Fester

When it comes to doppelgängers, a German word referring to a person that is a lookalike of someone else, our area may have none better than Shawn Toth of Geneva.

Toth, 41, has come to embrace his similarity to Uncle Fester of the fictional “The Addams Family,” so much so that his Facebook page is under the name “Fester Toth.” Many who know him are unaware what his given first name is.

As one might expect, there is a story behind Toth’s Fester transformation — and it’s actually quite informative and thought-provoking.

Toth, who I will refer to as Fester throughout this story, was born and raised in the Fort Myers area of Florida. When he was 7 and in second grade, small bald spots on the back of his head started to appear. His hair soon started to fall out more progressively.

A dermatologist diagnosed it as alopecia aerate, a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. It’s believed to be an autoimmune disease resulting from a breach in the immune privilege of the hair follicles. The underlying mechanism involves failure by the body to recognize its own cells.

Fester now has no hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows. He jokingly says that under normal circumstances he, being half-Sicilian, might be quite hairy.

There is no cure, and heredity often is a factor.

Fester received painful corticosteroid injections for a few years early on, but they did little to no good.

The passage of life is difficult enough, especially during our youth, without having to deal with such a non-traditional physical appearance issue. Let’s face it, kids can be cruel.

At around age 10 Fester decided to shave his head completely. When he reached age 13, he was given the nickname “Fester,” and he came to embrace it.

In high school the Grunge music scene was popular, with bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana leading the way. Grunge is a rock music genre and subculture that emerged during the mid-to-late 1980s in the Pacific Northwest and Washington state.

As a result of what was going on with the Grunge music scene and how his “look” fit in so well, Fester became one of the “cool” kids — and very popular in school.

For those who are unaware of the “The Addams Family” and the original Fester, he was a completely hairless, hunched, and barrel-shaped man with dark, sunken eyes, often wearing a deranged smile. He was derived from a character drawn by cartoonist Charles Addams. There have been eight different Festers as a result of movies, theater and television, but the most iconic is the one played by Jackie Coogan on the television show. Of note, Coogan was one of the first child stars in the history of Hollywood after he appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” in 1921.

Fester Toth developed a strong interest in disc-jockeying while in the Sunshine State. EDM, or electronic dance music, was very popular in the clubs in Florida, and he was able to land decent work opportunities. Since he moved to Geneva in 2012 — a sister of his lives here — his digital music equipment is set up in an upstairs room, where he writes songs of his own and mixes others. The club scene here is pretty non-existent.

Fortunately, he has a restaurant background too.

While in Florida he worked for five years for P.F. Chang’s, helping train employees and open new locations. When he arrived here he started working at the restaurant at the Ramada Geneva Lakefront, where he has been laid off because of the coronavirus crisis. He was a sous chef. He is pictured helping out there at this year’s Geneva Business Improvement District dinner.

When I interviewed him at his apartment I was greeted by more than 1,500 unopened boxes, lined and stacked from wall to wall throughout, of Funko Pop collectibles. Funko Pops are little pop-culture collectibles. They have a unique appearance, which makes them different from other toys or like things. There are 6,000-plus characters, ranging from comic books to Pokémon to TV. I had never heard of them before stepping into his place.

The natural question I asked: “Do you own any of ‘The Addams Family’s’ Fester?”

The answer was what I expected: “Yes.”

Toth and the original Fester share some similar qualities, though their look might appear a bit menacing at first, they are both gentle and caring guys.

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