Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, <EM>Beauty and the Beast</EM> Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, Beauty and the Beast

Question: I can't remember the name of the actor who played the beast on the TV series Beauty and the Beast. I am told this actor recorded poetry to music from the show. I would like to find a copy of this recording, but according to the retail stores, they need to order using his name. When browsing the Web, all I find are facts about the movie. Help!

Answer: Not only can I tell you the name of the actor, Karen, but I'll also throw in the name of the album. Actor Ron Perlman (Hellboy), who played romantic, lion-faced underdweller Vincent in the CBS cult favorite, read poetry amid cuts of music from the show on Capitol Records' Beauty and the Beast: Of Love and Hope. And you're in luck, since Ryko has rereleased it and offers it for sale on its site.

That show certainly had its rabid fans, though I must admit that to me the phenomenon was rather baffling. Not that it was a bad show, mind you, but it was largely what a friend of mine would bluntly call "a chick thing," a phenomenon as easy for me to understand as my sitting through yeah, seeking out back-to-back episodes of Cops is to my wife.

But there's no denying Beauty's appeal to the hard-core romantics in the audience (and judging by the raging success of such genre films as Runaway Bride, Sleepless in Seattle and Jerry Maguire, there are plenty of them out there). From the moment Perlman's hulking Vincent found wounded attorney Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton, best known for her work in the Terminator movies) in Central Park and took her down into his subterranean kingdom to nurse her back to health in September 1987, fans were hooked. Vincent was the thinking woman's dreamboat the secretive, poetry-spouting hero who sensed whenever his love was in danger and appeared out of nowhere to save her. The only drawback: You can't take him home to dinner with the parents or out to happy hour with the girlfriends. But hey who said love is easy?

"I like that he's there whenever she needs him, but still he's not there," said one magazine editor in 1988 of the Catherine-Vincent relationship. (He stayed underground during the day and ventured out to meet or rescue his love at night.) "I love his fangs, I love his claws, the way he climbs up the side of the building to her terrace, and to save her when she's in trouble. He's never around, but he's always there when she wants him to be. It's like a marriage." Now, all speculation on the nature of that particular fan's domestic situation aside, that pretty much sums up the appeal of the character to the average Beast-o-phile. (Yeah, I made that term up just now what of it?)

Funny thing is, when the role came Perlman's way, the actor wanted nothing to do with it, especially after hiding behind extensive facial work for his efforts as a hunchback in The Name of the Rose and a prehistoric man in Quest for Fire. "I had explored everything there was to explore about sitting in a makeup chair for five hours a day," he told TV Guide of his reaction when manager Erwin More presented the project to him. "I told him I didn't even want him to mention it again, that I would not even look at the script. I said, 'Just leave me alone.' So Erwin, who just hangs on my every word, dropped the script on my doorstep. Before I had even finished the second act, I called Erwin and said, 'What do I have to do to play this guy?'"

He wasn't alone in his reaction to the character, either. After Hamilton's Catherine bore Vincent's son and was then killed off, CBS suits considered canceling Beauty, which had finished its second season in 55th place in the ratings. Fans sent more than 7,300 telegrams to the network in support of their show and, once it returned to the airwaves with Jo Anderson as the new female lead, they posted flyers in public places and organized a fax campaign to keep people watching. (This was before the Web and e-mail, remember.) Enthusiasts started up more than 50 fan clubs, which boasted a combined membership of 350,000, and launched at least 90 magazines and newsletters. They credited the series with inspiring them to devote their time and money to charitable works, and one Dominican nun even told TV Guide she felt the series served a religious purpose.

Unfortunately, such titanic efforts only went so far and the show was canceled in August 1990. But fans had kept it on long enough to see the evil Gabriel (Stephen McHattie), who killed Catherine, get his, after which Vincent returned to his underground domain with his son. And the show lives on online, where fans continue to maintain extensive Beauty sites and shrines. Why the long-lasting draw? A 24-year-old secretary said it best when she answered: "He's sincere, tenderhearted and intelligent," she said midway through the show's run. "And his voice... so he's a little ugly, so what?"