Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bewitched, Bhang-ered and Bewildered

The Colorado NORML Women's Alliance has posted this photo (right) of Agnes Moorehead as Endora in TV's Bewitched smoking a hookah.

The shot is from episode #69 of the series, titled "Divided He Falls," which first aired on  May 5, 1966. In the story, Endora splits her daughter Samantha's straight hubby into his fun and work sides, so that the fun Darrin can accompany Sam on vacation.

When Endora works her magic, the screen is filled with green smoke. (Her character is introduced every week in a cartoon as black smoke.) Witches throughout the centuries have been associated with herbal medicine and persecuted for it.

The splitting of Darrin's personality is a rather apt metaphor for our divided culture: we simply can't accept that people can be hard working by day and smoke something fun at night. In the end of the episode, Darrin is re-integrated (as should be our society). 

According to the website "The Prop is Familiar" the same hookah was also smoked by Endora in episodes 71 ("The Catnapper," shown left) and 154 ("Samantha's Super Maid").

Dr. Bombay, the family's warlock doc, gets in on the hookah action in episode 107 ("There's Gold in Them Thar Pills"). The Old Man of the Mountain, the historic character who converted his assassins with hashish, smoked a larger hookah in episode 217 ("Return of Darrin the Bold").

Episode #163, called Tabitha's Weekend, which aired on March 6, 1969 has an interesting exchange after Endora is offered cookies by Darrin's (straight) mother:

"They're not by chance from an Alice B. Toklas recipe?" Endora asks. When told they were not, "Then I think I'll pass," is her answer. Tabitha, the junior witch, then turns herself into a cookie. Mrs. Stevens suffers from headaches and gulps the more prosaic sherry.

Moorehead, who had a long career on stage and in films, died of cancer in 1974. She was one of several cast members of the 1956 film The Conqueror who contracted cancer after being exposed to radiation while filming in Utah 137 miles downwind of the United States government's Nevada National Security Site. Three years earlier, extensive above-ground nuclear weapons testing occurred at the test site. The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By 1981, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46, including John Wayne, had died of the disease.

Ironically, the government that assured filmmakers the site was safe also withhold the herb that not only relieves the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, it may well halt the progression of the disease. Yes, Dr. Bombay should recommend it. 

UPDATE 1/5/2015: TV's The Addams Family, from the same era, also regularly featured a hookah. 

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