As Salem Saberhagen, the terse feline jester and life coach to Sabrina Spellman on ABC’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, voice actor Nick Bakay dispensed as many unforgettable nuggets of wisdom as he had lives (and Salem is 400 years old). Throughout the long-running series, Salem helped Sabrina out of many dilemmas, both out-of-realm and IRL, and most of them dealing with her bohunk boyfriend, Harvey. Though he may be old, the wise quips he delivered doubled as both sage advice for a teen witch and quotable takeaways for the show’s young, impressionable viewers. (And much like the comical cat, the advice has aged well).
Bakay not only provided the voice of Salem for 65 episodes, but also produced and directed several episodes while it was on the air. Since the series ended in 2003, he’s been working non-stop on projects like the CBS comedy Mom as executive producer. He also consults on The Kominsky Method, Chuck Lorre’s newest show for Netflix. “It stars Michael Douglas as a legendary acting coach grappling with father time and his own relevance, and Alan Arkin as his agent/best friend,” says Bakay. “We are three episodes in and it’s been a wonderful experience getting to watch these guys throw down.”
Sabrina, to the surprise of no one, is going to be rebooted for Netflix with Kiernan Shipka in the titular role. Though info is scant, it’s said to head into darker territory and will be written by one of Riverdale’s showrunners. What does Bakay make of that? “Well shit, you always hate to see something shiny and new make a move on your legacy, but I wish them well,” he says. “Apparently it’s going to be a ‘dark reimagining’ of the concept, which seems appropriate for a show about witches, but it also makes me laugh—we made a point of keeping our Sabrina family-friendly and wholesome, so there’s a part of me can’t help feeling this is like attempting a dark reimagining of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
One more time, and hopefully not the last, Bakay puts himself in the headspace of the facetious furball to offer some witty advice to issues submitted by our readers.
Should I home-dye my hair pitch black? On showing friends and colleagues photographs of me with this tint previously, I have been instructed to “never do this again.” But I’ve been thinking about your silky, witchy fur, and black feels sort of showstopper. What do you think?
SALEM: Listen, I get it. Who wouldn’t want a bitchin’ pelt that’s stupid with sheen? Unfortunately, I’m assuming you are a human, in which case the super-black dye job is fraught with peril. Here’s what I want you to do—Google images of David Guest, Anton Lavey, and The Undertaker. Are these results worth spending an evening bent over the kitchen sink, rinsing out the last shred of your dignity?
How ‘bout you consider buying a snappy new turtleneck sweater and calling it a day?
My partner was recently laid off and we’re having some trouble keeping up with the expenses for our cat. Between the decent food (we don’t want to feed him crap), litter, toys and especially vet bills, things are getting tight. So, my question is this: Can we try to make our cat famous on the Internet? Not by doing anything to his detriment, we love him very much, but in like a cute way. It might take a while, but he’d be living the dream with endorsement deals and sponsored posts and FREE SHIT. WDYT?
SALEM: I’m 400 years old, so I confess I had to look up the meaning of WDYT. At first I thought it was an abbreviation for some sort of union or fraternal organization, but now I understand you are seeking my opinion, so here goes:
How DARE you pimp out your cat?! Trust me, the poor creature has been smelling your failure for months and translating those emotions into shockingly loose bowel movements. As a healthy alternative, perhaps your deadbeat partner could get off the couch, suck Satan’s weiner, and get a soul-crushing job like the rest of the world?
I’m dating a French girl, and when we first became intimate I asked her to speak French to me during … you know. Anyhow, we’ve been going through a rough patch and I’m beginning to suspect that what used to be sexy pillow talk has become a flurry of nasty insults, but can’t be sure about this as I only speak English. I want to call her on it, but I don’t want to seem crazy. Any tips?
SALEM: During … couple’s therapy? I kid, this one’s easy—research the French words for loser, soft cheese, and bloated descendant of men who saved us from the Nazis.
I recently broke up with my abusive boyfriend of four months and blocked his number, as well as blocking him on all social media platforms so he wouldn’t be able to get in touch again. Ever since, his family and friends have been messaging constantly, urging me to get back in touch with him to at least explain why I cut him off. I feel like he is the one behind all of these messages, pulling the strings. Each message becomes increasingly more difficult to ignore. I really don’t want to get back with him but I want him to know that I’m done with this relationship. How do I send the message?
SALEM: You don’t! Look, I don’t know if you watch Dateline, but I do and I need you to listen very carefully—you are one pity text away from bad things! I’m talking interviews with weepy relatives intercut with the last happy picture someone took of you before your body bobbed up from the bottom of a pond in rural Ohio.
And P.S., what kind of spineless newt asks his mommy to email his ex?
Okay, this is starting to really piss me off…
That’s it, I’m casting a spell on this freak!
Oh, that’s right—I can’t cast spells. Dammit! I’d ask Sabrina but she’s in Vancouver shooting a Lifetime movie and giving her Ted Talk.
Shit, maybe you should just change your name and relocate.
I live in a spacious closet/studio apartment on Avenue A that is definitely breaking all of New York’s fire codes. I’m new to the city and even though my place is super small, I need company! Should I get a cat or is that animal abuse? I know dogs need more room than cats, but I still feel a little bad. Maybe I should buy a leash and take it on walks? Is that weird? Am I weird?
SALEM: Relax, we’re all weird, baby. That being said, take it from an icon who gets plenty of fiber: One active litter box + a tiny living space = the end of your chances of having sex in your own bed.
I’ve got a hot date coming up and, between you and me, it’s been quite a dry spell for some time. I really want to get laid! The biggest problem is I have been told a few times that I’m not the best at keeping clean. Once, someone told me straight to my face that I should brush my teeth more. I’m really self-conscious about body odor and am worried that might deter my date from getting down and dirty (pun not intended) with me. As you have self-grooming down pat, I was wondering if you had any ideas on how to impress my lady friend so she’ll sleep with me?
SALEM: When I’m getting ready for that all-important third date—or in cat terms, two seconds after I encounter a feral tabby in heat—my grooming ritual is sacrosanct:
Phase 1: Lick your fur until you no longer taste your own shame.
Phase 2: Apply a healthy dollop of Frontline flea and tick control (Don’t cheap out—one rogue parasite can ruin your chances of her “returning the favor…”)
Phase 3: Strap on your lucky collar and prance through a light misting of Aqua Di Parma.
Phase 4: Get ready to keep the entire neighborhood awake with your hot, yet disturbingly vocal feline passion.