The cast of Bewitched
In acknowledgement of her advocacy for various social issues, actress/comedienne/writer Lydia Cornell (Too Close for Comfort, Curb Your Enthusiasm) became the first recipient of the Elizabeth Montgomery Magical Humanitarian Award at the recent Bewitched Fan Fare three-day weekend event.
Ron Masak, Wesley Eure, Bobby Hart, Bernie Kopell.
Zubin and Nancy Mehta
Bewitched believers convened from July 26 to July 28 at the historic Beverly Garland Hotel in Studio City, CA, which had hosted the first nostalgic-geared celebrity conventions organized by Ray Courts dating back to 1992.
The Fan Fare celebrated the 1964-1972 ABC television series in which the multi-Emmy nominated Montgomery played twitch-witch Samantha Stephens opposite Dick York and Dick Sargent sharing the role of her mortal husband Darrin.
Created by Sol Saks, executive produced by Harry Ackerman, and produced and directed by Montgomery's husband William Asher (I Love Lucy), the witch-com also starred famed redhead Agnes Moorehead as Samantha's feisty mystical mother Endora, and David White as Darrin's self-absorbed ad-man boss Larry Tate. Montgomery headed one of the largest supporting and semi-regular casts in TV history.
The event commenced with one enchanting evening called "Remembering the Magic," which focused on Montgomery, who died of colon cancer in 1995. The actress became known for her unaffected Hollywood demeanor, philanthropy, and backing of several charitable organizations involving, among others, the Peace Movement, and the disabled community, and was one of the first celebrities to publically support those afflicted with AIDS.
The devotees attending the Bewitched festivities enthusiastically welcomed special appearances by show regular David Lawrence, who shared the role of little warlock Adam Stephens with his twin brother Greg Lawrence; Bewitched guest-stars Bernie Kopell (who later found fame on The Love Boat), Ron Masak (of Murder, She Wrote), singer/songwriter Bobby Hart (of Boyce & Hart fame), Eric Scott (of The Waltons, and today the owner of a thriving business), Ricky Powell (of The Smith Family, and now a popular motivational speaker); and Nancy Kovak, presently better known as Nancy Mehta, married to the legendary maestro Zubin Mehta, who accompanied his wife to the bash.
Also on hand: actor Wesley Eure (of the Saturday morning cult TV favorite Land of the Lost), who made several guest appearances with Montgomery on an incarnation of the Password TV game show; Montgomery's former stylist Billy Clift, cousin to film legend Montgomery Clift, and today a writer/producer/director; Chris York, son of first Darrin actor Dick York; Amanda Fox, daughter of Bernard Fox, a.k.a. Dr. Bombay; and various Bewitched historians including David Pierce, Adam Michael James, Gina Meyers, Jone Devlin, and Mark Simpson, who organized the event.
Bewitched, which has remained popular in syndication since its debut over 50 years ago, has spawned a DVD box set, countless items of memorabilia, an erected statue of Montgomery in Salem, MA, and several books and biographies exploring its meaning, popularity, cast and crew.
Even a feature film, directed by Nora Ephron, was released in 2005 following several successful TV documentaries including A&E's Biography of Montgomery, and Bewitched: The E! True Hollywood Story, which ranks as the seventh highest-rated True Hollywood Story in E!'s history.
Montgomery had made over 200 TV appearances before and after Bewitched, including her small-screen debut on December 3, 1951 in the "Top Secret" episode of Robert Montgomery Presents, the anthology series hosted by her movie-star father.
Additional TV performances include a guest-spot on The Untouchables ("The Rusty Heller Story," 10-13-60), and starring roles in the ground-breaking TV-movies A Case of Rape (NBC, 1964) and The Legend of Lizzie Borden (ABC, 1975), for all of which she was Emmy-nominated.
"Elizabeth's talents rested well beyond Bewitched," says Simpson. "But it was in playing Samantha that she was catapulted to stardom."
According to the inscription on the Magical Humanitarian Award, which was presented by Simpson's Fan Fare in tandem with the Classic TV Preservation Society nonprofit organization, actress Lydia Cornell was recognized for reflecting the essence of Montgomery's "immortal goodwill, down-to-earth personality, and personal and professional integrity as a multi-talented member of the entertainment industry, combined" with her "dedication and generosity to countless charities and good causes."
"I was deeply touched to receive this beautiful award," says Cornell. "Elizabeth Montgomery was one of my role models growing up. She was a trailblazer. She had class, humility, and heart for those less fortunate. I have always believed in public service, and helping those in need. I try to be a role model for young people because one of the greatest gifts of public life is to give back. I am overwhelmed by the recognition and I will try to live up to the honor."
Make that "witches honor."
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the author of Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery, Bewitched Forever, and The Bewitched Book. He is also the founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society. For more information, please visit: www.HerbieJPilato.com