Thursday, 2 October 2014

"Vampire Ball 5" Review

Guests met and discussed in this review :-

James Marsters
Emma Caulfield
Jeff Ricketts
Jonathan Woodward
George Hertzberg
Dayne Johnson

Two quick notes before we get started...

1) If this is your first time on "Shangel's Reviews", I'm currently reviewing every single episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" in depth. A list of all the reviews I've written so far can be located here.
2) If you enjoy my reviews, please subscribe to the blog! Over on the right-hand side there's a little box that says "Follow Shangel's Reviews by Email!". If you put your Email address in there and click "Submit", then confirm your subscription, you will get each review sent straight to your inbox! No junk mail, no bullshit, just my reviews.

With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

I’m back, ladies and gentlemen! Fresh from three days of fun, fantasy, fangs, and fangasms! Now, I’m going to be honest with you, I think I slept about 4 hours in three nights combined over the weekend of “Vampire Ball 5”, and even now on Tuesday morning, my brain is still a little fuzzy. But, I need to start getting all this awesomeness down on paper, lest I forget some of this deliciousness. For those of you that are sat there right now wondering what the fiddlesticks (for the kiddies) I’m going on about, allow me to explain...

“Vampire Ball” is an annual event ran by Starfury Conventions. The theme of the convention guests is, you guessed it, vampire shows...excluding Twishite...sorry, typo, Twilight. We’ve been treated to actors from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “True Blood”, “Lost Girl”, and more in the past. As my long time readers will remember, I attended last year’s “Vampire Ball” and reviewed the event here (Christian Kane is a God!). At this year’s event, I took great satisfaction in six of you coming up to me and telling me that you bought your ticket for this year’s “Vampire Ball” because of my review and my recommendation at the end of that review. While last year’s “Vampire Ball” took place in the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London, this year’s event was in the Hilton Hotel in Birmingham. The Hilton holds a special place in my heart because it was the venue for last year’s “Hallowhedon 5” event (reviewed here), where I met Jeff Ricketts (who is now my client), Brad Bell (who I’ve stayed in contact with), Alexis Denisof, Tom Lenk, Jane Espenson, K. Todd Freeman, and Sarah Hagan (great dancer!). I know that a lot of people had problems with the Hilton last year (caught cleaners stealing money, a disabled friend of mine was left to fend for herself when the fire alarm went off...), but I absolutely adore the place. It’s gorgeous, spacious, and just screams excitement to me. I was particularly jubilant for “Vampire Ball 5” because the line-up of guests was so phenomenal. Seriously, when was the last time the UK had a weekend convention like this that was headlined by two main cast members of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”/“Angel”? Five years ago?

This year’s event was headlined by the one and only James Marsters. If you don’t know who James Marsters is, please leave this blog at the next available exit. James is known for playing the iconic vampire Spike from both “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”. As headliners go, that’s a huge name, yet, Sean Harry had another trick up his sleeve. That trick came in the form of Emma Caulfield, who played the hilarious Anya from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Now, Emma hasn’t been over to the UK for a convention in nearly a decade, so she could have been the sole headliner in her own right. Count it, people! That’s TWO bonafide headliners. That’s TWO main cast members. When you compare this to the line-up for next month’s “Hallowhedon 6”, with no headliners announced from any Joss Whedon show thus far, you can see why “Vampire Ball” was holding all of my excitement. Rounding out this incredible line-up was Starfury’s favourite son, Jonathan Woodward, Jeff Ricketts, Dayne Johnson, Janina Gavankar, and Tamara Gorski. Sadly, Janina and Tamara both had to pull out before the event, so they were replaced by George Hertzberg. This meant that all six guests were from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and/or “Angel”, which works perfectly for my tastes.

Jonathan Woodward is known for playing Buffy’s vampire counsellor and enemy, Holden Webster, in the final season’s “Conversations With Dead People”. In addition to that, he was a recurring character in the final season of “Angel”, Knox, who you may remember as the fucker that was responsible for Fred’s death, as well as playing Tracey in Firefly’s “The Message”. To my knowledge, there are only six actors in the world that appeared in all three of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, and “Firefly”, so to have one of these actors on the guest list is a big deal to hardcore fans. To have two on the guest list is something that I don’t believe has ever happened before. Jeff Ricketts played Weatherby of the Watcher’s Council in Buffy’s “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You?”, as well as playing the same character in Angel’s “Sanctuary”, after the Watcher’s Council chased Faith to the City of Angels. Jeff also played the memorable Spider Demon in Angel season four’s “Sacrifice” (my favourite Whedon role of his), and one of the Hands of Blue (#2) in Firefly’s “The Train Job” and “Ariel”. A little FYI, if you wanna know the fate of the Hands of Blue, check out the comic ‘Serenity: Those Left Behind’. It bridges the gap and shows you what happened between “Firefly” and “Serenity”. George Hertzberg is best known for playing the ‘Big Bad’ of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season four. Part man, part demon, and part machine, Adam was unstoppable until the core four Scoobies combined their essence to create a Super Slayer, who ripped Adam’s uranium core out of his charming. Finally, we had Dayne Johnson. Dayne worked in the makeup department on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, before becoming the head makeup artist on “Angel”. That’s one helluva line-up, freaks and geeks!

As most of you are aware, I’m Jeff Ricketts’ manager (his term, not mine). I book his convention appearances. However, Jeff arranged this one with Sean about a week before I became Jeff’s “manager”. Due to this, I bought myself a nice, shiny gold ticket to go to the event. Even if I couldn’t go as his “manager”, I was still desperate to go to the event because first and foremost I’m a diehard fan of the shows and have been since I was eight years old. I run a frickin’ Buffyverse Facebook page (hyperlinked for cheap promotion)! After buying this ticket, Jeff and Sean very kindly gave me an “event staff” badge, which meant I could sit next to Jeff at the autograph table, and have access to the green room. You should have seen my face when I received this wonderful piece of news. My face melted...not literally. I was going to be able to sit next to Jeff at the autograph table, get to talk to all of the wonderful attendees, and have access to a green room that contained two of the main actors from my favourite television show. What you’ve got to understand is that James Marsters was arguably my biggest childhood and teenage hero. Spike was the man to me. I had gigantic Spike posters covering two walls of my bedroom when I was a kid. Getting to share a green room with your hero and getting to know him a little bit personally away from the convention activities themselves simply doesn’t happen. It’s a pipedream!...but it wasn’t. This was legit. I can say with pride that I maintained my professionalism all weekend. I didn’t fanboy front of him, at least. So, before I dive into the review of the event itself, I have to say a massive thank you to both Jeff Ricketts and Sean Harry for allowing me to not only attend a wonderful convention, but for allowing me to partake in all of the behind the scenes activities as well. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

Two A4-pages down and I haven’t even started the bloody review yet...

I arrived at the beautiful Hilton Hotel in Birmingham at around 1pm on Friday the 26th of September. I entered the lobby of the hotel filled with excitement, butterflies in my belly, and an incredibly full bladder. My drive to the event was dire. I downloaded a satnav app. on my phone, but it didn’t recognise a route between my house and the Hilton Hotel. So I downloaded another app., but the same thing happened. Third app., nope. Fourth app., nope. Then I realised that my phone has a built-in satnav, which worked perfectly. DON’T JUDGE ME, I’VE ONLY HAD THE PHONE A WEEK! Once I’d emptied my bladder (you all asked for a detailed review, you have only yourselves to blame), I bumped into two regular convention attendees that I know very well, Mark and Oli. I sat down with them and quickly realised that Dayne Johnson and his friend John were sat on the table next to us drinking cocktails. My first thought was “damn, how old is the photo that Sean put on the website?” (I’M KIDDING!). I didn’t want to go over and pester Dayne before the event started (I’ve never met him before this event), as I knew he was going to be surrounded by people all weekend and have very little time to himself outside of his hotel room. My hotel room was booked in Jeff’s name, so I had to wait for Jeff to haul his butt downstairs before I could check-in. I’d arranged to meet him at 2pm, so I spent the next hour chatting to Mark and Oli, getting our appetites wet for the coming weekend. Jeff arrived, I checked in, walked into my hotel room doorframe, rubbed my head, shook it off, unpacked, and headed downstairs for the registration opening at 4pm.

When I’m attending a convention, the first thing I like to do after registering is to take 10 minutes to study the activity schedule for the weekend ahead. At some conventions, the talks, autographs, and studio photos can often happen at the same time, so you have to pick and choose what you want to do. Not at Starfury, bitches. The photos are in the morning, the talks are in the afternoon, the autographs are in the evening, and the party is at night. If you wish to do everything, you have that option available, which is a much, much better way to schedule an event. Why would I pay for an event and then have to miss half of it because two things are happening at the same time? This event was a little different because I’d be with Jeff for a certain percentage of it, which therefore meant my timings were different to the regular attendees sometimes. Here is the schedule :-

All I had to do was go and buy any studio photos (studio photos aren’t included in the ticket price for Starfury) or 8x10’s I wanted and I could chill out until 8:30pm. One of the things I love about Starfury events is that the pace is so relaxed. If the guests are happy to stay later than what’s written on the schedule, they have that option. If things are running 15 minutes late, none of the attendees care or get annoyed. Everyone is so laidback and friendly! What kind of bizarro world have I stepped in to?! I moseyed on over to the studio photo tickets desk and purchased myself...

·       1x James Marsters (Saturday)                                                             (£20)
·       1x Emma Caulfield (Saturday)                                                            (£20)
·       1x James Marsters and Emma Caulfield together (Saturday)      (£40)
·       1x Jonathan Woodward (Saturday)                                                    (£10)
·       1x George Hertzberg (Saturday)                                                          (£15)
·       1x Jonathan Woodward in complete vampire makeup (Sunday) (£20)

One thing quickly became apparent to me. All of my photos except Jonathan Woodward in vampire makeup were on Saturday morning, which meant that drinking Friday night was a no-go. I didn’t wait SIXTEEN YEARS to meet James and have the photo turn out like total shit because I looked hungover and as rough as a dog’s ass (where did that expression come from?). This also meant that I could get as drunk as I wanted to on Saturday night without fear of looking horrific the next day because my only photo was with Jonathan in vampire makeup, and I figured that I couldn’t look any worse than a vampire, right? The 8x10’s stall was selling some limited edition (100 of each) art prints for James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Jonathan Woodward, and George Hertzberg for £10 each, so I swiftly snatched up one of all four. All four were number 2/100, which made my OCD joyous.

By this point, it was about 4:30pm and I had nothing to worry about until the main hall opened at 8pm. I work a full-time job, a part-time job, and a full-time degree through the Open University. I’m not used to having three hours of completely free time. So, what did I do with my time? Went back to my hotel room and lazed around doing absolutely nothing. It was bliss.

The opening ceremony kicked off at 8:30pm, as scheduled. Sean Harry acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event and filled us in on how the weekend was going to run. He gave us some notes about the raffle, our 20% discount for the bar (cha-ching!), and then introduced us to the guests one by one. Each guest came out for a couple of minutes, introduced themselves, talked about how excited they were to be there, etc. It’s just a way to kickoff the weekend and get everyone’s excitement flooding for the event. First out was Jonathan Woodward. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan, he sounds just like Bill Murray and acts just like Robin Williams. High energy, high excitement, completely over the top, and gut-bustingly funny. Jonathan has done many, many Starfury events before, so to Sean and a lot of the regular attendees, he’s simply a part of the family by this point. He knows many people by name and he’s watched a lot of the long time attendees grow up. Even though Jonathan has been to Starfury a lot of times before, this was his first convention in Birmingham. The first thing he did was take control of the two big screens on either side of the stage, go to Craig’s List, and look for things on sale in Birmingham. He told us later in the weekend that he hadn’t pre-planned this moment. He didn’t go to Craig’s List before coming out on stage to check what was going to pop up. The first six images appeared on screen and *boom!*, first one was a naked man’s hairy ass crack. Way to keep it classy, Birmingham! There was also what appeared to be used ladies underwear on screen.

In fact, it caused such a stir that George Hertzberg came out to see what had appeared...

Other highlights from the opening ceremony were Jeff Ricketts doing a lap of the main hall for his introduction. Well, I say ‘lap’...he actually went halfway around and ran back again. James Marsters challenged us all to try and find questions that would embarrass him over the weekend. If you’re going to be meeting James soon, give it some thought. He doesn’t get embarrassed easily. I got a personal kick out of Sean Harry’s jokes at the expense of the Twilight franchise too. These jokes would later turn around and bite him in the ass (pun-believable!) the following night at the costume competition.

Straight after the opening ceremony, it was time for the gold ticket holders to go to the meet and greet. Essentially, the meet and greet is an hour, where you sit down at one of numerous tables, and the guests make their way around the room table by table. At this particular meet and greet, there were fifteen tables setup, with 6-12 people per table. My table consisted of two lovely ladies, two lovely Scottish ladies, Simon, a crew member, my friend Becca (who supplied all the pictures from the Q&A’s for this review), and myself. With this meet and greet having fifteen tables and six guests, there were times where you were guest-less and just getting to know the other people that were sat at your table. It was a great way to make new friends and acquaintances for the weekend, especially as some people come to these conventions alone. Highlights from the meet and greet were...

-          Jonathan Woodward told us how he went to Scotland a few years back and took part in a whisky tasting tour. I mentioned to Jonathan that I actually brought a bottle of 10-year-old Aberlour scotch with me to the convention, and we made plans to drink it together on the Saturday night.
-          Dayne Johnson recognised me from our brief Facebook conversation a few days prior to the event, so he came to sit next to me, while his friend John sat at the opposite side of the table. Dayne is a very friendly guy. I mean, very friendly. Constantly smiling, stroking my leg, stroking my arm, stroking my hand, inquiring about my tattoos...he bounced off of his friend John really well as they were both rather, erm, I’m going to go with the word ‘merry’ by this point in the evening. Dayne explained to me that he brought his friend John with him because John’s mother had sadly passed away a week previously, so Dayne wanted to give him a weekend of fun and enjoyment to take his mind off of it for a while before having to go back to reality, which was a really sweet thing to do.
-          Every guest except Dayne sat opposite me at the table. This was awesome because it meant that everybody gave me so much eye contact. I will admit, I was a little trepidatious to meet Emma because historically a couple of the Whedon women I’ve met (not at Starfury) have been a little distant and acted like they didn’t particularly want to be at the convention. Luckily, Emma was the complete opposite to this. She was very engaging, looked everyone in the eye, gave people big hugs in the photo sessions if they desired it...she was a complete sport for the whole event, which means that everyone goes home happy, which is kinda the whole point in the first place. Emma explained to us that California is in the middle of a major drought at the moment. They have hosepipe bans in place and they’re very restricted at the moment. Emma was so happy to be flying over to England because it would mean that she could bask in some much needed rain...but then she arrived in England and it was sunny. Emma said that this seems to be a recurring theme with her recently. She’s chasing the rain, but all she’s getting is sunshine. Doesn’t seem like the worst power in the world to have, does it? Constant sunshine wherever you go. Unless, you’re desperate for some rain, of course.
-          James talked about working on “Supernatural” and he mentioned that it was the first time he ever got to know Charisma Carpenter. When he was on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, he always assumed that Charisma was just like Cordelia. He assumed that Charisma was the stereotypical cheerleader type, but discovered that she’s actually a really cool lady and he really appreciated her by the time they finished recording the episode. For those of you unaware, James and Charisma played a married couple in Supernatural’s seventh season.
-          This event was scheduled to finish at 10pm. None of the six guests left at 10pm because they were taking more time talking at each table than Starfury had anticipated. By midnight, one table and one guest remained in the table and George Hertzberg. The hilarious thing about our conversation with George is that I don’t think we mentioned “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” once. George explained to us that he has a lovely wife and three young boys, and he decided to leave Los Angeles and move to Dallas, Texas, to raise his family. He works in an office now and absolutely loves the work he’s doing. Every single time he mentioned his family, even if it was jesting at the anarchy of having to try to control three young boys, his face lit up. I never thought I’d meet a celebrity family man I had more respect for than Alexis Denisof, but I hold George in that same esteem. He’s just a nice guy, you know? He doesn’t act like a celebrity at all. Some guests don’t act like celebrities, but they exude star power. George exudes nothing other than being a regular, normal, happy, appreciative guy. I was very impressed with George. We spent most of our conversation talking about the drought in Texas, and George started filling us in on the history of the lakes in Texas, and how he thinks Texas and California could handle their water supply more effectively in the future. We also talked about the Scottish people voting to stay a part of the UK. It was the most bizarre, unique, random conversation I’ve ever had at a meet and greet, but it was highly interesting.
-          Jonathan Woodward left the meet and greet at about 11:45pm, wearing a gigantic chocolate wrapper over his head that he’d fastened into a hat, and downing a pitcher of some cocktail that had been left on one of the tables. Top bloke.
-          All six guests left a good first impression. I do have to apologise because this is the only part of the weekend that I didn’t take notes for, as it would have been impossible to in such an intimate setting without coming across like a jerk. I know that I talked to James, Emma, and the rest about much more than this, but at this present moment it’s disappeared from my delicate brain.

By the time we left the meet and greet hall, it was 12:30am. I stayed down at the party for a while before heading up to bed. I needed to look my best for my Saturday morning photo sessions, and there’s only so much I can do with my strikingly average-looking face at the best of times.

The first photo session of the day on Saturday morning was scheduled for 9am, and it was for Jeff Ricketts, Jonathan Woodward, and Dayne Johnson. The cool thing about Starfury conventions is that if you have a studio photo ticket with more than one of the guests in the photo session, you can choose to have individual photos with the guests, or with two of the guests together, or all three guests if you so desire. You can mix and match between the guests in attendance so long as you have purchased photo tickets for the guests you want. Another great thing about the Starfury photo sessions is that the backdrop is great and the photographer is frickin’ awesome. Half of my Hallowhedon shots were so damn light that I looked like I was sick. I had to darken them on my computer because the lightening was ridiculously bright. Stupidly bright. The Starfury photos are a more natural looking light, which gives a much cleaner, higher quality picture. The only other major difference between “Hallowhedon” and “Vampire Ball” photos is that Hallowhedon’s are instantaneous, while you have to wait a couple of hours for Vampire Ball’s to be developed. This didn’t matter to me in the least as I was there all weekend and on both days my photos were back in plenty of time to get them signed at the autograph table. For this first session, my only photo was with Jonathan Woodward, who wrapped me in a gigantic hug and shook my hand before the photo was taken. Seriously, I don’t think I can adequately put into words what a terrific convention guest Jonathan Woodward is. There’s a reason why Sean brings him back time and time again.

An hour later, it was time for the studio photo session with James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, and George Hertzberg. This was easily the busiest one of the weekend for me (and in general) because I had a photo with James, Emma, and George individually, and then an additional one with James and Emma together. Historically speaking, I’ve never left a convention and been happy with all of my studio photos. I tend to dislike my appearance in general, but especially in such high quality settings. If the photo is a little grainy, it can cover up some of my flaws. Convention photos don’t offer me this small mercy, so my mug is subjected to showing off its full form. However, this year’s “Vampire Ball” is the first convention ever where I’ve loved every single studio photo.

By the time I left the studio photo session, with a grin plastered across my face, it was time for Dayne’s talk/Q&A on the stage. One of the perks of having Dayne over for a convention is that he can apply makeup to people on stage and walk you through the process while answering questions at the same time. On Sunday, Dayne would be putting Jonathan Woodward in his vampire makeup from when he played Holden Webster on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. On Saturday, he would be putting someone (I’m not sure if it was a volunteer or pre-arranged, as I missed the first 5 minutes of the talk due to the photo session) in the makeup from “Angel” season five’s “Hell Bound”. If you remember, in that episode Spike sees a collection of people that are mutilating their bodies, being tortured, etc. Spike wanders across one of them chopping his own fingers off, with cuts all over his face. Here’s a reminder of that uplifting visual...

Here are some of the highlights from the talk/makeup demonstration :-

·       Dayne joked with the guy that he was putting the prosthetics on that he’d forgotten the de-bonder for the glue.

·       Apparently Dayne is known around Hollywood as ‘One Cue Tip’ because he can do everything he needs with, you guessed it, one cue tip (gluing, applying, etc.).

·       Someone asked Dayne if he can still watch television shows and movies as a fan without the makeup and prosthetics distracting him. Dayne said that the makeup, surprisingly, wasn’t his usual distraction. He often finds himself getting lost in the background of scenes, rather than paying attention to the foreground. He’ll be busy looking at the extras or the back of the set instead of paying attention to what’s going on. Dayne said that if he starts doing that, it means that he’s getting bored with whatever’s on-screen. The example he jokingly used was anything involving Angelina Jolie.

·       Sparingly, every 10 minutes or so, Dayne would ask the volunteer/assistant if he was okay. He said this was his way of making sure that his subject hadn’t died due to a lack of being able to breathe under the prosthetics. I think he was joking....

·       The most challenging prosthetic, demon, or monster that Dayne had to construct while on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” was Angel season four’s ‘The Beast’. The Beast took 5 hours of makeup and prosthetics every day in order to be ready for the camera. It was a suit with a zip up the back, but all of The Beast was shown, so the full body of the suit needed to be painted.

·       Dayne currently works as the head of the makeup department on “Criminal Minds” and has done so for almost a decade. If he could work on any other show right now, it would be “The Walking Dead” or “American Horror Story” (another Tim Minear penned show).

·       Dayne was asked if he ever had any scary moments or close calls while working on “Angel”. Dayne said that for the most part everything ran smoothly, but there was one incident that stuck in his mind. If you remember Angel season five’s “Life Of The Party”, there’s a big, bulky version of Lorne. Evidently, the actor behind that makeup had his neck burned quite badly by the sulphur in the prosthetic because sometimes the prosthetics don’t have enough time to dry properly.
·       Dayne was the first makeup artist to apply the prosthetics and makeup to Emma Caulfield for Anyanka.

The whole process took around 2 hours, but here is the stunning end result...

Straight after Dayne’s makeup demonstration, it was time for Jonathan Woodward and Jeff Ricketts’ Q&A for an hour. If you quizzed everyone who went to “Vampire Ball 5” on what their favourite talk of the weekend was, I think the vast majority of people would say Jonathan and Jeff’s talk. Jonathan and Jeff have never met before “Vampire Ball” weekend, but their chemistry together is undeniable. They’re kindred spirits, both onstage and offstage. Jonathan’s random, hilarious, improvised, scatty personality matches Jeff’s eccentric, off-the-wall, psychic one perfectly. Jeff has this thing on stage where he uses ESP and tries to be a psychic and channel messages from people mentally. Is he a real psychic or is he a fraud? Read this section and then decide for yourself...

·       This is going to be the hardest ‘talk’ to put into words because most of it was on the fly, completely ad-libbed, and a collection or grunts, facial expressions, and noises. There was very little in the way of actual Q&A. The first part of the talk consisted of Jonathan and Jeff discussing Jonathan’s Craig’s List pictures from the night before at the opening ceremony. Jonathan explained to us here that he hadn’t planned that at all and what came up on screen was completely genuine. They then started talking about edible underwear (due to one of the pictures that was on the screen), and Jonathan disturbingly remarked that all underwear is edible. Eww.
·       Jeff’s ESP ways led Jonathan into the audience, where Jeff was trying to find information about a lady from the audience psychically, but through Jonathan. This all resulted in Jonathan allowing the mental waves to pass into his mouth and through his ass, which was pointed in the direction of Jeff on stage. I swear, I haven’t laughed as hard as this since watching the scene in ‘The InBetweeners Movie 2’ where Neil’s poo is chasing Will down the waterslide.
·       One of the things that Jeff picked up from the lady’s mind was a collection of noises, which Jeff tried to translate, before realising he was remembering noises from the hotel’s PPV package the night before (read: porn). Jonathan quipped that you can get package deals on those movies in hotels now.
·       Jeff then asked the lady if she could possibly be pregnant, but requested that Jonathan ask this question to her in a positive way. So, Jonathan started talking about how pregnancy could give her nice skin...for about four days.
·       Jonathan said that about once every five months, someone will shout at him across the street, “YOU KILLED FRED, YOU BASTARD!”, and Jonathan’s response was “yeah! Ten years ago! On TV! She had it coming!”. How dare he! Fred did not have it coming! Jonathan enjoyed playing Knox because it’s so rare for a villain to actually succeed in their plan to destroy one of the main characters. How many villainous characters can boast of actually accomplishing their task?
·       Jeff, who lives in Vienna, Austria, these days, was asked a question from someone that he thought sounded German. So, in his excitement, Jeff started talking to the young man in German...until the young man cut him off with a completely deadpan “I’m not German”. Everyone was in hysterics.
·       This led us to Jeff’s psychic abilities of the day. Jeff picked a volunteer to come up to the stage, choose a number between one and four, and then retrieve the piece of paper from his pocket. She picked number four, and the piece of paper read “I knew you were going to pick number four”. Spooky! Later in the talk, someone asked Jeff, in the interest of full disclosure, could he please show us that he had three other pieces of paper in other pockets, saying the same for numbers one, two, and three. Jeff, outraged by this refusal to accept his psychic ability, asked the lady to pick a number between one and four. She chose number two. Jeff kindly asked Jonathan to turn over her chair and collect the piece of paper underneath one of the legs. What Jeff didn’t realise is that the chairs are all linked together, so it was a difficult process for Jonathan to try to pry the chair apart from the rest. He quipped that it’s just like Jeff to stand on stage barking orders while he has to do the impossible tasks. The piece of paper under the chair read “I knew you were going to pick number two”. Oh, I’ve also got to mention that Jonathan found a 5p on the floor halfway through the talk and stuck it to his forehead. That’s always worth mentioning. For those of you that were at “Vampire Ball”, the lady who asked the question was not a plant and Jonathan did not place the piece of paper under the chair when he went over. The piece of paper was under the chair from the beginning of the talk. Genius trick or genuine psychic abilities, you decide.
·       Jeff mentioned that it was his birthday a few days before the convention started and asked if anyone else had a birthday that week. A few people raised their hands and Jeff and Jonathan led a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’...which quickly spiralled into Jeff and Jonathan singing songs I’d never heard of before and bursting into a spontaneous dance routine together. My client, ladies and gentlemen!
·       The talk ended with Jonathan showing us a video that he’d recorded earlier in the day. He went into Birmingham city centre to record some footage on his phone of the finer things of Birmingham, having found the worst of Birmingham on Craig’s List the night before. Of course, what he was actually doing was showing the worst of Birmingham again. Things like grumpy people and random pieces of fruit. He also recorded footage of himself getting onto the wrong bus and having to be collected by one of Starfury’s crew members, who didn’t look impressed. He said that Sean didn’t know this yet and joked that it would be fine because at least he made it back to the hotel in time for the talk. He told all of us to go outside of the hotel at least once over the weekend and enjoy the beautiful sights of Birmingham because it’s a sorry state of affairs when the smokers are getting more fresh air than the non-smokers. Absolutely hilarious. UPDATE! I talked to Jonathan last night (1st October) and he said that he’ll send me this video over the next few days, so it might be worth checking back here in a week because the video of Jonathan wandering around Birmingham will be on this review! 

 After Jonathan and Jeff’s talk there was a 30-minute intermission before Emma Caulfield’s solo talk. I used this time to grab a drink, take a relaxing piss, un-numb my ass, and go and say ‘hi’ to some friends. I’ve got to be honest, I love Emma’s short hair. It looks great on her. Want to know something interesting about Emma Caulfield? This hilarious, loud, bubbly, over-the-top personality on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is actually quite shy in front of an audience in real life. She didn’t come across as shy or nervous at all when I was talking to her one-on-one, but in front of an audience she seemed a little shy, which was rather adorable. Highlights! :-

·       Emma hated being in the Anyanka makeup and prosthetics. Between scenes she’d constantly be picking at it because it itched, so the makeup department were constantly having to touch up the paint and re-apply small pieces of the prosthetic that had unglued. Emma used to say that taking off the prosthetics and makeup at the end of the day was better than sex.
·       Emma doesn’t own the rights to her Essnemma YouTube channel, which is why we haven’t seen any new episodes since her contract was up. She does intend to start another YouTube show soon (while keeping the rights herself this time), but hasn’t decided on what it’s going to be about.
·       Emma was recently in Australia for a convention and she was constantly walking into people and getting odd looks. In her mind she kept thinking “get out of the way, will you!”, before realising that she was walking on the wrong side of the road.
·       Emma adored her role as the Blind Witch in “Once Upon A Time” and would love to play that character again. She described herself as ‘obsessed’ with the character. Apparently she had no idea how she was going to play the character until five minutes before shooting began.
·       Emma wasn’t a fan of Anya’s quick death on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, but it was her decision to be killed on the show. She requested for Joss to kill Anya. Whether the show came back for an eight season or there was the potential for a film down the line, Emma was ready to say goodbye to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and Anya after playing the character for five years. The reason why Emma was happy for Anya to die was because Anya’s character had come full-circle. She went from not understanding humanity and the world to being willing to die to protect them. It was a beautifully poetic story.
·       Emma is still in frequent contact with pretty much everybody from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, and she listed Tony Head, Seth Green, and Tom Lenk as the people she sees the most from the show. Apparently she visits Tony almost every time she’s in England. After saying that, she joked that she actually hates them all and never sees them anymore because she doesn’t get paid to hang out with them.
·       Emma describes actors and actresses as ‘monkey bitches’. They get told where to stand, what to say, how to move, how to was hilarious to listen to her talk about her profession in such a light-hearted way.
·       Her favourite episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is “Restless” because it somehow manages to be a perfectly crafted masterpiece, yet also keep within the confines of having the episode feel like a real dream...randomly appearing in places, the Cheese Man, etc.
·       The last scene of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” that Emma ever filmed was her death scene in “Chosen”, which also happened to be on her birthday.
·       Emma hasn’t watched an entire episode of the show since she filmed “Chosen”. Mostly because she hates to watch herself on screen, as she’s too critical of her own work to enjoy it properly.
·       Emma said that filming “Once More With Feeling” was phenomenal, but she struggled with the singing because she doesn’t consider herself a naturally gifted singer, even though her mother was a professional singer. She said “thank God for auto-tuning”.
·       Her favourite villains ever on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” are The Gentlemen because they’re literally one of the creepiest things she’s ever seen in her life.
·       Somebody in the audience asked Emma if she disliked bunnies or had a vendetta against bunnies. Emma’s response was a big, light-hearted speech about how she doesn’t dislike bunnies. She loves all animals and can we please pass along to our friends that she doesn’t dislike bunnies. She said all of this with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, but you just know that she meant every single one of those jokey words. How many times do you think she’s been asked about bunnies in the past fifteen years? Thousands? She ended her little mock speech with “it’s Drew Goddard’s fault for all this bunny hatred from Anya, and he doesn’t even know why he added this to Anya’s character! He just said ‘why not’!”. She joked that she’s changing her answer because she is starting to hate bunnies because of all the bunny questions over the past fifteen years.
·       Her top three favourite television shows ever are “The X-Files”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. She watches these shows on repeat and was even watching “The X-Files” in her hotel room just before coming on stage.
·       She was asked who the better kisser was, Tony Head, Nicky Brendan, or James Marsters. She thought about the answer for a long time before deciding that it was James. However, she did add the asterisk that it was Spike who was the good kisser, not James. James is such a method actor that when he was on camera playing Spike, he was Spike. So he kissed her as Spike, not as James.
·       If Emma had one word to describe Anya it would be ‘searcher’. Anya was constantly trying to find the answers to questions that she didn’t understand about the world...why people die, why people continue to do things that make them sad, why people don’t care about money as much as she does. After becoming human, Anya became a student of humanity and it was this search that encompassed her life for most of the show.
·       Emma told us a very amusing story about her infamous speech in “The Body”. The speech that makes most people bawl like a baby. Throughout that entire speech, all Emma could think about was how hungry she was and how desperate she was for a pee. When she was recording it, she felt as though she was doing a bad job because she was distracted by her desire to pee. Also, Joss recorded that scene time and time again because he wanted ‘the right kind of teardrop’ on Anya’s face during the speech.
·       The ending of “Selfless” is the moment of Anya’s character journey that resonated with her the most personally. It’s the one where Anya is asking Xander “what if I really am nobody?”. That’s a question that Emma has asked herself during her life, so this moment really struck a chord with her.
·       Emma has a terrible memory and barely remembers any of her lines or scenes from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” ten years later. However, she has a fantastic memory when it comes to memorising lines.
·       She was asked if she could play any historical figure, who would she play? Emma’s response was “hasn’t Meryl Streep played them all by this point?”
·       The movie “Poltergeist” really scared her as a child. For some reason her family decided that was going to be the movie for family night when she was four years old.
·       Finally, Emma told the audience that she’d never seen any of “Doctor Who”, and the audience literally let out a gigantic, exasperated, shocked gasp. Emma’s reaction to this gasp was absolutely priceless and she apologised for never having seen the show.

Due to Dayne’s makeup tutorial running 30 minutes later than scheduled, I had to run away from the talk hall before James Marsters and George Hertzberg’s Q&A. If any of you that were in that talk are reading this, feel free to fill us all in on what happened in the comments section of this review! However, just because I wasn't there, it doesn't mean I didn't have awesome friends taking photos...

I had to leave the talk hall because I needed to collect my studio photos from the morning’s shoots, collect my art prints and 8x10’s to be signed, and get my collection of notes before meeting Jeff and Toni in the suite that was going to serve as the autograph session room. Before heading to the autograph hall, I quickly grabbed some ‘Badger’ tickets as well. Badger tickets are £10 each and they entitle you to an extra autograph with any of the guests.

The autograph session itself was an absolute treat. Before the doors opened to the attendees, I went around to get my own autographs. On Saturday, James was the first person people met as they entered the room, followed by Emma. On the Sunday, Emma and James were last. I think Starfury realised that having the headline guests at the front caused a crush of people at the beginning, which made the line back-up rather drastically.

James Marsters – What is there to say about James Marsters? The guy is all class. He doesn’t act like a big star, he doesn’t have any arrogance or superiority complex. He’s just like Christian Kane was last year. A straight-up, regular, everyday guy that you could envision bumping in to at a bar and spending the night shooting the shit with. What I loved about James was that he spent a good few minutes talking to everybody. He wasn’t one of these “hi”, “hi”, “bye”, “bye” guests. He was engaging, he seemed interested in you, he seemed grateful that you came, he gave everyone eye-contact, smiles, and handshakes. He made you feel appreciated, which is a very rare gift for a convention headliner to have. I talked to James for quite a while about his career, about “Dragon Warriors”, his experiences with voice acting, and so on. The biggest “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” question I had for James was to ask him how he enjoyed the experience of writing the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” comic book continuation one-shot ‘Spike: Into The Light’, which takes place after “Grave” and before “Lessons”. James explained to me that he told Joss Whedon after “Angel” finished that Joss had seven years to do more “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or “Angel” before it would be too late for James to realistically play the role any longer. If Joss wanted him to do anything at all, he’d be there. One line in a film, a cameo on a TV show...if he wanted Spike to appear, James would be there, under the proviso that it happened  within seven years of “Angel” finishing. Fast-forward six years, Joss calls James and asks James if he’d be interested in making a Spike TV movie. James jumped at the chance, but Joss didn’t yet have an actual idea for the film. James told Joss that he’d had an idea in the back of his head for years, and he filled Joss in on his idea. Unfortunately, budgetary problems meant that the movie never came to fruition, but James’ idea eventually became this one-shot comic. He absolutely loved the experience of writing it and would happily do it again in the future. James signed the 8x10” art print for me, my studio photo of the two of us together, and also an 8x10” for Robyn (my girlfriend), as she’s a massive fan of the show (specifically Spike), but couldn’t be there this time around.

Emma Caulfield – The funny thing about Emma is that when we were talking one-on-one, whether it was the green room or the autograph table, we never talked about “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Not once. At the autograph table, we both fangasmed over our mutual love of “The Walking Dead” and “Game Of Thrones”. We discussed who we thought was going to survive the coming season of “The Walking Dead”, and I asked her if she’s read the “A Song Of Ice And Fire” book series (that’s the “Game Of Thrones” books for those of you unaware). She hasn’t read them. She said that it would be cool for Arya or someone like that to sit the Iron Throne when all is said and done. I filled her in on my theory surrounding the conclusion of “Game Of Thrones”/”A Song Of Ice And Fire”, and what I thought about Jon Snow’s parentage. You can read all about my theory here. It doesn’t contain any spoilers that I’m aware of; it’s just speculation and guesswork on my part. Emma seemed really interested in my theory and said that it would be a very cool way to end the show. Emma signed my 8x10” art print and also signed an 8x10” for Robyn (see what a good boyfriend I am?!).

George Hertzberg – That big, friendly, loveable guy! As I’d spent quite a bit of time talking to George at the meet and greet the night before, I felt totally at ease around George. Not that I felt tense around James or Emma, but both of those guys are such childhood heroes of mine, that I couldn’t help but be a little tense, even if I didn’t show it. If I ever had the opportunity to choose my own father in life, it would be Alexis Denisof or George Hertzberg. He comes across as the most loving father in the world and you can really sense how blessed he feels at having a wonderful family. I asked George if he found it hard to initially know how to play Adam, as Adam is essentially three characters in one. Adam has robot functionalities, yet is also part demon and part human as well. He’s a totally unique character in the Buffyverse. George’s voice is higher than Adam’s too. George would spend 3-4 hours per day in the makeup chair in order to play Adam. I would have gone out of my mind having to sit still for that long. How Jeff Ricketts, that ball of energy, ever sat still enough to be put in the Spider Demon makeup, I’ll never know. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Jeff at a convention, please try to ply him with an energy drink. The result would be beyond ridiculous. George signed my 8x10” art print, and it was off to Jonathan’s autograph table before sitting down with Jeff and letting the fun begin.

Jonathan Woodward  - There are no words to describe Jonathan Woodward. There simply aren’t. Jonathan brought a big book of stickers with him to the autograph session, so he could put one on everyone’s autograph. We talked for a while, we joked around, I reiterated our plans to drink scotch in the bar later, and a fun time was had. Jonathan signed my 8x10” art print, and I was the first person of the day to receive a stick out of the infamous Jonathan Woodward sticker book. It was a skeletal-looking undead biker, which Jonathan stuck on the back of my art print and captioned it “SHANE ON YOU” was his attempt at being funny, I believe. A name pun, Jonathan, how original! What was my response, you ask? “PUN-BELIEVABLE!”. That’s right, I can give as good as I get.

 After all this excitement, it was time to sit down at the autograph table with Jeff and Toni for the next 2.5 hours. Now, there’s not a great deal to say about this time of the convention because everything was so amazing. Over the course of the next couple of hours, I met a couple of hundred conventioneers. I spoke to everyone, interacted with everyone, bounced off of Jeff, and generally had the most stupendous time in the world. What I loved about Jeff at “Hallowhedon” last year, is that he spent a lot of time with everyone. A lot of time. Plus, he would customise practically every autograph to the person in front of him. The same can certainly be said for the “Vampire Ball” weekend. I don’t think he used the same quote, phrase, or sentence more than three times over the entire weekend! I don’t recall what started it, but Jeff ended up writing around twenty poems over the next two hours. I mean, 14-20 lines long, taking up an entire A4 page. They even had different themes! One was a country song, one was Shakespearian...but each poem related to the person that was in front of him. He used their name in the poem, he used their personality in the poem, and he gave them something truly unique that nobody else will ever have. Toni is from Essex, so she has that wonderful Essex accent. Therefore, Jeff made use of this accent and would get her to read out a lot of the phrases and poems that he was writing. Everybody that came over to the autograph table was awesome, friendly, excited, enjoying the weekend, and their enthusiasm in turn made me even more enthusiastic. To each and every one of you that I interacted with at the autograph table that day, thank you. Two and a half hours flew by because of your excitement and willingness to goof around with Jeff.

By the time the autograph session was finished, it was 7:30pm. This gave us half an hour to go and chill in the green room before Jeff, George, Jonathan, and Dayne had to judge the costume competition. I’m not going to tell you what was said in the green room because I feel it would be highly unprofessional. This is the time of the weekend where the guests could relax, switch off, unwind, and chill out. This is the time of the weekend where they could say what they wanted and feel absolutely free to do so. What happens in the green room stays in the green room. However, with that being said, I will give you one little snippet from each day. On this particular day, George was showing myself and Jeff some photos of his wife and three beautiful little boys, and was explaining to us what his home life is like on a daily basis. In turn, Jeff was telling George all about his two little boys. It was a really nice bonding session between the three of us (and one other Starfury event staff whose name escapes me). I talked about my parents, what it was like growing up without a father, and my tribute tattoo to my deceased friend Luke, and in turn they shared some detailed about their own families and lives.

When George and Jeff went into the main hall to judge the competition with Jonathan and Dayne, I joined my friends Becca, Alison, and Mark at the tables that were surrounding the dance floor where the competition would be taking place. The costume competition was exactly what it sounds like. Various convention attendees dressed up as various characters (Spike, Disney princesses, etc.), did a lap around the dance floor, and the four judges deliberated on how good they were (without sharing it with the rest of us). The costumes were all fantastic. From little four-year-old Tommy with his fart gun, to the group of pro-Twilight protestors, to Mary Poppins, to the female vampire Spike...everyone was phenomenal. One of my personal favourite highlights was watching Luke, dressed as Edward Cullen (glitter and all), chasing Sean Harry around the dance floor, while Sean tried to escape his evil, glittery clutches. Good times. The judges deliberated, came back out 20 minutes later, and declared the winners...while Jonathan Woodward stole little Tommy’s fart gun and started playing it into a microphone. There’s always one...

The day’s festivities drew to a close just before 9pm. By this point, I was tired and I felt a little rough, so I rested in my hotel room for an hour before rejoining the Vampire Ball Masquerade party. Saturday night was one of my favourite parts of the weekend for numerous reasons, but here are some of the highlights...

·       Sitting around a table at the bar with Jeff Ricketts, Jonathan Woodward, and a group of my friends, drinking whisky shots and scotch shots (Jeff doesn’t drink alcohol, so he was drinking something else). Between myself and Jonathan, we finished the bottle of scotch. Would Jonathan allow me to drink shots of my 10-year-old Aberlour scotch at first? Oh, no, no! He told me that for every year the scotch had been around, you had to keep it in your mouth for another second, swilling it and enjoying the flavour. Therefore, we were swilling the scotch around in our mouths for ten seconds before drinking the shot.

·       Jonathan borrowed a bow and arrow from one of the convention guests. This particular bow and arrow fired marshmallows. Jonathan proceeded to start firing at all of us, before setting his sights on other people in the bar/lounge area. He would hide behind a pillar, then jump out and fire a marshmallow at somebody.

·       Jonathan showed me a tattoo on his right forearm, which looked like it could be a vagina, or possibly a woman. It turns out that it’s a sculpture that his grandfather made of a naked woman diving into a swimming pool. Also, while we were lingering around the bar, Cecilia came over to sit with us. Cecilia's costume for the night included some fake blood around her face. Jonathan, in his infinite wisdom, had a thought pop into his head and he wanted to turn that thought into a reality. He aimed his camera at Cecilia and Jeff, asked Jeff to smile, and THIS is the result. It looks like Jeff has just beaten Cecilia to a pulp and is loving every minute of it!...

·       My friend Paige has a gift when she’s been drinking (and sometimes even when she hasn’t been). If she’s had a few drinks and you so much as mention Sarah Michelle Gellar’s name...she starts crying. I’m dead serious. Her eyes will get all shiny and watery and tears will start flowing. Jeff overheard this conversation and between the two of us we decided to test this while she was sober at the autograph table the next morning. Jeff, very unsubtly, turns to me when Paige arrives and starts talking about how great it was to work with Sarah Michelle Gellar...Paige’s eyes brim with tears instantly. Such an interesting party trick! I asked Paige why this happens and she simply said “Sarah Michelle Gellar is too beautiful”. Fair enough.

·       Claritsa had a liiiiiiiittle too much to drink on Saturday night. By 1am, she was asleep in the bar area of the Hilton. Jonathan turned to me and asked if I have a ring on me. I gave him my Claddagh ring and he walked over to Claritsa and pretended to propose to her...while she was still fast asleep. Halfway through this photo taking funsies, Claritsa woke up and looked at me, while Jonathan was still crouched down behind her chair. She fell asleep again without so much as turning around. Kudos to Tanya for taking these glorious pictures.


 ·       An hour later, Claritsa needed to visit the bathroom due to an excess of alcohol consumption. Gabs took her to the toilet, while I went looking for Paige so that Gabs would have some help in getting Claritsa out of the bathroom when needed (I went in to help and was swiftly booted out by the Hilton cleaning lady). Within five minutes, I’d found Paige, we returned to the bathroom (I stood outside), and Claritsa and Gabs were gone! We went to Claritsa’s room, not there. We went to Gabs and Paige’s room, not there. It took us half an hour to track them down in the end. The person who pointed us in the right direction? Jeff Ricketts. We bumped into him in the lobby and he told us that Claritsa was just around the corner. In one of the more memorable, hilarious moments of the night, myself and Paige bumped into George Hertzberg just leaving the bar. Paige, who was a little drunk herself by this point, turns to George and says, “I was sooo gonna get laid tonight, but then the girl went and threw up!”. George took a second to figure out what he’d just heard, turned to me, raised one eyebrow, grinned, and said, “shall I even ask?”. I said “it’s best not to” before wishing him goodnight.

Such a fun party night!

I woke up Sunday morning, battling a slight hangover, and trying to function off of such little sleep over the past couple of days. Luckily for me, my only photo of the day was Jonathan Woodward in vampire makeup, which wasn’t taking place until 1pm. All I had to do before then was to go to the Dayne Johnson/Jonathan Woodward makeup panel from 11am-1pm, where Dayne would be putting Jonathan in the makeup on stage, ready for the photoshoot. Holden Webster reborn, eleven years later! However, before that happened, I bumped into Jeff and went with him to the green room, as he had a 10am photo shoot with James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, and George Hertzberg. Upon arriving in the green room, I sat down at a table with James Marsters, his P.A., and Jeff. Jeff quickly left to talk to George, James’ P.A. disappeared for a moment or two to get a drink, and Emma Caulfield came and sat down with me and James. Suddenly, I had this moment in my head where I thought, “hold shit, I’m sat at a table with James Marsters and Emma Caulfield, IN THE GREEN ROOM”. Then, I had a second thought, “HOLY SHIT, I’M SAT AT A TABLE WITH JAMES MARSTERS AND EMMA CAULFIELD, I BETTER NOT FANBOY OR SAY ANYTHING STUPID!”. What a surreal experience. Again, what happens in the green room stays in the green room, but that was one of my favourite moments of the weekend.

Highlights from the Dayne/Jonathan makeup extravaganza :-

·       I don’t recall what prompted this, but Jonathan started to translate a girl in the audience that asked him a question in Italian. Jonathan, of course, translated it as something dirty and was telling the girl that you can get antibiotics for that now and it’s rare that someone loses their nose to syphilis. 
·       Jonathan shaved his face Sunday morning in preparation of the prosthetic and makeup that Dayne would be applying. He said that doing this was ‘nothing’ because for his role on “Firefly”, he had to shave his body from head to toe. 
·       Jonathan talked about how a role on one episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” changed his life. So much so that he’s been able to come to conventions in England on a consist basis for over a decade. 
·       When Jonathan first met Joss Whedon, Joss was wearing a cowboy hat, and the first words out of Joss’ mouth after “hello” were that his balls really ached that day. Charming man, no? 
·       Jonathan is mostly retired from acting now and has spent the past few years working on radio in Maine.

·       Jonathan was asked a question. A question that would later be asked to Jeff and George as well...“if you woke up as a girl for the day, what would you do?”. Jonathan would inspect the girl’s bathrooms because they’re way nicer than the men’s bathrooms. After seeing the ladies’ bathroom in the Hilton lounge the night before, I can say with certainty that Jonathan wasn’t lying. It’s like a frickin’ lounge area in there! Meanwhile, ours smell of piss and B.O.
·       Jonathan told us that his grandfather is the one who taught him how to make paper hats out of anything (hence the giant chocolate wrapped on Friday night).
·       “If you could be a vampire or a werewolf, which one would you be and why?” – Jonathan said vampire because werewolves are too hairy.
·       You need to bear in mind that while all of this hilarity was ensuing, Dayne was trying to get Jonathan to sit still so he could apply his prosthetics and makeup.
·       Jonathan’s first UK convention was a Starfury one a decade ago called “White Room”. Due to nerves, Jonathan had some whisky...and some more whisky...and some more whisky. He woke up the next morning for his 6am photoshoot (I think he was exaggerating that time) and realised that he had the smell of whisky coming out of his pores. As did David Benham, who was to be his studio photo buddy that day. To try to counteract their feelings of roughness, they had a little hair of the dog (more alcohol), which only made the problem worse. Jonathan’s solution? To give all the attendees of the photo session that were overage a shot of whisky to cover up the smell of their own and to anoint their foreheads with a little whisky as well.
·       Jonathan is known around Starfury events for his wild antics. These include the cock-mic and Skyping an event (when he had to pull out) from his bath tub.
·       He mentioned that Dominic Keating has “junk the size of Texas” and then burst into song about it.
·       “What would you write on your gravestone to sum up your life?”...somebody yelled from the audience that Dayne would write “he’s finally still!”. Perfect way to end the two-hour session of jokes, goofs, and makeup tips.

I headed over to the photo session area, where I bumped in to a now-moving-again Claritsa and we queued up for our studio photo with Jonathan Woodward in full vampire makeup. It’s so weird to see that hideous face in front of you and then have that face be smiley and playful. One of the more surreal experiences of my life. There are many photos from that session that look absolutely badass, including my own, but there is one that defines the experience in every conceivable way. That defines the weekend, you could say. It involves vampires, alcohol, partying, interacting with celebrities, and general badassery...

Yes, that’s real whisky. Yes, she was tipsy by the end. Yes, she was wet by the end...I mean from the alcohol spilling!

After leaving Jonathan’s vampire photo session, it was time to head back to the main talk hall for Jeff and George’s talk. What I love about this talk is that it started with a quiet audience. Everyone was hungover, shy, and exhausted. However, by the end of the hour, Jeff and George had won everyone over entirely. They had great chemistry together. Highlights! :-

·       Jeff’s first psychicery (I think I just made that word up...) of the day was to get people in the audience to name characters from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, and “Firefly”. George would write them down on a piece of paper (at one point Jeff said “you’ll have to spell ‘Kaylee’ for George, he’s from Texas. Buuuuurn), and they would go into a bag that someone in the audience allowed them to use. Then, Jeff plucked someone out of the audience to pull a name out of the bag. While the lovely lady from the audience was choosing a name out of the bag, Jeff was writing down what name she was going to choose on a gigantic post-it note (seriously, it was humongous). The name ‘Kaylee’ was pulled out, and Jeff turned his massive post-it note around to reveal the name ‘Kaylee’. Ooooh, ESP for the win! When someone from the audience asked if they could see the other names in the bag, Jeff said “sure!...After the show”.
·       One of Jeff’s most bizarre moments was being on stage in New York City, partaking in a play where he had to shit out Hitler. I kid you not. During the play, he would pull down his trousers, and poop out Hitler, which would start the next section of the play. Yep.
·       “If you could be any fruit or vegetable, what one would you be?”...George would be a cherry tomato. It was a very specific type of tomato that George wanted to be. Jeff would be a banana. The reason for Jeff’s choice is that he feels the Austrian people mistreat bananas. While most of the world will open the banana, roll down the skin, eat a bit, roll down the skin a bit more, eat a bit more, etc., the Austrians will remove the banana entirely from its skin and then hold the squishy banana in their hand while they eat it.
·       At Hallowhedon last year, Jeff made three friends from Essex...Tammy (she’s the girl in the photo with vampire Jonathan), Tanya (she took the photos of Jonathan proposing to drunken Claritsa), and Clare. On the rare occasion when nobody’s hand was up to ask a question, Jeff would randomly point someone out in the audience and say “I see that person wants to ask a question”, and they’d have to come up with one on the spot. Everything was going swimmingly until Jeff made one mistake...he point to Clare. Now, what you need to understand is that these Essex girls are born from sarcasm and sass. So, when Jeff was trying to use his ESP to find out things about Clare, things got hilarious...

Jeff: “Have you ever been to a gynaecological before (his words)?”
Clare: “Noooooooo.
Jeff: “I’m sensing that you’re a woman.”
Clare (in the driest voice ever): “Yes. Wow, God, how do you do it?”

So. Frickin’. Funny. Jeff was on stage like “I’m crashing hard, guys, I’m crashing hard”. Another highlight from this section is that George had been massaging the shoulders of everyone that had volunteered to go on stage or that Jeff had pointed out in the audience to ask a question. When George started massaging Clare, she said “I think I’ll wait a minute, thanks” because she wanted to be massaged more.

·       Jeff talked about trying to do stand-up comedy in New York City. He came on stage for his first ever stand-up routine and he was immediately heckled with a very loud, aggressive “get off! Get off!”. Jeff took offence to this comment as he hadn’t even started his routine yet...then he looked down and realised that he was standing on someone’s hand.
·       “If your life was a newspaper headline right now, what would it be?”...Jeff’s would be “Get off! Get off!”, while George took a more beautiful stance on the question. George’s answer was “Faithful Learner”. Since becoming a father, George’s entire life has changed. He believes he’s here on Earth to raise his children and support his family. Having a family gave George an epiphany moment and everything has changed for him since that day.
·       Jeff and George were asked the same question that Dayne and Jonathan were earlier in the day...“if you woke up as a woman for the day, what would you do?”...George’s answer - instantly after the question was asked – was, “I wouldn’t get out of bed”. Good work, George.
·       Jeff was asked if he could be on any current television show in the UK, which one would it be. Jeff’s response was, due to the Essex girls, TOWIE (“The Only Way Is Essex”). The only problem was that Jeff pronounced “TOWIE” as “TOE-Y”.
·       Finally,  Jeff asked the audience if they knew how to tell an American in Europe. People shouted out the usual stereotypes...accent, cowboy hat, cowboy boots, etc. Jeff’s response was that all you have to do is look at their socks. American almost always wear white socks, whereas the rest of Europe seem to be more colourful. George suddenly exposed his foot to the audience, but his sock was navy! Traitor! However, he did put the sock back into a cowboy boot, so the startling revelation was kind of diminished.

Two talks down for Jeff over the weekend, and two very successful ones. They were engaging, interesting, entertaining, and completely off the wall. I took such pride in watching him on stage because over the past year, Jeff has become a friend to me. He’s not only someone I work with, he’s a friend. Watching your friend do what they do best and have everyone in the audience cheering and laughing is something special to behold. After Jeff and George’s talk, it was time for the final talk of the weekend...James and Emma. If you polled the audience at the opening ceremony on which talk they were looking forward to most, it would have been this one. Getting to see a leading actor from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” on stage is a rare, memorable moment in time. Getting to see two together is something that happens very infrequently in the UK. Shockingly infrequently. Highlights! :-

·       James mentioned that having bright blonde hair made it hard to hide in public at a time before he knew how to deal with being recognised. Therefore, he used to hide in alleyways and doorways sometimes back in the early days of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” because he didn’t know how to deal with fame.
·       James is a big Batman fan because Batman can die easier than Superman. Batman can be shot or stabbed, which means that you always have to fear for Batman’s life, whereas Superman is indestructible except for kryptonite, which makes for a repetitive reading.
·       James dislikes inherited wealth and feels that people shouldn’t be able to pass down their riches after they die. Each person should have to earn what they have.
·       During the party for the 100th episode of “Angel”, James went over to one of the Directors from The WB and thanked them for allowing “Angel” to be on the air. The Director turned to James and jested “you should be, with the amount of money it costs to make an episode!”
·       If James was going to get a tattoo of any famous person, it would be Dr. Martin Luther King. Emma said that she’d never get a tattoo of a person.
·       Emma’s favourite chocolate is Toblerone, while James (who also loves Toblerone) chose chocolate mint M’n’M’s...or anything chocolate mint.
·       Tony Head taught James everything he knows about film/TV acting. James comes from a theatre background, where the audience (and camera) are a lot further away. Therefore, adjusting to the camera being right in front of your face and being able to pick up every little facial expression took a while to adjust to. Even if James wasn’t in a scene, he would sit on set and watch Tony Head act because Tony Head is so good.
·       “What songs do you like to sing in the shower?”...James usually makes up his own songs in the shower (some of these become “Ghost Of The Robot” songs), while Emma has recently been singing Taylor Swift, especially “Shake If Off”, which was booed surprisingly loudly by most of the audience.
·       James was asked what it was like working on “Angel” and he joked that David Boreanaz is a hard worker, and slightly cranky. James mentioned that after arriving on “Angel”, they told him they would make any changes he required to accommodate him (trailer, etc.). The only thing that James changed was the coffee. Before James arrived, the coffee was from a kettle type appliance, which meant that it tasted foul if left for a couple of hours. The first thing James did was get it changed to a coffee machine with the little circular coffee pouches because it tastes much nicer, and Hollywood is built on caffeine, as you need to have energy for 14, 15, 16 hours at a time. All of the cast came up to him afterwards and thanked him. That was the only change he made behind the scenes on “Angel”.
·       James and Emma were asked the same question that Jeff and George were earlier...“if your life was a newspaper headline right now, what would it say?”. James’ response was “he’s not dead yet”, while Emma’s was “she follows the rain”, because, of course, Emma has been chasing the rain because of the drought in California, but the rain only seems to arrive as she’s leaving an area. It happened with Birmingham too. The rain arrived on Monday, as she was leaving. James joked that “she follows the rain” sounds like a Taylor Swift song.
·       James explained to all of us what the constitution was founded for in America and how he feels it’s been corrupted over time. It was designed to protect the non-wealthy from tyranny, but now that has morphed into corporate tyranny.
·       The guy holding the microphone, who was going into the audience for people who wanted to ask questions, fell over. The audience all started roaring with laughter. James’ response was “only in England” (would people laugh before offering help), while Emma said “awww, I missed it?! People falling over is my favourite thing in  the world!”.
·       The costume department on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” very subtly offered James Spike’s leather jacket from the show. There were only two coats ever used for Spike on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. One for James and one for his stunt-double. James turned them down because the costume department don’t own the jacket, so it would be like theft. A few months later, it sold for $250,000 and James has hated himself ever since.
·       Speaking of the leather jacket, James used to offer it to Sarah when they were shooting on cold nights. James used to refuse to let the show clean the jacket because he felt that Spike isn’t the type of character to clean his leather jacket. He’s dirty! He lives in a crypt! He’s a vampire! So, on the few occasions they went against his wishes and cleaned the jacket, he would take it outside and roll around the dirt in it.
·       James talked about what it was like to do audiobook work and Emma said that she’d love to do some audiobook readings. Something like a trashy romance novel (the example she used was Jane Austen).
·       While working on “Torchwood” (Doctor Who’s spinoff the letters), James asked Russell T. Davies if Captain John Hart would ever get to appear on “Doctor Who”. Russell said there was no chance, no way, not ever, because John Hart was too naughty. It was never going to happen. Fast-forward six years, and Captain John Hart is briefly shown on screen in Doctor Who’s “Time Heist” from season eight, when some of the most notorious criminals in the galaxy were shown in quick succession. James then happily declared that “I WON!”.
·       If James could be a superhero from The Avengers, he would be Wolverine (Wolverine is in The Avengers in the comics). Emma couldn’t think of a single member of The Avengers and eventually settled for Wonder Woman (DC Comics). Emma said “I’m sorry! Yesterday I told you I’ve never seen “Doctor Who”, today I can’t name an Avenger! You must hate me so much!”
·       Both James and Emma chose Buffy over Faith, and both gave the reason “because she’s Buffy”, while both admitting that they love the character of Faith too.
·       Spike loved working on “Angel” season five because he felt that Spike was Angel’s mirror image. He was what Angel could become. It’s such a rarity for a main character to arrive on a show just to mess with the leading hero, that James couldn’t help but love every minute of it.
·       Almost all of the cemetery scenes on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” are filmed in the parking lot next to the warehouses they usually film in. During the first season of the show, most of the cemeteries are legitimate cemeteries, but Sarah has a massive phobia of cemeteries. The scene in “Nightmares”, where Buffy is buried alive (real grave, real cemetery) was one of the worst experiences of Sarah’s life. Therefore, they quickly switched to a fake one on the parking lot because it was more convenient for filming and much easier on Sarah.
·       The neighbours around the house that was used as the Summers’ house (the externals are a real house) grew to hate “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” because they were always filming at night and making noise.
·       Downtown Sunnydale (the cinema, The Magic Box, the hardware store...basically the main strip of Sunnydale’s downtown) was slowly built up over time behind the warehouses where they filmed. Emma and James said it was awesome to watch it grow from a couple of fake stores into an actual realistic looking downtown as the seasons passed by.
·       Emma would go full-frontal nude if it meant she could be in “Game Of Thrones”. She later changed this answer to topless only. This conversation led to one of the most interesting parts of the panel. James said he hasn’t done a topless scene since “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (can someone verify this?) because he hated doing topless or naked scenes. It’s too much hassle, too much drama, and James has grown sick of seeing nudity or simulated sex scenes on TV since the 80’s boom. When TV companies realised they could get away with it in the 80’s, suddenly every single show had nudity, so James quickly became bored. He said that it’s now more cutting edge to have no nudity than it is to have nudity, which was the original reason why television shows started doing it. James went into full rant mode about this! He said that edgy is great, challenging is great, deep stories which make you think are great, but nudity is just a cheap, pointless trick 99% of the time. You don’t learn any nude acting in drama school and there’s a reason for that. Emma agreed with James on every point and James received a loud round of applause after he finished talking about this topic.
·       Someone in the audience asked James if he knew that Bianca Lawson was the actress behind Eva Gardiner in “Witches of East End”, as they both appeared in the same episode. James had no idea that it was Bianca Lawson, who he worked with on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, as she played Kendra. James thought that the actress behind Eva was “like, sixteen years old!” (she’s 35). He didn’t actually have a scene with her on Witches, so he was using that as an excuse, even though he watched the episode when it aired. Emma asked “who was Kendra?” and James was all “SHE WAS THE BLACK SLAYER!”. So funny to watch James lose his mind over trivia facts. He ended his answer with “damn, black don’t crack”.
·       A young girl in the audience, I believe she was twelve or thirteen years old, asked James and Emma this question...“who would you take with you to watch the universe die at the end of time?”, deep. James said that he was loving this convention because half of the questions he was being asked, he’d never heard before. Usually at conventions it’s the same 100 questions time after time, so he’s basically memorised the answers by this point. James and Emma were blown away that such a deep question was coming from somebody so young. James’ answer was George Bush or Dick Cheney because he could explain to them that it was probably their fault. Buuuurn. I believe that Emma was too traumatised to think about the end of the universe.
·       Someone asked who would win in a fight...Spike or Anyanka? James said they’d probably just have sex instead of fight.
·       James prefers playing villains because you get to do so much more with the just have to be prepared to lose that final fight at the end of the film. Comparingly, Emma likes rooting for villains. The example she used was Hannibal Lecter, and James suddenly turned to her, exasperated, and said “YOU ROOTED FOR HANNIBAL LECTER?! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!”.
·       James isn’t one of those people that hates the Twilight franchise because while his son grew to love books because of Harry Potter, his daughter grew to love books because of Twilight. While he’s never read the books himself, he does appreciate them encouraging people to read. Those of you that are sat there thinking “James doesn’t have a daughter!”, he’s the legal guardian of his niece and he considers her his daughter.
·       Emma watched the first few seasons of “True Blood”, but quickly gave up on the show.
·       Arguably the biggest laugh and cheer of the session came from James Marsters. When asked who would win in a fight, the characters from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or the characters from “True Blood”, James said that Buffy would win by demoralising them with superior dialogue.
·       James’ favourite Star Trek series is the original one, while Emma’s favourite is The New Generation. This led to a genuine debate on stage between Emma and James. James said that the original show shook up the status quo more and did more to push the social issues that were happening in the world at the time. Emma agreed with that, but argued that The Next Generation has better acting and stories. Someone from the audience yelled out that we may find out who would win that Spike vs. Anyanka fight soon.
·       Emma would love to see or play a female equivalent of Breaking Bad’s Walter White because the character is so fascinating.
·       Emma said that nursery rhymes are actually pretty fucked up if you’re paying attention...Humpty Dumpty split his head open and could never be put back together again, Hansel and Gretel escaped one fucked up situation, just to land into an even more fucked up one.
·       “If you had to choose between keeping all of your old memories, but never being able to create new ones, or losing all of your old memories, but being able to create new ones, which would you choose?”...again, James and Emma were shocked by the weight of this question. James ultimately chose to make new memories because he’s already forgotten half of his old ones anyway. Plus, what is life without the ability to create new memories? Emma decided to keep her old ones, but was starting to get swayed by James’ reasoning towards the end.
·       Someone asked the classic “cavemen vs. astronauts” question from Angel’s “A Hole In The World”, and James chose cavemen, while Emma chose astronauts. The person who asked the question stipulated that the astronauts did not have weapons. James said that the best part of that scene from an improvised perspective was actually cut from the show. At one point, Spike was telling Angel that the astronauts would be too small to defeat the cavemen because the astronauts would have to be tiny to fit into the shuttle pods.
·       Finally, James said that Spike was a happy accident. He was supposed to die at the end of season two’s “What’s My Line”, but was kept around because Spike was so popular. At first, Joss hated keeping Spike because he didn’t want to be the type of show where you loved and rooted for the vampires. At the beginning of every season, Joss would talk to James and say that they’d planned the entire season arc, planned every character arc...except for Spike. They could never figure out what to do with Spike. Spike was always the missing piece of the puzzle. This actually worked to Spike and James’ advantage because it meant that Spike was experimented with so much.

After James and Emma’s talk drew to a close, it was time to meet up with Jeff and enter the autograph hall for our three-hour session. Before doors opened, I quickly ran around and got James’ autograph again and got Emma to autograph our studio photo together. I thanked them both for coming (in case I didn’t see them again), and told James I’d see him in January in Paris. The main difference between Saturday’s autograph session and Sunday’s autograph session is that a Jeff Ricketts vs. Jonathan Woodward feud was born. All weekend these two crazy characters were bouncing off of each other, but it reached boiling point here. Jonathan was before Jeff in the autograph sequence this time around, so Jonathan would occasionally write something on an autograph for Jeff to read. This lead to a series of shouts across the room, random singing across the room, and general horsesassery (I think I made up another word...). At one point, Jonathan wrote an essay to someone on the back of an A4 poster and told them to get Jeff to read it. Jeff grabbed a second A4 poster (from the same family of people) and responded to Jonathan on it, which was then taken by the family back to Jonathan. It was so, so, so funny. I think the attendees got a big kick out of the feud, as it gave them something to laugh at and join in with while they were queuing.

Earlier in the day, I was talking to my friend Emma (A.K.A. Bunny) about Jeff. Emma was complaining about the lack of Star Trek 8x10s available for Jeff. You can’t find them anywhere online, you can’t find them at any convention, and she really wanted a Star Trek 8x10 to get signed. Just before Emma arrived at our table, I mentioned this to Jeff and he told me that he actually went to a convention over a decade previously and they had Star Trek 8x10s. In fact, he happens to have the remaining ones that weren’t sold at the convention. Even better, he had 20 of them with him in his suitcase upstairs. I asked Jeff if he’d be okay to sign one for Emma later as a surprise and he said that he’d happily do it. Sadly, by the time we finished in the autograph hall, Emma had left the convention because she had to catch a train home. However, I have it at my house ready to give Emma at LFCCW in two weeks (she’s aware of it by this point and seemed very excited!).

Sorry, Jeff, but I have to tell this story...

All weekend Jeff was phenomenal at the autograph table. Really friendly, really chatty, completely customised autographs, writing essays, messing around with Jonathan...there was only one time all weekend where Jeff’s cool persona hit a speed bump. At the convention, there was a young female from France called “France”. Yep, it was her name too. So, when Jeff found out that she was French and called “France”, he made a little joke out of it. He turned to Toni and said to France, “this is my friend Uzbekistan”, before turning to me and saying, “this is my friend Turkey”. Now, in that situation, you’d expect to get a giggle from the person, right? To have a bit of banter and have some fun. France’s response was ice cold. She looked as though she was going to burst into tears and punch Jeff in the face in equal measures. Jeff quickly realised that he’d somehow offended her and tried to back-pedal. While he was back-pedalling and trying to explain to France that “France” is a lovely name, Toni caught my eye and we had to swiftly look away from each other before bursting into hysterics. The most challenging part of my weekend wasn’t trying not to fanboy in front of James Marsters in the end; it was trying not to burst into tears of laughter with Toni in front of Jeff and France. Jeff kept digging himself a deeper and deeper hole by telling France that his surname, Ricketts, is a disease in American. My brain was screaming “stop talking, Jeff, stop talking!”. Eventually, Jeff mercifully moved on and started writing the autograph. What did he write, you ask? “France is a lovely, lovely name!”. Shoot me, shoot me now.

Jeff spent so much time talking to everyone at the autograph table and having a great time, that he actually overran by 30 minutes or so (an hour overall, 30 minutes after the 2nd to last guest left). If you were at “Vampire Ball” and you were wondering why the trailers before the closing ceremony were so long, it was because everyone was waiting for Jeff to finish up at the autograph table. Oops. To be fair, that’s one of the reasons why people love Jeff! He spends as much time as he possibly can with every single person. He wanted to get to know you and have a little fun. It’s why a number of people have stayed in contact with him over the past year. He’s as much a friend as he is a guest at these conventions! Now, for one last green room snippet...when Toni, Jeff, and myself got to the green room, everyone was sat around waiting for Jeff. James was resting his head on a table, with his arms splayed in front of him. I’m not sure if it was exhaustion or sickness, but he was clearly having a rough time. For those of you unaware, James was a little sick over the weekend and it progressively got a little worse as the weekend wore on. However, he was on the stage 5 minutes later in the closing ceremony acting like the most healthy, energetic person in the world. Huge respect to James Marsters for being able to turn it on when he needs to. It was very impressive to witness firsthand.

After the closing ceremony was over and the weekend had drawn to a close, a group of us met up between the talk hall and the green room to say goodbye. James and Emma had very early flights the next morning, so they needed to dash off to go to bed. I wasn’t expecting James or Emma to say goodbye to me. They’re two big stars! They’re the headliners, the main eventers! However, James came over, shook my hand, said it was nice to meet me, and said he’d see me in January. While Emma came over, stroked my arm, and said goodbye. THESE ARE THE THINGS DREAMS ARE MADE OF, PEOPLE!  I thanked Sean Harry for allowing me to come as a guest to the event, before going to the green room with Jeff, George, and Jonathan.

George, Jonathan, Jeff, myself, Toni, Simon (Toni’s husband and George’s assistant for the weekend), Niamh (who I will talk about in a minute), Tammy, Tanya, Clare (the Essex three), and Natalie (another friend that Jeff made last year) arranged to go to Titash (I kid you not) for a nice Balti curry to close out the weekend. Yet again, this was one of the highlights of the weekend. I only wish I could tell you what we talked about...which I cannot. Most of the conversations were not for the ears of children. Towards the end of the meal and on the way back in the taxi, Niamh, Jeff, and myself got into a friendly heated debate about Shakespeare, which stemmed from our conversation about Joss’ version of “Much Ado About Nothing”. The reason why I’m mentioning this is because Niamh will be talking to Jeff on her podcast over the next couple of weeks, and I would strongly encourage that you check it out because it’s going to be terrific. Niamh’s podcast is located here - Go, go. Listen, listen. While you wait, she has three podcasts with “Dollhouse”  and “Much Ado About Nothing” alumni, Reed Diamond, amongst other awesomeness.

We returned to the hotel and I started my goodbye tour. I couldn’t stay on the Sunday night because I had to drive home and start work at 5am...ouch. It was already 1am by this point...double ouch. I said goodbye to my friends, goodbye to the guests that remained, thanked Jeff an inordinate amount of times and arranged to Skype with him later in the week, and I thanked Sean Harry again on my way out of the hotel. So, that’s my weekend, guys.

“Vampire Ball 6” will take place at the Renaissance Hotel, Heathrow, London, from the 20th-22nd of November 2015. If you’ve been before, you know it’s going to be awesome. If you’ve never been, what are you waiting for?! BOOK TICKETS! Even without a guest announcement yet, you know Sean Harry is going to put on the best convention of the year. Do yourself a favour and book tickets. Regular tickets are £95 for the weekend, while gold tickets are £160. The website is located here. Go, go, go! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

If you were at “Vampire Ball” and want to share you experiences, pictures, or memories, please leave a comment below! I love reading about everyone else’s weekend too! If you weren’t there, but you’ve met James, Emma, or another one of the guests before, please leave your experiences below too! If you’ve never met anyone, but just want to comment, I love that too.

If you’ve made it to the end of this review, I commend you. It’s my longest ever review of anything. More than “Hallowhedon”, more than “Restless”...this review is 26 A4-pages, excluding pictures. It’s practically a small book by this point.

FINALLY! I want to thank Becca Moriarty for allowing me to use a great deal of her photos from the convention. All of those photos you’ve seen of people on stage are all from Becca. She’s a phenomenal photographer, and please go and check out her cosplay page on Facebook ( and her website (!

I’d also like to thank Tammy Shepherd for allowing me to use her photo with a vampiric Jonathan Woodward.

Lastly, I’d like to thank every single person I met over the weekend of “Vampire Ball 5”. From the crew, to the attendees, to old friends, to new friends, to James Marsters, to Emma Caulfield, to George Hertzberg, to Dayne Johnson, to Jonathan Woodward, to Jeff Ricketts, to Sean Harry. Thank you all so much for giving me one of the best weekends of my life. I hope to see you all there next year too.



  1. I loved this review! Oh gosh, I'd love to meet Jonathan Woodward sometime, and Emma Caulfield tooooo :D I've had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Rickets and reading about his antics just filled me with smiles and memories. I really agree with the things you said about James Marsters being such a pro! I met him at a convention where 3 days prior he had injured his back on set, so he could only stand or lie down, but he showed up! He took photos! He signed autographs and he took his time for everyone :) He was laid out on a table with a bunch of pillows propped under him while he signed autographs and was just an absolute delight despite his injury, massive respect for that man!
    Sounds like it was a terrific convention and it's really gotten me in the mood for my next one. See you at Hallowhedon Shangel! :)

  2. Read to the end. Great to read the bits I missed, I'd been ill a week or so before the con so chilled out a bit more than usual rather than the frantic 'try to get everything done without any sleep' that I've done in the past. Thanks for writing a fab review.

  3. Hiya - I saw you around at the con (and complimented you at Jeff's table on the Sat, cos dude, you looked fabulous all weekend!), awesome review! My looooooong lj write up is here ( it is tres James heavy tho :-)

    It was an awesome con, I went to VB3 in 2012 after a succession of very disappointing cons, and Sean gave me back my faith in weekend cons. His are the only ones I'll go to, because they are so SO good, and the atmosphere is so welcoming and chilled. Steve and Mark (James manager and friend) remarked on how relaxed the con was, which is awesome! Along with James saying it was one of the best cons in the world :-)

    So glad you had fun! See you at the next one, possibly :-)

  4. Thank you for this wonderful report! Really enjoyed reading it. Brought back so many lovely memories from the weekend! It really was a great convention but of course with Starfury that's pretty much given. All the guests were just awesome and had so much fun. Of course paying the price now in the form of suffering from lack of sleep and starting con-flu but that's just to be expected.
    It was a great pleasure of seeing Jonathan, Jeff, George, Dayne and James again as well as meeting Emma. They were pretty much a perfect line-up for a convention.
    So thanks again for this report. Reminded me of some of the questions I asked and now even got the answers since I missed some of them. And nice to have a picture of me on stage with Jeff and George :)

  5. I love your review. I didn't ever really know what went on at these sorts of things, and because of you now I know, and want to go to one. Besides if there was a chance I could meet you at one, that would be just as exciting for me.

    On that note, I have no idea how you keep your composure and don't totally fanboy out. I have a feeling I'd be hopeless at that. I am usually a cool cucumber, but in the presence of such awesomeness, I'd make a fool of myself.

    As always, thank you for taking the time to share it all with us. We beyond appreciate all of the hard work you do for the fandom. You rock!

  6. I wish I was there. Sounds like you had a great time :)

  7. So excited to hear that Emma’s favorite shows are 3 in my top 10 as well (x-files, TNG and Voyager) and that James is an Star trek original fan that’s awesome!! Spike and Anya are my top 2 favorite characters from Buffy. thanks for the article

  8. Wow Shane, that was an amazing read!! It made me feel like I was there. The guests all sounded amazing and it sounds like it was such a great time! Jeff sounds like an amazing guy - but oh poor France. Poor Jeff. What an awkward time! So glad I can read your reviews because we get nothing like this here.


  9. Thank you! It was a fun read and I envy you. Hope you chose remembering your new memories because this is one fine memory that should be relived often. I will read this again when it isn't 12:30pm but I loved it the first time. Thanks again.

  10. Well, my comment from yesterday disappeared :(
    Shane, this is a great review!! Not surprising coming from you, but I'm always amazed! Reading it was like being right there with you!!