We’re all familiar with those wise, old Valley sayings. Promoting the importance of always being optimistic, one of them is: when one door closes, another always opens up somewhere else. At the end of last week, Festival Officials were a little saddened to learn that Sean Astin was going to have to limit his time in Winchester due to massive show-business commitments in California. But, no sooner had that piece of news been digested and shared with the Bloom Nation then, in a surprise move, Sean’s father, actor and Johns Hopkins University Professor, John Astin, announced that he would like to travel up from Baltimore to the Land of Pink and Green to attend his granddaughter’s Coronation; and, to see his son and his family while they are on the east coast.
John Astin was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1930; and, graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1952. Astin started in theater in New York, making his first Broadway appearance as an understudy in “Major Barbara.” His first big break in film came with a small part in “West Side Story” in 1961. During this period, his talent for comedy was spotted by actor Tony Randall, leading to guest starring roles on the sitcoms “Dennis the Menace,” “The Donna Reed Show,” and “Harrington and Son.” In 1962–1963, Astin starred with Marty Ingels in the unusual ABC sitcom “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster.” From 1964–1966, he held his most famous television role in “The Addams Family,” playing Gomez Addams, the head of the macabre family, with Carolyn Jones as Morticia, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, and Ted Cassidy as Lurch. Astin was an iconic character actor on 1960s, 1970s and 1980s television; and, his work is everywhere. He joined the retooled “The Pruitts of Southampton” for the second half of the 1966-1967 season, playing Phyllis Diller’s brother-in-law, Angus Pruitt. He also played the Riddler in the second season of “Batman” with Adam West. He played submarine commander Matthew Sherman in the 1970s TV series “Operation Petticoat;” and, made a notable appearance in the popular mystery show “Murder, She Wrote,” as the villainous Sheriff Harry Pierce. He had a recurring role on the sitcom “Night Court” as Buddy, eccentric former mental patient and the father of lead character Harry Stone. He also played the regular role of Ed LaSalle in the short-lived Mary Tyler Moore sitcom, “Mary,” in 1985–1986. He guest starred on numerous television series, too, including “Gunsmoke,” as Festus’s cousin Henry, Jack Palance’s ABC circus drama, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” “Duckman,” and “Homeboys in Space.” He appeared in the TV show “The New Addams Family” as Grandpapa Addams in 1998.
Astin received an Academy Award nomination for “Prelude,” a short film that he wrote, produced, and directed; he was nominated for an Ace Award for his work on “Tales from the Crypt;” and, he received an Emmy Award nomination for the cartoon voice of Gomez on ABC-TV’s “The Addams Family.” He also voiced the character Bull Gator on the animated series “Taz-mania.” He has appeared in a string of “Killer Tomatoes” films as Professor Gangreen; and, as Professor Wickwire in “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” He has also toured in the one-man play “Edgar Allan Poe: Once upon a Midnight,” written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid.
Astin currently teaches method acting and directing in the Theater Arts and Studies Department at Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. John Astin has five sons; David, Allen, Tom, Sean (who he adopted when he married Sean’s mother, Patty Duke), and Mackenzie. He has six granddaughters: Alexandra (Ali, known to her loyal subjects as Queen Shenandoah LXXXVII-Designate), Elizabeth, Isabella, Sedona, Jaya, and Dov. Astin is currently married to Valerie Ann Sandobal, who the grandkids affectionately call Grandma.