and Uncle Fester — are still warmly welcomed in almost every home this time of year, even though they were originally only on our screens for two seasons more than 50 years ago.
Reunions, remakes and two Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movies in the 1990s kept the amusingly creepy family in the collective consciousness, as did regular reruns of the original 1960s ABC series. And when Ken Weatherwax, the actor who played chubby son Pugsley, died of a heart attack in 2014, there was an outpouring of nostalgia-tinged sympathy.
“The family were overwhelmed by it,” says Scott Michaels, Addams Family fan and historian/owner of Dearly Departed Tours, a company that offers themed tours around the Hollywood area on subjects including Helter Skelter/Charles Manson, Marilyn Monroe, The Carpenters and The Doors.
Nevertheless, after contacting the family and getting their blessings, Michaels and his fellow “death hags” — enthusiasts, amateur historians, the odd celebrity and fans of all things deadly and Hollywood — immediately launched a crowdfunding campaign to give Weatherwax a fitting tribute.
“There were no royalty or rerun fees back then, and though Ken became iconic as Pugsley, like many child actors, he struggled with acting work the rest of his career,” Michaels says.
Weatherwax came from a starry family. His aunt, Ruby Keeler, was a noted actress and dancer in musicals such as 42nd Street, and was married to Al Jolson; his half-brother, Joey D. Viera, was a child actor, too.
Viera played “Porky” Brockway in several early seasons of eternal canine favorite “Lassie” (Weatherwax’s uncles were also trainers and owners of the first dog to play the four-legged role), but Viera, as Donald Keeler, managed to carve out a longer-lasting career.
Post-Pugsley, Weatherwax worked behind the scenes as a movie grip and set-builder and attended Addams Family events, but after his death the Weatherwax family didn’t have the money for a memorial. “They kept the ashes at home after the funeral,” Michaels says.
That situation will be appropriately remedied at 2:30 p.m. on Halloween, when Michaels and anyone else who wishes to pay their respects to Pugsley/Weatherwax can come to the Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood, where a short ceremony will dedicate a niche for his remains.
“Come dressed in black if you want, and be ready to snap your fingers — because you know we’ll have to do that, right?” says Michaels, who has spearheaded a number of campaigns to give long-forgotten actors and actresses a final resting place.
Over the years that list has included Wasp Woman Susan Cabot (who was murdered by her son), Schlitzie (who played Pinhead in the controversial 1932 movie Freaks) and Thelma Pelish, best known for playing May in 1950s Doris Day musical The Pajama Game; all now have a marker to celebrate their life.
For those wanting to stay on point with the Halloween vibe, tickets are still available for an evening with psychic medium Jill Marie Morris at the Dearly Departed Museum.
She’ll be stepping into the spirit world to see what messages she might receive from escapist Harry Houdini, who died on that same night some 91 years ago, or whether some of the inhabitants of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is right across the street, might want to pop in for a chat.