This Addams Family veterinarian married Shirley Jones in the real world
Marty Ingels became a top talent agent known as everybody's "celebrity connection," but he had to beg to get Shirley Jones on the phone.
"Are you calling in reference to a bird, dog or cat?" Dr. Gunderson, a fast-talking veterinarian, answers Morticia’s call when The Addams Family pet lion needs medical attention.
"Cat," Morticia answers, without further specifying what kind of cat.
Appearing in the 1966 episode "Cat Addams," the unsuspecting vet lured to the Addams lair is played by Marty Ingels, an actor who at the end of the 1970s had a public nervous breakdown after his first wife left him and offers for roles soon started drying up.
For Ingels, this low point might have marked the end of his career, if he wasn’t just as fast-talking and focused as the vet he played on The Addams Family.
When Ingels couldn’t make ends meet with his acting, he got creative, launching a new kind of talent agency where he became known as the "celebrity connection" — a man with a singular talent, who could get any celebrity to do pretty much any commercial or promotion.
"If you put a telephone number in front of me, I’ll do everything I can to reach a person," Ingels told The Wisconsin State Journal in 1977.
That year, Ingels didn’t just rebound with profound professional success, but he also found his true love when he married Shirley Jones, the cheery mom from The Partridge Family.
They are a classic example of opposites attracting, and the only reason they got together was because Ingels was so determined to get her phone number after seeing her at an art event and noting a hidden sadness in her eyes.
"I don’t want to make it sound like a Hallmark card, but I looked in her eyes and they were filled with sadness," Ingels told The State in a joint interview with Jones in 1979. "To me it was a curious kind of telegram because I was a sad sack, too."
At the art event, Jones was sad.
She was getting past her own first failed marriage to actor Jack Cassidy, and people in her circle who were aware of Ingels’ nervous breakdown did everything in their power to keep her number out of Marty’s hands.
"I wanted to get to know her better, but this wasn’t easy," Ingels recalled. "I had a reputation of being a real maniac and people seemed to want to keep me away from her. They didn’t know about the sensitivity inside. They didn’t know I was falling apart. They didn’t know I needed desperately to be loved."
When Ingels finally dug up Jones’ number, he didn’t just ring her up right away.
He spent days writing a four-page speech, spending hours at libraries studying everything she said in magazines and staring at her pretty face.
"I went to libraries and clipped pictures of her out of magazines," Ingels said. "Then I went home and pasted them up, making a giant collage. I began making lists of things I wanted to say to her. I wasn’t going to risk everything by giving her the usual small talk or spilling out some crazy stuff. I’d organize everything into a perfect speech."
After all that effort, though, Shirley wasn’t home when Ingels finally got hold of her number and called. He left a message and waited by the phone for days until he figured she just wasn’t interested.
Then one night as he was crawling in the bath, the phone rang and it was her!
The first thing Ingels did was set down the receiver and run to grab his notes, which Jones said read something like this:
"There’s something in your eyes that I sense a kinship to. I feel you’re sad and I just want us to go somewhere together. Let’s go to the prom. Let me get you a corsage and take you out for popcorn. Let’s begin our lives all over again."
Jones found this endearing, even as she noted the tension in his voice as he read his heart out to her.
"He said it engagingly, charmingly, like a little boy wanting to be cuddled," Jones said. "I’d just been through the trauma of breaking up with my husband and I needed some laughter in my life."
Thus began the dynamic that sustained their relationship for nearly 40 years, until his death in 2015, her giving him the love he needed, and him giving her the laughs she craved.
After Ingels finished reading his speech, Jones agreed to go out to dinner, and characteristically focused, Ingels scouted the perfect restaurant for their first date.
"I found just the right place," he said. "We had our date and I spent one and a half hours mustering the courage to lean over the table and give her a kiss. I didn’t want it to be a kiss reminiscent of other kisses."
Jones confirmed the kiss was special and stood out, and in 1977, the pair wed in a private ceremony at the Bel Air Hotel, where Jones’ son Shaun Cassidy gave his mom away to Marty.
Watching Ingels as an actor in any role before 1977 is a reminder of how difficult his life was before Shirley came along, and through the decades they spent together — including a lawsuit they won against The National Enquirer for printing false rumors about their relationship — Ingels proved just as devoted as he felt the moment he fell in love with her at first sight.
"I don’t know how God made her — maybe out of old Cadillac parts found in the basement — but she’s an absolutely incredible woman, better than I deserve," Ingels said.