Agnes Morehead taught little Erin Murphy how to knit, a craft which the former child actress has spun into a grown-up side business.
Morehead, who played the feisty Endora on “Bewitched,” was more than just a “grandmama” onscreen to Murphy, who played the pixie witch Tabitha for six years. Morehead was a surrogate grandmama in real life, too, a most welcome role since Murphy’s grandparents lived in Oregon and Texas.
“Bewitched” is still flying through the airwaves, one of the few ’60s/’70s sitcoms that has never gone off the air. It’s a staple of retro TV even today, firmly ingrained in pop culture. Murphy, however, has her feet on the ground, running in lots of different directions.
“I always say that I never want to be defined by one thing, and ‘Betwitched’ is such a defining thing that I’ve gone out on a limb trying to find other things to change that,” Murphy, now 48, says by phone from her home in Santa Clarita, Calif.
One of her other things is playing host on a number of reality television shows — a role that’s spun into a hosting gig for Monday night’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Bash at the Eastern Iowa Sports Complex in Hiawatha (12/31/12). She jumped at the chance to appear on the same bill as Brian Howe, former lead singer of Bad Company.
“I loved them when I was in high school,” she says of the British super-group Howe fronted for a decade.
- Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Bash
- Featuring Brian Howe of Bad Company, Well Lit and host Erin Murphy
- 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m.
- Eastern Iowa Sports Complex
- Tickets: $30 to $60 at (319) 730-6301 or Cedarrapidstitans.com
- Includes: Party favors, balloon drop, champagne toast at midnight
Her job that night will be to welcome the crowd.
“It’s more a meet-and-greet, ‘I’m happy you’re here, I hope you’re happy I’m here’ kind of thing,” she says, adding that she’s happy to be making her first trip to Iowa. She’s hoping to see some snow on the ground, since all she gets is rain on her 10-acre ranch just north of Los Angeles. In addition to raising 10 alpacas for knitting wool, she also has horses for her kids and does therapeutic riding for children with special needs.
The rest of her resume is wild and eclectic: actress, stunt double, wrestler, teen model, high school cheerleader, homecoming queen, casting director, makeup artist, fashion stylist, acting teacher, motivational speaker and mother to six sons, ages 9 to 27. The latter role, her most important one, inspired her one-time pro wrestling monicker — Mistress of Mayhem (MOM) — on “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.”
“That show was something I went into with the attitude that it would be fun, and I wanted to make the most of it,” she says.
Her agent got a call from producer Jason Hervey, who once starred on “The Wonder Years,” saying the wrestling gig would be like “Dancing With the Stars.” While the moves were choreographed, the similarities end there. She squared off with Dustin Diamond (Screech on “Saved by the Bell”), colorful basketball star Dennis Rodman and pop princess Tiffany.
“It was crazy. It was truly, physically grueling, emotionally grueling,” she says. “It was so out of my comfort zone, and I had the best time with it. It was a lot of fun. I was not familiar with wrestling,” she says, even though her older boys sometimes watched it.
While the matches are choreographed, she says the experience is real. “The bruises are real, but you kinda know who’s going to win. All my wrestling matches, I won, but it was destined to be that way.”
Despite all her other roles, she’s destined to be remembered as the tiny witch TV mom Samantha was always admonishing, “Mustn’t twitch.” Murphy says that while she realized she wasn’t a witch in real life, her real-life mom wasn’t so sure.
“My mom says there was one time where we didn’t have any eggs for breakfast and I said, ‘I’ll just twitch some up.’ ”
She was on the show until she was 8, so she has many fond memories of those days. She says Paul Lynde, the practical-jokester Uncle Arthur, was hilarious and dotty Aunt Clara was modeled after the actress, Marion Lorne, who collected doorknobs in real life. Murphy loved TV mom Elizabeth Montgomery, and remains friends with her kids. “I have more photos with their mom than they do,” she says.
And of course, everyone has a nosy neighbor like Mrs. Kravitz, which helps keep the show relevant.
“Shockingly, I don’t think it feels dated, and maybe it’s because a lot of it was kind of costume-y and the magic and everything,” she says. “But I think it’s something that was well-written and well-acted. I think it holds up and is still good today.”
In an ironic twist, her husband’s name really is Darren. She doesn’t call him Derwood, but his sister did growing up.