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Salem Residents Oppose Planned 'Bewitched' Statue

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Salem Residents Oppose Planned 'Bewitched' Statue

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Salem Residents Oppose Planned 'Bewitched' Statue

Salem Residents Oppose Planned 'Bewitched' Statue

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Residents of Salem, Mass., are upset with plans to erect a 9-foot bronze statue honoring actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha on the TV show Bewitched. Residents say the statue will dishonor the memory of those persecuted during the Salem witch trials.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You might think that Salem, Massachusetts, would be OK with the idea of erecting a statue to a witch. Well, some folks there are not, at least not this witch. NPR's Anthony Brooks explains.

(Soundbite of "Bewitched")

Unidentified Announcer: Elizabeth Montgomery in...

(Soundbite of music; twinkling noise)

ANTHONY BROOKS reporting:

To a generation of TV viewers growing up in the '60s and '70s, she was anything but a witch.

(Soundbite of "Bewitched")

Unidentified Announcer: ..."Bewitched."

(Soundbite of music)

BROOKS: And if her antiseptic, blond prettiness didn't seduce you, who could resist that...

(Soundbite of "Bewitched"; twinkling noise)

BROOKS: ...little twitching nose that unleashed Samantha Stephens' magic? Well, as it turns out, a number of people in Salem, Massachusetts, could do without Samantha's charms or at least without a 9' bronze statue of her riding a broom across a crescent moon right in the middle of downtown Salem.

Ms. JEAN HARRISON (Salem Resident): We're right near the courthouse where the people were tried for witchcraft and, also, quite near the holding cell.

BROOKS: The proposed statue has made an activist out of Salem resident Jean Harrison, who stands in Lappin Square where the statue would go. She says a jaunty memorial to a TV sitcom witch abuses the memory of those who were persecuted in this city more than three centuries ago, when scores of people accused of witchcraft were rounded up and 19 of them hanged.

Ms. HARRISON: And they went to their deaths, knowing that if they confessed to witchcraft, they would be spared their lives, chose to hang instead. And having a kitschy statue just seems to trivialize what these people went through.

BROOKS: But the deal is all but final between Salem and TV Land cable network, which owns the reruns of "Bewitched" and which will install and maintain the statue. TV Land senior Vice President Rob Pellizzi says the network has already put up a bunch of statues around the country honoring TV personalities, including one of Ralph Kramden of "The Honeymooners" in front of a New York City bus terminal.

Mr. ROB PELLIZZI (Senior Vice President, TV Land): So when it came to `How do we pay tribute to Samantha from "Bewitched"?' the fun idea was to recognize the fact that Salem is the center of all things witches. That was a fun idea; it was a great tribute to the show.

BROOKS: But a poor tribute to Salem's history, according to longtime resident Bill Burns, who's 78 and says his family has been here since 1628.

Mr. BILL BURNS (Salem Resident): That's a long time.

BROOKS: Long enough to know something about history, he says, and long enough to have seen a lot of stupid things.

Mr. BURNS: And this Samantha statue is just another example of that. It's a distortion of what went on. My wife's great-great-great-whatever-grandmother was Elizabeth Norse(ph), and she was hung. And we don't make fun of the Holocaust; we shouldn't be making fun of the witches.

BROOKS: Furthermore "Bewitched" was actually set in Connecticut, not Massachusetts. But the program did film some episodes in Salem in 1970 when the city declared October 7th of that year "Bewitched" Day. It was good for tourism then, just as the statue would be today, according to Salem's mayor, Stanley Usovicz, who rejects the argument that the statue is disrespectful.

Mayor STANLEY USOVICZ (Salem, Massachusetts): This city has long recognized the true tragedy of 1692, so there is a great deal culture here, historical culture. We don't want to take away from that. But I think we also have to recognize that there is a popular culture and that we are part of that popular culture.

BROOKS: In Salem, the police wear witch patches, the high school football team are the Witches, there's a street called Witch Way and the city's biggest annual celebration is Halloween, when witch kitsch is everywhere. But that's the problem, says longtime resident Bill Burns, who served on Salem's school board and City Council.

Mr. BURNS: And when I served on those two bodies, I tried everything in my power to get some sense of history and to the celebration. I failed.

BROOKS: City officials will take a final vote on the "Bewitched" statue later this month. And if approved as expected, every day will be `bewitched' in Salem. Anthony Brooks, NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Bewitched")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) My heart was under lock and key. Somehow it got unhitched. I never thought my heart could be had, but now I'm caught and I'm kind of glad to be bewitched, bewitched.

(Credits)

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): I'm Robert Siegel.

BLOCK: And I'm Melissa Block. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Bewitched")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) My heart was under lock and key. Somehow it got unhitched. I never thought my heart could be had, but now I'm caught. I'm kind of glad to be bewitched, bewitched, bewitched, bewitched, bewitched.

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