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Bed Check: The Bewitched B&B in Rehoboth Beach, Del. is a shrine to the '60s sitcom

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Over breakfast at the Bewitched B&B in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Chris Higgins was twitching his nose. The visitor from Philadelphia was not fending off a sneeze. Per another guest's request, he was attempting to replicate the spell-casting tic from the popular 1960s TV show of the same name.

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"I can do my ears better," said Higgins as he snuffled his schnoz, looking more like a flu sufferer than the winsome witch Samantha. "I can probably twitch my nose during allergy season."

Wiggling one's nostrils and humming the sitcom's opening song are common activities at this themed property, part of a trio of lodgings under a single spell. (The Sea Witch Manor and Spa is a guesthouse inside an antiques shop, with all furnishings for sale; BEDazzled spotlights the Golden Age of Hollywood, with such rooms as the Clark Gable and the Bette Davis.) The B&B, a few blocks from the ocean, honors the popular sitcom with seven rooms named after the main characters and inspired by their eccentricities, onscreen and off.

In the Aunt Clara room, for instance, doorknobs piled in a basket and attached to the bedposts pay tribute to actress Marion Lorne's real-life collection of entryway hardware. The Uncle Arthur room features a Peter Max-esque painting of box shapes that winks at actor Paul Lynde's central spot in the game show "Hollywood Squares." Those who favor one Darrin over the other don't have to compromise: You can choose between the Samantha and Darrin I (Dick York), and the Darrin II (Dick Sargent). If you'd rather be in the supporting cast, stay in the Abner and Gladys Kravitz room, which comes with binoculars so you can spy on your co-guests.

Growing up, I was partial to Tabitha, the young daughter who had so much power at her perky nosetip. The junior witch didn't get her own room, but that didn't seem to offend Erin Murphy, the actress who played her as a child and visited the inn a few months back.

"She was really blown away, saying 'There I am, there I am,' " said co-owner Inez Conover, who bedecked the interior with photos of the cast and relevant trinkets. "In the Aunt Clara room, she said, 'This is the doorknob she gave me.' "

To find decor that fit her theme, Conover scoured eBay, souvenir shops and other depositories of old TV memories, scooping up Samantha action toys, framed stills and encyclopedic books on the series. Columbia Pictures donated promotional posters from the 2005 big-screen version of "Bewitched." The blown-up images of an ersatz Samantha (Nicole Kidman) and Darrin (Will Ferrell) hang above a bookcase stocked with a movie library covering all genres and eras. Much to Conover's delight, the movie studio also granted her permission to use the copyrighted logo of Samantha flying around on her broomstick, her blond hair perfectly coiffed. The friendly witch grinned out at me from the corner of Conover's polo shirt.

"I loved how 'Bewitched' talked about diversity in a fun way. It threw it in people's face," said the 58-year-old, who put the properties up for sale five months ago but hopes that any new owners will preserve the shrine. "It was the most progressive TV show of the time. Sam and Darrin may have been one of the first couples to sleep in the same bed. And then you had Uncle Arthur, who was flaming."

For my overnight, I slept in the Endora room, an homage to Samantha's slightly sinister mother, who deplored mortals. The woman behind the dark magic was Agnes Moorehead, a legendary lady who in her off-screen life adored Venice and Italian stylings. To reflect her taste, Conover's artist friend painted the room with an Old Masters touch, including marbled walls with a curlicue trim that echoes Endora's tower of hair. An alabaster bust of a lass draped in pearls sat at the foot of the dresser, and a tapestry of canals covered an entire wall. Behind the bed, a gold brocade fabric cascaded down with the flair of an Oscars gown.

"This looks like Aunt Betty's house," said the husband of a Baltimore couple who had booked the room for the rest of the weekend. "She hasn't redecorated since 1964."

Plumped up on my pillows in bed, I gazed at a triptych of framed Endora-Agnes photos inches from my head. I wondered whether I'd have sweet dreams, or a nightmare about being turned into an artichoke. Don't laugh. It almost happened once before: Season I, Episode 3.



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