by Dawn McElligott
“Oh my stars!,” Samantha Stephens would have said if she could have seen the gathering of admirers and entertainment professionals at the “BEWITCHED Fanfare 2018,” forty-six years after the show’s cancellation.
On July 28th, I stopped into a “Meet and Greet” event, part of the fan festival at the Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood. Mark Simpson, Co-owner of Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tours, emceed the event. Simpson had founded a club, Bewitched Fanfare, out of sheer devotion to the show.
Suzanne Hunt, who played “Nurse Often,” spoke to the group. Her character was the nurse that Dr. Bombay called often, most likely because she’s beautiful and flirty. After working on “Bewitched,” Hunt continued working and developing as a professional. The actress and model appeared on such shows as “The Fall Guy.” In 1991, Hunt played Dr. Latimer opposite Barry Jenner as Lieutenant Bradley in the 1991 horror/comedy film, “POPCORN.” Ten years later, they would marry.
Hunt also studied theatre at UCLA and California State University at Northridge. Her latest degree is an MFA in Theatre Arts: Acting and Directing from California State University in Long Beach. Currently, the former “Nurse Often” sandwiches acting opportunities in short films such as “Hindsight” (2018) into her schedule. The cheerful brunette also enjoys teaching the craft of Acting at Pasadena City College. Hunt’s tale of life after the show was bittersweet. She had attended the Bewitched Fanfare 2014 event with her husband. Sadly, her spouse passed away in 2016. Hunt was proud of Jenner, mentioning that he had a recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Admiral William Ross.
On “BEWITCHED,” Dr. Bombay was also assisted by “The Apothecary,” played by Bernie Kopell. On the supernatural sitcom, Kopell also played a hippie named “Alonzo,” and various doctors. The actor went on to play Dr. Adam Bricker on “THE LOVE BOAT,” the role that brought him the most fame. Kopell attended the BEWITCHED Fanfare Meet & Greet, wearing his crisp, white ship doctor’s uniform from “THE LOVE BOAT.”
For the costume contest, I arrived in a Samantha Stephens outfit, with help from Etoile Costume and Party Center in Tarzana. The night before at Etoile, the rental clerk searched for “BEWITCHED” on her iPhone and conjured up the image of Samantha as a cartoon character in the opening credits. Using that image as a guide, we selected a short, black dress and a cape with a red lining. The cape was too long for me and alterations were not permitted.
At the Bewitched Fanfare, I tripped a few times on my cape. It seemed fitting for a sitcom character. Should I step out as a superhero, I’ll find a shorter accessory.
During a break, I headed over to Bernie Koppel to let him know how much I enjoyed his work. Koppel started the conversation by saying, “You’re wearing a cape!” After I told him I admired his character of the nice neighbor on “THAT GIRL,” the former “LOVE BOAT” doctor pointed out that while playing the kind man next door on one program, he was also playing “Siegfried, the Nazi” on “GET SMART.” The actor also mentioned an enduring friendship with “THAT GIRL” star, Marlo Thomas and her husband, Phil Donahue.
Authors of “BEWITCHED” inspired books spoke about their work. Adam-Michael James, author of two such volumes read his remarks about various transgressions of the show’s continuity from a long scroll. James thanked TVWriter’s own Herbie J Pilato for his help and encouragement. Pilato also spoke about some of his books, including “Twitch Upon A Star” and “With Her Smile: The Mary Tyler Moore Story,” due out this fall.
Writer/Singer/Actress, Gloria Loring, helped bring the gathering to a close by singing the “BEWITCHED” theme song. Most people only heard it as an instrumental, so hearing the lyrics was a treat. It was a pleasure to meet the fans and learn Samantha wasn’t the only admired character on the show. One man wore a tee-shirt asking, “What Would Endora Do?”
Maybe this gentleman needs someone to put his adversaries in their place. Who better than Endora?
While I didn’t win the costume contest, my outfit, at least, made the event more festive for the show’s devotees. Some had flown in from as far away as Georgia and the state of Washington. There must be a certain sweetness to people who travel across the country to experience a family friendly show that had been cancelled so many years earlier. The show’s main theme might have been that magic can be found among everyone as long as they love each other.
My hope is that these travelers found some magic and brought it back to their families. Another desire is that today’s TV writers will pursue their craft with enough care to yield its own gathering of the faithful, decades after its cancellation.
Dawn McElligott is a an award-winning writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. You can learn more about her HERE