Friday, April 15, 2005


It is ironic that a town famous for its controversial history would find itself embroiled in more. The infamous witch hunts of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, are well documented in the chronicles of history and folklore. The execution of nineteen people for practicing witchcraft forever etched this town in the pages of dark history.
~ Somewhere along the line, the citizens of Salem decided to no longer hang their heads in shame. Indeed, the city has embraced witchcraft, turning it into a profitable tourist gimmick. Billing themselves as "the Witch City," those nineteen victims have been personified into a living legacy. This is evident by no other date on the calendar but Halloween. All Hollows Eve, or the Witching Night, upon which the city uses its nefarious notoriety to lines its coffers, has become a virtual holiday there.
~ Salem's latest dance with controversy in today's news is an internal one. A debate is raging over a proposed statue of a witch, and not just any witch. The debate however, is not that the statue is of a witch, but where in the city it will be placed. The proposed site, Lappin Park, is in the center of town. One faction is satisfied with that location, while the other side would prefer a less conspicuous site.
~ No one is contesting the fact that the statue is that of a witch. There is no talk that it represents not just any witch, but a ficticious, albeit well known witch. The nine-foot bronze statue is being sponsored by TV Land. They have a vested interest of course, as the cable company owns the syndication rights to the 60's TV program Bewitched. The publicity of the soon to be released movie version starring Nicole Kidman, is not lost on TV Land and the Salem Redevelopment Authority.
~ If you haven't gathered by now, the statue in question is to be a replica of Samantha Stephens, that nose-twitching witch played by Elizabeth Montgomery from the series. This is not the first time that the program has caused a stir involving a statue. In one episode, the statue of The Fisherman in Gloucester, Ma., is brought to life by Samantha. Incidentally, Max Baer, Jr., Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies, was the actor who portrayed the living fisherman statue.
~ Say what you will about erecting a statue of a TV character, I find it amusing that that isn't a controversy in Salem. From where "Samantha" will greet the tourists is the hot topic at City Hall in the Witch City.
~ While Salem decides the fate of the bewitching statue, I was set to wondering about such tributes to other TV characters. I have a few characters in mind to suggest that their personae be immortalized in a statue. I would like to see the following statues erected forthwith.
~ At a U.S. Naval base, I propose a ten-foot replica of Popeye the Sailor Man. Perhaps in Auschwitz they could put up one of Col. Klink of Hogan's Heroes. Somewhere in America's heartland they should consider a large likeness of Arnold Ziffel, a star of Green Acres. Don't you think a Daisy Duke statue could dress up a southern town square? What marina would be complete without the imposing fifteen-foot Gilligan?
~ Redd Foxx as the lovable Fred Sanford feigning the "big one," would be a nice addition to the court yard of large hospital. Archie Bunker and Dingbat could look down upon admirers in Central Park in New York City. In Milwaukee, visitors could imitate the six-inch raised thumb of the Fonz. Almost any town in Appalachia would be proud to have a ten-foot Jed Clampett watching over them.
~ While all of the above suggestions have been met with much interest and approval, some of my ideas didn't fly. The people of Auschwitz would want no part of a German soldier being honored by a statue. There wasn't much interest in Rosanne Barr, Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen Degeneres statues. Alas, I didn't get any positive feedback on my proposal for a likeness of the Pointmeister. Oh well, you can't blame me for trying!

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