“I just can’t decide between these three shades of blue,” complained Samantha Stephens. She held a trio of swatches from her paint color book against the kitchen wall and squinted, trying to imagine how the entire room would look in each hue.
Her mother Endora rolled her eyes. “Why must you act like a foolish mortal when Derwood isn’t here?” She lifted her right hand and flicked her fingers. The kitchen’s three wallpapered walls were transformed into the three different shades of blue. The brick wall behind the stove remained unchanged.
Samantha frowned at her mother, then sighed. “I suppose that does help. And now I can see that none of these shades look good beside those terra cotta bricks.”
“Why not trade that hideous rustic design for something more elegant?” Endora replied. She flicked her fingers at the bricks and transformed the wall behind the stove into a slab of polished, grey marble.
“Oh, that does look better,” noted Esmeralda the maid. She smiled at the marble, then resumed scrubbing the linoleum floor in front of the sink.
Samantha’s husband Darrin walked into the kitchen and blanched. “Sam! I thought I told you…”
Endora cut him off. “I thought you told her that you were working late this evening.”
Darrin eyed his mother-in-law warily. “I was. But then the client cancelled his appointment for next week, so Larry sent me home.”
Samantha kissed Darren’s cheek. “Well, I’m glad you’re back. Now you can help me decide which color to paint the kitchen.”
He eyed the three blue walls and shrugged, then turned towards the stove. “That marble does look nice, though you know we can’t afford it.”
“It’s already up,” Endora said haughtily. “Why pay a mortal construction crew to tear it down?”
Esmeralda looked up at Darrin. “If you tear the marble down, there’s sure to be a lot of dust, and just thinking about that dust makes me want to…”
Samantha grabbed a cloth napkin and ran to her maid, but slipped on the soapy floor. Esmeralda sneezed. A small donkey appeared in the middle of the kitchen and started braying.
Darrin rushed to Samantha’s side to help her up. Then he glowered at his mother-in-law. “Do something useful for a change, Endora, would you please?”
“But I thought you didn’t want me to perform any magic in your home, Dagwood,” she taunted.
“Oh, Mother!” Samantha exclaimed. She wriggled her nose and made the donkey disappear. Darrin flashed her a grateful look. Then Samantha wriggled her nose once more and returned the four walls to their original wallpaper. She took her husband’s hand and led him away from Esmerelda.
“At least I know now that I don’t want the walls to be blue,” she said. She started flipping through the color fan once more. “What do you think, darling? Maybe a peach color? Or a soft shade of lemon?”
Darrin scrutinized the color swabs.
Endora snuck up behind them and glanced over Darrin’s shoulder. “Oh, stuff and nonsense!” she protested. “Why are you looking at a booklet of paints bearing that horrid ‘Dutch Boy’ caricature? If you want a Dutchman’s advice about color, I suggest you ask a Dutch master.”
“Now listen here, Endora,” Darrin replied. “‘Dutch Boy Paints’ is a client of my agency McMahon and Tate, and I personally worked on the design for this…”
Endora ignored him. She turned around and waved her hand in front of her face. An old man in an even older-looking black cloak appeared in the spot where the donkey had just stood. He reached for his black cap and plucked it off his mop of curly, grey hair. “Mijn God!” he exclaimed. “Waar ben ik?”
“Oh, silly me,” Endora purred. “Rembrandt can’t give us advice if he can’t speak English.” She waved her hand in front of the painter’s face.
Rembrandt placed his hat back on his head and looked all around him. “Where am I? How did I get here?” He pointed an accusing finger at Endora. “You! You brought me here! And made me speak in this strange tongue! You are a witch!”
“Of course I’m a witch, you dear sweet man,” Endora replied. “But that’s of no importance. You are an artist, and my daughter Samantha needs some advice about what color she should paint her kitchen.”
Rembrandt started walking around the kitchen and examining the avocado-colored appliances. He placed his hand on the stovetop and turned a knob to the right. A small blue flame erupted from the gas jet beneath the burner. He gasped and jumped away from the oven. “Witchcraft! This entire house is possessed by demons!”
Darrin crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Now you see why I don’t want you performing magic in my home, Endora?”
Rembrandt ran towards Darrin and clutched the sleeve of his jacket. “Help me, kind sir! Take me away from these witches!”
“I’ll send you home if you insist,” Endora offered. “Though I don’t see why you can’t help my daughter first before I take you back to Amsterdam.”
Esmeralda stood up and wiped her nose. “Is that linseed oil I smell?”
Rembrandt turned to face her. “Perhaps it is. I use it to bind the pigments in my paints. I spilled some on my cloak the other day when I was working on a portrait of my father wearing a turban. Though linseed oil is generally considered odorless.”
“My nose is very sensitive,” Esmeralda explained. “And I am highly allergic to all products made of flax. Even the smallest amount of linseed oil can make me…make me…”
She brought her hands to her face and sucked in a deep breath.
Endora raised her hands and flicked her fingers towards Rembrandt at the very same moment that Esmeralda sneezed.
Rembrandt tightened his grip on Darrin’s suit jacket. Samantha turned her head in wonder and examined her strange new surroundings. Endora inspected the long hallway in which she was now standing, then rolled her eyes at the row of identical doorways lining the walls.
Esmerelda started shaking. “Oh dear!” she cried. “What have I done now?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Darrin replied in a sarcastic voice.
“We’re in a hotel, that much is obvious,” Samantha announced.
“We’re in Amsterdam,” Endora added. “That much is obvious too. My directional spells never fail.”
“But I suspect your timing is a little off, Mother,” Samantha said. “I’m sure you meant to send Rembrandt back to the seventeenth century. But this looks like a modern-day hotel.”
“That is not my fault,” Endora insisted. She directed her gaze at Esmeralda and raised her right eyebrow, revealing the huge swath of bright blue eyeshadow on her heavily made-up lid.
Esmeralda pulled a handkerchief out of her apron pocket and rubbed her nose, then offered an apologetic smile to the assembly. “You know I can’t control my magic when I sneeze.”
Rembrandt hid behind Darrin’s back. “She is a witch too! We are surrounded by a coven!”
“Darrin?” called a man in a plaid sports jacket at the far end of the hallway. “Darrin Stephens?” He jogged up to Darrin and smiled broadly.
“Bob?” Darrin replied. “Bob Hutchins? What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same question!” Bob laughed. He extended his hand in greeting. “I’m covering this silly ‘bed-in-for-peace’ for Time magazine.” He shook Darrin’s hand, then turned towards Samantha. “I think I recognize your beautiful wife from your Christmas card photos, Darrin, but who are these other people you’re with?”
“Oh, this is, um…” Darrin stammered. He cleared his throat and coughed awkwardly. “Sam, this is Bob Hutchins. He’s an entertainment reporter for Time magazine, though he got his start working in the Time-Life advertising department. We go way back.”
Samantha smiled and shook Bob’s hand.
“And this is my mother-in-law, Endora,” Darrin added. “And Esmeralda, our, um, housekeeper. And this gentleman is…um…”
“An actor portraying Rembrandt,” Samantha interjected. “Darrin is working on a new advertising proposal for Dutch Boy Paints, and we came to Holland to scout out some location shots he might use in the print campaign.”
“Interesting concept,” Bob said. He eyed Rembrandt quizzically. “Excellent costume you’ve got there,” he noted, then he looked back at Darrin. “You’ve brought a rather odd assortment of assistants with you on your photo shoot. Your wife, your mother-in-law and your maid?”
A brief moment of silence met his remark. Then Samantha laughed nervously. “We’re combining business with pleasure. Making a vacation out of Darrin’s work assignment, don’t you know?”
Bob met her eyes and chuckled. “Just like John Lennon is doing right now, I suppose. Only the other way around. He’s combining pleasure with business.”
The Stephens party stared at Bob with blank expressions.
“John Lennon!” Bob exclaimed. “You know, the Beatle?”
Darrin puffed out his chest. “I know who John Lennon is!” he huffed indignantly. “I just didn’t understand the rest of your statement.”
Bob laughed. “John Lennon just married that Japanese artist he’s been dating – Yoko Ono. And now, instead of going on a proper honeymoon like most couples would, the two of them are staging a ‘bed-in-for-peace’ here at the Amsterdam Hilton. They’ve invited journalists and photographers from all over the world to come to their hotel room and talk with them about the war that’s dragging on in Vietnam, and discuss ways we might end it. They expect us to report on our conversations in the press.”
“What a ridiculous thing to do!” Endora snorted. “What kind of couple would make their honeymoon into a press conference? They must be egomaniacs!”
Samantha shrugged. “I don’t know, Mother. John and Yoko are so famous, they’re bound to have reporters hounding them throughout their honeymoon, invading their privacy. Why shouldn’t they try to flip the tables on the journalists, and redirect some of that attention to a cause they care about?”
Bob smiled at Samantha. “Sounds like you’re buying into this whole wacked-out, groovy ‘bed-in’ of theirs.”
Rembrandt plucked his hat off his head, placed it over his heart, and glowered at Bob. “I do not understand everything that you have said. But if I am correct, and this Japanese artist has found a way to deflect an intrusive group of journalists who were meddling into her private life, and at the same time, open up a public conversation about ending an unpopular war, then I would say she is a genius!”
Bob laughed. “You might be right, Mr. Rembrandt. Though we’ll never know by just standing out here in the corridor. Come on, why don’t you folks join me in their honeymoon suite? I’ve heard from some friends that there’s a regular party going on in there. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a few extra guests.”
Bob pointed at a door at the end of the hallway, then led the Stephens party towards Room 702.
“Actually, my name is not Mr. Rembrandt,” Rembrandt told Bob as they proceeded down the hallway. “Rembrandt is my first name. My full name is Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.”
“Right,” Bob agreed distractedly. “So you’re a method actor, are you?”
“I do not understand your question,” Rembrandt replied.
Bob ignored him and knocked on the door to John and Yoko’s suite. A tall man wearing a pale brown sweater and thick black glasses opened the door. He inspected Bob’s press pass, then ushered the entire Stephens party into the crowded suite.
A cloud of cigarette smoke enveloped them as they stepped through the door.
Esmeralda coughed. “I think perhaps I should wait in there,” she said, pointing to the bathroom.
“Good idea,” agreed Samantha.
“Just look at that horrid, hirsute couple sitting on the bed,” scoffed Endora.
“That’s John and Yoko,” Bob said. “Excuse me, folks, I’m going to see if I can get a few quotes.” He stepped away from Darrin and Samantha.
“Can I get you something to eat or drink?” asked the man in the sweater and glasses.
Samantha smiled at him. “Thank you, no.”
“A stiff drink might come in handy,” said Endora. “I’ve had a frightful day.” She snapped her fingers. A glass tumbler filled with bourbon appeared in her hand.
The man in the sweater stared at her in amazement.
“A small beer would be nice,” Rembrandt said, distracting the Lennons’ assistant away from Endora’s magic. “I’ve had a frightful day as well.”
“C’mon, Sam, let’s stick close to Bob,” urged Darrin. He grabbed Samantha’s hand and led her through the crowd. When they reached the edge of John and Yoko’s bed, they heard Bob interviewing the newlyweds.
“So just what are you trying to accomplish with this ‘bed-in’?” Bob asked.
“We’re only trying to get us some peace,” answered John.
“Shouldn’t you let Henry Kissinger and the diplomats take care of that instead?” Bob challenged.
“We’ve tried that approach,” John replied. “It hasn’t worked.”
“But if the American Secretary of State can’t bring peace to Southeast Asia, how can two artists like yourselves possibly accomplish that task?” Bob continued.
“We’re just trying to show the public that peace is a possibility,” Yoko answered. “Everyone assumes that war is the only answer to our problems, but it’s not. Once we embrace the fact that we want peace, then we can force our elected officials to achieve it. But we have to truly want peace first.”
Rembrandt took a large sip of his beer, then approached the bed and met Yoko’s eye. “War is over, if you want it,” he surmised.
She smiled at him. “Exactly. That’s just what John and I are trying to say.”
The reporters gathered around the bed gave Rembrandt a collective once-over, then started to laugh.
“What’s the deal with your clothes, man?” asked one journalist.
“Who are you trying to emulate?” asked another. “Some bloke from the Dutch Masters cigar box?”
Rembrandt flashed him an angry look. “I am Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, and I purchased these clothes from my family’s tailor.”
The journalists all laughed. A photographer snapped his picture.
Rembrandt blinked at the camera’s flash and staggered backwards. “What is this devilish light that you shine at me? Is there more witchcraft afoot?”
John gestured to the journalists to quiet down, then smiled at Rembrandt. “Actually, I rather fancy your coat. I wouldn’t mind paying a visit to your tailor myself. What’s his address?”
Rembrandt sized up John’s pajamas. “It looks as if you could use some proper clothes.”
The journalists laughed again.
Yoko frowned at the crowd. “Shame on you all! Artists can dress anyway we choose. It’s our prerogative.”
“Right,” John agreed. “Andy Warhol wears a wig. Marcel Duchamp used to dress in drag sometimes. And Salvatore Dali once wore a deep-sea diving suit to present a lecture. So if this gentleman wants to dress as Rembrandt, well, where’s the harm in that? Why not dress like your idol?”
“But I am Rembrandt!” Rembrandt insisted.
“Right!” laughed the photographer. “And I’m Ansel Adams.”
“Loved that painting you did of your dad in the turban,” Bob Hutchins piped in, flashing an impish grin.
“I haven’t finished it yet!” Rembrandt replied. “I only started it last week!”
More laughter ensured. John called the crowd back to order. “Right, now let’s get back on topic. Yoko and I want you all to use the word ‘Peace’ in your headlines when you write your articles about us. And use the word ‘Peace’ in your stories as well. At least ten times!”
“A hundred times!” Yoko exclaimed. “Just keep chanting ‘Peace’ until people start to listen.”
“All we are saying is ‘Give Peace a Chance’!” John added.
“Why should we do your bidding?” challenged an Australian reporter. “We can write our articles any way we choose!”
“Yes, but…” Yoko began.
“The important thing is…” John spoke over her.
“You two don’t need these journalists to promote your message,” Samantha interrupted. “You should advertise!”
The crowd fell silent and stared at Samantha. She blushed, then cleared her throat and focused her gaze at John. “If you rely on the reporters to tell your story, they might twist it in ways you didn’t expect. But if you advertise, then you can control what you say, and how you present your message to the world.”
John stroked his beard and considered her response. “What exactly are you suggesting, love?”
Samantha looked at Darrin. “Well, my husband, Darrin Stephens, is an executive at the McMahon Tate advertising firm on Madison Avenue, and he recommends…”
Darrin stared at Samantha and started to sweat. “I recommend…?” he whispered.
Samantha looked back at John and Yoko. “Billboards! You two should place billboards in busy intersections all over the world, and bring your message of peace directly to the people!”
John and Yoko exchanged glances and smiled, then turned back towards Samantha.
“Great idea, but what should we say?” asked John.
Rembrandt approached the bed. “War is over, if you want it,” he declared.
Yoko clapped her hands. “I can see it now!” she exclaimed. “In big bold letters…”
“In black and white letters,” Rembrandt interrupted. “Stark contrasts improve visibility.”
“Right,” Yoko agreed. “And a sans serif font, for clarity’s sake.”
“And giant letters and an explanation point!” John added. “For attention-grabbing’s sake!”
The crowd of reporters laughed.
John motioned for Samantha and Darrin to step closer to him.
“I love this idea of yours, but Yoko and I need to keep these reporters busy while they’re here,” John whispered. “Could you two please come back for a private meeting in a few hours?”
Darrin nodded. “Right. I will. I mean, we’d love to.”
He grabbed Samantha’s hand and led her back to the front of the room. Rembrandt worked his way through the crowd and joined them by the door. Endora saw them approach and rested her empty glass on the nearest flat surface. “Are you done conversing with the artistes?”
“Yes, Mother,” Samantha said. “Now let’s get out of here.” She stepped towards the door.
“But what about the lady in the toilet?” asked Rembrandt.
“Thanks for reminding me!” Samantha replied. She knocked on the bathroom door.
Esmerelda stepped back into the hotel room, holding a wet towel over her face. “Can we go home now?” she mumbled through the cloth.
“An excellent idea!” Endora exclaimed. She lifted her hand. The door to the hotel suite flung open. The man in the sweater and glasses stared at the doorway in astonishment. The Stephens party stepped into the hallway and shut the door behind them.
“Alright,” Samantha said. “First things first. Esmeralda, I’m sending you back to Connecticut. I need you to watch Tabitha for me. Darrin and I have to stay in Amsterdam for a few more hours to speak to the Lennons.”
Esmeralda nodded. Samantha wriggled her nose. Esmeralda disappeared.
Rembrandt flinched. “The witchcraft resumes!”
Endora grabbed Rembrandt’s elbow. “Nonsense. We’re not witches. We’re just artists whose media are time travel and spacial displacement. Now, I’m going to take you back to your atelier. But first, you must promise to let me visit you sometime so you can paint my portrait.”
“Do I have a choice?” Rembrandt asked.
“No,” Endora replied. She twisted her hand in a graceful, opened-palmed gesture. She and Rembrandt disappeared.
Samantha smiled at Darrin. “Well, everything seems to be in order now.”
Darrin met her eyes and smiled back. “I can’t believe it, Sam! John Lennon wants me to run an international advertising campaign for him! Imagine all the prestige! I can’t wait to tell Larry!”
“You’ll have to wait until we work out the details with John and Yoko,” Samantha replied.
“Yes, of course,” Darrin said. He fidgeted with his tie nervously. “So how shall we pass the time?”
“We could do some sightseeing,” Samantha suggested. “Walk along the canals, or visit the Rijksmuseum. Or…”
She wriggled her nose. A new door appeared on the wall across from them, and a room key appeared in her hand. “Or we could have a ‘bed-in’ of our own.”
Darrin smiled at her. “Well, I suppose we could mix a little pleasure with business,” he agreed.
Samantha turned the key in the lock. “Pity about Rembrandt though,” she said as she opened the door. “He left before he could advise us on what color to paint our kitchen!”
* * *
Based on the television series “Bewitched” (1964 to 1972) and John and Yoko’s ‘Bed-In’ for Peace.