Back in the Day
For those of you who know me already, you know how much "Beauty and the Beast" became a part of my life. For those of you who don't know me, let me give you a little background. In 1987, I was in the US Air Force, had just spent the last two years in England, and was being transferred to a post in Colorado, when the pilot of the show aired. I initially watched it because I had an interest in makeup artistry, and thought that Vincent's character makeup looked really cool. But Vincent himself crawled into my brain and took up permanent residence, so to speak. I had always enjoyed reading and watching fantasy and science fiction stories, but never had anything prompted me to get involved in such a personal way.
So, what was it like to be a fan of "Beauty and the Beast" from its inception? It was, and has been to this day, a kaleidoscope of feelings, triggered by all kinds of events and circumstances.
One of the strongest feelings, from early on, was a sense of community. In the fan clubs and at cons, over the phone, through letters, newsletters, and 'zines, there was a sense of belonging to an extended family, where talents and triumphs could be shared and appreciated. Our connection to the show and the characters made it possible for us to find and nurture connections with each other. And like any family, we had disputes and divergent priorities, and our fair share of strange "relatives", but we generally continued to let our common love for the show bring us together.
There were many moments of excitement as well. Cast members, writers, and even Ron Koslow himself visited us at conventions, and were almost universally pleasant and gracious to the fans. Awards were given to many writers and artists, and the hope of a feature film comeback loomed large for a few years, though sadly it has yet to come to pass. But just meeting distant friends face-to-face was a new thrill to many over the years.
Once I began portraying Vincent myself, there were lots of funny and poignant moments. I was asked to give autographs several times, by folks believing me to be Ron in costume. I went outside the confines of the cons and events we attended, and startled and amazed many people. Many fans were delighted and encouraged by my portrayal of their favorite character after the show was cancelled, and I was humbled to have such attention lavished upon me.
As a writer, I also had many pleasant experiences. Ron Perlman commented on my first published poem in a fan club newsletter given him during a set visit. Years later, Roy Dotrice used another poem of mine to entertain guests at a Tunnelcon banquet. I received many words of encouragement and praise for 'zine stories and poems that I wrote, and still try to write now whenever I can.
Often, there was a feeling of pride. I was lucky to participate in events that raised thousands of dollars for many worthwhile charities. I was always amazed at the generosity of the fandom at auctions and raffles. And on a smaller scale, my wife and I, and other fans, often reached out to individuals in need, within the fandom and outside of it.
There were also feelings of challenge and empowerment. We were challenged to do more and become more as people. Folks who never had before, suddenly developed interests in Shakespeare, classical music, sign language, issues like homelessness, child and spouse abuse, the welfare of the elderly and disabled. And we became convinced that one person can make a difference.
Of course, not all was sweetness and light. All fandoms are made up of fallible human beings, with all their flaws and faults. There were power struggles and rivalries, sometimes over petty issues. People who wanted attention and accolades for themselves sometimes trampled others in order to get them. We suffered through our share of heartbreak, lost money, and other assorted disasters at the hands of people who didn't share the spirit of the fan community. Most who brought negativity to the fandom eventually moved on; unfortunately, some good people also left the fandom because of the negative attitudes and behaviors they saw or had inflicted upon them.
And as a man in an overwhelmingly female fandom, I had many...educational experiences. And once I began portraying Vincent, those experiences became more frequent and intense. I became a focus for many hidden thoughts and feelings seeking release, and the attention was amazing and discomforting in turns, with an occasion detour into the bizarre. I found that women, like men, can be kind or cruel, generous or miserly, talented, obnoxious, sensual, senseless, quiet, brazen, intelligent, stupid, or all of the above at different times. The major difference between the genders, I feel, is simply in how all of these things achieve expression in people.
So, what was it like? Pretty much like life in general - unpredictable. There was a lot of love and hope (pun intended!), and moments of great joy. Sometimes it seemed a bit like madness, more than a little crazy, especially in the eyes of my mundane friends and family. There's plenty worth forgetting, and plenty worth remembering, and what we've kept along the way has, for the most part, been worth keeping.
Finally, this show, these characters, and this fandom, gave me a great many things for which I am eternally grateful. It brought me one wonderful friend, who turned out to be my soulmate, my own personal Catherine, who consented to become my wife. We have a marriage that improves with each passing day, deeper and richer than anything I could ever have imagined without Vincent's help. Together, we have a beautiful son. Through the years, we made many friends in this fandom, and enjoyed many wonderful moments that would not have been possible any other way. I consider myself deeply blessed, and wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world.