Arts & Entertainment

7 Famous People From Westfield

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This Victorian on Elm Street is said to have provided a young Charles Addams with the inpsiration for the Addams Family's creepy mansion. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio
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Charles Addams' childhood home on Elm Street. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio
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WESTFIELD, NJ – Several famous Americans—from actors to sports stars to groundbreaking scientists—have called Westfield home. TAP into Westfield recently uncovered some of their stories. See how many you know:

1. Andrew McCarthy – An actor best known for starring roles in 1980s movies including St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernie’s and Pretty in Pink, McCarthy was born in Westfield in 1962. His appearances with other young actors at the time such as Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald earned him a place in the 80s Brat Pack.

McCarthy’s later credits include work in television and as a contributing editor at the Atlantic, Slate and National Geographic Adventure, according to Biography.com. According to IMDB.com, he recently directed five episodes of Orange is the New Black and has roles in two upcoming movies.

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2. Matthew Sklar – Now a well-known Broadway composer, Sklar got his first break as an eighth grader at Edison Intermediate School when his music teacher asked him to write a song for graduation. He eventually sent the song to Walt Disney Productions and it was recorded for The Mickey Mouse Club.

He may be best known for the original musical The Wedding Singer, which earned Sklar and writing partner Chad Beguelin five Tony nominations and eight Drama Desk nominations in 2006.

Born in 1973, Sklar participated in drama and music programs at Westfield High School and studied composition at the Juilliard School Pre-College Division on weekends, according to Masterworksbroadway.com. He spent summers at Westfield Summer Music Workshop.  

3. Charles Addams – Born in Westfield in 1912, Addams was a cartoonist for The New Yorker whose macabre creation, the Addams Family, was eventually adapted into to a hit television show and later two movies and a Broadway musical.

Addams grew up on Elm Street, in a home with a dumbwaiter that he often climbed into and used to scare his grandmother, according to Biography.com. As a youngster, Addams was fascinated with a Victorian house a couple of blocks away on Elm. It is said that this house later became his inspiration for the Addams’ family’s creepy mansion.

“Certainly Charles Addams is the most famous from Westfield due to the Addams Family,” said Robert Wendel, vice president of community relations for the Westfield Historical Society.

Addams is a 2009 inductee into the Westfield Historical Society Hall of Fame.

4. Dr. Virginia Apgar – Dr. Apgar, who was born in Westfield in 1909, was an obstetrical anesthesiologist who became a pioneer in newborn health in 1952 when she developed the five-point assessment designed to evaluate a baby’s vital signs right after birth. Still used around the world today, the Apgar test scores a newborn on its skin color, pulse, reflex, muscle tone and respiration.

“I think Virginia Apgar probably had the widest impact, as her Apgar test is still used today with babies at the time of birth,” Wendel said.

Later in her career, Apgar worked for the March of Dimes to promote immunizations and to remove the stigma of birth defects through education. Apgar is also a 2009 inductee into the Westfield Historical Society Hall of Fame. Her father, Charles Apgar, an amateur radio operator who was known for making the earliest surviving recordings of a radio signal, was inducted in 2010.

5. Jessica St. Clair – A 1994 graduate of Westfield High School, St. Clair is a comedian and the co-star/creator of the USA Network comedy Playing House.

St. Clair draws on her childhood and youth spent in Westfield and weaves those experiences into storylines on the sitcom, which features two friends who reconnect in the small East Coast town where they grew up.

“In one of the episodes, ‘Drumline,’ we break into the Pinebrook JCC pool,” St. Clair told TAP in June. “We used to hop the fence and go swimming in the middle of the night senior year at the Shackamaxon Country Club.”

6.  P. Roy Vagelos – Born in Westfield in 1929, Vagelos graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1954 and held positions in surgery and biochemistry before joining Merck & Co. Inc. in 1975 as head of research.

Vagelos eventually became the CEO of Merck and helped develop the vaccine use to protect against infection by the Hepatitis B virus, according to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article.

That same year, 2010, Vagelos and his wife Diana announced they would donate $50 million to Columbia University Medical Center to help build a new medical and education center in Washington Heights.

7. Dave Brown – A star quarterback at Westfield High School, Brown went on to play football for Duke University and was eventually drafted by the New York Giants as the team’s top selection in the 1992 supplemental draft.

Brown was injured in a game that December and was sidelined for the rest of the season. After several mediocre seasons, he lost his spot as the Giant’s starting quarterback and eventually left the team for the Arizona Cardinals.

After professional football, Brown entered the field of investment banking, according to multiple sources, including BusinessInsider.com and The New York Times.

Bonus:  Langston Hughes – The poet, novelist and playwright who was a major contributor to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s was born in Missouri in 1901 but lived for a time here in Westfield, Wendel said.

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