What It Was Like To Meet Dick York: The "Original Darrin" on "Bewitched"

Herbie J Pilato

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My career has allowed me to good fortune to meet some of those who I have long admired including actors like David Carradine, the star of TV's martial arts hit of the 1970s, Kung Fu.

While researching my initial book about the Bewitched TV show, which originally aired in the 1960s, I knew I had to interview actor Dick York. York played the original mortal named Darrin, opposite Samantha, the "twitch-witch," as played by Elizabeth Montgomery.

It was the summer of 1988, and by then, I had already met and interviewed those Bewitched actors like David White, who played Larry Tate, advertising man/boss to Darrin (who was later portrayed by Dick Sargent, after York left the series).

I had yet to meet Elizabeth Montgomery (whose life I eventually and fully chronicled in the books, Twitch Upon a Star and The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery). So, meeting Dick York for the first time was a very big deal for me.

It was also on some level, heartbreaking.

By the time I met and interviewed Dick York in person, I had held several conversations with him on the phone. And it was during that time, that I realized what a truly remarkable human being he was.

York was a very spiritual person who died much too soon from emphysema in 1991.

York had suffered several health setbacks and never fully recovered from the back injury he had suffered while working on the movie, They Came To Cordura, a few years before he was cast on Bewitched.

After exiting Bewitched, he only made a few appearances on TV shows like Fantasy Island and Simon & Simon, and the 1983 TV-movie, High School U.S.A.

To make money and support himself, and his wife, actress Joan Alt (who York referred to as "Joey"), the actor was forced to take menial jobs beyond the entertainment industry.

But in the midst of his physical trauma, and financial challenges, York dedicated his last years to helping to feed and clothe the homeless with his organization, titled, "Dick York's Acting for Life."

So, when it came time to meet this amazing human being, I knew I had to prepare myself. I had seen a few interviews of York on TV magazine shows like Entertainment Tonight, and it was very clear that he was in a great deal of physical pain. For one, he needed artificial assistance to breathe from oxygen tanks.

York's body may have been weak, but his mind and heart were strong.

By 1988, he was residing in a small home in Michigan that he and his wife had shared since before the days of Bewitched. It was a sweet and simple residence and a far cry from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

I had planned to stay for two days in Michigan and was picked up at the airport by dear friends of the Yorks who had lived next door to them for years. I would be staying with these neighbors of the Yorks, whose home was not large enough to welcome overnight guests.

I arrived on a Tuesday night and was scheduled to meet Dick and Joey York the next day.

I was nervous, excited, happy, and so sad, all at once.

I knew that York would not be the robust and energetic man who had appeared on TV as Darrin, and in movies like the classic, Inherit the Wind.

The time arrived for me to walk across the pathway to the Yorks' home. It was about 11:00 AM, and I would be having lunch with Dick and Joey York after we talked a little bit, and watched a few episodes of Bewitched.

At one point, as I sitting there watching an episode of the magical adventures of Samantha and Darrin, I turned over to York and said to myself, "I can't believe I'm watching Bewitched with Dick York."

It was a magical moment, indeed, among many other moments that occurred that day, meeting one of my "idols," and also one of the finest and most generous and talented human beings to have ever graced the planet.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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