The village of Beauty and the Beast
Nowadays, the saying, “It takes a village” is popular. It brings up images of a simpler time, a time when groups of people lived together for their whole lives and knew each other very well. A time when your neighbor was perhaps as close as your family.
That time is long gone. Families live far apart, or if they don’t live far apart, they often have issues why they don’t see each other more often. People also change jobs every few years and never care enough to get to know their co-workers.
In my view, Beauty & the Beast Fandom has become a Village of sorts. Beauty & the Beast doesn’t just refer to a television show that was canceled by CBS executives a long time ago. It is a living community that has become The Village of my life.
Beauty & the Beast fans are not connected by geography, but by something much stronger. We are connected by passion.
My family was not big on travel. In the early nineties, when I discovered Fandom and conventions, my dad was the only one in our family who had even been on a plane. He was forced to fly several times throughout his time in the U.S. Army but didn’t like it one bit. When we went on family vacations, it was always someplace we could drive to. This meant that it was always someplace on the East Coast. Traveling anywhere else was not really even on my radar.
So my first real fan-run convention, South of Oz in 1991, was not just my first foray into the world of sci-fi conventions in general, and Beauty & the Beast Fandom in particular, it was also my first plane ride and the first inkling that, unlike my family, I had a love of travel.
I had the sense of a Village right away. I felt at home among strangers in a world that I never even knew existed. I felt at home in a way that I never even felt among friends in my geographical area. In the early days, yes, there was conflict between the Classic and Third Season fans, but even that didn’t deter me. I am a person who normally does not like conflict but I still had the unmistakable feeling that I truly belonged at Beauty & the Beast conventions.
My memories of South of Oz are nothing short of magical. The Friday night costumes were incredible. I remember there being dozens of Catherines – each one from a different episode – it was really joyous to see them all together. In those days, any sign that Catherine wasn’t dead was enough to make me giddy with happiness.
The banquet the following night was equally amazing. I was still new to fan made music videos – having seen maybe only one or two previously at Creation conventions in New York City. The three shown at the South of Oz banquet just blew me away. The first was to the song, “The Story of My Life” by Neil Diamond and focused on Vincent, the second was some comic relief to “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and focused on Catherine. The last was “That’s What Friends Are For” featuring all the Tunnel characters. They hit on all the right emotions - and threatened to overwhelm me in a way I had never experienced before.
But that wasn’t all – there was also a reading by Sue Glasgow that was accompanied by a wonderful shadow play. It spoke of the legacy Vincent and Catherine would have in the Tunnels. Years later, I learned that my new roommate, Cyndi, played Catherine in that shadow play.
Unfortunately, a lot of people at that convention did not get to meet Ron Perlman, but I was one of the lucky ones. I remember waiting in a very long line. Finally, I got up to the door of the room where he was signing. I had only just taken a step inside the doorway when security came and closed the door – cutting off the line right behind me. I remember feeling bad – like - who am I? – so new to everything – that I should meet him when others could not? But there was nothing I could do except focus on the task at hand.
He seemed to be rushed, like he was just signing as fast as he could because he had to catch a plane or something. But I found the courage to say, “Thank you for being so wonderful as Vincent, you really touched my heart.” And that seemed to stop him in his tracks. He paused in his writing, looked up at me, smiled and shook my hand.
It has been only recently, that I’ve fully realized how meeting celebrities at conventions has been such a good thing for a once painfully shy girl. Right from that very first Creation con in NYC, where Jay Acavone was the only guest, I felt like I must reach out to the people from this show that touched me so much - no matter how scary it seemed. This was highly unusual for me. Up until that point in my life, I would just as soon not approach a VIP of any kind. And when you are shy, a “VIP” could be almost anyone with any kind of authority or different experience than you.
Even though I only did it once a year at B&B cons, I seemed to get better at it. Now, I can go to non-B&B cons and meet perhaps bigger names and still feel comfortable saying a few words to them. In fact, if fate contrives a situation where I don’t get the chance to say what’s on my mind – I actually feel let down!
This is not the case for everyone, I have come to realize. I talked to someone recently that would not even think about approaching a celebrity that they had admired for years. Even having been very shy, I cannot understand this thinking. They are denying themselves a lot of joy, in my opinion, but, I suppose that without the “practice” of B&B cons that could very easily have been me.
As I look back over the years, I know that each Beauty and the Beast convention is special in its own way. I feel like each one had its challenge and its blessing. The challenge is something that I have to overcome to get there. In the early days it was usually the nerves of flying. I remember the year the con was in Norfolk, VA and there were threats of a hurricane. I still can’t believe I got on the plane that year.
The blessing is some amazing moment or event that I could never have imagined happening while sitting here at home in New Jersey. True – there are many, many special moments at every con – but the blessing is something truly extraordinary.
For example, the way I met each of my roommates. Or, getting to wear Catherine’s velvet costume from the Pilot. Sometimes it’s seeing sights in cities that I never thought I’d see: Riding a cable car in San Francisco, walking on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, going to DisneyWorld for the very first time at the 1999 Orlando con, going to Disneyland for the very first time at the 1995 Los Angles con.
There was being able to visit the Carousel and Tunnel Entrance in Griffith Park! The first time that happened, I remember being completely overwhelmed with emotion and having to duck into the restroom for a few minutes to compose myself. All these adventures far surpassed any great expectations I may have had going into them.
But there were also complete surprises – like thinking that the Mall of America wasn’t going to be anything special at the 1997 Minneapolis con – and realizing - with a thrill - that I was wrong! I have dreamt about going back there for years – and finally got my wish at this year’s 2014 Minneapolis con.
I had approached South of Oz largely with the attitude that I would just attend this ONE convention – just to, you know, have the experience. But I would not need to go to any others. I can remember shortly after getting home from South of Oz, getting a flyer in the mail for TunnelCon II in Las Vegas the next year. Back in those days there were no announcements for the next con during the convention weekend. There was no early registration – but that was okay because back then, I don’t think I could have handled planning for the next year while experiencing all the magic of the current one!
I took one look at the illustration on the TunnelCon II flyer – it was a beautiful drawing of Vincent and Catherine riding a carousel horse. On closer inspection I noticed that Catherine was holding the Golden Ring. I knew then that I was going. Las Vegas – Sin City – seemed a lot harder to explain to my parents than Orlando. Not to mention a lot farther away. But I knew I would find a way to get there. And I did.
I have been finding a way ever since. I hope to always find a way to come home to My Village. It is a place to grow, a place to feel safe, a place to feel love. It’s a place where our “fake” real lives take a back seat for a time and we can get in touch with what is real and true in ourselves and in the world. It is a place where people who might speak different languages can find a common language. It is a place to step outside your comfort zone - and find joy in doing so.
This Beauty & the Beast Village is also a place where one feels the need to give back for all you have been given. This feeling is so strong that, in my case, I felt the need to organize a con myself - even though I had no experience at doing such a thing. This Beauty & the Beast Village is a place where you just trust that all will work out if you do your best – and it really does happen!
I am very grateful for The Village of my life.