Monday, October 19, 2015

Gay-Witched!


"Bewitched" was an American television comedy series (1964-1972). Upbeat and screwball, it presented a rosy picture of what American upper-middle class corporate and family life was supposed to be like, featuring an ideal straight family (two heterosexual parents with two children, of course a girl and a boy). The father went to work and the mother stayed at home. The running joke of the series was that all of this was a farce, and the family went to great lengths to hide the reality of their life from the "normal" people they interacted with.


Central to this storyline was that the witch/wife (Samantha) attempts to denounce her witchery world because she's in love and married to a human man (Darrin). In Darrin's world, appearances matter. There's no place for odd or peculiar people if you want to rise in the company and in society. While the role of Darrin was written to give him a great deal of humanity...he was a nice guy...Darrin was also written to meet the expectations of what a successful adult American man was expected to be like. Of course, everything that happens to him is anything but normal, and Darrin is forced to deal with how things actually were behind closed doors (including twitching noses and people being turned into animals on a regular basis). The series also provides an interesting real-life view of how two gay men who acted on the show selected to live their personal lives:

DICK SARGENT
On National Coming Out Day in 1991, Dick Sargent, who played the straight husband, took the real-life step of coming out as a gay man. He said "I'm in my 60s, who's gonna care? I haven't been on TV in decades." People did care. Sargent conceded that while "coming out" may have cost him professionally, the personal rewards were worth it.

"I'll probably never be allowed to play a father symbol again," he told a reporter. "I'm afraid for my career. I'm probably gonna lose a whole lot of work. . . . I may even have to sell the house someday, but this is more important. I like myself, probably more than I have most of my life."

Dick helped to show a familiar face of what a gay man looks like, someone millions of people had invited into their homes week after week, many years before.
"It was such a relief," he told an interviewer, "I lived in fear of being found out. Now it's given me a whole new mission in life." Sargent conceded that while "coming out" may have cost him professionally, the personal rewards were worth it. Unknown to all but those closest to him, Mr. Sargent had been battling prostate cancer since being diagnosed in 1989. Despite radiation as well as a myriad of other treatments, Dick Sargent died on July 9, 1994. Sargent lived with life partner Albert Williams until his death.


PAUL LYNDE
In stark contrast to Mr. Sargent, Paul Lynde never publicly acknowledged his sexuality, although he was widely known to be gay in Hollywood and often played very gay roles. According to Elizabeth Montgomery, Paul Lynde was specifically cast in Bewitched to be not just her uncle, but her "gay uncle". Paul was very popular on the series throughout its run, but his personal life was filled with regrets and depression. In 1978, his arrest in Salt Lake City, outside a gay bar, resulted in his being dropped as a regular guest on the Donny & Marie show.

AGNES MOOREHEAD


Agnes Moorehead played Endora, the witch mother-in-law on the series. She was widely believed via rumors in Hollywood to be a lesbian, and Paul Lynde was quoted for a book describing her as such. The rumors were never proven, and Moorehead married actor John Griffith Lee in 1930 and they divorced in 1952; they adopted one son, Sean, in 1949. It remained unclear whether the adoption was legal, although Moorehead did raise the child until he reportedly ran away from home. In 1953, she married actor Robert Gist, and they later divorced in 1958. The actress was also a devout Presbyterian and, in interviews, often spoke of her relationship with God.


The Stephen's house can still be seen on the old Columbia back lot (now called the Warner Brother's Ranch) in Burbank, California at the corner of North Kenwood and West Streets.

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