Back in the Day

Sandy Shelton Williams



“A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Oh wait, wrong classic.

The truth is that I really feel like that sometimes when I think about “Beauty and the Beast” fandom. When I was contacted about sharing some memories about the “good old days” , I was both honored and deeply touched. I was also very happy that the Crystal Rose Lending Library will live on. I know both JoAnn Grant and Jan Sutter are smiling down on those involved with that project. God bless them.

Okay, here I go. In 1987, I was awestruck and completely enchanted by a new tv show called “Beauty and the Beast”. Like most of you, I found myself swept up in the romance and beauty of the show. The tunnel world intrigued me. But all too soon, I was devastated at the way that romance and inspiration was ended.

Back then, very few of us had computers and no one I knew had internet or email. All news of the show was gathered and shared by Nan Dibble’s Helper’s Network Hotline. That was where I heard about a fan group in NC called, “The Crystal Rose”. There was an address and phone number, and so I decided to seek the solace of other fans. I was amazed at how quickly I received a letter from JoAnn Grant (yes, snail mail). The letter was very upbeat and welcoming.

We corresponded a lot and then finally started calling each other. In those days, your phone bill was like making a car payment. They ate up a huge part of your budget. JoAnn wowed me with stories of conventions and thousands of other fans out there like myself. She introduced me to fanzines and pretty soon, I was hooked.

JoAnn GrantFor those of you who never had the pleasure of meeting JoAnn, let me say this. JoAnn had a way of drawing you into things. She and Vicki were starting a newsletter. Yes, an honest to goodness paper newsletter that had to be mailed out by snail mail. Sounds barbaric doesn’t it? Of course, they needed articles and features for the newsletter, so she talked me into reviewing fanzines. That worked for me because I got to read a lot of fanzines in the guise of “reviewing them”. Back then, you either went broke buying fanzines or you and some friends exchanged them. JoAnn dreamed of having a central lending library where fans could borrow the fanzines for the cost of postage. It started out modestly and then grew steadily as both fanzine writers and fans contributed copies.

The newsletter became very successful and demands on our time were increasing. The articles had to be typed, the graphics added, and the mailing lists maintained.
We had contributors who submitted art, poetry, articles and short stories. In the end, it was truly a group effort, and we had a great group of ladies contributing.
I enjoyed working with all of them.

At one point, I made a comment to Joann about storylines that I thought were interesting and wondered why no one had written them. Of course, JoAnn jumped on that and “encouraged” me to write them. Sounded like a simple suggestion to her but not so simple for me. I finally worked up the courage and wrote a simple short story for the newsletter. It was well received and so I began writing more and more with JoAnn’s encouragement. The short stories became longer and we finally decided to put together our own fanzine with contributions from others in the club.

Let me tell you friends, every word that I ever wrote for the newsletter or for the fanzine was written by hand on a legal pad as I stretched out on the couch after a hard day at work. I would, at times, have hundreds of pages of scribbled stories scattered all around me. I would spend hours outlining, working out plotlines, marking through things that didn’t work until that particular scene was done to my satisfaction. That was the first draft. The second phase was typing them up, editing, proofreading, editing again and so on. After several people had proofed it, the art was collected, fit into the storylines, and then all was sent to the printer.

I won’t get into much more of the creative process here but being an editor and author of a fanzine back in those days took hours and hours of hard work and devotion. Something your family doesn’t always understand. Of course, we always had some fun with it too. Hence, Chandler’s story of Vincent wrapping the “clock” around Catherine’s shoulders.

Artwork was hard to come by. There were great artists out there but the demand for their work to illustrate fanzines was great. I contacted Susan Krinard early on and she consented to do a couple of covers for us. For those of you who don’t know the name, Sue was a fanzine writer and artist in early fandom. She is now a professional romance novel writer. I remember exchanging letters with her in which she talked about preparing her manuscripts and hoping that they wouldn’t be rejected. We kept in touch for years and through several of her first novels. I still have the original art she submitted framed and hanging on my wall.

JoAnn and Vicki would travel to conventions to sell our fanzines and recruit new members. They would bring back tee shirts, bags, autographs, new fanzines, etc. for me and then tell me about the celebrities they’d met. After the Orlando convention, JoAnn called me
Sandy Shelton AND Sandy Sheltonand said she’d met an up and coming artist. I remember asking her name and she replied, “Sandy Shelton”. I laughed and commented that I couldn’t draw stick figures with a ruler. That’s when I found out about Chandler. JoAnn sent me some samples of her work, and I immediately contacted her. We formed a fast and rewarding friendship that lasted through several fanzines, newsletters, conventions and some great loss.

I actually got to meet Chandler for the first time when she came down for a visit to her family in Tennessee. She did a little side trip to North Carolina, and JoAnn and Vicki came up from Charlotte. That visit was where some of my favorite pictures were taken. My particular favorite was one of Chandler and me in a deep discussion while she had the drawing pad out sketching. We were working out the illustrations for one of my stories. Over the next few years, we did that a lot.

The Crystal Rose Fan Club membersMy first convention was the one in Vegas in 1994. I had just lost my mother and JoAnn talked me into getting away for a while. I was the wild eyed newbie who was totally overwhelmed by the fact that many of the show’s cast and crew attended these things. I brought my trusty camera and documented so much of fandom’s history that weekend. Several members of our group were also there, and it was quite a blast for all of us. Back then there would be hundreds of like-minded fans all running between the Dealer’s Room, the Art Room and the various discussion groups, autograph lines and so on. For a small town girl, it was quite an adventure.

JoAnn kept expanding the library, we all worked on, and contributed to, the newsletter and editing fanzines was almost a full time job. An inside joke with us was rolling our eyes whenever JoAnn would say, “I’ve got an idea.” That comment inspired Chandler’s cartoon. It always meant more work but her ideas never failed and all the work brought us closer together. We were a close knit group back then.

Pilgrimage at the Drainage TunnelMy second convention was the big one in Los Angeles. That year, the crowd was huge and we had so many of the stars. That was the first time I saw Ron Perlman up close and personal. We were also entertained by Ren Woods, Edward Albert and charmed by Jay Acovone and Roy Dotrice. To me, that was the peak.

As usual, I took pictures there and with JoAnn’s urging worked up the nerve to get interviews with some of the stars. That year, I spoke with Caitlin O’Heaney, David Greenlee, and Linda Campanelli. We also visited Griffith Park for the first time. I have a lot of great photos of Chandler on the carousel there. Of course, we paid a visit to the “tunnel entrance”.

My last convention was in Norfolk, VA. Our club actually volunteered to help run the convention. That was the first and only one we ever “worked”. I remember that year Chandler was in charge of the art room, and I spent hours helping her hang art. Joann and I had the pleasure of “dressing” Vincent and Catherine in costumes they actually wore in “Masques”. We had a LOT of fun with that.

I have two memories from that convention that are priceless to me. One is the nurturing and support that I witnessed between JoAnn and Chandler. The second one also involves Chandler. There was a particular drawing of Catherine that she had done for one of our fanzines that I really admired. At the time, I didn’t have the cash to buy it. After we got home, I received a package from Oscoda. Chandler had shipped me the original drawing as a gift. I have three of her works hanging in my house to this day.

JoAnn Grant showing the SND zine "Love has not forgotten you", written by Sandy P. Shelton, illustrated by Sandy C. SheltonJoAnn and I planned to attend the convention in Florida some time after that, but due to JoAnn’s health, we didn’t get to go. We always talked about going to another one but just never made it.

Over the next few years, we published several fanzines, converted to a website, won a few awards and the library grew and grew. Finally, JoAnn just didn’t have the space to keep it up and she found a wonderful volunteer in Jan. She did an outstanding job with the library. I’m sure many fans got to experience the world of fanzines because of the work of these two ladies. I remember how proud JoAnn was of that library and the work Jan did.

Writing fanzines was therapy for me. I hated the direction the show took but, through my zines, the story had a happy ending. There came a time when I felt I had no other stories to tell. Work was taking more of my time, and I started dating my future husband. As Vincent would say, “The time has come for you to leave the safety of this world and have a happy life.” I took that advice.

I stayed in touch with JoAnn and occasionally with Chandler by email. When I left to get married on the beach, I remember JoAnn sent me one of Chandler’s note cards. All she said was, “Be happy.” She passed away while I was on my honeymoon. I grieved her loss and still miss her today. I spoke with Chandler about it and, little did I know, she would soon be lost to us as well.

I have so many more memories about those days as well as scrapbooks and mementos that I’d really love to share when the time is right. That time with the “Ladies of the Crystal Rose” helped me through the loss of both of my parents by helping me find the confidence to go on. In Vincent’s words, “You have the strength. I know you.”

No article I could ever write could fully express how I feel about those times. They are forever a part of me. That club and those ladies will always live in my heart. Our club motto was “Sharing the Light”. The reopening of this lending library does just that. I wish the best to all those involved. If I can be of any assistance, just ask. That’s what helpers do.

Sandy Shelton Williams
September 25, 2011

.Sandy C. Shelton (Chandler) and JoAnn Grant in front of the costumes of Vincent and Catherine
Sandy Chandler Shelton and JoAnn Grant

a tribute video to the Crystal Rose Ladies


And a last gift from Sandy Shelton Williams.



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