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The 31 Days of HOMO-ween – Day 11: Bette Midler In “Hocus Pocus” (1993) – “Hello Salem, my name is Winifred! What’s yours?”

Hocus Pocus

 

Okay, okay. Hocus Pocus is a children’s Halloween film released by Disney. But it stars the Divine Miss M. which always makes it a gay old time.

Hocus Pocus started life as a script for a special original movie for the Disney Channel, to be produced by one of the smaller studios owned by The Walt Disney Company, but the script caught the eye of Walt Disney Studios who decided that the film was strong enough to carry well-known names and to attract a cinema audience. The movie was released in the United States in June 1993 (which may have been the major reason for its lackluster box office success) but it has enjoyed immense success as a rental and television movie becoming almost the Halloween equivalent of A Christmas Story.

The idea to cast Bette Midler was partly inspired by Midler’ performance  Walt Disney Company’ first R Rated movie in its Touchstone Pictures line, Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

It;s hard to doubt HP’s gayness when Bette takes to the stage to sing “I Put A Spell On You,” after all the homoerotic bullying and old queen bickering and hot fireman investigating (you’ll want to freeze-frame to capture that last bit)—the sisters’ amazing group number/spell (“dance [parents], dance until you die!” Where one parent is dressed as Madonna no less) is the clincher.

If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, now is the time—cast a salt circle and have a watch.  After all “It’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!”

 

TRIVIA:

* The executioner who was responsible for hanging the Sanderson sisters is wearing a leather outfit with metal spikes, a get up a tad too modern for late 17th century Salem. (Perhaps he was looking for the bear bar and got lost in time?)

* A kid wearing a Michael Myers Mask and Clown Suit is seen out the front of the “Devils” house.

* Brother and sister Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall play husband and wife. He’s the one dressed as Satan.

* Several scenes appear in the original trailer that are not included in any theatrical, VHS, or DVD version of the film. They include the kids attempting to push the witches into a pool, the witches being surrounded by trick-or-treaters holding out their hands, and Mary snacking in a grocery store only to be dragged out by Winifred.

* Although the movie features a wild amount of anachronisms, one thing the movie does get right is that the Sanderson sisters would not know what blacktop was, as paved roads didn’t become a thing until the early 1800s. Macadam roads, which used stones and pebbles to simulate pavement, weren’t introduced until the 18th century. Accuracy hi-five!

* During a 20th anniversary screening of Hocus Pocus, Doug Jones (“Billy Butcherson”) revealed the moths that come out of his mouth at the end of Hocus Pocus are real and not CGI.

* The role of Max Dennison was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, but was given toOmri Katz when DiCaprio turned it down to appear in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

* When Bette Midler takes the stage at the town Halloween Party, she says “Hello Salem, my name is Winifred. What’s yours?”. This is a take-off of the famous line, “Hello world, my name is Rose, what’s yours?” that is spoken by Mama Rose in the musical “Gypsy”. Midler played Mama Rose in the television version, Gypsy (1993), the same year this film was released.

 

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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