We loved being part of the Samantha Statue coming to Salem. It's one of our newest landmarks!

Twitch, twitch: Bronze statue of TV witch headed to Salem
By Ben Casselman
Salem News, Thursday, April 7, 2005

SALEM - Television's most famous witch is about to park her broom in Salem.

TV Land, a cable channel dedicated to classic television shows, is planning to put a life-size bronze statue of Samantha Stevens - Elizabeth Montgomery's twitchy-nosed character on the 1960s sitcom "Bewitched" - in Lappin Park in downtown Salem.

"We think it's a great permanent home," TV Land Vice President Rob Pellizzi said. "It was just a loved show."

Last night, the Salem Redevelopment Authority, the only city board that must sign off on the project, gave TV Land preliminary approval to erect a 9-foot-tall statue of Samantha aboard her broom, flying past a crescent moon. The company hopes to unveil the statue, which is already in the works, in a June ceremony.

The puritans might not have thought much of the idea, but modern Salem residents were enthusiastic.

"How cool is that?" said Salem witch Christian Day when told of the plan. "I'm blown away, actually. I think that's awesome."

Day's friend and fellow witch Shawn Poirier agreed.

"Samantha Stevens has done more for witchcraft and magic than any witch I know," Poirier said. "She's the one who, in the '60s, took witchcraft and made it mainstream. She is the official witch of this country."

Redevelopment Authority members and other city officials were also supportive, though for somewhat different reasons.

"I don't think anyone can argue this will be wonderful for tourism," mayor's aide Kate Sullivan said. "I think it's going to help the businesses on Essex Street."

Whatever the economic benefits, the statue won't cost the city anything. The project is being entirely funded by TV Land, which will also pay to maintain the statue.

"We're developing the sculpture. We're paying for the sculpture. We're maintaining it," Pellizzi said.

The statue will sit at the edge of Lappin Park, at the corner of Essex and Washington streets. TV Land has agreed to make several landscaping changes to the park to protect the grass, and city officials said Robert Lappin, who gave the park to the city, has signed off on the plan.

"Personally, I think it's a good thing for the park, a good thing for downtown," said Ward 3 Councilor Jean Pelletier, whose ward includes the park.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic. Patricia Zaido, executive director of the Salem Partnership - a civic group that has pushed the city to expand its non-witch-related tourism - said the city must be careful not to celebrate its history of persecution. And former Historical Commission member John Carr said he is concerned the statue might be "hokey." But neither Zaido nor Carr is outright opposed.

"It is an important intersection, and whatever goes in that intersection ought to be appropriate," Carr said. "It could be either lighthearted and fun, or it might be kitschy, and the problem is one might work and the other definitely won't."

TV Land has heard those concerns before. The company has built four other such "TV Land Landmarks," including a statue of "Honeymooners" hero Ralph Kramden at a New York City bus terminal and one of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air on a Minneapolis street corner, reflecting her eponymous program's opening credits. Those statues, Pellizzi said, have been huge successes.

"It becomes a part of the community," Pellizzi said. "Everybody connects with it in different ways."

Pellizzi said thousands of people turned out when the earlier statues were unveiled, and he said he anticipated similar interest in June - especially because a new "Bewitched" movie, starring Nicole Kidman, will be opening nationwide.

"The timing made sense," Pellizzi said, "but we would have done it sometime anyway."

As true fans know, "Bewitched" was set in Connecticut, not Salem. But several episodes were set in Salem, and some scenes were even filmed here.

"That increased our tourism dramatically, from what I'm told," Day said.

Pellizzi said the company always wanted to put the statue here, not Connecticut.

"We wanted to underscore the magic of it all," he said.

The Redevelopment Authority approved the project, pending a letter from Lappin saying he supports the plan and final go-ahead from the authority's design review board. But there seemed little doubt the project will go ahead.

"It's a win-win for everyone," authority member Michael Connelly said.