I arrived at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow at roughly 1am on Saturday morning, after spending Friday evening watching Les Misérables in the West End of London. After the high-end Hilton Hotel in Birmingham, which was used for Hallowhedon 5, the Thistle looked like a shit hole. Don't get me wrong, the room was very nice and the fact that the convention had a building all to itself for the parties, autographs, studio photos, and talks was fantastic, but the hallways and smell of the hotel left a lot to be desired. In addition to this, I believe that my room was situated in the middle of a group of friends because the rooms all around me were playing music and yelling until 7am! They even knocked on my door a couple of times! Nevertheless, this wasn't a big deal as I was only staying in the hotel for one night. Plus, I'd have happily slept outside in the rain if it meant getting to hang out with Christian Kane and Georges Jeanty.
Unlike Hallowhedon 5, the studio photos were not included as part of the package that Starfury Events were offering. On the off chance that Christian Kane sold out during registration on Friday afternoon, I managed to get my friend Mark to buy me a studio photo with Christian and I would pay him back later.
I woke up at 8am on Saturday morning and quickly showered, dressed, and headed to the convention building to register for the event. Events like 'Vampire Ball 4' are three day events. The schedules are designed for people to be there for all three days. With that being said, Sean and the Starfury crew couldn't have been more helpful when it came to me only being there for one day. They allowed me to queue jump ahead of a lot of the gold membership pass holders for the studio photos and autographs so that I'd get everything done that I wanted to in one day.
After registering, I bought another Christian Kane studio photo, as well as a studio photo with Jim Parrack, who played Hoyt Fortenberry in "True Blood". Whilst I'm not the biggest "True Blood" fan in the world (I feel the quality has decreased significantly since the third season ended), I was a big fan of Hoyt.
The first thing that I needed to do was at 10:30am, which was my two studio photos with Christian. When it came to be my turn, Christian greeted me with a warm smile and a 'man-shake' (that's when you have a handshake with your hand facing up, not down) before the photo was taken. Just before the photo was taken he asked me how I was doing, I said that I was doing great, I asked him if he was enjoying the convention so far, and he said that he was loving it and always does (Christian is a regular at Starfury Conventions). For those of you that don't frequent conventions, you get very little time to talk to the guests during photo shoots. There are always a lot of people to get through in a short space of time. It's really during the autograph sessions and the parties (if the guests come down to join in the parties) that you get time to really talk.
Two minor points to note about the way that Starfury Coventions operated during 'Vampire Ball 4' :-
1) After my first Christian photo, Starfury Events made me go to the back of the queue again to line up for my second one. This seemed a little odd to me as taking another photo would have taken mere seconds. However, I'm sure that Starfury did this so that more people had the opportunity to have at least one photo taken in case time ran out.
2) The photos take a few hours to be developed. I'm used to this system, as Showmasters used to have the same system until the beginning of this year. Now, Showmasters develop your photos instantly after they're taken, which makes the day run much more smoothly.
When I had my second photo taken with Christian, he noted that he wished he'd worn his bandana (I was wearing mine) because a dual-bandana photo would have looked cool. For my second photo I was determined to smile more than the first one. I hate my smile in high quality photos. I don't mind it at all in regular photos, but in high quality photos I think I look both ridiculous and hideous, which is quite an impressive feat to accomplish at the same time.
Something to note about Christian is that he's very hands-on. What I mean by that is that he gives a lot of hugs, a lot of handshakes, touches your shoulder, pats your arm when you leave...he's not a prima donna at all! I've met some celebrities that barely allow you to brush their arm whilst the photo is being taken. Christian is the exact opposite.
(the photo on the left is photo one, the photo on the right is photo two)
After the photos were taken I went into the main hall, where Georges Jeanty's talk was about to begin. I have been a fan of Georges Jeanty's for quite some time due to his artwork in the Buffy season eight and nine comics. After listening to George talk for an hour, I am a much bigger fan of Georges. Here are some highlights from Georges' talk (I didn't take notes for this talk, so it will be rather brief) :-
- Georges was approached by Dark Horse to work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer season eight. Scott Allie (editor of Dark Horse) told Georges that Joss Whedon had requested Georges personally. Georges thought that Scott was just saying that to be nice, so he called Scott's bluff. He told Scott that if Joss really wanted him to work on the comics, he should get Joss to give him a call about it. A few days later, Joss called Georges, and Georges couldn't believe that it was true.
- Georges prefers Buffy season nine to Buffy season eight because it was 'back to basics'. He felt that Buffy season eight went a little too far in the way that they pushed the envelope (Buffy and Angel's super-sex and Spike's alien bug-ship were mentioned).
- Georges will be working on the six-issue Serenity/Firefly comics "Leaves On The Wind". He notes that *SPOILERS COMING....WELL, NOT REALLY SPOILERS AS IT'S IN THE PROMO MATERIAL FOR THE COMICS, BUT STILL...SKIP THE REST OF THIS BULLET POINT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW* "Leaves On The Wind" will take place nine months after Serenity. Nine months is significant because it turns out that Zoe is nine months pregnant with a baby Wash! Georges wouldn't reveal the sex of the baby, but did note that you will find out (obviously). Georges also mentioned that a new crew member will be added to the comics. I assume that it's a replacement pilot.
- Georges said that the biggest challenge he's faced during drawing "Leaves On The Wind" is getting the internals of the ship (Serenity) correct. The internals are actually slightly different for "Serenity" than they are for "Firefly", so Georges has had to pick and choose little details to a certain extent. He also noted that he didn't have this problem when working on Buffy The Vampire Slayer because Sunnydale was destroyed at the end of season seven.
- When Joss asked Georges to draw for Buffy season eight, Georges hadn't seen a single episode of the show. Dark Horse sent Georges season six and seven of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Georges became hooked instantly. After finishing season seven, he immediately went out and bought seasons one to five. Soon after that he bought all five seasons of Angel. He considers himself to be a massive fan by this point and would happily talk to anyone about the Buffyverse for hours.
- With that being said, he is terrible at remembering coupling names. He referred to 'Spuffy' as 'Spufflettes' and 'Bangel' as 'Spbangel', which obviously drew a big laugh from the crowd as 'Spbangel' would be a combination of Spike-Angel-Buffy. Kind of funny when you think about the fact that Georges drew Buffy's dream involving a nurse outfit, Angel, and Spike!
- Georges is Team Spuffy
For someone who isn't a 'celebrity', Georges is a very charismatic, loveable guy, who doesn't seem to get nervous in front of an audience at all. That could be due to the fact that Georges is a regular convention goer and usually comes to a Starfury Event every year or two.
After Georges' talk had finished, I had an hour to kill before my Jim Parrack studio photo. I used this hour to grab some lunch - a mango and passionfruit iced-smoothie and some spicy beef nachos. Healthy, no? In my defence...actually, I don't have a defence, I just wanted to try the nachos and smoothie. Both of which were awesome, so I regret nothing!
When 2pm rolled around, I queued up for my studio photo with Jim Parrack. I noticed something about Jim Parrack and Michael McMillian (Reverend Steve Newlin from "True Blood") rather rapidly...they both seemed quite nervous. Perhaps they aren't regular convention goers. Even though they both appeared nervous, they were both very friendly and approachable. I had my photo taken with Jim (who smiled, said 'hello', and thanked me for coming) and was on my merry way to the Christian Kane talk.
Something that I found a little odd was that the guests weren't around very much unless they were scheduled for a talk, autograph session, or photo session. At Hallowhedon 5 there were guests everywhere! I was always bumping into K. Todd Freeman or Jeff Ricketts, I was always stopping to chat with Brad Bell and Jane Espenson in the corridors! Here, it would appear that the celebrities went back to their hotel when they weren't needed. There's nothing wrong with that at all! That's what I'd expect to happen at a convention like this! It's just an interesting comparison to Hallowhedon 5. Perhaps Saturday night and Sunday were different to when I was there on Saturday. I did hear that Georges Jeanty spent the entire night on the dance floor Friday night, and that he is quite the amazing dancer!
2:30pm marked the start of Christian's talk. On stage with Christian was a member of his band, Henri O'Connor. Here are the highlights from Christian's talk :-
- When filming "Leverage", Christian would receive his lines just before the scene was shot, whereas on "Angel" he would receive them in advance.
- When filming scenes for Angel, Christian would often get the name of something wrong that was made up (e.g. Aberjian Scrolls). The writer would tell Christian "you're saying it wrong" and Christian would respond "You made the word up! How can I be saying it wrong? It's not real!", which is pretty hilarious.
- Christian was asked the question "which five roles would you love to play that you have or haven't played before?", Christian responded with...EMT, chef, werewolf, Wolverine, and a vampire. Christian said that he's killed so many vampires over his career that it would be a cool change of pace to actually play one.
- Someone asked Christian if he would be singing "Sweet Carolina Rain" during his 30 minute gig that he was playing later that night. Christian said that it's a bitch to play on the guitar as it's all picking. He also said "do you know what that song is actually about?" Christian then went into a story where he was at an 'old folks' home and somebody told him that their young daughter's favourite song was "Sweet Carolina Rain". This was a very sweet, yet embarrassing moment for Christian as "Sweet Carolina Rain" is all about...well, I'll let you decide for yourself (like Christian did with us)...
- "It gets wetter and when spring rolls along,
It's hotter than Hell than when we met last fall,
It gets better and better every time we touch,
A sticky situation we're in.
We're trapped in the car and it's raining again,
And girl every time it stops,
Lord, I miss it so much.
And I wanna take the top off,
And throw it in the barn, man,
And just put it in drive,
Run into that Sweet Carolina Rain."
So, um...yeah. It's clearly about the weather...also, Christian said all these lyrics out loud to us all, then sang the "Sweet Carolina Rain" at the end.
- Eliot Spencer (Christian's character in "Leverage")'s backstory was deliberately left vague. Whenever a script would come up with something relating to Eliot's backstory in it (e.g. what service he fought for), Christian would make sure it was removed.
- Christian wanted Richard Roundtree to play Eliot Spencer's father on "Leverage". If not, he wanted it to be Mr. T, because it would have been hilarious for Eliot to have a black father after some of his jokey comments to Alec.
- Christian has been to so many Starfury Conventions events by this point that he regards the regular convention goers as family.
- Christian has a few places that he loves to go to relax and recharge. They are his house (with his wolf), Laguna Beach, or Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles). Christian gets overwhelmed by crowds sometimes and likes to have some time to himself.
- Christian dislikes flying because of all the people in a confined space.
- Christian's album "The House Rules" has been out of print for a while due to a disagreement with his former record label. Christian has recently won the rights to his album and it will be back in print again soon (under a different album name for legal reasons). Christian doesn't have a record label any more, so will be releasing songs independently for the time being. At this point, someone in the audience asked if he would consider a kick-starter fund for a new album. Christian said he'd think about it, but doesn't like the idea of taking other people's money. What a genuinely classy man!
- Christian talked a gig he performed in Munich, Germany. During the performance, Christian's voice started to go, so he went to sit in the audience with the fans and started playing acoustics songs that everyone could sing along to. He said it was one of the most unusual, amazing gigs that he's ever done.
- Also whilst in Germany, Christian bumped into George Takei in an elevator.
- Henri mentioned that he was in Germany before for Oktoberfest. He wore lederhosen and everything! Christian said that he'd give Henri $100 to perform the gig later that night in lederhosen. I don't think anybody had any to lend Henri.
- As I mentioned earlier, Christian owns a wolf (dog).
- Someone asked Christian if Lindsey ever loved Darla, or was it just a case of Lindsey wanting something that was Angel's. Christian said that Lindsey 'absolutely' loved Darla and that his character wouldn't work if he didn't. He also noted that Lindsey didn't love Eve at all. She was just a pawn in his quest for power..."he left a building to fall on her!".
- Lindsey recently bumped into Julie Benz at a dog groomers, and Julie is still as beautiful as ever.
- One of Christian's favourite scenes of his career is the one where he quits Wolfram & Hart in "Dead End" (the one where he's firing a gun, keeps pestering Charlie, etc.). Joss came in to direct that scene.
- Christian is an actor that watches himself back. He said that he feels like that's how you learn as an actor. I find this to be an interesting contrast to what Alexis Denisof told me two weeks ago. Alexis never watches himself back at all.
- Christian is good friends with Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (since they were young), and there is the potential for him to star in an episode of "Supernatural" down the line if his schedule permits it.
- Christian originally auditioned for the role of Riley Finn on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Marc Blucas is a friend of Christian's, and Christian said that it's unfortunate what happened with Marc. He said it was a simple case of the audience not being ready to let Angel go yet.
- Not long after auditioning for Riley, Christian got the part of Lindsey for the pilot episode of Angel, "City Of". Christian went to David Boreanaz's trailer to tell him (Christian and David are very good friends) and David was ecstatically happy!
- Lindsey was only supposed to appear in the pilot episode of Angel. There were no plans to bring him back after that.
- Lindsey was supposed to die numerous times before the last episode of Angel, "Not Fade Away". When Lee died in "Blind Date", that was originally supposed to be Lindsey. When Linwood died due to being decapitated, that was originally supposed to be Lindsey in season two. When Gavin died in season four, that was originally supposed to be Lindsey.
- Joss Whedon offered Lindsey a spot on Angel as a series regular for season three, but Christian was unavailable due to other projects.
- When Joss asked Christian if he wanted to return for season five, Christian said yes, but also asked if Lindsey could not get beaten up all the time. Joss said 'absolutely'....then Christian's first scene back was Lindsey getting thrown around a strip joint by Spike.
- Christian didn't enjoy playing Lindsey a great deal during season two. This is because pretending to be one-handed was difficult. For example, during lunch, he'd have one arm tied behind his back so he couldn't eat properly.
- Christian loves the fact that Lorne killed him. However, he also would have loved to see Lindsey be a part of the final fight in the alley as it would have been great character progression and would have shown that Lindsey, although evil, could 'fight the good fight'...especially with Angel and Lindsey being the only two characters to appear in the first and last episodes of Angel. Christian also misses Andy Hallett a great deal.
- Christian prefers acting to singing.
- Christian is currently in talks to host his own cooking show (not on a TV network). It would primarily be a 'how-to-cook' guide for men who need help cooking for their woman. Part of the reason why he wants to do this is because he hates the phrase 'a woman's place is in the kitchen'. Christian then said: "Bullshit! There is metal and knives and fire in a kitchen!"
- Christian finally put the rumour to bed once and for all...it is not his truck that is used in Angel (Lindsey's truck).
- Most of the 'bad guys' that Eliot fights in "Leverage" are local MMA fighters.
To sum up, Christian was amazing. In the best possible way, he doesn't exude star power in the least. He just comes across as a guy that you'd bump into in a bar and end up talking to for hours about music, alcohol, and life. Definitely the kind of guy that I'd be friends with.
- 'Vampire Ball 4' approaches autographs much differently than 'Hallowhedon 5'. Hallowhedon has a row of tables set up, and you would queue for one guest, meet them, then join another queue, meet them, etc. At Vampire Ball, all the tables are in a circle. You start with the first guest and work your way around the room in a clockwise manner.
- Paul Amos was a 'sponsored guest' so didn't come as part of the standard package. As I've seen very little of 'Lost Girl', I didn't buy an autograph with Paul.
- Kris Holden-Ried: Kris was very friendly. He certainly doesn't look 40 years old! I told Kris that I'd recently watched some 'Lost Girl' in preparation for 'Vampire Ball 4', as I knew he was attending. He was very happy with converting someone else into a fan of the show, as you can see...
- Michael McMillian: Michael was a ball of sunshine. Very smiley, very friendly, and he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the experience (even though he seemed a little shy). I told him how much I enjoyed Steve Newlin in "True Blood", and that I was sad to see Steve be killed off as he brought some much needed comedic relief to the show. Michael said that he misses the show very much, but ultimately 'everyone dies eventually'. I love the fact that Michael put a little sunshine on the autograph ("True Blood" fans will know why)...
- Jim Parrack: Jim was actually a last-minute replacement guest for Denis O'Hare (Russell Edgington in "True Blood"), who had to pull out due to filming commitments. As much as I like Denis, Jim was a guest I was looking forward to meet more. He didn't disappoint. Just like at the photo session, Jim was very friendly. He seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that Hoyt was my favourite "True Blood" character (it has since changed to Lafayette due to Hoyt leaving). Perhaps he's never heard that before! We both agreed that Hoyt's farewell to the show was a very positive one that gave Hoyt a new start in life. Jim mentioned that he's living in London until Christmas.
- Georges Jeanty: Georges was the surprise of the convention for me. After Clare Kramer pulled out the day before 'Vampire Ball' started (due to pregnancy), I was expecting for Christian to be my sole saving grave for the convention. Luckily, Georges also stepped up! Georges was very talkative and incredibly easy-going. We talked about his work on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer season eight and nine comics before I told him how excited I was for the six-issue Firefly/Serenity series "Leaves On The Wind". Georges told me the date when the first issue is released (January 29th), and I told him, "don't worry, I've got that on my pre-order list". He thanked me for supporting the comic book industry and gave me a little Firefly art card he drew because I was a comic book fan! I asked Georges to sign my Buffy season eight poster...
- Christian Kane: The headliner, the main event, Christian Kane. Christian greeted me with a firm man-shake before asking me how I was. I told him that I was fantastic! I explained to Christian than I took one bus, one two-hour train ride, and one taxi journey in order to get to 'Vampire Ball' to meet him. Christian was blown away by that! He said 'thank you so much for coming!', and I told him I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We talked about 'Angel', and I mentioned how cool it was to see Lindsey come back in season five as a badass. Christian talked for a while about the fight scenes and how much fun it was to finally win a fight on the show. I told him how much his music inspired me, and he asked if I went to the show in London three days previous. I told him that I didn't because I didn't know about it until the day it was happening! I told him that if I'd known I would have called in sick for work and travelled to London early. This got a big laugh from Christian and Henri (who was on a table next to Christian). I thanked him for his time.
- Henri O'Connor: As a little bonus, Christian's band member Henri was also signing for people. I talked to Henri about some of the projects he has coming up and thanked him for coming to the convention as a nice little bonus. Henri seemed a little shy (I don't think he's done anything like that before), but was very friendly and very gracious.
Overall, even though I was only at 'Vampire Ball 4' for one day, it was totally worth the money. Hell, Christian Kane alone would have been worth the money, but when you throw in the other guests, the price of admission was certainly worth it.
With James Marsters, Jonathan Woodward, and others already announced for 'Vampire Ball 5' next September (in the Hilton Hotel, Birmingham (you can see photos of this hotel in my Hallowhedon 5 recap here)), I will definitely be buying a ticket. I will probably upgrade to a gold membership as well. I've never met James, so this should be a treat!
I hope you've enjoyed the recap of 'Vampire Ball 4'. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below!
FINAL SCORE: 8/10