Thursday, 8 December 2016

Vampire Ball 7 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise I most associate them with personally) :-

• Eliza Dushku (Faith from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”/“Angel” & Echo/Caroline from “Dollhouse”)
• Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calendar from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
• Clare Kramer (Glory from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
• Miracle Laurie (Mellie/Madeline/November from “Dollhouse”)
• Jonathan Woodward (Holden Webster from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Knox from “Angel” & Tracey from “Firefly”)
• James Leary (Clem from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)

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. Yes, I haven’t written one in a while due to my degree, but I am starting up again in a matter of weeks so keep an eye out.
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With that being said, let’s dive in...

This review is dedicated to the memories of two people who were very special to me, both of whom I met through conventions, one of which was through Starfury. At “Vampire Ball 5”, I met a delightful young woman called Becca and we really hit it off. Becca was warm, caring, and would always take high-quality pictures at events for me from that day forwards so that I could use them in my reviews. I last saw Becca at “Vampire Ball 6” and myself, my girlfriend Robyn, and Becca stayed behind after the meet and greet and talked for hours. Less than two months later, Becca died of complications with epilepsy. The news was unexpected, shocking, and hit me like a ton of bricks. Secondly, Kerry ‘Kes’ Butters died of cancer a year ago. She was a great friend to me, a writing mentor, and she actually encouraged me to start this blog in the first place after reading a couple of my “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” reviews. She was always there for me, always happy to listen or offer advice, and she is sorely missed. To her husband, Martin, I love you.

I’d also like to thank Grant Gowdy for allowing me to use a lot of his photographs from the event. He’s a tremendous photographer and you can find his photography page on Facebook here. Also, thanks to Mark Sherfield and Ying-Sung Mak for allowing me to use some of their photos too.

At the time of starting this review, it is 10am on Monday morning. I’ve had a combined 5 hours sleep since Friday night and there was a period of time where I didn’t sleep whatsoever for 44 hours. Nevertheless, I’m awake and ready to start what I’m sure will be a 25-page review (excluding pictures), taking roughly 3 days to complete when you include work and a degree. What a weekend it was! As many of you know, I’ve been attending conventions for close to a decade and I’ve been writing detailed reviews of them as a secondary career for a little over three years. In that time the blog traffic has gone from an average 10-people a day to a projected 4.5 million hits in 2017, which is absolutely mind-blowing. I’ve reviewed nearly 50 conventions and I’ve been to over a hundred in my life. I’ve co-organised small events, I’ve acted as an agent, I’ve crewed events, I’ve been to events as press, and I’ve been to many, many events as a paying attendee. This is all relevant information, as when I say that “Vampire Ball 7” was my co-favourite event ever, I want you to understand my full meaning.

The co-winner is “Vampire Ball 5”, so suffice to say Sean puts on events that are unparalleled in my eyes. When it comes to straight-up signing events in the U.K., I’m firmly of the belief that “Wales Comic Con” is head-and-shoulders above all of their competition. Alas, fandom-specific weekend events of this kind are an entirely different animal. The experiences are night and day. While signing events do include the main staples of the convention diet – autographs, photos, talk panels, the ability to buy merchandise – what’s missing is the personal touch. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some truly incredible moments at signing events. I’ve made many friends, had deep conversations about personal topics and had some of the best times of my life, but it’s incomparable to a weekend event like Sean’s. Firstly, the attendee numbers are limited. While I don’t know the exact number, I’d envisage that there were roughly 500 attendees at “Vampire Ball 7”. It sold-out. Could Sean have kept selling tickets? Kept taking more and more money? Absolutely! So why didn’t he? Because he wants the fans to have the best experiences of their lives! I’m sure many people reading this have been to a large signing event like “London Film & Comic Con”, where the photo sessions are like a conveyer belt. You barely have the time to compose yourself and smile before you’re ushered away. It’s a product that has been diluted by demand almost everywhere in the world...but not at Starfury. Tell me another event that could get a big guest, but chooses not to because they would have to charge their attendees, their extended family, more money for an autograph or photograph than they feel comfortable doing? I don’t know any. Furthermore, you get more time with the guests, they’ll come and party with you, there are meet and greet receptions, there are intimate guest encounters...if you’re looking to spend as much time with the guests as you possibly can for a specific fandom, go to Starfury. Fuck it, go to Starfury anyway.

If there was a word to summarise Starfury, it’d be “family”. This goes from Sean down to his stewards, to the volunteer crew, to the regular attendees, to the new attendees. It really does trickle from the top down. Without taking the review entirely out of sequence, Sean gave a very impassioned speech at the conclusion of the closing ceremony, stating that the world seems to be becoming less tolerant once again, more racism, more xenophobic, and more dark. Yet, at a Starfury event, you have people of all ages, of all ability levels, of all religions, of all skin colours, of all political opinions, and how many people do you see arguing? Or being offensive to one another? None. If the people of the wider world were more like the attendees and crew of Starfury, it’d be a much safer, much nicer place. I will freely admit, there may have been a tiny tear in my eye by the conclusion of Sean’s speech. Granted, the 37-hours since I last slept likely contributed, but nevertheless it was a great way to close out...and probably got the biggest audience and guest pop of the weekend.

As I’m sure you’re starting to see, this review is more or less a love-letter to Starfury and everything that is good about the convention scene. A scene that has changed my life in more ways that I can count.

...You know, I should probably start the actual review at some point. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, thus far it has all been intro. I did warn you it’d be long.

“Vampire Ball 7” took place at the beautiful Renaissance Hotel in Heathrow, London, on the weekend of the 2nd-4th of December (Friday to Sunday). If memory serves, this is the same hotel as the previous year’s “Vampire Ball” and is one of the better hotels for conventions that I’ve seen...anyone remember the Thistle? The word ‘shit-hole’ comes to mind. While I’m being honest, above I wrote ‘if memory serves’, but then went to my blog and double-checked where last year’s event took place, thus didn’t rely on my memory at all. It was making me feel guilty.

What struck me the most about this year’s event was how accessible and interactive the guests were! Even at an event like Starfury, you expect to see one or two guests downstairs dancing at the parties, while the headliners will make a short appearance. At this one, Miracle was downstairs dancing until 1-2am Saturday and Sunday night (technically morning), Jonathan was downstairs dancing...or drinking...all the time, James came and danced (sounds dirty), Clare danced for a good hour or so on Sunday night, Robia busted out some Pearl moves in the middle of the dance floor, and best of all, Eliza frickin’ Dushku came and danced with us for an hour on Sunday night! She didn’t on Saturday as she was up doing college work until 3am (I’m not kidding), but after the closing ceremony on Sunday, Eliza stuck around for an hour to dance Faith-style. At one point, she came over to me, asked how my weekend had been, gave me a hug, gave me a high-five, and then kept hold of my hand after the high-five and started dancing with me. Towards the end of our dance, she used her water bottle as a microphone and had me sing the chorus to “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson to her, while she reacted to the lyrics. For those of you unaware, these are the lyrics...

“The way you make me feel,
You really turn me on,
You knock me off of my feet,
My lonely days are gone.”

Singing “you really turn me on” to Eliza Dushku and her reaction to it was certainly a memorable moment. Eliza proceeded to dance with a handful of other people, including Melly and Rebecca (more on those ladies later), and a gentleman dressed as a Gentlemen, pun intended. I’d just like to say that the man dressed as the Gentlemen was phenomenal. Not only did he look amazing, but he danced incredibly, while dancing and moving his arms exactly like the Gentlemen do in “Hush”. It was as if he was floating. It was spectacular! As far as I’m aware, I was the only person to sing with Eliza and get a big hug, so I’m keeping those extra details as bragging rights #Sorry #NotSorry.

Unfortunately, Robyn, girlfriend extraordinaire, couldn’t make this event, so I drove to London alone. It’s about a two-hour drive, which is boring when driving alone. Therefore, I stocked the car with CD’s (now considered ‘old school’, apparently). We had metal albums, punk rock albums, straight rock albums...even a little country, and, of course, the “Once More With Feeling” soundtrack. If there’s ever something to put you in the mood for a Whedon-style convention weekend, it’s that soundtrack. I was at the Renaissance by midday, I was checked in by 12:10pm, I was in my room by 12:15pm, and I was rearranging the room by 12:20pm. I have O.C.D., shut up.

4pm brought with it the opening of registration and the arrival of my friends, Melly, Hannah, Rebecca, and Jer. Later in the day, there was even a sneaky appearance from my friend Dirk, who decided to buy a ticket for the event and not tell anyone, the sneaky bastard.

Oooh! As an aside, I’m going to try and refrain from naming too many people in the review. This is because if I miss someone, I’ll feel bad. So I’m just going to intentionally miss a lot of you. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

For this particular event, I decided to opt for a gold ticket, just like the three Vampire Ball’s preceding it. As a gold ticket holder, I’d get seats towards the front of the talk panels, I’d get a meet and greet reception after the opening ceremony on Friday evening, and I’d get an autograph included with every guest except the ‘extra guest’ of Mr. James Leary. What a kick in the Clem! The way autographs work at Starfury is that your free autograph is for something you’ve brought along that is officially licensed. It can be a book, a picture, your studio photo with the guest, a DVD sleeve, etc. As long as it’s officially licensed and not inappropriate, it’s fine. Additional autographs at the event were £10 each or £15 each for Eliza. The last time I met Eliza, it was €40 per autograph. Suffice to say, £15 is a bargain. Secondary (or tertiary!) “Game Of Thrones” actors cost £15! Eliza is a bonafide headliner and star. You’d expect her autograph to range from £25-30 at your average U.K. convention in 2016. Maybe a touch more than that at some post-‘Brexit’ poll result. The additional autographs could either be purchased via ‘badger’ pass for an item of your own or by purchasing an 8” x 10”. If you bought the 8” x 10” at the event, the autograph was included in the price, thus making the 8” x 10” itself completely free, which is awesome. Everybody with me so far?

...The drunken corridor of death.

My included autographs with Eliza, Clare, Robia, Miracle, and Jonathan (only a free autograph for golds) were reserved for the A3 event poster that you receive as a gold ticket holder. Regular ticket holders have the option to buy the poster, I believe. Being completely honest, I was supposed to bring a couple of books with me to get signed, but I forgot. Shit happens, I adapted. Alas, those included autographs were not enough for me. I still wanted more things signed! So I therefore purchased the following :-

·        1x exclusive limited print of Eliza Dushku (a hundred in total).
·        1x 8” x 10” of Miracle Laurie as Mellie from “Dollhouse”.
·        1x copy of Uke Box Heroes’ new album “Calling All Heroes”. This is Miracle and her husband’s ukulele band.
·        1x 8” x 10” of Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”.
·        1x 8” x 10” of Jenny Calendar and Giles from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. The intention is to get Anthony Head to sign the other side.
·        1x 8” x 10” of James Leary. In actuality, I bought this on Saturday afternoon.
·        1x 8” x 10” of Jonathan Woodward as Tracey from “Firefly”.

Quite the haul.

As I was doing this convention on a serious budget, I bought 1x individual photo shoot with all guests. All were £15, except Robia (£20) and Eliza (£35). All perfectly reasonable prices. As I knew that drinking shenanigans were afoot for Saturday night, I made sure to get all my photos on Saturday. That way I could look as rough as I wanted on Sunday morning with no fear of an early start or trying to look as good as I possibly could for photos. To quote Wesley, “Preparation, preparation, preparation”. That’s the key, people.

While queuing to buy studio photos, my friend Hannah was messaging my friends Rebecca and Jer, asking where they were...and a devilish mood took hold of me. I decided that it would be hilarious to message them (as Hannah) and tell them that the photo shoots were all selling out. I stand by my decision. I was laughing my ass off for the entire duration we were waiting for a reply. As soon as I read their replies, I told them I was kidding (the intention was to keep it going for longer, but I felt too cruel), but I still maintain it was ridiculously funny. Jules and Spark think I’m evil, but it was worth it.

The opening ceremony started at 8pm in the main talk hall and was scheduled to finish at 8:30pm...or the other way around according to the program schedule...

Sorry, couldn’t leave that one laying there. Shame I left my T.A.R.D.I.S. at home.

The opening ceremony is basically what you’d expect. Sean will warm up the crowd – in this case by making us re-enact famous phrases or associative words with vampire television shows and movies. You know, “Sookie, you are mine!” for “True Blood”, “Dear Diary...” for “The Vampire Diaries”, an effeminate *sparkle, sparkle, sparkle* for “Twilight”. In fact, “Twilight” fans were asked to leave the hall. Those are not vampires, those are sparkly leeches. After Sean warmed up the crowd, he introduced the guests one-by-one, giving the guests a little time each to give opening comments, how happy they were to be there, etc. In the case of Robia, this was her convention worldwide in a decade, I believe. Robia said that if it were anyone other than Sean that had asked, she would have said no. As it was Sean, and as Clare, James, and Jonathan are old friends of hers, she decided to fly over and step into the Buffyverse world once again. Predictably, Jonathan and James were hilarious. Equally predictably, the reaction to Eliza’s first appearance on stage was thunderous. Another thing I like about Starfury is that when Sean is introducing each guest in turn, he speaks from the heart. You can tell that he means what he’s saying...or he’s a terrific liar, one or the other. Like us, Sean is a big fan of all Joss’ television projects, so he fanboys (or fangirls) alongside us.

For the gold pass holders, it was straight from the opening ceremony to the meet and greet. In essence, there are 15 round tables with about ten attendees sitting around each one. The guests will individually travel around each table in turn, spending anywhere from five to ten minutes with a table...or thirty in the case of Jonathan Woodward. For me personally, this is the main reason I purchase a gold pass. Not only is it a great opportunity to get some time with the guests without many people around, but it’s the perfect ice-breaker. By the time you get to their autograph tables over the following couple of days, you feel comfortable, you feel as though you know their personalities a bit, and you’ll likely come up with talking points for the autograph table from what was discussed in the meet and greet. It’s win-win.

Coming into “Vampire Ball 7”, I’d met four of the guests before, with the two new ones being Robia and Miracle. I’d met Eliza a couple of years previously in Frankfurt, Germany. In an ironic twist, I thought the likelihood of meeting Eliza in the U.K. was slim (having missed her in 2012 at Starfury’s Dollhouse event), so I travelled over to Germany. Two years later, she was a couple of hours from my house...typical! I’d also met Clare a couple of times before. I feel as though I see Clare again once every year just to discuss the latest season of “Game Of Thrones” that has aired during the period of time between our meetings. Jonathan is part of the Starfury furniture and is a friend...or certainly a buffoonish uncle. I spent a lot of time with Jonathan behind the scenes at “Vampire Ball 5”, having attended the event with Jeff Ricketts (Buffy, Angel, Firefly...). I’d met James for the first time at the previous year’s “Vampire Ball” and also consider him to be an acquaintance if not a friend. One of the things I really admire about James is his ability to take control of his actions and life, hold himself accountable, and transform himself and the world around him. A truly admirable human being.

Ladies and gentlemen, after two days with no sleep, after copious amounts of alcohol, the meet and greet is all kind of a blur at this point. However, I’ll try and rustle up some highlights :-

·        All four guests I’d previously met remembered me, including Eliza, which was a bit of a surprise.
·        Jonathan Woodward basically drank alcohol throughout the meet and greet. The one-hour meet and greet ended at 1am in the bar. This was all Jonathan’s fault. Everyone excluding Jonathan was finished and gone by 10:00pm or so, but Jonathan still had half a dozen tables left because he was taking ages with everyone and goofing around. We pushed a selection of tables together, had the meet and greet, and then Jonathan took those of us that remained to the bar to continue. As this bar meet and greet was coming to a close, Jonathan gave me a hug as we hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years and while we were hugging, he bit my neck for fun. During the opening ceremony, Sean couldn’t really think how to describe Jonathan. This is true for all of us. He’s just Jonathan. He has certain Jonathanian properties...basically, he’s bat-shit crazy. In the best possible way.
·        Miracle told us that her first ever convention was one of Sean’s. This was after “Dollhouse” season one had aired in the United States, but before it aired in the United Kingdom. While some attendees had streamed it online and loved the show, other attendees hadn’t. During the meet and greet, one of the attendees said to Miracle, “Sorry, but who are you?” That encounter prompted Miracle to bring a pack of playing cards to the meet and greet this time. So that if there were any awkward moments or silences, there was something fun to do. While they weren’t necessarily needed as everyone at our table loved Miracle and had a lot to say, we did play a little ‘Polish Poker’. You draw a card at random and stick it to your forehead without looking at it. Then you stay in or fold depending on all the other cards you see. Alison won with an ace. Miracle definitely lived up to her name over the weekend, as did her sister Angel. For me personally, Miracle was the guest of the convention. Don’t get me wrong, all six guests were amazing, but Miracle was something special.
·        After being a little apprehensive about meeting Robia (simply because I’d never met her and she’s a Christian minister and preacher now (I was worried she’d be preachy)), I was put at ease within the first five seconds of Robia arriving at our meet and greet table. If James Leary and Jonathan Woodward are energetic and excitable, Robia keeps up with them step-for-step. So lovely, so warm...and she hasn’t aged a day since Buffy! Robia couldn’t believe I was only eight when I first saw “Passion” and that I was basically being born when “Diamond and Pearl” were recording and touring with Prince. I think I made her feel old...some people were younger than me!
·        During the opening ceremony, Clare had mentioned that she wanted to organise a massive ‘mannequin challenge’ for the Saturday evening after the costume competition. Therefore, our meet and greet with Clare largely revolved around coming up with group mannequin ideas and how the whole process was going to work. More on that later.
·        Eliza. You know, if Eliza was a diva, it would be relatively understandable. She grew up acting, grew up around Hollywood, she’s worked alongside world renowned actors and been hugely successful for decades. Yet, Eliza is one of the most approachable, laidback, relaxed, easy to talk to of all the guests I’ve ever met. She somehow has the ability to come across like someone you randomly met down the pub and started chatting to, while also still exuding star-power. Eliza does a lot for charity, she’s a huge animal lover (particularly dogs), and she just seems like a legitimately great person. Nothing but good things to say about her...or any of the six guests for that matter.

At 1:00am, once the meet and greet in the bar with Jonathan ended and my neck was bitten, myself and a collection of friends headed to the party to check it out (Miracle was dancing away), before we all headed upstairs to bed. I slept for a grand total of two and a half hours. Little did I know, this would be the last time I slept before returning home in the wee hours of Monday morning.

I decided to skip breakfast entirely Saturday morning as the photo shoots started at 9:00am. I had a coffee in my hotel room, made myself look at attractive as it’s possible for me to do (read: troll), and headed downstairs. The 9:00am shoot was just Miracle Laurie. The shoot started pretty much on time, the queue size was respectable, and everything went off without a hitch. Later, at Miracle’s autograph table, she asked how the photo turned out. I hadn’t actually collected it by this point, but Miracle was curious to see it because she said it was the only photo all morning she didn’t smile in – “Well, you look like a total rock star, so I tried to look badass alongside you. I probably look ridiculous, but I wanted to try something different.” Personally, I think the photo turned out great! It was cool that she made an effort to try something different too.

Next up, at 10:30am were the photo shoots for the five remaining guests. Eliza and Clare were in one room, while Jonathan, James, and Robia were in an adjacent room. You could get individual photos or choose combinations with people in the same room as each other. For instance, you could buy a photo with James and a photo with Jonathan. Then it’s your choice if you want an individual photo with each or to combine the two and get a photo with Jonathan, James, and yourself together. It allows you a certain amount of mixing and matching as needed, which is great! There was also a group shot available with all six guests, but my funds didn’t stretch that far.

Myself and my friends Melly and Hannah decided to go to Jonathan, James, and Robia’s room first as it would theoretically be less busy than a room containing Eliza, thus the queue would be reduced by the time we got there. Definitely a good move. All three photo shoots went smoothly, Jonathan yelled, “My main man, Shane!” and slapped my hand so damn hard it was ringing (“watch the elbow!”), which I oddly liked...I don’t know what that says about me. After that, it was time to join the back of the queue to get into Eliza and Clare’s room, which was snaking down the entire corridor and around another corridor. I needed to pee. Thankfully, I kept it together.

First up, Eliza. Melly had bought an individual photo with Eliza as well as a photo of herself, Hannah, and Eliza, and a photo of herself, me, and Eliza (thanks, Melly!). This created a train effect. Melly and Hannah in (with vampire teeth and stakes so Eliza could dust them), Hannah out, individual photo, me in, the photo of me, Melly, and Eliza, Melly out, the photo of me and Eliza. It was hilarious. Eliza greeted me with “hey, handsome!” before the photo was taken, so I know what to send her for Christmas...glasses. Finally, the photo with Clare went smoothly and came out great as well. When Jonathan’s photos came to an end, I think he sensed that people may be getting a little restless while waiting for Eliza and Clare to arrive in the adjoining room as he suddenly came in, grabbed the camera, and started taking pictures of everyone, pictures of himself, pictures of the photographer. Goofball Jonathan saves the day!

Seven photo shoots within a couple of hours! How someone like Eliza takes hundreds and hundreds of pictures, I’ll never know. I get bored of smiling after a handful. For me, the most stressful part of a convention is the photo shoots. I think for most people the autograph table is the time they get nervous and panicked as it’s the one-on-one time with the guests. Oddly, I very rarely get nervous when talking to guests these days. Perhaps it’s experience, perhaps it’s faking it until I make it, but I feel at ease in the one-on-one setting. The photo shoots are another matter! I hate having my photo taken, I’m my own worst critic, and I literally don’t look at my photo shoots until I get home because I’ll only end up depressing myself. This meant that by 11am on Saturday morning, I was photo-free! I could drink alcohol, I could sleep very little (or not at all, as the case would be), I could look more hideous than usual, and I didn’t have to worry about it. Tremendous! Let the fun begin!

Jonathan Woodward’s Panel

·        By the time we got out the photo shoots, Jonathan’s panel had just started. We arrived as Jonathan was starting a game where you had to guess if it was a Moby-Dick quote or something more salacious. Jonathan then noticed that there were children in the room and created a codeword that we had to shout at him if something was too naughty – “watermelon!” Inevitably, this led to the following – “Can’t read that...can’t read that...definitely can’t read that...nope...”
·        Jonathan was a fan of playing Knox on “Angel”. One of the things he loved most about the character was that it was one of the rare times where a bad guy’s plan worked! He got Fred killed, he brought Illyria back! He succeeded! Granted, he was shot after he succeeded, but he succeeded nonetheless.
·        Jonathan thinks he’d make a great Kaylee in “Firefly”. I now cannot get the mental images out of my head of Jonathan in that huge dress from “Shindig”.
·        The recent passing of Ron Glass was brought up and Jonathan noted that before he moved back to Maine, he bumped into Ron buying blueberry yogurt in a store and they caught up a little bit. How odd.
·        Jonathan noted that he doesn’t always make the best first impression or know how to act around people. He mentioned that the first time he met Emma Thompson (Trelawney F.T.W.!), he started playing with her buzz-cut.
·        Jonathan was telling a story about how he was told to be more French and the microphone died. He quipped that the tech guy was a Frenchman. A young female crew member brought him a new microphone on stage...bad idea. She was never getting out of there alive. Jonathan started singing “My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua, Hawaii” and dancing, to which he made the terrified crew member join in. Bless her, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere else in the world. She did great though! Also, the crew member had a sweepy fringe, which Jonathan kept trying to sweep out of her face, but it kept going back to its original position. So he tried again...and again...and again...and again...and again...
·        A couple in the row in front of us started taking a selfie of themselves during the panel. Jonathan clocked this and busted them! Hilariously, he said, “Don’t be shy!” and invited them up to the stage to take a selfie, which he jumped into as well...who knew they’d be rewarded for it? Might have to try that myself. Well played!
·        Jonathan also explained the origin story of communion. Starfury’s communion, I mean. More on that during my review of Sunday. Basically, Jonathan had been up drinking whisky the entire previous night and didn’t want attendees to smell all the alcohol on him throughout the day. Therefore, he devised a plan. He’d line all the attendees up during the panel the following morning and give them ‘communion’. Basically, he’d cover them in whisky so they stank as much as he did. Sneaky.
·        Jonathan has an idea for a pilot episode of television – himself and Jewel Staite portraying a couple in love, planning their wedding, when they discover that they’re actually brother and sister. He said he had this idea before “Game Of Thrones” made incest ‘cool’. Nothing cooler than screwing someone with the same genetics as you, right?


·        Jonathan said he would rule during a zombie apocalypse for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, he can distil his own whisky. That’s drink, medicine, and a flammable substance for throwing acquired. Secondly, he lives in America! You can buy as many guns as you want. He recently found out that one of his neighbours collects guns and has 500 in his basement – “stay on that guy’s good side during the zombie apocalypse.”
·        He loudly burped into the microphone. Charming.
·        He quipped that his favourite “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or “Angel” memory was their amazing cappuccino machine.
·        While filming “Conversations With Dead People”, Jonathan ‘double-fisted Sarah’. Take a moment to let that image sink in. What he actually meant was that when he lunges at Sarah, he accidentally smacked both his fists into her boobs. Accident...right. Also, evidently, he was told off for sitting on the crypts during filming. Apparently it’s disrespectful to the dead...while they’re filming a series about vampires. Go figure.
·        The cobwebs were added using a glue gun!
·        Jonathan had a butt-double during Firefly’s “The Message”. He said that was a very humbling moment for him and he gave a shout-out to all the odd-shaped butts in the room. He did wonder why they bothered to air-brush his ass-crack if he had a butt-double...
·        While waiting to film his scene of coming out of the coffin in “Conversations With Dead People”, Jonathan fell asleep. He was the only dead guy that snored.
·        Jonathan worked with Miracle’s husband, Christopher, during the final episode of “Diagnosis: Murder”. During filming, Jonathan was being chased by Carey Van Dyke and would take a tumble in a field. However, there were rocks everywhere and the filming took five or six takes. By the end of the shoot, Jonathan had blood coming out of his legs and head.
·        Jonathan mentioned that he met Alyson Hannigan and that she has really big eyes and he was really charmed by her.
·        Jonathan proposed to Adam Busch and Danny Strong that they should do a little musical number together, to which they both declined. It would have been re-enactment of “My Little Buttercup” from “Three Amigos”. With this, Jonathan roped in two attendees from the crowd to do it with him. They did! They danced, they twirled...or one of them did. The other one played an imaginary piano. It was hilarious! A great way to end a panel. Jonathan is totally at ease on stage. When the questions aren’t coming, he’ll make something up or just tell stories. He’s a natural comedian and storyteller.

Miracle Laurie’s Panel

·        The panel started with Miracle airing a TV short she did last year for “Scary Endings” called ‘Yummy Meat’. It was about five minutes long and revolved around a creepy trick-or-treat’ing child that transformed into a werewolf when Miracle’s character didn’t give him the ‘yummy meat’ he wanted. Half gory, half hilarious.

·        Miracle talked about the recording of her new album with her husband. Collectively they’re known as ‘Uke Box Heroes’ (uke = ukulele) and the album is called “Calling All Heroes”. You can purchase the album here. I bought it myself at “Vampire Ball” and it’s terrific. Kept me entertained throughout the long drive home. I don’t think it’s a secret, so I’ll say it, but the last song is the proposed theme music for “Insane Jane”, a new show that Miracle is currently pitching to networks. It revolves around Jane, who is on the run from a mental institution for delusional disorder, as she is trying to catch her nemesis. She’s a donut-loving superhero!
·        Miracle tried to take her scarf off and botched it. She noted that she’d be a terrible stripper.
·        Miracle mentioned that she was terrified when she first started on “Dollhouse”, but Tahmoh Penikett (Paul) took care of her. She was really excited to film her first scenes inside the Dollhouse itself, particularly when she was first in Topher’s chair.
·        Miracle prefers working in television as opposed to movies as it’s faster to be released. However, theatre is where her heart truly is. She saw “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre while over in London for “Vampire Ball”.
·        Unlike Jonathan, Miracle would die immediately during a zombie apocalypse.
·        Miracle noted that she was a Kindergarten teacher for eight years.
·        Miracle’s a huge Maleficent fan and dressed as her for Halloween after her sister, Angel, bought her the headdress.
·        If Joss were to do another Shakespeare movie, Miracle would want to play Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet”. Female version of the character, of course. If not, someone in “The Tempest”.
·        Miracle auditioned for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” numerous times, including for the role of the Potential Slayer, Annabelle. She was also down to the final five for Kaylee in “Firefly”. Aww, Miracle would have been a great Kaylee!


·        Miracle was asked what her weirdest audition was. Miracle looked off-stage to ask Angel, the other half of her brain (by her own admission). Angel said something, to which Miracle replied, “...But that wasn’t me”. Hilarious. Miracle did tell a story about someone else auditioning that she witnessed. The gentleman in question ended his audition by saying, “See you on set!” and doing little ‘pew-pew’ noises with his finger guns...kill me, kill me now. One of Miracle’s weirdest auditions was for a milk commercial, where multiple people would say one line each. How does milk aid Miracle’s character? – “We leave the light on when we do it!”...once again, kill me, kill me now.
·        One of Miracle’s favourite convention stories (barring seeing all of us at “Vampire Ball”, of course), was from Dragon Con, where Miracle met Jasika Nicole from “Fringe” at her autograph table. Furthermore, Miracle met Malcolm McDowell and was  so captivated by him she asked him if he wanted a button of her band. Not only did he take one, he wore it for the day! Advertising done right.
·        Miracle ended up with the name ‘Miracle’ because her father had been married and divorced a couple of times without conceiving. Therefore, when Miracle’s parents got together and she was born a couple of years later, she was her father’s little miracle baby...then little Angel came along too, of course. What a cute story.
·        At this point, Miracle invited her sister on stage so they could sing acapella together. Jonathan had lied during his panel that Miracle had her ukulele with her, so an attendee asked her to sing a little something. No ukulele, hence the acapella. Miracle noted that her sister taught her how to play the ukulele in the first place. They sang a little something that their mother used to use for them to warm up their vocals. There were no lyrics. It was beautiful. Legitimately beautiful. They both sounded amazing. I wish there was a recording of it, actually. Alas, no filming the panels at Starfury events. It is forbidden.
·        If Miracle were to be imprinted with someone, it would be Derek Jeter from the New York Yankees. This would come up again tomorrow during Miracle’s panel with Eliza, with hilarious results.
·        Miracle’s two favourite “Dollhouse” moments that immediately sprang to mind were “there are three flowers in a vase” from “Man On The Street” and Enver dancing as “Kiki” in “Belle Chose”. I immediately started chuckling to myself loudly as the mental images of Enver dancing were flooding back. Oh God, it’s so funny!
·        Miracle can’t cook, but she does have a special talent according to Angel – mime. Miracle then started miming a corner on stage. She is a good mime.
·        Someone mentioned to Miracle that she’s “so down to Earth”. A little later, Angel wanted to tell an embarrassing story about Miracle, but Miracle had her whisper it to her first – “I need to approve it first...because I’m so down to Earth.” Hilarious.
·        Miracle and Angel used to go to Disneyland and photobomb people. Excellent.
·        Miracle did some directing in High School, but she’s currently loving being a producer for “Insane Jane” as she loves problem-solving and bringing people together. Naww!

There was a 30-minute break at this point so that everyone could get a drink and stretch their legs. This was perfect as my ass was killing me. Well, technically my tailbone. See, after seven years of wrestling and multiple years of martial arts and cage-fighting (known now as ‘mixed martial arts’) in my teens and early 20’s, my tailbone is a mess. If I sit down for more than 90 minutes, pain starts shooting from the top of my ass upwards. It’s not debilitating or anything, but it’s wicked uncomfortable. My ass appreciated the break.

Robia LaMorte and James Leary’s Panel

·        Back in the early 2000’s when Robia used to do a lot more conventions, Robia and James used to refer to each other as their ‘convention husband’ and ‘convention wife’ as they spent so much time together. I believe this was their first time reuniting in years, so it was cool to be there for it.
·        Jenny Calendar’s name in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was originally ‘Nicky’. However, this was changed because everyone used to call Nicholas Brendon ‘Nicky’ too, so it was changed to avoid confusion and stop two Nicky’s appearing on set.
·        When Robia prepped for her audition, she thought Giles was a teenage pupil (remember, Robia auditioned during season one before the show had ever aired) so she practised for that. When she showed up for the reading, she was wondering who the middle-aged English man was. In fact, she popped her chewing gum out of her mouth for the scene and placed it in Anthony’s hand! Haha! Ultimately, Robia decided to just go with it and play the character the same way anyway, resulting in mega-chemistry between Giles and Jenny, as I think Giles secretly likes being belittled and teased.
·        As a former world-renowned professional dancer (Pearl in Prince’s ‘Diamond & Pearl’), Robia was gutted that she wasn’t still with the show when “Once More With Feeling” happened. She decided that Jenny’s song would have been called “Hot For Teacher”. Meanwhile, James said he couldn’t sing and he couldn’t rap...then he started rapping Vanilla Ice. Robia burst into laughter and exclaimed that it was funny because James is so vanilla...“Clem, Clem, baby!”
·        Robia told a story about Prince inviting people over to his house to listen to music. He was wearing a red version of his famous outfit. After a while, he said he was going upstairs to slip into something more comfortable. Robia thought she’d finally see Prince in a tanktop and trackies! Instead, he came downstairs in the exact same outfit, only it was blue instead of red. James laughed his ass off at that story. Apparently Prince was a great basketball player too. Used to beat people and dunk in heels.
·        James talked about “Hardish Bodies”, which is an improv. show he’s doing in Texas, that he described as the Full Monty in a Magic Mike world. The only difference is that the bodies on display are normal, everyday type bodies instead of Joe Manganiello. It’s a show that helps promote body confidence. Of course, James ignored that part and got ripped anyway.
·        James also currently works for a gaming company that makes DC Universe Online. Awesome!
·        Recently, Eliza and Tom Lenk took part in the Frozen vs. Tangled rap-battle. Someone asked if James would like to rap-battle Eliza later – “I’ll rap off to Eliza...don’t tell her I said that!”...Because, ladies and gentlemen, a good masturbation joke is funny worldwide.
·        If James wasn’t portraying Clem, he’d like to be Spike. Although, he noted that realistically he’d more likely be Xander. Robia wants to be Drusilla.
·        In hindsight, Robia wouldn’t have come back in the third season to film “Amends”. Her reasoning was very similar to Amber Benson’s when Amber explained why she turned down returning for “Conversations With Dead People”. The last time you see Jenny on Buffy now and therefore the last time you see Robia, she’s portraying the show’s equivalent of Satan. It’s not the nicest lasting impression for the fans.
·        Someone asked James what happened to Clem after we saw him departing Sunnydale. James must have thought about this before as he had a very elaborate answer. Clem went to Los Angeles to see his buddy Lorne. He got waylaid in Vegas, lost a lot of money, loan sharks were after him (perhaps the one from “Tabula Rasa”?), so he fled to Canada, where he became a maple syrup farmer in Alberta and wears lots of plaid. Alllllllrighty then! Amusingly, this led James into a story of when he used to make maple syrup as a child. James was talking about the process of making maple syrup, when Robia chimed in that she hoped it was more interesting than this story. Oh, the hilarity. Big pop for that one!
·        James then explained ‘Rubbish & Bins’ to Robia and the attendees that weren’t at “Vampire Ball 6”. Full details are here. In essence, rubbish and bins = penis and vagina. Robia was horrified.
·        James did an impression of James Marsters’ go-to photo pose for conventions. It was spot on. Hand in pocket, side view, tensing the triceps, pouty face...cracked me up.

·        James was a big “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” fan before being cast on the show. In fact, Buffy was on his ‘Top 5 Shows To Work On’ list. Dreams do come true!
·        There was an Angel vs. Spike question (and therefore debate as we can never agree on who’s best for Buffy). Robia chose Angel, James chose Spike. Chaos ensued. James then asked who Faith is more suited to, Clem or Clem? You know, I’m starting to think that James might have a crush on Eliza...note the sarcasm. Lots of people do, to be fair.
·        Someone asked them their most memorable convention moment. Both instantly said this one because it’s the only one they can remember! Haha! It would appear that at most conventions they attended back in the day together, alcohol was often involved in the proceedings. James then went into a great convention story. James, Robia, Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, and Bailey Chase were booked for two conventions in two weekends, one in London and then one in Paris. The London one was a bust. There was ‘money mismanagement’ (A.K.A. ‘fraud’), lots of problems, etc., so the Buffy group skipped out early on the convention and headed to Paris...where the problems were very similar. While in London the cheques bounced and the hotel bill wasn’t paid, in Paris there were barely any fans there. It was empty. It had been very poorly advertised and handled. The crew were so fed up by this point that they just no-showed the event because they’d been messed around so often with pay and arrangements. The owner of the Paris convention told the fans which hotel the guests were staying in so that the fans could go there! Big no-no! Although, James and Robia said that they were fine with it as it meant that they could hang out with the fans in a much nicer atmosphere. They took pictures, signed autographs, and went to bed. The next morning, they received a call from their agent telling them to get out the hotel now as the bill hadn’t been paid. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at any of the hotel employees, just get out. While they were in the elevator waiting to get downstairs to escape, Danny Strong quipped, “A Jew fleeing Paris...this hasn’t happened before.” Tremendous! Also, apparently Tom Lenk’s manager was very reminiscent of a gay version of Prince.
·        Robia was asked about her faith and how she ended up becoming a Christian minister and preacher. This was the first time I heard Robia talk about it all weekend, only when she was asked. Robia mentioned that she started becoming a devout Christian while filming “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. After spending so long acting and dancing, she was seeking something else in her life. She was searching for something...and she found it! However, Robia wanted to emphasise that she’s not the “eternal damnation” type of Christian. Instead, she’s the type of Christian that encourages people to enrich their lives and to deeply feel what they’re feeling and deal with it, hence the writing and release of her first book recently, “Counterfeit Comforts” (available here). “Counterfeit Comforts” is all about how we can stop using vices as escapism for our problems and it helps you tackle them head-on. I legitimately will be buying this book soon. I’ll go into the reasons why a little later in the review. This prompted James to share some of his journey. James has been sober for three years now (proud of you, James!). Before that time, one day, at 3:30pm, James fell asleep at a stop-light while he’d been drinking and went to jail. James used alcohol as his vice of choice, rather than looking at what was causing him pain internally. It directly ties into Robia’s book. James took accountability, faced his problems, changed his life, and is an inspiration now. Fair play to James as well for having the courage to talk about his previous issues openly. A lot of people are too proud or too embarrassed to do that.
·        Robia likened her seeking for something more to a magazine she read many years ago. In the magazine, there was an article on Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor and painter. It said that Michelangelo, when standing in front of a block of marble, never saw the marble. He saw the work already finished. All he was doing was chipping away at the excess that wasn’t needed. That’s what Robia does with her Christian ministry and preaching touring. She’s aiding people remove the junk from their life. It was a really inspiring speech for me. James’ side of the conversation was too. It wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t just to try and sell the book, it was two people sharing their beliefs and their journeys.
·        Of course, panels will inevitably have humour right after these touching moments, so the next question revolved around fan-fiction. Robia had never read any before, but James had. He’d read fan-fiction, he’d read ‘slash’ (Robia: “Your what was slashed?!”)...he’d seen a lot of Clem/Spike fan-fic, one of which Clem was known as the foreskin demon. Good grief. James mentioned that “50 Shades Of Grey” was “Twilight” fan-fiction...explains the quality of it.



·        James did (very, very good) impressions of Marlon Brando, Matthew McConaughey, and Christopher Walken doing Shakespeare.
·        Robia’s run on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was originally only supposed to be “I Robot...You Jane”. I guess they loved Robia’s sassiness and Jenny’s chemistry with Giles.
·        Robia mentioned that when she was touring Europe with Prince, after finishing their performance for the night, Prince would often spontaneously go to nightclubs and start another performance there too for fun. Robia emphasised how great of a person Prince was. They spent a lot of time together when she was Pearl. She would rag on him about always wearing his outfits and never regular clothes, while he would rag on her for not dressing up enough. Later, Prince shared with Robia that he grew up rough. He was from a poor family, he suffered abuse, etc. During his childhood and adolescence, Prince couldn’t afford nice clothes, so he made a promise to himself that when he became successful and could afford to dress like a star, he would do it every day. It was as though there was still a little boy inside him that wanted the nice things he never had as a child. The psychologist in me is fascinated.
·        Another great panel! This was the first where there was more than one guest on stage, which definitely helped a little. Having someone to bounce off of is good. To be fair, Miracle had Angel for some of her panel, while Jonathan definitely doesn’t need help bouncing off of anything.

Eliza Dushku and Clare Kramer’s Panel

·        Eliza and Clare started the panel by mentioning that they’d been giggling and snuggling on the floor together for 20 minutes earlier in the day. Some people in the audience wolf-whistled, so Eliza said, “Not like that!” Start as you mean to go on.
·        Eliza explained “Thrive Gulu” to the audience after she was asked about her work in Africa. “Thrive Gulu” is a non-profit organisation started by Eliza’s mother, Judy (I met Judy in Germany a couple years ago, amazing woman!), who taught African politics for 47 years. Gulu is a city in Northern Uganda that was prevalent for war and creating child soldiers, so the purpose of “Thrive Gulu” is to aid their quality of living, offer trauma healing, etc. I’ve donated myself before and I actively encourage everyone reading to do so too. You can check out the website and donate here.
·        Eliza then talked about her “Dear Albania”, a documentary she and her brother filmed to highlight the culture and beauty of Albania, the country of Eliza’s ancestry on one side. Eliza mentioned that when she was younger, she used to tell her teachers that she was Albanian and they’d correct her, thinking that she meant Armenian. Eliza mentioned that after she wore a vest in “Wrong Turn” with the Albanian flag sewn into the front, she became an Albanian hero overnight. She was treated amazingly over there, she was given dual-citizenship, so she wanted to give back and show the world just how beautiful Albania is, hence the documentary, which has recently (as in the last week) become available worldwide via Netflix. If you have a Netflix account, check it out! If you don’t, create a 30-day free trial and check it out, then cancel the subscription. Free!


·        Clare’s husband recently brought two puppies home without telling her. This is in addition to the four young children already in the house...oh, the anarchy! Eliza recently got a puppy too and she said that one was enough to drive her crazy, let alone two puppies and four children! Eliza said that Clare is incredible. She juggles a marriage, four children, animals, an acting career, and running her own business, Geek Nation!
·        Clare’s favourite episode to film was “The Gift”, as it was a culmination of not just Glory’s character arc, but also Buffy’s and the show’s at that time. For a long time, “The Gift” was going to be the last ever episode. It’s not until the two-year deal with UPN later that it was decided that the show would be brought back. That’s why “The Gift” feels a lot like a series finale as opposed to just a season finale. You have the five-year flash of images montage to start the episode, you have Buffy sacrificing herself and finally accepting her gift to the world (death). It feels full-circle. It’s also my favourite episode. Oh, also, Clare thinks that Glory jumped into Giles’ body and didn’t die with Ben. She wants that to happen in the comics.
·        Eliza loved filming the “Graduation Day Part One” fight with Buffy as it was so long and intricate. She couldn’t believe that when she read the script it went on for five pages!
·        Eliza talked about her origin story with Hollywood. Judy received a phone call asking if Eliza would do a screen test for a movie while they were out eating at a restaurant. Judy said, “No, thank you” and hung up the phone. Eliza and her brothers convinced Judy to call back and accept. While Eliza thought she had no chance of getting the part, it was a free trip to Los Angeles! How can you turn that down? Of course, Eliza got the part and the rest is history.


·        Someone asked Clare if she has any aspects of Glory inside of herself. Clare mentioned that she treats her children like minions sometimes...I think she was kidding?
·        I love how down to Earth and Zen Eliza always appears to be. She’s always so chilled.
·        Someone asked Eliza if it was hard playing so many different characters in “Dollhouse”. Eliza said not really as she specifically asked Joss to write a show for her where she could play many different characters. They had lunch, she told Joss she wanted to come back to television, Joss wrote “Dollhouse”. Eliza said that she has ‘wicked ADD or ADHD’, there’s always a lot of noise in her head, so it felt pretty natural to play lots of different characters.
·        Clare really wants to be in “Game Of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead”. Like, a lot.
·        Clare also really wanted to be in “Once More With Feeling”. Eliza didn’t as she said she can’t sing. I call bullshit. She sounded great in Dollhouse’s “Stage Fright”.
·        Eliza said that Doug Petrie came up with the character of Faith, not Joss Whedon. Joss is a bonafide genius and gets credit for everything, but a lot of credit must also go to the other writers too.
·        Eliza recently passed maths at college. She was so proud of that! She’s currently completing a degree in sociology, with a holistic psychology special.
·        Clare didn’t know Glory was a God, nor that Ben and Glory shared a body, until she read those scripts. She said it would have been nicer to know before then as she could have played the character differently with that information in mind.
·        Eliza (and the rest of the cast and crew) was shocked that “Dollhouse” was picked up for a second season as the ratings weren’t very good. They had great DVR numbers (recording it to watch later), but those weren’t taken into account until a couple of years after “Dollhouse” came off the air.
·        Clare’s most embarrassing moment on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was while filming “Blood Ties” in the hospital scene with Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn). Later in the episode, during the fight, Clare’s dress strap broke...and she was wearing no bra. Her boob popped out. The camera crew say they deleted the footage from all the three cameras that were aimed at Clare. Hmmm...not sure I believe them. Apparently, afterwards, the wardrobe lady was just like, “oh well, it happens.” Clare: “No, no it doesn’t!”
·        While filming Buffy’s “Enemies”, when Faith kisses Angel, Eliza requested that David remove his vampire fangs as they were cutting her tongue, to which Joss replied, “Wow, you’re really using that tongue, eh Eliza?” Hilarious. I have a video of Eliza telling this story in Germany a couple of years ago too.

·        Clare and Eliza were asked what advice they’d give to themselves as children if they could. Clare said that she’d tell child-Clare to be confident and that she could accomplish anything if she so chose to. Eliza echoed these sentiments, but added the importance of education and travelling around the world to learn about different people and different cultures. Alan Rickman’s advice to all actors was evidently to read as much as possible.
·        Eliza found it difficult to film the alleyway fight scene with Angel in “Five By Five” at first because she didn’t know how to play it. How can you fight someone, while screaming that you’re “bad” and “evil”. Eliza didn’t know what to draw from. Ultimately, she came down to the thinking that often times good people do bad things. This was the start of Faith’s consequences and subsequent amends. I think we can all agree that she nailed that scene.
·        Eliza’s a dog person because she can’t control cats.
·        Clare’s advice for auditions was to be prepared, which Eliza agreed with. Eliza also added to be directable (Microsoft Word tried to change this to ‘delectable’...I suppose that works too). Don’t go into the audition too rigid in your own beliefs to do something different.

By this point, it was 4:30pm and the day’s panels were over. I must admit, I do love the schedule at Starfury’s events. With very little exception, if you want to do absolutely everything, you can. The photos are in the morning, the talks are in the afternoon, the autographs are in the early evening, and the parties are at night. At Rogue Events’ “Prophecy” earlier in the year, you had to keep leaving the panels halfway through to go to photo shoots. I don’t like that at all. I’ve paid for both, I want to do both. All of both.

Regular ticket holders had autographs with Eliza and Clare on Saturday, while the gold ticket holders had autographs with Jonathan, James, Robia, and Miracle. I will admit, I forgot that gold ticket holders get an A3 poster as part of their autograph session, which was a much-needed addition, having left my book at home. I didn’t want to get the program signed, but that was my only option until I received the wonderful poster.

Robia LaMorte: At some conventions, you find that you can have really long conversations with the guests. If their autograph table is empty, you can just go and chat to them for as long as they want to. Alas, at “Vampire Ball”, you know that you’re going to be limited to a couple of minutes as they have to get through ‘X’ amount of people in the two hours that have been assigned to autographs. Nevertheless, my time with Robia was great. I mentioned to Robia that it was my intention to buy her book, “Counterfeit Comforts”. Robia was happy to hear that and asked what prompted me to want to buy it. Oh, Robia...the can of worms you were about to open. I kept to the condensed version due to time restraints, but in essence, I lost my two closest friends within 5 months of each other when I was 18-19 years old (how careless of me...). One four-and-a-half-year battle with severe depression later, I attempted to kill myself in July of 2011. I’m not going to go into specifics here, but I write about my reasoning and go into quite a lot of depth during my review of Buffy’s “Amends” towards the bottom of the review, so anyone interested can read more here. I took forty or fifty painkillers, drank them all down with whisky, put Buffy on, and laid down on my bed waiting to die (I was living alone). Two hours later, I woke up. No vomiting them up, no medical intervention, I just miraculously survived. At this point, Robia started talking about the divine intervention of God. Over the past five years, I’ve rebuilt my life. Entirely. From scratch. I feel as though I’m happier than I’ve ever been now, I feel as though I’ve dealt with a lot and I’ve overcome a lot. Yet, there’s still a great deal from that five-year period I haven’t dealt with. There’s still a lot of anger in me. There’s still a lot of healing to come. I still need to process a lot and come to terms with it. This is where “Counterfeit Comforts” comes in. The book is written for situations like this! For dealing with your issues and problems healthily instead of using vices to stuff the emotion down. It was a pretty frickin’ intense table conversation, but Robia was so sweet during the entire thing. She was genuinely interested, genuinely concerned, and asked me to stay in contact and keep her updated. A phenomenal lady. Guest Type = Responder.

(Regular readers, you can skip this section)

“Shangel, what’s a ‘responder’?”

I’m glad you asked. Many years ago, after attending numerous conventions, I devised a system whereby to categorise my experiences with guests and their level of interaction in order to compare the quality of my experiences across conventions and time. I have O.C.D., shut up. The following three types were found :-

·       The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you comment on something, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to. These are the most common type of guest, and this is what you expect when meeting someone at a convention. This is a great category to be a part of.

·       The Groucho/Big Guest: There are two aspects to this category. Firstly, you have the groucho. The groucho is there for monetary purposes or is generally just having a bad day, or is a bit of an ass. If you meet enough people, one of them is bound to be an ass! The grouchos aren’t interested in conversations above a few words. They’ll say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. Of course, in certain situations this is relevant and expected, which brings me to the second part of this category, the big guest. Some guests are going to be insanely popular. Such as Stan Lee at LFCC ‘14, who had an entire building to himself basically. When you get a huge queue like that, the guest can’t take a lot of time with everyone. If they did, many people would go home disappointed at not getting to meet them at all. Therefore, the convention company and the guest want to get through as many people as possible. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute with them, which is perfectly fair.

·       The Conversationalist: This is easily my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions with a smile, ask you questions in return, and are happy to chat for an extended period of time (extended = above 2-3 minutes), regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some cut-off point if there is a queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling euphoric and like you gained a lot more than just the autograph you queued for.

Feel free to let me know your experiences with guests in the comments below or on social media!

PLEASE NOTE: Whether or not someone is a ‘responder’ or ‘conversationalist’ isn’t only dependent on the guest themselves. It’s also dependent on the timeframe available for you and them to talk. For instance, last time I met James Leary, he was a ‘conversationalist’ at the autograph table. This time he was a ‘responder’. Was that because of James? Of course not! It was because of the queue of people behind me. So please take these labels with a pinch of salt...unless I label them as a groucho.

James Leary: I was actually in the queue for Miracle Laurie with Melly, but a crew member switched us to James as Miracle was taking a long time to sign. This was amusing as it led to Jonathan and James constantly jokily yelling across the room to Miracle that she was hogging all the attendees – “I’m trying to give them a personal experience!” It was great. OH! Also, while I was queuing for Miracle later, Jonathan stood up and yelled across the room to Robia, who had signed a program guide over his bio section and not her own! “Robia, your section is here! HERE! This is my section!”, “Oh my God! I thought you could just sign anywhere!”, “No! Keep to your section!”...Later, Jonathan deliberately signed over Robia’s bio, stood up, and read it out to Robia. It was hilarious. Please note: All of this was said in jest...where was I? James! I love James. I met James last year at “Vampire Ball”, we’ve stayed in touch via social media, and I find him truly inspirational when it comes to how he’s faced his demons and turned his life around. Myself and James talked about how the weekend was going, we talked about jetlag, we talked about “Hardish Bodies” and how James was ecstatic to be in London, but still sad he was missing the show, and we also talked a little bit of business, which I can’t divulge. At this event, James was an “extra guest”. That means that his autograph wasn’t included in the ticket price of either regular or gold passes. Any autographs you wanted from James, you had to buy. I could say this was a bit rubbish, but we all know that rubbish is a euphemism for penis, so I shall refrain. It’s always great to see James. He’s very easy to talk to, he’s very approachable, and he’s really interactive with his fans, which is awesome. Gotta love Clem. Guest Type = Responder.

Miracle Laurie: As I said before, Miracle was the ‘guest of the convention’ for me...and for most of the people I spoke to, actually. Eliza was a close second, but obviously as the headline guest she wasn’t quite as attainable as the others...until she started dancing with us on Sunday evening, of course. Miracle was definitely doing as she said and trying to give the attendees a personal experience. It was my longest autograph table conversation of the weekend, and it was awesome. Even before it was my turn, the lady in front of me was getting an “Insane Jane” poster signed. It was the first “Insane Jane” poster that Miracle had ever signed with quotes, so she told the lady, myself, and Melly some secrets about the show and what’s upcoming, but told us that it had to stay between the six of us (us three, Miracle, Angel, and Paul), so I can’t talk about it. However, I will say to keep an eye out for “Insane Jane”. Great things ahead! When it was my turn, we inevitably talked about “Dollhouse”, but we also talked about music. In her panel earlier in the day, Miracle mentioned that she recently started listening to country music, so I directed her towards Christian Kane (Angel wrote it down). As I’d bought her CD, I mentioned that I’d be leaving the party very late on Sunday night and this would be my driving home music. Miracle said, “God, I hope it doesn’t put you to sleep in that case!”, to which Angel said, “Way to sell your CD there, Miracle. ‘It’s so good, it’ll put you to sleep’.” Big LOL. I said that my theory is that the longer I drive, the more tired I’ll become, yet the more lyrics of the album I’ll know, so the singing will keep me awake (sidebar: all true). Miracle wrote “STAY AWAKE!” on the CD cover and she also asked me to Tweet her that I got home safely. She also wrote “let me know you got home safely – Mom” on the 8” x 10”. So funny. I also offered Miracle some help with the promotion of “Insane Jane” when it gets to that stage. If she wants any information on the blog, any promotional help, etc., I have 4 million Joss Whedon fanatics on my blog and Buffyverse pages waiting to soak up the news, so I’m sure that I’ll be working with Miracle a little bit in some capacity down the line. Sometimes you meet people at autograph tables and they’re great, but you can feel this little invisible barrier between you, highlighting the power imbalance at play – they are the guest, you are the fan. Other times, you meet people at autograph tables and there’s no barrier. No fake smiles, no fake just get to meet the real, undiluted person. Miracle was the latter. I’ve been attending these events and doing this a long time. I’ve co-organised events, I’ve been crew, I’ve been an agent, I’ve been an attendee. I like to consider myself a good judge of character, basically. I might be completely wrong, but I like to think I am. Miracle came across as one of the loveliest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. And I’m not restricting that to just conventions and celebrities either. I was so impressed by Miracle. Plus, the bonus was that Angel was just as amazing too. It was a two-for-the-price-of-one deal! Guest Type = Conversationalist (x2 with Angel).

Jonathan Woodward: Finally, we have Mr. Bitey himself, Jonathan Woodward. Going to Jonathan’s autograph table is just like greeting an old old, crazy friend. When it was my turn, he yelled, “My main man, Shane!”, gave me another hand-shattering man-shake (read: handshake with fingers up), and pulled me down to hug him. I think it’s also safe to say that Jonathan was a little tipsy by this point. Jonathan said to me, “You know,’s cool that your look has endured the years.” He meant my convention attire. Just for the record, it’s the same colour, but I alternate the entire outfit every 2-3 months, even if I’ve only worn it a handful of times. I don’t want it getting grey and smelly. Then Jonathan noticed the tie. The custom-made, hand-stitched tie that my friends Enza and Chrissy got me for my birthday a couple of years ago. At the bottom of the tie is the “Angel” television show logo. Jonathan said, “Oh my God, I have to sign this!” and then flipped the tie over and started signing the back. As I said before, alcohol was involved, so he initially wrote ‘2014’, then asked what year it was. He corrected it to ‘2016’. Then, he looked up at me and told me the tie knot was all wrong. In addition to being a whisky connoisseur, it would appear that Jonathan is also a knot expert. I told him I only know how to tie a tie using one type of knot and he said that that’s a problem. He flicked up my shirt collar, took my tie off entirely, and started re-tying it. First, he attempted a half-Windsor. After tying it, getting it all back in place, flicking the collar back down, he decided he didn’t like it. Then he said he was going to do a full-Windsor instead. I turned to Simon, his crew member, and asked if Simon knew what he was talking about, before Jonathan flicked my nose, turned my head back towards him, and said, “No turning!” Ladies and gentlemen, Jonathan Woodward must have been there for over five minutes messing with my tie. At one point, he poured himself another glass of wine and tried to tie it one-handed while drinking. The wine bottle was in an ice bucket, so he wiped the water off the bottle and onto my face. It was probably the most surreal, hilarious autograph table of my life. This is why Jonathan keeps being brought back. He’s totally worth the money! From biting to re-tying ties, to stealing cameras, to flinging Jaffa Cakes at people (more on that later), Jonathan is barmy. In the best possible way. Guest Type = Jonathan Woodward.

That was it. The autograph session was over for the day! Just Clare and Eliza left to do on Sunday. This gave myself and Melly an hour or so to grab some food before the ‘Costume Competition’ began in the talk hall at 8:30pm. There was no event discount this time around, sadly. However, they were doing a “Vampire Ball” cocktail for cheap between 4-6pm. Of course, it was 7pm by the time I get there to eat #Typical. This chicken tikka masala was the first meal I’d eaten in two days and it was needed. Mostly because I knew “Game Of Thrones” drinking games were coming up a few hours later.


The ‘Costume Competition’ is always great. Always. So much effort and creativity go into these cosplays that you can’t help but be impressed. My personal favourites were Emma’s cheerleading outfit (due to the insane cheerleading flips she was pulling off!) and the Addam’s Family group costume, both of which went on to win their respective categories. There were some other great ones too! Spike and Dru were represented, as was Herbert the pig from Buffy. Giles was there, a gender-bent “Firefly” group was was great! The judges were all of the guests (bar Eliza), who had to come together and pick the best child, the best group, and the main category 3rd place, 2nd place, and winners. After the competition came to a close, Clare wanted to do a massive mannequin challenge. In essence, you pull a pose and hold it, like a mannequin. The only downside was that there were hundreds of people. It took Clare about 10 minutes to slowly walk around the hall filming everyone. In fact, the music finished and had to be restarted. Have you ever held a pose as still as possible for 10 minutes without moving whatsoever? It hurts! My beaten down old wrestling body was starting to ache like fuck during the 2nd half of the mannequin challenge, but I persevered. So many people were still aching the next day, it was hilarious. The video should be uploaded by Clare within the next week. Interested to see how it turns out.


Once the mannequin challenge had killed us all, we headed to the bar to get a drink and chill out for a bit. I ended up talking to my friend Bhavna (and sister Jaimini) for a couple of hours and offered her some relationship advice. Well, I say “advice”. It was more telling her why she’s better off without her douchey ex. At midnight, myself, Melly, Hannah, Rebecca, and Dirk headed up to my hotel room to partake in a “Game Of Thrones” drinking game (we were later joined by Miguel and Aly). We hooked an external hard drive up to the television, so we had all six seasons to choose from. I created the rules and the rules were brutal if you’ve ever seen the show :-

1)      The entry fee to get into my room was 1x whisky shot. If you left the room and returned, that’s another shot. As Rebecca found out later, this is deadly. At one point, she took one step into the hallway and the door closed. That’s a shot! 5 minutes later, she did it again. That’s another shot!
2)     Drink every time a dead character appears on screen. The first episode we watched was the pilot, “Winter Is Coming”. THREE-QUARTERS OF THOSE CHARACTERS ARE NOW DEAD. This includes minor characters and animals.
3)     Drink every time Jon Snow broods on screen.
4)     Drink every time Cersei drinks and for as long as Cersei drinks.
5)     Drink every time there’s a sex scene or nudity. Every time.

Suffice to say, by the end of the first episode, everyone except me was pretty much wasted. This went on for the next four and a half hours, until 4:30am. At one point, we went downstairs just before 2:00am for a cigarette, and we saw Miracle Laurie leaving. She came over and said she was the last guest standing! She said she thought the survivor’s photo happened every night at 2am (when the party finishes), so she stayed. Alas, it only happens on Sunday night. Bless her.

At 4:30am, most of my friends went off to bed. Rebecca and Miguel stayed until 5:30am. At this point, breakfast was almost open. What’s the point in trying to get some sleep? I went for a walk around the block, got back to my room at 7:00am, chilled for a couple of hours, and met everyone downstairs just before 10:00am. Current hours without sleep: 28. As I had no photos on Sunday, the first thing on my agenda was communion.

Jonathan Woodward Presents: Communion, With James Leary

·        As I mentioned before, communion is very straight forward. Line up all the willing participants, give them a cup full of alcohol. Aim somewhere near their mouth, get it all down them, and pretend that what they’re drinking is a “Manhattan” (it tasted nothing like a Manhattan!). This doesn’t happen until the end of the ‘panel’, however. That left Jonathan and James 90 minutes to fill.
·        Jonathan and James came out onto the stage to “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, complete with dance choreography. At the end, James had to lift Jonathan into the air like he was flying...he got close. Jonathan almost fell over.
·        The panel started with Jonathan asking how much sleep everyone had gotten. He started at 6 hours and counted down. I believe me and one other person raised our hand for zero sleep. Jonathan said, “No sleep for Shane! Woo!” and pointed at me.
·        On paper, when the schedule was released, I knew this panel would be the best of the weekend. Not only is communion usually hilarious and barbaric, but Jonathan’s partner-in-crime was James, someone who’s also ridiculously funny and quick-witted. I was correct. This was easily the best panel of the weekend and one of the best of all-time that I’ve seen.
·        After asking how much sleep everyone had received, Jonathan went around to the back of the table holding the fountain of alcohol and presented two large, long boxes of Jaffa Cakes. Jonathan had a box, James had a box. Of course, they instantly put them between their legs and had a Jaffa Battle: Penis Edition. When Jonathan opened up the big box, he discovered that there were lots of little boxes inside...he’d been tricked! James quipped, “Now you know how the ladies feel, Jonathan.” Start as you mean to go on.
·        Jonathan then started flinging Jaffa Cakes into the audience for fun...and I mean flinging them. Like he was skimming stones. James, meanwhile, was trying not to kill anyone in the process, so he was gently throwing the Jaffa Cakes towards people’s hands on his side of the audience. I was on Jonathan’s side. Jaffa Cakes were flying everywhere. Eventually, someone threw one back at Jonathan. This was war. Jonathan grabbed another box (James: “You’re ready again?! I’m gonna need a minute to reload...”) and started throwing cluster-bomb Jaffa’s into the audience.
·        Once “Jaffa Wars Part II: This Time It’s Personal” subsided, it was time for Jonathan to add the whisky to the fountain. From the other side of the stage, James could smell it – “The sign of quality alcohol.” It wasn’t even real Kentucky bourbon, it was Kentucky flavoured bourbon. Only the finest for the attendees of “Vampire Ball”. Plus, the bottom of the fountain was covered in Jaffa Cake crumbs. This is gonna taste great...
·         Next Up: James Leary, this is your life! Jonathan had found famous Dr. James Leary’s online and James had to guess their specialty field. It was at this point that Jonathan reminded us of the “you’ve gone too far” word: Watermelon. The antithesis of ‘watermelon’ was the “we want more shenanigans” word: Bukkake. For those of you unaware, ‘bukkake’ is basically a group of men ejaculating on the same female. Picture putting fake snow on the Christmas tree, only instead of snow, it’s jizz. And instead of a Christmas tree, it’s a female. Jonathan yelled to our side of the audience (his side), “Can I get a bukkake over here?!”, to which James yelled, “WATERMELON!” Didn’t take long to get inappropriate, huh? Love it.
·        Jonathan randomly disappeared off-stage and you could hear him asking a crew member for something. He was asking for ointment for a certain itching (James: “...I wasn’t briefed on any of this...”).


·        Jonathan asked James about “Hardish Bodies” and James reiterated that it was an improv. show, the Full Monty in a Magic Mike world. Jonathan, of course, instantly started rubbing James’ stomach and encouraged James to do a little bit of it for us – “Ladies and gentlemen, Jaaaaaaames Learyyyyyyyyy’s scrotum!”
James: “...It is shaved.”
·        The lights went down, ready to set the mood, and James said that it’s to show that you can be sexy at any size. Jonathan rubbed his belly and said, “thank God”. Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” blared through the sound system (after James requested they turn it up multiple times), as James sat down on a chair and started performing. As you can imagine, lots of suggestion, lots of thrusting, lots of hip gyrating. James can move! He even busted out the old-school worm.
·        Jonathan said that stripping in England is harder as there’s nowhere to put the pound coins. He encouraged everyone to come on stage and put them in any orifice of James’ they could find. Good grief.
·        James mentioned that they’re presently trying to turn “Hardish Bodies” into a movie. Gotta be honest, it would be cool to have a movie that promotes normal, everyday bodies as sexy. Would make a change.
·        After the dancing, James’ underwear was bothering him. Particularly after he said it was new Star Wars underwear and Jonathan gave him a front wedgie in his haste to see them. James was unpicking his front-wedgie on stage...more on that later.
·        Jonathan then placed a Jaffa Cake in James’ hand - the hand that had just been used to unbunch his sweaty scrotum – left it there for a while, and ate it. Is there a more attractive visual?
·        The fountain containing the alcohol lights up. Cool.
·        Jonathan put his microphone down James’ butt-crack and started speaking into it...James (desperately): “Watermelon!!
·        Jonathan pulled up James’ shirt and started playing with his “rugged Indiana Jones fluff”.
·        They want to star in a buddy-movie together called, “Bukkake and the Watermelon”...I’d watch it.
·        James licked a Jaffa Cake (at Jonathan’s request) and Jonathan ate it. James: “I should probably tell you about the herpes...”, Jonathan: “As you know, James. If you get it twice, they cancel each other out.” Laughed so hard at this panel.


·        Jonathan drank some whisky and spat it out. Someone in the audience yelled, “spitters are for quitters”, to a huge pop. Jonathan called it the best joke of the panel.
·        Evidently, Miracle and Angel were supposed to be there for the communion itself, so Jonathan was stalling. They eventually showed up way later. Jonathan claims there’s heroin in the green room, hence why Miracle and Angel were late.
·        Jonathan can say “I am constipated” in many languages. Seriously, he recited it in about seven. He asked how to say it in Gaelic and someone shouted out, “I nee’ to ‘ave a shite!” He went to the stage to receive a shot for that gut-wrenching answer.
·        Jonathan was then robed on stage ready for communion. He made a paper hat out of a newspaper too. Meanwhile, while Jonathan was being robed, James was trying to clean up. His ‘Virgo-ness’ was getting annoyed by all the mess.
·        Once again, James made a complaint about his underwear being too hot...big mistake! Jonathan yelled “get those fuckers off!” and started auctioning James’ underwear for charity. For Planned Parenthood of Texas, I believe, as Jonathan said that with Trump as President, females’ right to choose will probably be taken away soon. James tried to stop the auction, he tried to reign Jonathan in, but it was to no avail. The bidding was already up to £40, so James dashed off-stage to remove the Star Wars undies...God, I hope they were skid-free. How embarrassing would that be?! As James was behind the stage, nobody could see anything except Missy, whom James brought with him from the States. All I could hear for the next 30 seconds was Missy roaring with laughter at James (I was sat a few rows behind her). Her laughing made me laugh, so then I was in hysterics too. In the end, the underwear was sold for £100! James presented them to the winner, Sophy Grenfell, who then put them on over her jeans and presented them to the audience on stage.
·        This concluded the panel, so everyone who wanted to participate lined up and received their cup-full of mixed alcohol that tasted nothing like a Manhattan. Amazing!

Right after communion finished, myself and Melly headed downstairs to the photo/autograph room, as we had a ‘guest encounter’ with Miracle Laurie. In essence, you and nine other people sit around a table with Miracle for half an hour and talk. Tickets were £20 each. Although, these only cost £10 each as we bought them Sunday morning. The guest encounter started late. About 20 minutes late. This is because Miracle and Angel had been caught up in the end of communion. Miracle, Angel, and Jonathan entered the room wearing skirts made out of cut-up strips of newspaper, Hawaiian style. Evidently, after going back to the hotel room Saturday night, Jonathan made them. Jonathan, Miracle, and Angel put on an exclusive dance and song for us – “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii”. It was tremendous. What a great way to start a guest encounter! Jonathan headed to the other side of the room divider, as he had a guest encounter with James Leary, while Miracle came to sit down at our table.

Ladies and gentlemen (those of you still awake and reading), I must admit, by this point I’d been sleepless for 31.5 hours. I’d just sat down for 20 minutes waiting for the guest encounter to start. A fog had risen inside my brain and I remember very little of this guest encounter. I mean, I remember we talked about “Insane Jane” and Disney, we talked about “Dollhouse” and music...but specific, minute details? I remember almost nothing. I do remember that Miracle gave great eye-contact and smiled at me a lot though. That was nice. Also, I remember that at one point Miracle put her finger in her eye and said, “Ugh, I have Jonathan in my eye”...I can only assume she meant he’d accidentally spat at her while singing, but who knows.

Robia LaMorte and Clare Kramer’s Panel

·        As Miracle’s guest encounter started late, we missed the beginning of this panel, but only the first 5 or 10 minutes. That still left nearly an hour of goodness! I must admit, I do prefer this one-hour panel system to 30 minutes. With 30 minutes, it’s just warming up and it’s over.
·        The zombie apocalypse question was back when I arrived! Clare would kick ass at a zombie apocalypse, while Robia would die. Clare offered to help her in exchange for half of everything she owned. Clare is officially Negan.
·        Robia and Clare met on a Buffy convention cruise years ago. I wanna go on a Buffy cruise! Can you imagine anything better than a week away at sea, visiting beautiful places, with Buffyverse actors? C’mon, know you want to.
·        Geek Nation is currently getting a revamp and will display a new interface over the coming month or so.
·        Originally, Glory (as the First Evil) was going to have a much larger role in season seven than just her appearance at the conclusion of the opener, “Lessons”. Clare didn’t go into specifics of what those plans were, but I’m assuming she would have done a lot of what Jonathan and Warren eventually did. I’m guessing a switch was made somewhere to bring back the Trio instead of Glory. I would have loved to see Glory-First get under Dawn and Buffy’s skin, trying to convince Dawn that she’s still not real, etc. Would have been gold.
·        Debbie Gibson’s “Shake Your Love” appeared on the screens at Robia’s request as she was in the music video. Apparently, Robia was in the original cut of the video much more, but Debbie said, “why is that girl in my video so much?” and it was reduced. She was clearly jealous.
·        Robia showed a picture of her daughter, Gemma, on the screen. Gemma is nearly 6 and she’s totally adorable...and she’s inherited her mother’s sass based on the pose! See, things like this show which guests have a barrier with their fans at these events and which don’t. Robia was telling us about her daughter and showing us a picture, she brought her husband (hilariously, also called ‘James’ like her former-convention husband) along...she felt like an attendee!


·        Robia found out about Jenny’s death during a casual conversation with Joss. They were walking together to set one day, so Robia asked what was coming up in season two. Joss was like, *well, this is going to happen, that’s going to happen, you’re going to die, this is going to happen*...Robia was like, “Umm...rewind, please?!” Robia said that she was okay with Jenny’s death simply because it was so beautifully done. It was amazingly written. She also singled out Anthony Head, Alyson Hannigan, and Sarah Michelle Gellar for being phenomenal in the episode after they discover Jenny’s dead. Robia said that if Jenny had lived, she would ‘definitely’ have ended up with Giles for good. That’s what was so tragic about them: they barely got started.
·        Someone approached the microphone and said that they’d found Diamond (or Diamond and Pearl) for Robia, as Robia couldn’t locate her. Evidently, the person found Diamond really easily, and Robia quipped that Jenny was super computer literate, whereas she’s clearly not.
·        Clare did all her own cheers for “Bring It On”. She went to a five-week training camp before filming.
·        Clare said that her first episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was her first episode of recording a proper television show. While filming “Shadows” later in the season, Clare accidentally clocked Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt-double, Michelle, at 3am when they were filming the fight scene. She hit her in the lower forehead and Michelle dropped to the floor unconscious and ended up with a welt on her forehead and two black eyes. Michelle was nicknamed “the unicorn” for a while afterwards due to the welt. Don’t mess with Clare.
·        After Robia filmed the line, “That’s not where I dangle it” in “I Robot...You Jane”, Joss rushed over to her and said, “I could give you a big metaphorical kiss right now!” because she delivered it better than he intended it, in a way he hadn’t intended it. Robia also said that Joss got great performances out of everyone because he knew their strengths and he was okay with giving them free reign.
·        Robia Google’d her Buffy scenes before coming to “Vampire Ball” to refresh her memory. “I’d forgotten what a great show it was!”
·        Robia thinks that Giles secretly liked Jenny coming into his life and shaking up his orderly world.
·        Clare was a big fan of Glory’s dialogue. She got to say some great lines – “Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?” chief among them.
·        Clare said her children like to watch “Big Ass Spider!” (a movie Clare made) because they’re not allowed to say bad words and it’s the only time they can get away with saying ‘ass’.
·        Clare and Robia want to do a Buffy cruise. As do the attendees. Clare told Sean to make it happen and Sean said he’d arrange a cruise down the Thames...bastard!

Eliza Dushku and Miracle Laurie’s Panel

·        Eliza was up until 3am doing college work on Saturday night. Dedication.
·        Eliza told a very personal story about her time filming “Jane Wants A Boyfriend”, as her father passed away during the filming of the two most emotional scenes.
·        Eliza mentioned that filming “Who Are You?” was great fun as Sarah and Eliza went into a little competition to try and out-perform each each other. They both got tapes of each other’s performances and started to mimic each other’s facial expressions, sentence structure, and movements in their respective trailers.
·        Eliza got poison ivy over her legs and ass while filming “Wrong Turn”. Oh dear.
·        Miracle loves Dollhouse’s “Man On The Street”. ‘Three flowers in a vase’ was an incredible turn of events, which she had so much fun filming.
·        Joss deliberately made Eliza play a character in “Haunted” (Dollhouse) with her hair up, as he said that Eliza’s hair is her comfort zone, so he was taking her out of it. She hated it (“the bastard!”).
·        Both Miracle and Eliza mentioned that Amy Acker is the kindest woman on the planet, and Miracle was sad to hear that Amy was supposed to be at “Vampire Ball” and pulled out. For those of you unaware, both Amy Acker and Mercedes McNab had to pull out. However, I’d like to mention Amy’s cancellation in particular as it wasn’t a project that forced the cancellation, it was the stalkerish attendees. See, some people that were either going to “Vampire Ball” or intended to go started Tweeting to Amy every day, making sure she was still coming. They went to a panel of hers at a convention in America and asked her if she was still attending, etc. Amy got so worried about potentially having to pull out if a project came along that she just pre-empted the process and cancelled. Basically, fans made her cancel by being such morons. To those few people, great work. You ruined it for everyone.
·        Evidently, it took Fox ages to realise that “Dollhouse” was basically a show about human trafficking. How did they not notice that from the start? We all did.
·        Eliza talked about being her own worst critic and not wanting to watch her performances back – “However, I’m not gonna talk about that as (*puts on Echo’s voice*)...I try to be my best.” Well played, Eliza. Well played.
·        Eliza doesn’t read a great deal because she has A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). Interestingly, she’s currently at college and kicking ass by all accounts, so she must be doing something right.
·        Joss had an entirely different plot for November in “Dollhouse”, but it was changed to Mellie, Paul’s loveable neighbour. Miracle was happy she was around so much on the show as she was a recurring character, not a main cast member. She’s main cast to us fans though, damn it! Miracle was happy that the show got a second season as it allowed the show to have closure. Unexpected closure, as a 2nd season was considered unlikely for a long time.
·        Eliza mentioned that Joss was so pumped when he found Miracle. He told Eliza that Miracle was incredible and she was going to nail the part. Bless him.
·        Miracle credits “I Love Lucy” as the reason she became an actress. She’s also a huge Joan of Arc fan.
·        Kevin Smith took Eliza to the Four Seasons for lunch to offer her a part in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”. He was ragging on her at the start, asking if her surname was ‘duck shoot’. He also didn’t give her any wardrobe options, she was going to be in a leather cat suit. Eliza knew that Kevin’s wife was going to be in the same outfit as her, so at least it wouldn’t be too bad or revealing.
·        Someone asked Eliza who she’d want to portray on Buffy if not Faith, but Eliza couldn’t choose. She’s too loyal to Faith. Miracle recommended Xander (“Hell no!”) or Angel (“No! ‘Oooh, I’m so angry and broken!’”), but Eliza shot both down.
·        Miracle mentioned yet again that she’d have an imprint of Derek Jeter if possible. Eliza is a huge Red Sox fan, so she said she’d have an imprint of David Ortiz. This led to a very polite, yet very real exchange of why Jeter is better than Ortiz and vice versa. It was hilarious as everything was said lovingly, but with a sharp, sarcastic edge.


·        Someone asked Eliza why Faith never really accepted the Scoobies and Eliza said it’s because the Scoobies never really accepted her. They would leave her out of things and they never truly treated her like part of the team (true). Eliza said that’s why Faith went and hung out with Angel and went to Angel for help later.
·        The DVR numbers for viewership didn’t count when “Dollhouse” was on the air. They started being counted right afterwards, which is a shame as Dollhouse’s DVR numbers were very good and the show may have gotten a third season.
·        Jason Mewes convinced Eliza to voice a character in “Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie” by telling her that her character was called ‘Lipstick Lesbian’ and she’d fight with a giant dildo.
·        Continuing the trend of Miracle vs. Eliza, Miracle is Team Cap while Eliza is Team Iron Man. I’m Team Iron Man myself.
·        The episode of Dollhouse, “The Target” came about because Eliza wrote Joss an email about going elk hunting. The email said that she’d camouflaged her scent with elk pee, etc. At the same time she sent this email to Joss, he sent her the Dollhouse treatment script for the pilot. Joss replied to Eliza’s email saying that her trip was amazing and he’d incorporate it into the next episode.
·        DJ Qualls once told one of the attendees that his first proper kiss onscreen was with Eliza in “The New Guy”. That kiss was quite vigorous and quite full-on...tongues too, I hear. When DJ next had to kiss someone onscreen, he did the same thing and the actress was like, “Dude, what the fuck are you doing?”, and DJ was like, “Eliza let me do it!” Hilarious.
·        Eliza’s most embarrassing moment was filming “Epitaph Two: Return” on “Dollhouse”. As Caroline jumps out of the back of the truck, firing guns and looking badass, Eliza slipped and fell on her ass. Her gun went off and everything. Just when this story was hilariously funny, Eliza noted that she broke her elbow. Less funny then. Miracle’s most embarrassing moment on “Dollhouse” was falling asleep inside her pod when filming was starting – “Uhh...Miracle?...Miracle?....” Eliza and Miracle noted that crew members used to go and sleep in the pods during break times because they were so comfortable. Eliza also told a funny Tahmoh story. In the pilot episode, where Paul is looking badass and telling everyone that the “Dollhouse is real”, he accidentally said “the Wallhouse is real...oh fuck!” That was on Tahmoh’s first day! Oh, the embarrassment. It’s the show’s title!
·        Jonathan Woodward asked the last question. Actually, it wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Just when you think Jonathan is nothing but jokes and silliness, Jonathan stated something very sincere and very real. He thanked Eliza and Miracle for being excellent role models to young girls. Jonathan has a girlfriend at home who has young daughters and it’s people like Eliza and Miracle that give them someone to look up to. Intelligent, articulate, strong, powerful women. Aww! Well said, Jonathan.
·        Eliza mentioned that a great way to support the actors now is to follow their social media pages. In fact, many actors list their social media follower numbers on their résumés now as casting agents may be more likely to hire them if they have a lot of followers and can therefore promote the project better. Damn. Better get following your favourite actors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people!

The end of Eliza and Miracle’s panel also meant the end of panels for the weekend. All that was left was the final autograph session and the closing ceremony. Sad times.

Clare Kramer: You can tell that Clare is an old-school pro. at conventions and that she attends them a lot, whether as a guest or as a panel host. She’s got the experience down to a science! While this means that Clare is always friendly, approachable, and great, it also means that there’s less chance of a random moment or really deep conversation. With someone like Marc Blucas at “Prophecy”, it was his first ever convention. So he was himself as he hadn’t created a convention or stage persona. He was just honest, open, and Marc Blucas. At Clare’s autograph table, I quipped that I feel as though we meet once a year to talk about the latest “Game Of Thrones” season, to which Clare agreed. We talked about “Game Of Thrones”, we talked about the 6th season, and Clare asked if I’d had a good weekend. I had. I mentioned that I hadn’t slept in almost 36 hours and Clare was blown away. Clare’s a great woman. If Eliza and Miracle are tremendous role models for young women, Clare certainly is too. Wife, mother, actress, business owner...I don’t know how she gets it all done! It’s always great to see Clare again. Guest Type = Responder.

Eliza Dushku: Saving the headliner until last, Eliza was my last autograph(s) of the weekend. Interestingly, we largely talked about dogs. Last time I met Eliza (Germany, 2014), I got my friend to commission a drawing of Eliza with Max, her beloved dog that had passed away a few months before that event. Eliza loved the gift and she told me at this event that it’s hung up in her house still! Aww! Recently, Eliza got a new puppy, so she was telling me all about the experience...particularly trying to get college work done while an excitable puppy is running around. I mentioned that it was great that her doggy situation had come full-circle between our two meetings. I also asked Eliza how she was able to learn lines for projects as she suffers from A.D.D., and Eliza told me that her process is more interactive. Lots of reading them out-loud, lots of bringing in friends to help out. Finally, we discussed college. How the final module of my degree is going, how hers is going...we both agreed that referencing is the Devil’s work. Frickin’ referencing. I adore Eliza, as I’ve said before. Not only is Faith one of my favourite Buffyverse characters, not only is “Dollhouse” amazing, but I became a huge fan of Eliza as a person in Germany. So it was great to see her again and catch up. Dancing with Eliza, singing to Eliza, and Eliza hugging me will all be memories that stick with me for the rest of my life. Can’t think of a better, more approachable, more interactive headliner at one of these events than Eliza Dushku. She was honest with us, she talked to us, she danced with us, she sang with me, she hugged me, she made everyone feel involved and as though they got their money’s worth. Top quality guest and human being. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Unfortunately, in Melly’s nervousness (Eliza is her hero), she forgot to get her autographs personalised. She got 5 signatures (the maximum allowed), but no “To Melly”. She did get a “5x5” on her comic book though. Understandably, Melly was upset about it, but the queues were too big to go back around. Nevertheless, the darling Starfury crew managed to get a couple of them back through the system and personalised, which was very classy of them and very nice of them, and I know it was really appreciated, so kudos to the crew! That goes to all the crew throughout the weekend, actually. All of them were great.

With all of the autographs now acquired, the photos finished and collected, and the panels finished, it was just the closing ceremony left. A dark stain on the convention weekend as nobody ever wants it to be over. The closing ceremony was great. All of the guests spoke in turn about what a great weekend they’d had, how many new friends they’d made, etc. Closing ceremony’s are always tremendous as it gives closure to the weekend. It bookends the opening ceremony. At “Prophecy” earlier in the year, there was no closing ceremony and it left the weekend feeling awkward and unfinished. Without doubt, the best part of the closing ceremony (barring Sean’s speech referenced at the start of this review) was Robia’s section. As part of her little speech, she mentioned that she hasn’t done a convention in a decade and that she still has all her hair...unlike James and Jonathan. Big laugh from everyone. The best part was that Robia completely fell apart laughing. For a solid 30 seconds. She even went over to Jonathan and James and stroked their bald spots. James quipped, “You don’t have to apologise to me, you have to apologise to him!” and pointed to his bald spot. Jonathan said, “If you want to emasculate a man, that’s how.” It was all so funny. Clare also had a list of ten things she’d learned over the weekend, including that we can function off of less sleep than we thought, that James Leary wears Star Wars underwear, and that Robia’s still got some moves.


As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, after the closing ceremony, all six guests stayed to dance for a while at the party. In Miracle’s case, hours and hours. This is where Eliza danced with a bunch of people and sang with me, etc. I had the opportunity to say “goodbye” to Eliza and thanked her for coming, I had the opportunity to say goodbye to Miracle and Angel and thank them for coming, and I had the opportunity to say goodbye to Jonathan Woodward, who gave me a hug and sweated all over my face (he’d been dancing). As I was leaving the main hall, ready to head to Melly’s room to collect my bag (I checked out in the morning so left it there), I finally got the opportunity to talk to Missy and give her a hug. Because Missy was leaving and I was leaving, it was a very brief conversation, but it was great to see Missy! We’d kept missing each other over the weekend, so it felt like the perfect end to the event to tick off the last thing on my list. Very, very cool!

I drove home listening to Uke Box Heroes, high on the weekend and completely oblivious to the fact that I hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours. As I said at the start, this event was my co-favourite out of the hundred or so conventions I’ve been to. If I was judging purely off of being an attendee, this would be my favourite event ever. There are many reasons why this was the case – the organisation, the family atmosphere, the crew, my friends – but the thing that stood out above all others was the quality of the guests. Not the star-power quality, but the quality of the human beings. All six guests were phenomenal, but in completely different ways. They all danced with us, they all interacted, and they all gave it everything they of little sleep and jetlag. Very, very impressive.

To conclude this mammoth review, I’d like to thank Sean Harry for hosting the event. I’d like to thank the crew, the stewards, and the staff of the Renaissance hotel. Most importantly, I’d like to thank Eliza Dushku, Miracle Laurie, Jonathan Woodward, James Leary, Robia LaMorte, and Clare Kramer for being fantastic. Please, please support Starfury Events and “Vampire Ball 8” next year. You can buy entry tickets here. I’ll be there. Even with no guest announcement yet, I’ll be there.

If you were at “Vampire Ball 7”, please let me know your thoughts. You can either comment below, Tweet me (@Shangel1), Facebook me...I’m easily accessible. I’ll see you all again next year for more convention goodness. Also, to the many people that have asked, my Buffy and Angel episode reviews will be back in June once the final module of my Master’s degree is finished. They will eventually be released as books.

Stay safe, stay strong.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10 (2nd ever, both were Vampire Ball’s)


  1. how on earth do you rememeber all this! lol.

    really nice sum up.

    it was my first starfury con, i dont go to them often, had only heard about Sean's events. I was there for Eliza - i was fully prepared for her to not be that interactive or accessible, even scared that my illusion of her would be ruined - i was completely blown away that she was the exact opposite of that! The dancing especially - I have never experienced any other guest at other events going out of their way to make everyone feel special and included like that. respect has increased a BILLION %!!

    I also found all the crew helpful and kind - and very jolly and positive for late on a sunday when they all must have been knackered. it was a great atmosphere and everyone should be applauded!

  2. Fabulous !!!
    Loved to relive it all again, and I was the one who threw a Jaffa cake at Jonathan that totally missed him and landed perfectly in the fountain! Am very proud of that moment.

  3. "Spitters are quitters" was shouted out by Tina K. This was one of the best cons ever, Serenity just beats it, just. Having Joss busting moves on the dance floor was awesome.
    Well remembered what happened all weekend, can't wait to see "The Manikin Challenge" video. My arms still ache now. ����

  4. Mwahaha I shouted out spitters are quitters! It's always fun trying to render Jonathan speechless!

    Great review for a great event! Fair play to ya!

  5. Bernard Fitzmaurice25 December 2016 at 07:45

    with being sleep deprived and alcohol haze you still remember all that ,, well done ,, was nice seeing you again ,, already booked for next VB ,, have done every one since they started and have always been brill ,, so excellent review ,, will read more later ,,

  6. I have to say dude, this was my first Starfury (first convention) for that matter and this captures perfectly all the incredible moments (many that I had forgotten). It was reading your blog on Starfury 6 that made me want to go so thanks for showing me the way! Props for the mention too (I was the Gentleman)!