Bewitched @ Harpies Bizarre is pleased to present an interview with author Herbie J Pilato as of May 25, 2001 regarding his book Bewitched Forever and the Bewitched TV show.


Melanie: Congratulations on the re-release of the Bewitched Forever book. It is the most complete source on the Bewitched TV show to date and fans are eager to obtain the latest copy. How long did it take you to write it?

HJP: Thank you for your kind words. It took me ten years to complete the book.

Melanie: What changes are being made for this edition? Will there be new facts and photos, or primarily updates/corrections to what was in the 1996 edition?

HJP: It is primarily an updated/corrected edition of the book, with “passing” dates and such of the some of the Bewitched cast members who have passed into spirit since the 1996 edition was published. Although I have added a new introduction, explaining my meeting Elizabeth Montgomery. I’ve talked so much about those meetings, that I thought it was about time I put those thoughts down in writing for the fans of the show to read. It really was such a magical moment for me to meet her, and I really felt like I was representing all of Bewitched fandom when I did.

Bewitched Forever 2001 Has the Same Cover As the 1996 Edition

Melanie: What was Elizabeth Montgomery’s reaction when you first contacted her about your desire to write the Bewitched book?

HJP: She was like, “Why are you doing this?” I think she was a little concerned as to why I cared so much, and she was very leery of speaking with anyone from the press about anything, much less Bewitched. But once she realized my intention, and after Bill Asher convinced her that “Herbie is really concerned about this entity known as Bewitched,” she felt very comfortable in speaking with me.

Melanie: In various TV interviews, Elizabeth seemed rather shy talking about Bewitched, twitching her nose, and in general distanced herself from roles similar to that of Samantha. Did you find this when you started interviewing her for your book?

HJP: She wasn’t so much shy about talking about Bewitched, as much as she just viewed it as a part of her past, and wanted to move on. But after we met, and after I convinced just how sincerely loved she was by so many, she opened up. And, in retrospect, I strongly believe that the interviews we had, and the time we spent together, became very therapeutic for her. In fact, she called our meetings “cathartic.”

Melanie: She seemed to be at home on the small screen. Did she discuss why she chose to stay a TV movie actress instead of returning to feature films where she found success pre-Bewitched?

HJP: I think if she was frustrated with Bewitched at all, it was because I believe she really wanted to be a film star. So I really don’t think she chose to be a “TV star,” as opposed to a “movie star.” It’s just the way things turned out. I know, at one point, shortly before I met her, Sol Saks was approached about writing a feature film version of Bewitched - with Elizabeth in mind, if you can believe it. And from what Mr. Saks told me, she was “intrigued” with the idea.

Melanie: We’ve heard that you would like to release an Elizabeth Montgomery biography in 2004 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Bewitched. Have you started this book yet?

HJP: Well, to be honest...I’m quite torn about the idea. Elizabeth was a very complicated human being, with many personal issues, and I just don’t yet know if I feel completely comfortable with speaking about her life in detail. In one moment, I feel like I would be betraying her trust, and in other moments, I feel so strongly about telling her wonderful story. Because she really was so wonderful a human being, who did so much for so many - beyond and because of Bewitched. So I still don’t know.

Melanie: Montgomery’s children seem to have their own fan base as a result of their wonderfully bewitching mother. Do you keep in contact with them and will they participate in her biography?

HJP: I talk to Bill Asher about twice a year, and I have not talked to Billy since I first met Elizabeth. I met Robert briefly, and I never met Rebecca. Ironically, Billy used to have a music shop up the street from where I lived in Santa Monica around the time I met Elizabeth. And it just so happened that I needed new strings on my guitar (which I never learned to play). I was talking with Elizabeth on the phone one day about it, and she said, “Well, why don’t you bring it to my son?” I’m like “Uh?” And so I did. He was only about three blocks away. I now I have strings on my guitar that were put there by Billy Asher, Jr. But as to the bio, I would not even attempt to complete it without the full cooperation of Bill Asher, and his and Elizabeth’s children (Bill Asher, Jr., Robert, and Rebecca).

Melanie: Do you know what her son Bob is doing now? Rebecca Asher seems to be following in her dad’s footsteps on the production side of the entertainment business, while Billy has an entrepreneurial spirit and has had several different business ventures (from EM’S Secret Sauce to a guitar shop), but we never hear about Bob.

HJP: Yeah , Bob has always been somewhat of a mystery. I remember meeting him during one of the first interviews I did with Elizabeth. He was very shy, and kept very much to himself. So I really haven’t a clue about Bob.

Bob Asher with his Mom, Kristyn Foxworth, sister Rebecca,
Bob Foxworth, and Bo Foxworth in 1979

Melanie: Speaking of the "secret sauces," do you know what ever became of that brand?

HJP: I’m not really sure what happened with it. But I do have one of the label sheets that Elizabeth gave me. I had it framed, of course. But like I say, I really don’t know know what happened there. I do know, however, that Elizabeth seemed excited about going into business with her son.

Melanie: Do you know whatever happened to the Bewitched clothing line that Elizabeth supposedly had in the 1960s and the children’s book that she had written?

HJP: No, I don’t. I do know, however, that Byron Munson, the Bewitched costume designer, always thought that Elizabeth had terrible taste in clothes. So I don’t know if the two topics are related. :) As to the book, I think I have a copy of it around my house somewhere.

Melanie: Who was Elizabeth most like: Samantha or Serena?

HJP: Well, that’s hard to say, because in one sense, Elizabeth was very much like Samantha, such that she was a very kind and loving individual, who sincerely cared about other people. But in another sense, and beyond the promiscuous side of Serena, she was very much like Serena, such that she liked to have fun - and was very much a free spirit who loved a good laugh. Gosh, that sounds so cheesy, but that’s the truth.

Elizabeth Had a Little Bit of Samantha AND Serena in Her

Melanie: I know that you first began your book trying to get a Bewitched reunion show started. Ten years later, are you glad that Bewitched never had a follow-up TV show and do you feel that the story is better left without a conclusion?

HJP: Well, my reunion movie, in fact, did tie things up nicely. And I remember Bill Asher being very impressed with it. In fact, though I originally contacted him with the idea of doing a reunion (after I realized that he directed I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later), he was very interested in hiring me for a new Bewitched series that he was beginning to work on in 1988. It was to be called Bewitched, Again, and Elizabeth was allegedly going to make a cameo in the new show, introduce the new witch, and pop off forever. The new show would have been filmed in the UK, to save money or something. But it never came to be. Though it may have been fun. It was set to be about a new witch who was married to a mortal quite unlike Darrin. Whereas Darrin on the original show was always asking Sam to cool it with the magic, this new mortal husband was to encourage his witchly wife to make with the “hocus-pocus,” as Darrin might have said. But alas, it was not meant to be.

Melanie: If Bewitched were made into a major motion picture, would you rather see a parody (similar to The Brady Bunch movie) or a romantic comedy?

HJP: A romantic comedy. Bewitched deserves first rate respect.

Samantha and Darrin: They Bewitched Us All

Melanie: There has been a lot of talk about a Bewitched movie, including speculation of Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz playing Samantha. What do you think?

HJP: I think Drew Barrymore would make a killer Samantha. But, as the author of the upcoming book on TV’s groundbreaking family drama, Life Goes On, I have a soft spot for Kellie Martin in the part. She can do anything. She’s so talented and, like Elizabeth, she's beautiful, but not in an intimidating way. But rather, in a very girl-next-door kind of way.

Drew Barrymore Makes a Bewitching Blonde

Melanie: Do you have any favorite actors that you would like to see in a TV or silver screen adaptation?

HJP: I think Matthew Perry would be a great Darrin, as would Neil Patrick Harris. But I’m partial to Nicholas “Xander” Brendon from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I think he would be perfect with either Drew Barrymore or Kellie Martin as Samantha. But please, not Jim Carrey. First of all, he's way too old for the part now, and second of all, if Carrey was cast as Darrin, the film would be about Darrin, and not Samantha. She must remain the centerpiece. As to other actors in a big screen edition: I think Patti Lupone (again from Life Goes On) would make a perfect Endora. Or Swoosie Kurtz might be an interesting choice. Or even Dixie Carter or Sally Field (because she looks a lot like Kellie Martin - and also because she starred in two of Harry “Bewitched” Ackerman’s other series: Gidget and The Flying Nun - that might be kinda’ of neat for her to play Endora). As Larry? John O’Hurley (of Seinfeld fame). No question. And there was another actor from Seinfeld who could also appear in the movie, only as Mrs. Kravitz. I can't think of her name, but she played the mother in the “ugly baby” episode (“You’ve got to see the BABY!” My gosh, she looks and sounds just like Alice Pearce.) And I also think Billie Bird would do Aunt Clara justice.

Nicholas Brendon As Darrin #3?

Melanie: Knowing that you are a lifelong fan of the show, we have to ask: do you have a favorite Darrin?

HJP: When I was a kid, it was Dick Sargent, because I thought he was easier to look at. But when I became an adult (I guess), my choice became Dick York. I began to see just how talented he was. Dick Sargent was a very nice man (and of course, as we all know by now, the original choice for Darrin), and he certainly brought his own charm to the role. But Dick York turned in an iconic that I think was very difficult for Dick Sargent to live up to. Though he did a fine job. They really couldn't have found a better “second Darrin.”

Melanie: What do you think of the resurgence of Bewitched-inspired shows like Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Charmed? And what do you think of Nick at Nite changing their format and dropping classic TV programming from the 60s, like Bewitched?

HJP: I don’t think much of Sabrina. First of all, I can’t understand one thing the actress playing her is saying. She slurs her words, and the pace is just too frantic. Bewitched was about something...a very loving and strong relationship. Sabrina isn’t about anything, except being silly, and it does nothing for legitimate fantasy television. Charmed? Well, if it didn’t have Alyssa Milano, I wouldn’t even bother watching it. And other than that, it’s just really a poor man’s Buffy.

Melanie: Bill Asher has said in interviews that it was his fault that the marriage between he and Elizabeth ended after Bewitched and genuinely still seems to love her. Did she seem to have any regrets about ending the marriage and did she reflect as kindly on him during your interviews with her?

HJP: I can’t say if she had any regrets about the marriage ending, but she did still have a great deal of respect for the man, as a professional and as the father of their children.

Bill and Liz On the Set of Bewitched Circa 1964

Melanie: Which episode of Bewitched is your all-time favorite?

HJP: It’s somewhere between “A Is For Aardvark” and “Charlie Harper, Winner.” “Aardvark,” as pointed out in my book, is considered to be the ultimate episode, according to Bill Asher. So I don’t want to disagree with him. :) But “Harper” deals so much with the heart of what Bewitched is about – true love conquers all. Strong work ethic. Samantha loving Darrin for who he is, and not for what he can do for her (“because whatever he can do for her, she can zap up something better”). And also, the actor playing Charlie (Angus Duncan) - he’s from Rochester, New York (my hometown) and I play favorites. Other than that, I love all the Salem episodes and segs like “Allergic to Macedonian Dodo Birds,” the latter in which Endora loses her powers, and becomes “helpless.” Those scenes with a “weak” Endora and Dick York's Darrin are priceless.

Samantha and Darrin in Episode #99 “Charlie Harper, Winner”

Melanie: We saw several great actors on the series get “switched.” Of all of the supporting Bewitched cast, who do you feel was the most instrumental to the show’s success?

HJP: Paul Lynde.

Melanie: I found it very charming in your interview with Jone Devlin when you recalled that cast members would not talk to you until Elizabeth contacted them first. It shows the respect that they had for her and for the show. But do you have an understanding of why Elizabeth did not keep in touch with Dick York, Dick Sargent, David White, and other members of the cast of Bewitched after the show ended?

HJP: In her mind, she had just moved on. She had no idea there was a Bewitched underground, so to speak, growing.

Melanie: Do you know whatever happened to Dick York’s autobiography entitled The Seesaw Girl? If it wasn’t for that one FilmFax article fans would have almost no information about this wonderful actor and his time on Bewitched.

HJP: I have a copy of the bio, and years ago when I first met Dick, I tried to shop it around to a few publishers to no avail. But I should call his wife about that now.

Melanie: One question that fans of the show love to debate is, what color were Elizabeth Montgomery’s eyes in person? In Johnny Cool, they are described as blue, but Darrin says that she has green eyes on Bewitched. In most color photos from the show and later, they appear brown. You met with her on several occasions, so what’s the scoop?

HJP: As GREEN as the sky is blue.

Elizabeth Montgomery As Samantha in the 1970s

Melanie: What other projects are you currently working on now?

HJP: There’s the Life Goes On book, a combined book about The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, a completely revised and rewritten edition of my Kung Fu Book of Caine and Kung Fu Book of Wisdom into one volume, a tongue-in-cheek bio on my days at NBC-TV in the “Big '80s,” and maybe, just maybe, a book based on my, Repeat After Me.

Melanie: Thank you for taking the time to interview with Bewitched @ Harpies Bizarre. We are thankful that you have provided the Bewitched Forever philosophy for upcoming generations with your wonderful book. Is there anything else that you'd like to say to fans of Bewitched?

HJP: Just this: When I started to write the book, I did it out of love. There was no million dollar contract. I did it because I believed that I was the one who was supposed to do it. I never thought it was going to be the best book ever written about any topic, but I wanted the Bewitched fan to enjoy reading it, as much as they enjoyed watching the show. And hopefully, I’ve accomplished that. And I think the Bewitched fan is a very special individual. For one reason or another, those who really love Bewitched, bond with Samantha's sense of isolation. I know I did. And I just marveled at its many themes: true love, strong work ethic, prejudice. It's just a wonderful contribution to the world of television art and pop culture. And I’m so glad it’s around, and that there are others, like those here at Harpies, who appreciate what it all means. Peace and good “witches” to all.


Note: The photo of Herbie J Pilato used in the banner is from (a great article on the The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman) and was taken by Sam Campanaro Photography.

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