LOS ANGELES 5/8 5/8 — LOS ANGELES -- Picture a woman in gardening garb, a smile on her face and telephone to her ear matter-of-factly telling the person on the other line that "He's in the garden."
Is she talking about hubby? One looks through the woman's French doors to a garden with a freshly dug grave.
This is the art of the late cartoonist Charles Addams, whose twisted look at life delighted readers for 60 years.
Among his creations are the characters that serve as the basis of the television series "The Addams Family" from 1964 to 1966, an animated version in the 1970s and now the movie.
"He was a much broader artist than the Addams family," said Addams' widow, Tee, in a recent telephone interview from her Long Island home.
Addams, who died at age 76 on Sept. 29, 1988, completed 1,500 drawings in his career, with most of his work appearing in the New Yorker magazine. Many of them appear in the newly published "The World of Charles Addams" (Knopf; $30), a retrospective of his cartoons.
Despite the macabre sense of humor in his cartoons, Addams was normal -- in fact, boringly normal, his widow said.
"He was very easygoing," she said. "He was one of the most gentle, sweet guys, even-tempered, wonderfully humored. He had this sort of funny, wry outlook on life."
But there were those, particularly reporters, who expected strange things from Addams and he enthusiastically played along.
There was his collection of medieval armor and weapons, such as crossbows. And he loved scouring antique stores. One purchase was an embalming table which, when extended full length, made a perfect coffee table.
When Addams and Tee, his third wife, married in 1980 after living together for eight or nine years, the ceremony took place in a pet cemetery in her garden. The bride wore black with pearls.
"It was all kind of tongue-in-cheek," Tee Addams said.
Addams was meticulous in his research for his cartoons, his wife said. He took thousands of photographs of Victorian homes that he used in his drawings.