We awoke refreshed and surprisingly non-hung-over (we discovered the bar late on Friday); Amy and I made our way down to breakfast. Not being vegans or even remotely health-conscious (not me, anyway), I had no trouble devouring the ample supplies of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, muffins and French toast. Knowing we would again be skipping lunch, I gorged myself – which was essential for fortifying my body for the day’s coming events.
The Q&A sessions began at 9am with a talk by Christopher Golden. The writer on numerous Buffy comic books and novel tie-ins, Golden is considered virtually as much an expert on the show’s mythology as series creator Joss Whedon. Having interviewed Chris in the past, I was anxious to see him in person.
Arriving at the banquet hall, we quickly discovered that there was no space allocated for press. Amy was forbidden from taking pictures any closer than ten feet from the stage. We were shoved in the back, where it was impossible to hear audience questions. There was no second microphone for the audience, and we had to rely on Golden remembering to repeat the question before answering. (Suddenly, we were irritated. See, it’s all based on perspective. None of the other complaints had anything to do with us, so we were able to stay impartial. But this time, it was personal!) The most entertaining part of the talk was this seemingly endless debate between Golden and audience members regarding Spike and Buffy’s sexual relationship and whether a purely-evil being could ever actually love someone. The audience members, devoted to Spike, insisted that the vampire really did love the titular Slayer, despite his attempts to murder her repeatedly, rape her on one occasion, and mind-fuck her continuously throughout the season. Golden refused to be swayed.)
As the guests rotated, we found ourselves a place on the side – not asking permission, merely informing the coordinators of our decision – out of the way, but where we could be seen from the stage so our questions could be asked. There was an attempt to have people line up in the center if they wanted to ask questions, but no mic was set there to indicate this directive – and the proclamation was delivered by Ingrid, so those still incensed by her behavior the previous day opted to ignore her. Questions were asked from seats, which left the guests on the spot to decide who to call upon. Amy was still not permitted any closer than ten feet from the stage, forced to kneel in the aisle with the attendees – who squat duck-walked into position, forbidden to stand and obstruct other people’s views (a good thing, and possibly more entertaining than the actual talks).
Each of the guests had an hour to take questions. To the coordinators’ credit, they tried to get each one moving as quickly as possible. The talks started within ten minutes of the actual scheduled time, and that wasn’t such a bad margin, particularly as each talk piggy-backed the last, with an hour-break for lunch.
Leary and Busch were terribly entertaining, funny, charming – though Adam seemed a bit “funned out” from the previous night’s concert. He claimed there was a bug going around. I took this excuse with a grain of salt until I learned of others complaining of the same thing. This was all I needed: a case of Conventioneer’s Disease.
One quick note about the true hero of the convention: Cezanne, the sign-language interpreter. As the only other person up on the stage, she was the target of abuse, ridicule, and off-color things to interpret. Marsters and Busch used her as a prop.
After the break, our frustration level seemed to be decreasing a bit, once we realized that each person we tried to talk to about this or that would give us conflicting instructions. Ultimately, we decided to stop being pussies and start taking charge of our positions as journalists. We were the only press at the convention, and we had jobs to do. We still couldn’t get any closer to take pictures, but we opted to come and go as we pleased.
Amber finally took the stage, and suddenly we were surrounded on our little press booth by other attendees, no longer content to sit in their designated seats, and ignoring our little hand-made “Press Only” sign. Fair was fair, I guess. We were making our own rules, which seemed to grant other people permission. Irritated that we could not consider ourselves special no matter what we did, we conceded defeat. After Amber’s talk, I realized that Chris Golden was sitting near us with some friends, so I gave him my card with our room number and asked him to get it to Amber or her mother, to let them know we were here. He said he’d try. As this was the fourth such card we’d tried to get to her, we had the distinct feeling that we were passing notes in a concentration camp.
Soon after, Head and Marsters began their individual talks. Head was his usual charming self. Marsters was bathed in a gold over-head spotlight for some reason, which gave him a constant halo throughout his talk. Unlike the rest of the guests, who came off gracious and relaxed, Marsters, the golden boy, seemed like he was giving calculated answers. My favorite bit: “When the attempted rape storyline came up, I had a hard time with it. I have turned down roles where I had to play rapists… If something like that comes on the television, I have to turn it off or I’ll want to put my foot through it… I’m just, it’s reprehensible and I was very concerned. That and the smoking.” But my negative response to him could just be that I’m so used to hearing him speak in his near-Cockney accent on the show, and here he was delivering his dialogue in a flat Californian drawl. I chalked it up in the ‘it’s just me’ column.
We tried hard to circumvent the press picture problem by offering to take pictures during the autograph session, as we particularly wanted to include the coordinators in the picture as well, which would make for a good shot to circulate to publications. This picture – this fabled, Holy Grail of our weekend – would never come to be. Julie Caitlin Brown was organizing the autograph session, and she was clearly annoyed by the first-timers assigned to help her. There was much confusion. She recognized my name from my stint with Cinefantastique but it did little to improve things on either end. Marsters was not “cleared” with his agency to do any kind of publicity, and that included photographs. Any attempt to get the others would have to be done at the end of the session. “I just got them settled, there’s no way I’m moving them!” she said, referring to the guests, who didn’t seem to be special-ed children having a snack. They looked to me like intelligent adults who could stand and sit under their own volition. But what do I know about celebrities?
Amy and I went to dinner and returned a few hours later, at the end of the autograph session, to make contacts for future interviews and – yeah what of it? – get our own autographs. Things seemed to be even more tense and chaotic than when we left, and a quick survey of the crowd revealed why.
Long autograph lines at bigger conventions climax with the desired guest and end with a “security officer” whose job it is to keep the line moving. Whether this is done with a friendly, “thanks very much, we have to move it along”, or a punch to the face ala Robin Hood’s man in “Time Bandits,” the line is the beast that must be appeased. Everyone wants their connection, and the autograph time is the only chance you get at most cons. But there are hundreds of other people who also want to make their connection. The longer one person spends gabbing with the guest, the less time the person behind him will have. And guests are usually wonderfully giving people. Bruce Campbell, for instance, will listen to one-person babble inanely for hours if not for the “security officer”. Amber and Tony, as well, have been known to keep up conversations with fans. The problem here is, despite Julie’s efforts, she had no security officer to aid her in keeping the line moving. Suddenly, the guests were blinking away dazed expressions in wonder at where the time had gotten to and why there were still so many folks in line?
Julie, looking harassed and frustrated, appeared at the end of the row. “Okay, thanks to your enormously rude friends in front of you, this is all taking much longer than it should. We don’t want to take your pictures away from you like they do at Creation Cons. We want everyone to get their moments with the guests, but you have to keep things moving. Don’t ask them for their life stories, and don’t try to tell them yours, okay?”
She stormed off. Then stormed back. “Sorry, thank you all for your patience. Sorry for yelling.” Later, she was screaming at one of the volunteers for their ineptitude, following it up with “Sorry, you guys are doing great, really.” Julie needed a drink. Or a hug. Or a tranquilizer dart to the neck inducing several hours of sleep. I don’t think she had a preference.
Exhausted and giddy, we took our own place in line. Tony Head quietly ducked out, and disappointed fans were told that they would all get to meet him at a special time on Sunday. Marsters and the rest, to their credit, stuck it out for the additional hour it took to get everyone signed. Marsters looked dazed, but was pleasant and cordial. Eyes were on me, so I did not pass him my card to request an interview.
We got up to Amber, who was surprised and excited to see us. Golden came over, pulled my card out of his pocket – “Amber, Mike asked me to give this to you and let you know he was here.” Everyone on the stage could have used that hug. Or possibly the drink. Amber and Chris were coming down with the Conventioneer’s Disease, and her mother was still rattled from the deer incident. But at least the line was close to ending.
We still didn’t get that group picture.
Aria was kind enough, however, to invite us to the VIP dance that night. (And two attendees offered to be our “cub reporters” in order to join us; like we had that kind of power!) It had been scheduled opposite a fan-recreation of “Buffy”’s Emmy-ignored milestone musical episode “Once More With Feeling”. The lure of drinking made the choice for us. We joined the 200 other VIPs in the dark, crowded restaurant/dance floor, and hobnobbed with the guests for a bit. Amy hung out with Tony and his assistant, David, both of whom recognized her from CreepCon (See? My secret weapon!). Marsters was swamped by adoring – and largely middle-aged – fans who kept him completely surrounded at all times. He didn’t seem to mind, but his security was antsy until he finally decided to leave. Oddly enough, Marsters was the only one of the guests who had his own security. Most of the over-thirty crowd had a moment of horror when we suddenly realized that much of the ‘80s music played by the DJ was considered “classic rock” by the younglings.
So the day had been a tad grueling, the hotel was still a cavernous roach-motel, but the party was fun, and the guests proved that they could hobnob with the rabble like normal people. If only “normal people” had been present. (Come on, what “normal people” would pay $250 for a horror convention? That’s what separates fans from the so-called “normal people”. Whatever those might be.)
Get the rest of the story in part four of A FAREWELL TO BUFFY>>>
Posted on July 2, 2003 in Features by Mike Watt
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