Monday, January 27, 2014

Doll-A-Day 27: Mrs. Beasley,her history, my life long love, and a Yard Sale Tale

  Today's doll is Mrs. Beasley.Beware:this is a long post. If it shows up for you like it does for me, you'll have to click 'read more'.


 
  Mrs. Beasley has had a very long shelf life, especially considering that she was just a toy on a TV show that only aired for 5 years in the first place, the last of which was 42 years ago. The TV show was "Family Affair". It began in 1966, when I was 4 years old. I looooved Mrs. Beasley and spent my life yearning for one. She was on every Christmas and birthday list until I grew out of her I suppose. (I know you'll catch me saying that about a few things, but it's true. When I want something I REALLY want it!)
  Mrs. Beasley began life as a Rushton "Jill" doll, (as in "Jack and..."). 


Anissa Jones as Buffy with the original Rushton Jill as Mrs. Beasley.
My perfect Beasley. What? Read on.

    Somewhere along the way the doll was changed to the Mrs. Beasley we know and love, made by Mattel. These days Mattel would have to license the look of Rushton's Jill  or get sued.  I guess you could get away with more then!
The original Beasley.


    The full size 21" Mrs. Beasley doll is a pull string talker.She says 11 different phrases, like "Do you want to try on my glasses?" Her voice was by an actress named Georgia Schmidt, who people remember mostly as the first Talosian on Star Trek.


The pull string talking Beasley was produced for several years, beginning in 1967. She actually outlived the show she was from.Mrs. Beasley was so popular that she was sold in several other forms, including paper dolls,a talking rag doll version with yarn hair...
 
As in this 1974 catalog ad.

...and a smaller Beasley that came with a 10" talking Buffy doll.(10" Buffy had the same head as the Mattel Small Talk dolls.
This is from the 1969 Wards catalog.
 I don't have much interest in the rag doll, but I eventually warmed to the talking Buffy and little Beasley. I also own some loose paper dolls,and the book Buffy and the New Girl.




I didn't know about any of those as a kid except the large talking doll. But I did own the Tutti sized Buffy with the tiny Mrs. Beasley.

This is my childhood Buffy and Bease with the 10" talking Buffy and her Bease.My poor Buffy was brought out of storage and her head was turning brown and her socks had  nasty brown stains on them. I removed her head, and found that her neck wires were rusting I lightened her head by leaving it in the sun for a few weeks, and painted her neck wires with clear nail polish. It took them ages to dry---they stayed sticky for ages---but when they finally dried I put her head back on. She hasn't returned to the advanced brown state she was in when I found her, so, for the moment at least, her disease is contained.The nail polish keeps the metal wires from coming in contact with her vinyl head, and I guess it stops them from emitting as much of the gases that turn the vinyl dark.
I got tiny Buffy and Beasley one Christmas in place of the talking Mrs. Beasley I had asked for.I was SO disappointed. I'm glad I have them now, and I did enjoy playing with them. They just weren't that Mrs. Beasley I wanted so badly. Buffy is 6" tall and uses the same body as the Mattel Tutti, Todd, and Chris dolls. (Tutti and Todd were Barbie's little twin brother and sister, and Chris was their friend.) I think the face mold may be the same too, but then I'm still trying to decide if the Tutti and Chris molds are the same and just look different because they're painted differently. Buffy's dress and polka dot bloomers are almost identical to Tutti's "Walkin' My Dolly" outfit. The difference is that Tutti's dress is slightly shorter and the skirt is more gathered at the waist so that it flares out more, and the Walking my Dolly dress has a Tutti tag inside.
Non childhood, but better condition Buffy with Walking My Dolly Tutti.

Here are the three together: My childhood Buff, other Buff, and WMD Tutti. Ken shot down my identification information by pointing out that my old Buffy has the short, Tutti style dress.Well, I know it's her original, and that Tutti's has a Tutti tag in it,and besides,it doesn't quite flare out as much as Tutti's, and that's the difference I READ anyway, and...SHUT UP KEN!

  This set was released around the same time as the 3 "Pretty Pairs" sets, and while it could have fit the theme of a doll with her own doll, it wasn't a "Pretty Pairs" set.The pretty pairs also had Tutti's body and included Angie and Tangie, Nan and Fran, and Lori and Rori.The only one I own is Angie, which was our Doll of the Day recently.

Pretty Pairs Angie.

  The Mrs. Beasley that came with Tutti style Buffy is about 3" tall. Her collar and skirt are removeable, as are her glasses. (The same goes for the slightly larger Beasley that came with the talking Buffy doll. In fact, they are the same glasses. They didn't make different sized glasses for the different sized mini Beasleys.) 
 
Tiny Buffy: "Holy cow! What have you been eating?!"


That removeable factor is why you almost NEVER see one of these Beasleys with glasses. The larger ones were hard enough to keep track of, as evidenced by the fact that they are few and far between too. The tiny glasses are the same as the ones that came with a vintage Francie (Barbie's 'MODern cousin') outfit and Skipper's Right in Style.

Tiny Beasley and slightly bigger Beasley: "You're wearing my glasses!" Skipper, in Right in Style, feels trapped. 

I lost my glasses as a kid. I'm sure if they were left on the floor Mom threw them away or vacuumed them up.
  As I said,when I got tiny Buffy and Beasley for Christmas I was so disappointed, but these days I'm glad I have them,and I did like them at the time.But that tiny Beasley hardly made up for the big full sized Beasley I wanted to hold in my arms. The only advantages? Now we had somebody who could wear the Ricky jeans we got from our cousin Sis, and I had somebody who could drive my real metal  tractor.Buffy spent a lot of time discing and manure spreading.  
  Unfortunately, especially considering what I would say is a shortage of male dolls, Mattel never made a doll of "Buffy's" twin brother "Jody". I suppose their technique for rooting curly hair   wasn't up to snuff in those days. 
Think what a disaster THAT could have been...


 Even though Family Affair ended in 1971, Mrs. Beasley continued to be produced until 1972. (And apparently sold even longer. See below.)
"You'll know me from TV's Family Affair" even though you're just a little kid and it ended 2 years ago. This is from a 1973 catalog.

In 2000 Ashton Drake manufactured a new Mrs. Beasley doll based on the original Mattel version. I have one word to describe that doll.
Gross!



  Ken and I bought one online and I was so excited! I was finally going to have a Mrs. Beasley, and a NEW one! When she came in the mail it was that Christmas all over again. Maybe worse. This Beasley wasn't ANYTHING like the old one. Whereas the Mattel Beasley had a warm looking peachy face, this thing had a weirdly painted pink face. Any ding at all was going to show up badly and probably remove the paint. Her clothes were stiff, and the yellow trim on her collar and apron was an ugly mustardy gold colour. Her feet were the same nasty mustardy gold and NOT made of flannel. (I realize not all Beasley feet were flannel, but they were at least soft and yellow.) Her hair wasn't even as good as it looks in this ad picture. It was straight and slicked back. NO bangs.Her voice had even been rerecorded, by Cheryl Ladd, of all people. (She's a Charlie's Angel, not an old lady!)I was really upset. Fortunately, she was also not NRFB, as she had been advertised, so I was able to return her. I was determined to hold out for the real thing.
   After the "success" of the new Beasley doll, Ashton Drake produced a porcelain Mrs. Beasley and the "Me and Mrs. Beasley" doll set.

 Buy The Ashton-Drake Galleries Me And Mrs. Beasley Doll here
  It contained a cute Buffy doll with a mini Beasley, and a great tiny reproduction Family Affair lunch box.(Because every kid carries a lunchbox with their own picture on it.) They also made blown glass Mrs. Beasley ornaments. I'm not much on blown glass character ornaments, so so far I have managed to resist them.

 I did finally get my Mrs. Beasley. Ken bought me one online about 12 or 13 years ago. 

Here she is. Not perfect, but a loving gift for a life time of yearning.

She has a couple of chewed fingers and no clothes,but she was my first Beasley and I wouldn't part from her.(Ivy loved her so much when she was tiny she was Mrs. Beasley for Halloween one year.  I painted all the dots on her costume by hand because I couldn't find the right fabric...or sew.)   But just because I loved my first Beasley doesn't  mean I was adverse to up grading! I got all excited when I spotted this one  a while afterward online for a good price.
Second attempt at the ultimate Beasley.

 Not so much when she arrived. 


Her hair is lemon blonde and very curly, her head is small,her clothes are too pale, and her feet are down right icky! They look like shaved flannel.

And hey! Who stole the back of her collar?! I've been told these are the Canadian Beasleys. Poor Canadians.Well, I've warmed to her over the years.
And then there were two.

 But I kept working on it...

"I'm melting!" Beasley number three.I removed all her innards to clean her. I'll put them back now that I've found my working talk boxes.
  And working on it.Which brings me to a favourite 


  One day, back when Emma was still in High School, (She'll be 23 this June.), I got Ken out early and started on the sales. Emma, who is also a doll collector,had an early dismissal from  school that day. We picked her up around lunch time. We had a leisurely lunch out, with only one of our three kids for a change. After lunch I stopped at more sales on the way home. Ken and Emma were complaining, wanting to get home before it was time to start picking the other two kids up from school. And besides, they complained,it's late in the day. All the good stuff will be gone anyway. I  pooh poohed them and drove us  to one more sale.   
  Ken was tired of yard saling and wouldn't get out of the car. Emma and I got out and the first thing we spotted was a Deluxe Reading kitchen.(Unfortunately, the one like Penny Brite's, and not the really cool Barbie size one.) Then we saw it. Boxes of dolls. Boxes and boxes of dolls.We started digging and it became clear that a supply of money was going to be needed. I sent Emma to get Ken. Before she had gone very many feet I looked down into a box and spotted blue fabric with white polka dots. In something of a trance, I reached in and grabbed an arm and pulled. Out came a beautiful Beasley. I held her up and just said, "Emma!" Emma, halfway down the driveway, looked back. She understood my awe and headed for the car. The Beasley  was what I had always wanted: dark blue, flannel feet,and she had her clothes. The only thing that could have made her more perfect would have been------one of the ladies running the sale flew at me. "Her glasses should be in there somewhere." I just stood there while she reached down into the box and pulled out Bease's glasses! It was Christmas, and I was about 5 years old. Ok, the glasses had a broken spot. I could ignore that. 
  Emma and I went through everything and eventually our piles rivaled not only each other, but  the Himalaya's. We found some good stuff, but nothing topped The Bease. When we finished  we had to go through everything with the ladies and get prices because some of the stuff wasn't priced. I didn't see the piece of masking tape on Bease's hand so I asked for a price. The lady who had owned her as a child said, looking at the tape,"Well, I was asking $5, but," she looked at me apologetically,"Three?" 


I still run into the lady sometimes and she always recognizes me. I'm glad to let her know her Beasley found a good home.

My perfect Beasley, home at last.The break in her glasses is on the left, where the leg joins the eye part.
This picture is a little washed out, but she's really a nice shade of blue.With flannel feet!
 
My dream Beasley with Canadian Girl. I'm starting to feel sorry for Canadian Girl!

 
My girls.Good example of the different shades of blue fabric,and blonde hair.




I've even made a couple of Mrs. Beasleys myself. Here are the two miniature Beasleys I'm putting on Ebay soon.



This Beasley is just over 2" tall.


But she's less than an inch and a half sitting down.


This is the smaller of the two.
She's about an inch and a half tall. Both have cloth clothes,polymer clay heads and hands, felt feet,poseable arms and legs, and removeable glasses, in case you were the kid who lost the glasses and you want your miniature Beasley to reflect that! And that fabric had some dots on it, but not nearly enough. Most of those dots were painted by hand. No wonder I need glasses now!
  Sadly, Mrs. Beasley has had a much longer life than little Anissa Jones, her loving "Buffy". After an unsettled childhood Anissa Jones died of a drug overdose at the age of 18, in 1976. Johnny Whitaker, who played Buffy's twin Jody carried on acting after Family Affair, appearing in several Disney movies,the Christmas special "The Littlest Angel", and the classic Sid and Marty Krofft series "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters". Today he works as a substance abuse counselor, teaches acting classes, and occasionally appears at conventions to meet fans and sign autographs.
















13 comments:

  1. Other than the one being from canada, how come the other's hair differs in color? Also do you notice that on any of them that the white dots are smaller on the apron and collar than the dots on the body?

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    1. I suppose the others have differing hair colours because Mattel wasn't so particular about the hair they used for Beasley, as long as it was close.Mattel was notorious for making Barbie fashions with more than one print of fabric if they ran out of the original, so I guess it's sort of the same thing. As for the Canadian Beasley,she was probably made at a factory that produced the dolls exclusively for Canada and they used materials more easily available to them that weren't necessarily exactly like the American stuff. I was told these were Canadian Beasleys by a guy who does Beasley repair and is something of an expert, so I took his word for it.She has a number of other differences too though,which I mentioned in the post, so she is quite different. I haven't come across the problem you mentioned with the dots being a different size on the collar/skirt and body. It could be that someone used a collar or skirt from a different doll which had a slightly different fabric, or they could be replacement clothes, as people do sell those. I hope I've answered your questions.

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  2. One of the bigger pitfalls of some Mrs. Beasley dolls was that there were a few production runs of dolls that were not made with 90% shredded cotton/10% polyurethane foam (the latter being the voicebox cushion for her butt); some dolls were made with 60% shredded cotton/10% foam/30% 'shredded cellulose', which is really a fancy way of saying "wood pulp fiber". In fact, when opened, most of these dolls were found to also have chunks of white plastic sheet and it was determined that this cellulose was actually mechanically-separated disposable diapers. Not good, since mold & mildew love organics like that even more than cotton. Since my early '70s childhood, I remember seeing some Mrs. Beasley dolls in Pampers, but never imagined I'd see Pampers in some Mrs. Beasley dolls. Some twist.

    I think it's great you give these dolls a good home, Tam! I recently bought two Mrs. Beasley dolls (neither with cellulose stuffing, thank God!) for very low prices. One of them is from Lafayette, Indiana, which is Anissa Jones' birthplace! I've managed to wash the stuffing of both dolls, reverse-engineered the worst of the two (she had bad rips and rotten spots everywhere) for patterns, located & bought identical body & bootie fabric, got bias-ply tape & 3/8 rick-rack in white (will be dyed identical yellow); in the meantime, the vinyl faces & hands are getting cleaned, along with the hair being cleaned & set, I bought & received two pair of exact repro glasses on eBay ($20.99 each pair, free ship, they're great!) and restored both voiceboxes, with help from (and immense thanks to) Ben Truwe of Talky Tina Press in Oregon (I bought his last Mrs. Beasley repair kit, he now declares it "out of print"). It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too!

    Not sure what I'll do with one of them, but the Lafayette one's staying here, out of respect for Anissa. Neither doll would ever resell well, since the fabric has all been replaced, but they'll be as good as new. Also have 4 restored-to-talk-by-Yours-Truly "Small Talk Buffy" dolls: 2 naked, one mostly-clothed and one with all original clothes, shoes AND small Mrs. Beasley doll...WITH glasses, but needs new felt hands.

    This has proved to be a fun hobby and a great trip down Memory Lane. It's still saddening that Anissa died so young: I was 3 when I first saw her on TV in 1970 and developed a massive crush on her as "Buffy". Sometimes I wonder if she would've enjoyed the nostalgic turn this has all taken over time, in spite of her growing to loathe typecasting and the doll, in real life. There's no way to tell now. Anyway, hope you enjoy your Beasleys, and great job!

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    1. It does seem that in general the price of Beasleys is going down. Must be the age of the collectors. I bought a perfect (non talking) Beasley at a doll show a year or so ago for $25--with glasses! She's nice, but I would never replace my perfect yard sale Beasley. One of my family suggested that I steal her non broken glasses for Perfect Beasley, but I couldn't do it. They've been hers for so long!
      Pampers?! Wouldn't that change the heft of the Beasley? One of the great things about her is the weight and the firm huggability. I cleaned one of my Beasleys and put new stuffing in her: polyfil! What was I thinking?! She's far too light and weirdly stiff. I need to redo her because she's just not a Beasley without that weight. I kept her stuffing, so I can put it back. I know you can clean it, but I haven't done that without leaving it in the doll when I wash her. I could use a pillow case I guess.
      I admire your voice repair ability. I wish I had the guts. I once cracked open a talking Stacey (Barbie friend) who was beyond help otherwise and it all just came apart on me and I couldn't tell how it was supposed to go back together. I'm too chicken to crack open a hard plastic doll like Chatty Cathy or talking Buffy. I'm afraid I'd split the body. How do you do it? I have heard you melt the seams with a hair dryer. I know there are people who sell the rubber gaskets. What else is needed? (You mentioned it being a kit.)
      Jo-Ann Fabrics has had several fabrics the last couple of years that are almost Beasley. One was dots that were too big, (Human sized Beasley. Great for a Beasley costume. I think they still carry it.), and one was too small. So close though. In a pinch, Meijer or Target had some baby/kids outfits this year that were the perfect Beasley fabric! I have actually found some vintage yellow rik-rak that was perfect, so don't forget to check out vintage fabrics and trims.
      I meant to get rid of a Beasley when I got a better one, (except for the my first one.), but each one was a little different and they kind of made themselves at home! You may find you end up with more Beasleys than you intended! (Especially if you think no one else would want them!)
      Maybe Anissa would have come to embrace her past and her legacy. As you say, who knows? But she has stayed with us long past her human life. Sometimes it takes years of distance from things like that for people to appreciate that they have had an affect on people's lives, that they mean something to people. There is something to be said for that.

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  3. I think you're right: perhaps Anissa would've come to terms with that part of her life after awhile, it seems that Kathy "Cissy" Garver is doing well with it, in all those MeTV spots she's done. All I know is that Anissa came to be the workhorse for the show, as far as PR went; also, her mother apparently had Anissa on a very tight regimen from the age of 2, and Anissa's rebellion was more than likely due to preserving what little childhood she had left. She was great with small kids, too, even going so far as to work in a daycare, preparing to buy it shortly before her death. Had she lived, maybe she'd've come to appreciate the legacy she made upon millions of fans; I'd like to think that she would've.

    During her 'juvenile delinquent years', Anissa had confided to a psychologist that her parents' messy divorce had weighed greatly upon her and brother Paul; however, apart from Paul, she admitted she could like her father but never love him, due to his alcoholism and lack of presence in her life, in spite of living within two blocks of her! She'd also tried to reach out to her mom, but seemed to get coldness in return. She felt more connected to mom Paula, but it just wasn't reciprocated back, so Anissa lived with others, from couch to couch, before her arrest and incarceration as a runaway. That girl had a colossal load upon her.

    Anyway, back to dolls: Ben Truwe offers talking doll repair kits for just about any doll out there (excepting Mrs. Beasley, for the time being), including the Small Talk Buffy. Ben offers excellent parts & instructions on how to get them open with little to no damage, the guy's a genius. You can find his site here: http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/home.html , his kits are complete and come with excellent instructions. They're also very reasonably priced.

    The common link with all older Mattel dolls is that they use heavy-gauge rubber bands driven by the spring-wound flywheel/record to engage a centrifugal friction governor, which slows everything down. The original belts were prone to decay, and they'd lay inside the doll/voicebox and decay further, into a messy black goo. It's relatively easy to clean, and Ben's drive bands are made to last much longer. Aside from that, sometimes new drawstring is warranted, and Ben's kit included that (you can still buy it separately, as well as new chatty-rings and belts, just the booklet is now out-of-print); he even sells plastics-safe lubricant for the spinning parts. I seal the plastic voicebox halves with a very thin bead of plastic model cement, it works best. Doing a voicebox repair on Mrs. Beasley is a bit more complex, since it involves dealing with the riveted grommet in her hip and a serged seam on her bottom. For mine, I'll have to beg Mom to serge my Beasleys shut.

    Jo-Ann had the perfect fabric for the booties, albeit in white, so out comes the yellow Rit. A couple drops of red will be added to the dye, since the booties are ruddier in color than the bias tape and rick-rack. I'll dye the latter first, add the red to the dye and see how the booties' fabric works out. The body fabric is a challenge to find, and one eBay vendor has the perfect fabric, albeit lighter than the older dolls, but newer dolls used lighter blue on the bodies anyway. The dot size/spacing is spot-on.

    Thank you for a reply, and a fast one at that. I always enjoy talking with people about this hobby. Hope you and yours are staying cool this summer!

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  4. :'''''( Oh my. I was born in 1967 and I got a Mrs Beasley as a child. She was my very best friend. I loved her. We were very poor and didn't have much. But I had her <3. I can't be sure what year I got her. I was 6-7 years old was on my way home from school only to find our farm was up in flames. I was devastated. My best friend was in that house burning and I couldn't save her. I know I probably sound silly but she truly was my best friend. I was so heart broken. To top things off We had moved all 6 of us into a two room camp until we relocated a cross the road from where the farm stood. We had just moved in and I found her all melted clothes burnt Hair gone and a frozen mess. My mother had collected it and a few other things and put them under the trailer. I wish I never saw her like this. It was bad enough I lost my best friend but to think she suffered. You know I was a child then and truly believed she was real and suffered. I never forgot her. I started talking about finding one about 5 years ago. I have hunted very hard the last two years. I find them in the $399 range and restored. I know my doll had the curly hair as well. I also remember the bright blue and all the details you spoke of. Thank you for posting this. I have not found my best friend yet as I sit in tears but I know someday she will come home. If you happen to know of a good source to help me find her I would appreciate the information. Thank you sandy

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    1. What a sad tale Sandy! I know what you mean about sad images sticking with you,even of your toys. After more than 50 years I can still see my first Thumbelina on top of the trash heap. (We lived in the country, where there was no trash pick up in the early 60's.) I don't know why Mom threw her away, but I remember she wouldn't let me have her back.My Thumbelina had white blonde hair.
      Your best chances for an affordable Beasley are thrift stores,(I haven't, but I know people who have found her at thrift stores.),doll shows,(I got a nice one with her clothes and glasses for $25 at a doll show!), and yard sales. (Remember, that's where I found my best Beasley!) You might be lucky enough to get a deal on Ebay or Etsy. Or try Craigslist. Good luck! She's out there somewhere!

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    2. My Mrs Beasley was truly my best friend too. I believe she turns t0 this year does anyone know the exact date? I can't find it anywhere I'm thinking I need to contact Mattel

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    3. She does indeed turn 50 this year.

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  5. I still have my much loved Mrs. Beasley doll. When I was 5 I had my tonsils out. She went with me. The nurse put a bandaid on her throat because she had an owie too. She's lost all her extras, but still treasure her.

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    1. Aw!That's sweet. I wish I had got some stories of my Beasley's past from the lady who owned her as a child. Sometimes the tales behind things really add to your feelings for them. I have alot of old things,and I love to know what they've been through and where they came from.Stories like,'this was my grandmother's sewing table',and 'my grandma made this', and 'we used to play (blah blah) with this'.

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  6. Oh my gosh! You did find the perfect one! I have secretly looked for years! I had one as a little girl and didn't know what happened to her. My brother put her on my parents auction, never said a word about finding her, put her in a box and "boom" she was sold! My sister saw her go up and never bought her, I was off crying because the auction was hard on me. To this day I want my Mrs Beasley but she has to be the "right" Mrs Beasley. Cherish her with lots of love!

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    1. That's so sad! I can't imagine how mad I would be if my sister did that with one of my childhood toys. I am sad enough that she threw away her Kokomo chimp doll without offering him to me first! I loved him! I know it won't be the same, but I hope you can replace her. there are plenty of them out there,but as you say, she has to be exactly right. Actually I have one right now that is pretty close to my perfect one, that I am getting rid of. She even has her glasses. My husband suggested that I keep these glasses because my girl has broken ones, but I can't! She's had them all these years! They're hers! Anyway, if you're interested in the Beasley,let me know.Maybe I can set you up!

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Thanks in advance for your comments.