Mar 14, 2016

Bewitched, Bewildered, and Gay

You can always distinguish between gay and heterosexual Boomer boys by asking: Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie?

Jeannie (1965-70) offered the sexist fantasy of a man whose semi-nude, subservient genie called him "Master," while Bewitched (1964-72) offered. . .well, witches.  Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) has married the mortal Darren (Dick York, left, followed by Dick Sargent), who forbids her to use witchcraft -- but she apparently finds suburban housework infinitely more satisfying.

Or at least that's what she claims to the endless array of relatives who pop in to announce that they've just been to a fabulous party in the South of France or to the ostrich races with the Maharaja of Eyesore.

"I've got a secret" plotlines in the 1960s could always be read as metaphors for the gay experience -- especially when the secret involved so much fabulousness -- and the message, in spite of Darren's sputtering about not using witchcraft, was "be true to yourself. . .accept who you are" -- but there was more for gay kids in Bewitched. A lot more.

1. Samantha was nicknamed "Sam," so sometimes -- often -- strangers overheard Darren talking about being "in love with Sam" or "married to Sam," and their eyes bulged and their jaws dropped as they concluded that he was. . .you know.

2. The disdain with which the witch community approached Sam's "unnatural" love for a mortal can be seen as a metaphor for 1960s race relations -- miscegenation laws were still being enforced in some states until 1967 -- but also for a same-sex relationship.

3. There was a never-ending parade of teen idols, including Bill Mumy, Craig Hundley, and Boyce and Hart.

4. Several characters were gay-coded -- flamboyant, theatrical, and utterly uninterested in the opposite sex, including Samantha's sarcastic mother,  Endora (Agnes Moorhead); her Shakespeare-quoting father Maurice (Maurice Evans), and her wise-cracking Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde).

5. Several actors were themselves gay, including Maurice Evans, Paul Lynde, and Diana Murphy (half of the twins who played daughter Tabitha).  And others were gay allies.

Dick Sargent, the second Darren, came out in 1991, and became the grand marshall of the 1992 Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, along with his tv wife Elizabeth Montgomery.  My friend Randall in West Hollywood dated him.

(See  Dick Sargent, Cary Grant, and Groucho Marx in the Same Bed)

Bewitched was the inspiration for many "I've got a secret" series infused with gay symbolism, such as Out of this World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.