Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bewitching Erin Murphy!



Happy Halloween!

TRICK OR TREAT? I hope that October has been a wonderful month of treats and as we now hurl through the end of this year that all of your lives are full of rich abundance. I also hope that today’s blog is as much of a treat for you as it is for me putting it together! I have often written that I am/was a product of 1960s and 70s’ television.
I grew up in a television household.

What a great time in which families could gather together and watch television TOGETHER without fear of anything of true shock value. Because there were only three networks and programming that wasn’t twenty-four hours, all the networks vied for the largest demographic and were not that concerned about “niche” marketing.   
Because of that, actors from my, my parent’s, and grandparent’s generation would all be seen on the same program.
One such program that was a character actor’s delight was Bewitched. That show was, and still is, a family delight. I remember when the show first ran. I was three years old when the series began in 1964, therefore, I don’t remember THAT too vividly. I do remember, however, when I read in the TV GUIDE that the series would not be returning after its eighth season in 1972, and how sad I was. Luckily, for all of us, it still runs on TV. All day yesterday AND today, Antenna TV is doing a Bewitched marathon. I went to bed at 2:30 this morning…when I eventually dozed off from watching episodes that I have seen dozens of times. I’m STILL entertained by this show. There I was last
Erin (second from left) today
night in Westport, Connecticut with Samantha, both Darrins, Endora, AND Tabitha! Watching the show last night, I was kvelling knowing that I was going to get to share a little bit more of Tabitha with my readers and followers today.

Actually it is Erin Murphy who played Tabitha that I am writing about today.
Thanks to The Wizard of Oz, we all learned a long time ago that there are good  and bad witches. According to Glinda, “only bad witches are ugly.” Well, Erin is a truly “good witch” as you are about to find out. I thought, on a whim, that she would make a great subject for my Halloween blog. I reached out to her and was thrilled when she accepted!
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the debut of Bewitched.

Erin Margaret Murphy (born June 17, 1964) is best known for her role as young Tabitha Stephens on Bewitched, which ran from 1964 to 1972. For the first season, she shared this role with her sister, Diane, as they were of similar appearance and stature. As they got older and looked less alike, Erin played the part alone. She started “acting” when she was eleven months old!

Erin and I sat down to discuss the series and her life a few years ago. This blog is based on my own interview as well as questions that were sent to us via Facebook.
Erin’s father, Dan Murphy, owned a business college, Murphy’s College, in Los Angeles. He was also an investor. Erin’s mother was a teacher there. When Erin, and her twin sister Diane were both, their mother stopped working and became a full time mom. They are fraternal twins. No one in Erin and Diane’s family were in the business. They had no connections in the entertainment industry as well.

Erin was considered an “experienced actress” by the time Bewitched came along. Everywhere her parents went with their stroller in Los Angeles, people would coo over them and suggest to the parents that these kids should be on television. Their parents eventually discussed it and followed up with agents. They quickly were doing commercials. Erin did three commercials before Bewitched, including one with Ronald Reagan before he was Governor of California!   
He was the spokes person for Borateem Detergent.

Erin tells me that the Bewitched set was a really great place to grow up. It was a very professional set but it was also fun. Most of the people, such as Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, were parents.  Everybody was very loving and it was a great place to be.
Erin started on the very first color episode. It was the third season. Erin stayed with the show throughout the duration of the show, eight seasons.
It was strange when the show ended. There was no opportunity for group sadness. Everyone left on their hiatus expecting to come back.  They weren’t cancelled; they were supposed to run another season or two. For personal reasons, Montgomery decided not to continue. Everyone just got a call that it would not be continuing. There was no big goodbye or even a goodbye party; just their typical end of season wrap party. At the time, Erin was OK…she went to Girl Scout camp. She did feel the sadness of not seeing everyone every day.
The transition from Dick York to Dick Sargent  (Darrin) was made to be pretty seamless.  When Dick York was forced to leave the Bewitched series owing to health problems in 1969, Sargent stepped into the role. He had first been offered the role in 1964 after William Asher and Elizabeth Montgomery were involved and chose him but was under contract to Universal Studios and unable to accept it.
He later appeared in The Great Locomotive Chase starring Fess Parker, Operation Petticoat starring Cary Grant, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts. Sargent played Darrin until Bewitched ended in 1972. Sargent continued to work in film and made numerous guest appearances on various television shows, including one episode of Three's Company, The Waltons, Charlie's Angels, Knots Landing, Family Ties and two episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. In the mid-1980s, he landed the steady role of Richard Preston, the widowed father, in the syndicated sitcom Down to Earth. Throughout the 1980s, he joined actress Sally Struthers as an advocate for Christian Children's Fund, which brought relief to developing nations' children.
She also remained in touch with Dick Sargent. As she got older, they used to play tennis. 
Their discussions were mostly “career talk”. There was “talk” about a Bewitched reunion.  Both Erin and
The second Darrin, Dick Sargent
Sargent were opposed to it. Some of the “minor” cast members such as Kasey Rogers who played Louise Tate wanted to do a reunion, but the rest of the cast didn’t.
Obviously as a child, Erin did not see Citizen Kane or any of the older films that starred Agnes Moorehead. Erin thinks of Agnes Moorehead, who played Endora, as her grandmother! Erin says she is often asked if Moorehead frightened her. She says not even close! Moorehead was loving and warm.  She is/was the most colorful person Erin has ever known.  
Dick York had a bad back that he hurt on a film many years prior. The last season that he did Bewitched, he was in a lot of pain.  A decision had to be made to either write out his character altogether or to shoot him lying down, sitting down, or leaning against something. One day, he had a seizure on the set. After that, he was unable to return.
Erin says he was just a great guy. Erin is very involved with charities and philanthropy, a lot of that, she attributes to her involvement with him. In 2007, she was featured on CNN Headline News as a "Celebrity With a Cause" discussing her work with autism-related charities. They did remain in touch after he was off the show and into her adulthood. Right before he passed away, he was very sick. He had emphysema and was on oxygen. Even at that time, he was collecting and giving mattresses to the homeless. He was advocating that it was better to give sandwiches rather than money. He was a very inspiring guy.  She is also a motivational speaker and is very active in fundraising for numerous charitable organizations. She doesn’t have a “pet” charity that is a “favorite”, yet she has a lot of causes that she is involved in. She works on behalf of autism and other children’s charities. One of her children is autistic. She is also a very vocal supporter of gay rights. There are many organizations in Los Angeles in which she contributes her time such as AIDS Health Care Organization. She also is involved with GLEH,  a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable residential communities for GLBT older adults. When she is called upon to get involved with charities that support causes that she believes in, she gets involved in any way she can.     
All of Erin’s favorite episodes were the ones that involved other children. One particular favorite is when she turned “Amy” into a butterfly.
Others involved her character going to school or the fantasy episodes like Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk. Those were really fun to shoot for Erin. One of my dear friends also played the mother of the boy that Erin turned into a dog, Peggy Pope! When I mentioned her to Erin, she said she LOVED her! The little boy, Ted Quinn, is a Facebook friend of Erin’s and they keep in touch! They talk every few days.
She was not home schooled. When she was on the set, she had a tutor on days in which it was not a full day. When she started on Bewitched, she was actually too young for school! Things were very different then as far as the school systems were set up with kid actors. Public schools were unable to accommodate the schedules. Therefore, when Erin was of school age, her on set schooling also included private school. It was the only way in which the curriculum could also be sent to the set.
As far as child labor laws are concerned, they were “very lax back then.”  It never seemed intense to Erin, but she knows she worked more hours than she should have.
She had a beautiful dressing room to hang out in. Mondays, they did a table read of the script and then they would start filming. They had a regular twelve hour day shooting schedule.
So many of Erin’s memories are tied to Elizabeth Montgomery. Erin became close with her and her family and some of her fondest memories are of spending time with the family away from the set.
Montgomery would take her kids to the Murphy household. The Murphy’s had a home up in Lake Arrowhead and Erin has fond memories of them all playing in the snow during Christmas break.  MANY FOND MEMORIES!
    Following Bewitched, Murphy guest-starred on shows such as Lassie, appeared in over 100 commercials, and modeled for Hang Ten swimwear.
Murphy has worked as a casting director, a makeup artist, a fashion stylist, an acting teacher, a motivational speaker, and even as a stunt double for actress Virginia Madsen.
Murphy has worked as a television host and correspondent (TVLand, Fox Reality Channel, TVGasm.com, and E!) and as the on-air moderator for Allergan Medical. Murphy is the host of DisneyFamily.com's Parentpedia.
She has also appeared on Craft Lab (DIY/HGTV), Groomer Has It (Animal Planet) with her giant Leonberger, and on Over Your Head (HGTV) building flagstone steps in her backyard.
Erin also has a wrestling persona as Mistress of Mayhem (aka M.O.M.) As you can see, Erin is still very much in the business. She works a lot as a correspondent. She also has a ranch in Southern California in which she runs an equestrian center and raises alpacas. It is a ten acre ranch and it is often used as a filming location. Murphy was featured in a photo spread January 2012 in OK! Magazine with two of her alpacas on her ranch.
Murphy has been married three times, first to Terry Rogers (1984 to 1989); the couple had two sons. She then married Eric Eden (1993 to 1998); the couple had one son. Murphy married Darren Dunckel in 1998; the couple has three sons. She lives in Bell Canyon, California, with Dunckel and her three sons. She is the celebrity spokeswoman for Verge Living, a residential-retail development in downtown Las Vegas.
The biggest challenge for today’s kid actors is how vast media has become. When Erin was a kid, there were a few teen magazines and a few gossip magazines. There wasn’t the INSTANT gossip like there is now. One of the difficult challenges of today’s kid actors is that EVERYONE has a camera. Everything they do is broadcast to the world. It is difficult for them to transition into adulthood without everyone knowing every “mistake” they make. That makes it a lot tougher
for today’s kids.
She advises parents who are interested in getting their kids into this business to know that this is not for everyone. It is also not for every family. It is not a “normal life; kids and families need to enjoy it. It was, however a great life for Erin and she has only had advantages as an adult because of it. She LOVED being on the set! Her sister hated it! Her sister did not pursue this as a career.  Erin still loves being in front of an audience.  She feels more comfortable on a set than anywhere!
The fact that they were twins was a major factor in getting hired for Bewitched. There are all these stories out there that Jodie Foster and Helen Hunt auditioned. It is not true. They both are older than Erin and the character was a baby. Jodie Foster is three years older than Erin. Helen Hunt did not even start until she was around eight years old. They were hired because they were twins but they are fraternal twins.  They looked as much alike as you could with two kids at an early age with the same haircut and clothes. Anytime Diane was filmed, it was either from the back or a distance. In the run of Bewitched, the thought was that if Erin ever got sick, they would bring on Diane.
Diane and Erin today
There is one episode in which Samantha fights city hall and Tabitha is supposed to fly backwards. That is actually Diane. A flood of letters poured in asking why Tabitha was replaced! It didn’t go over that well.
Diane went to college in Santa Barbara and now resides there. She lives a wonderful like there with her partner Laura. She works for a medical company. They are very close.
Erin doesn’t have the show set up to Tivo. However, if she and her family are home and they are channel surfing and they land upon it, she and the kids may watch it. She is proud of the show and it is never embarrassing for her to watch. Erin now has six kids. They like the show. They certainly enjoy the perks of it. She has explained that there are so many advantages to having this level of celebrity. She tries and shows them the responsible thing to do.
They don't just focus on the red carpet events. They discuss the fundraising and the charitable work they do. It's not about "who she is wearing".
It is about something bigger than themselves. Erin has been asked to do many things over the years affiliated with Bewitched. She made the decision as her mother before her to be a stay at home Mom rather than having her kids raised by nannies. Because of the looming fiftieth anniversary, Erin has been doing tons of press.
She is now ready to return to episodic TV.  Feelers are being put out there for a series in which Barbara Eden will play her mom. I hope TV Land is paying attention! She thinks that would be great stunt casting. They were just in Chicago together. People are always asking Erin what she would like to do. If she had her druthers, she would prefer to do a drama as opposed to a comedy. Erin also loves theater and is a huge supporter of local theater where she is. Having a family, the theater life would not be a conducive schedule for Erin.
I ended the interview by asking Erin what she thought of the Bewitched movie starring Will Farrell and Nicole Kidman.
She realizes that her perspective might be different than most people. She enjoyed it. She went to the premiere. She thought the cast was appropriate. She doesn't feel that there is any way to recreate this iconic series. Because it is such a beloved series, it would be virtually impossible to make everybody happy. When Ted Bessell originally had the project, the intent was that it was going to be a strict remake.The treatment kept getting reworked until we got the final product. It is not the box office failure as most people report. It made a ton of money. It made over a hundred and thirty million dollars which is not a failure. Erin thinks it is cute and adorable.
Erin has only fond memories of Bewitched and only good things have come as a result of it.She has been able to travel around the world, she has a beautiful home, and opportunities are still coming her way! She still gets invited to red carpet events a couple of times a week. She has a great life and attributes a lot of it to Bewitched. She, as well as many others, love the show and is grateful that it is still being shown and that people are still interested.
What is she doing tonight? She is trick or treating! She is a mom!
Thank you Erin Murphy for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

Thank you Harlan Boll for arranging this!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!


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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
               
My next blog will be...preparing for November!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!



TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            
 

This Blog is dedicated to William Asher and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with Bewitched on ANY Level!