Dick Sargent, the affable actor best remembered as Elizabeth Montgomery's second television husband on the sitcom "Bewitched," died Friday. He was 64.
Ron Wise, a spokesman for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Sargent had been admitted Wednesday and died there of prostate cancer that was diagnosed in 1989.
In 1969, after parts on several failed sitcoms, Sargent replaced the late Dick York in the role of Darrin Stephens on ABC's "Bewitched." York, who left after five seasons because of a debilitating back injury and an addiction to painkillers, died in 1992 at age 63 of emphysema and a degenerative spinal condition.
As husband to Montgomery's Samantha, a winsome witch who could work magic with a twitch of her nose, Stephens tried vainly to juggle the pressures of his ad agency job along with the escapades of his wife and disapproving mother-in-law, usually with little success.
Sargent, the son of a World War I hero and a former silent film actress, was born Richard Cox. After a childhood spent in Carmel, Calif., he briefly attended Stanford University, where he appeared in several school plays before dropping out to pursue an acting career.
As Dick Sargent, he began on the big screen in the late 1950s with roles in such forgettable films as "Bernardine" and "Mardi Gras." In 1959, he was seen with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in the wartime comedy "Operation Petticoat." Later movies included "That Touch of Mink," "Captain Newman M.D.," "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell" and "Hardcore."
He also appeared in dozens of episodic TV shows, among them "Gunsmoke," "Playhouse 90" and "Family Ties," and was a regular in the 1961 situation comedy "One Happy Family."
After "Bewitched" ended in 1972, Sargent continued to act occasionally, with guest appearances on such TV shows as "Taxi," "Murder, She Wrote" and "L.A. Law" and in B movies such as "The Clonus Horror," "Body Count," "Teen Witch" and "Rock-a-Die-Baby."
After his cancer was diagnosed, doctors were optimistic that it could be treated. However, the disease continued to spread and by early this year Sargent was seriously ill and further weakened by daily radiation treatments.
After mostly withdrawing from show business in his final years, Sargent returned to the news in 1991 when he announced that he was gay, ending what he said was an awkward facade he had maintained throughout his professional life.
"It was such a relief," he told an interviewer that year. "I lived in fear of being found out. Now it's given me a whole new mission in life."
A longtime supporter of the Special Olympics, Sargent was soon a highly visible advocate of gay rights as well.
"We won't be ignored," he said at a 1992 gay pride parade and festival in Orange County, for which he was grand marshal. "We deserve to be heard. People don't understand that we're everywhere."
Sargent conceded that while "coming out" may have cost him professionally, the personal rewards were worth it.
"I'll probably never be allowed to play a father symbol again," he told a reporter in 1991. "I'm afraid for my career. I'm probably gonna lose a whole lot of work. . . . I may even have to sell the house someday, but this is more important. I like myself, probably more than I have most of my life."