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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

"I got Xander !!!!" Vulkon Cleveland Slayercon report

Thursday 6 May 2004, by Webmaster

Tony Head: "I got Xander!!!!". Vulkon Cleveland Slayercon report.

Vulkon Cleveland Slayercon

April 23 - 25, 2004

This was my first Vulkon convention and I must say it was easily the best con I’ve been to so far (out of all three of them). It was small enough not to be overwhelming and although a few things started late, it was overall well organized.

Of course, now that I’ve said wonderful things, the first event to report on was the one that I did not enjoy: the Friday night cocktail party. The main problem with this was the room, which was far too small for that size of a crowd. It was crowded, noisy and stuffy, the sort of thing I hate most in the world and I found myself getting jumpy and irritable very quickly. This was despite the fact that I really was enjoying the conversation at the table I where I was sitting.

All the convention guests were there, except Nick Brendon who didn’t arrive until late Saturday afternoon. Tony was the first to arrive and the last to leave. He was immediately surrounded by a crowd that never diminished during the entire evening. He came in the door on the other end of the room from where we were sitting and I foolishly decided to wait until he worked his way around the room. That didn’t work out well. As other guests arrived, I thought the crowd around Tony would thin out but it never did.

The line to the bar went right by our table and at one point we realized that both Mark Lutz and George Hertzberg were standing right next to us with their backs turned. We did have to take a moment to enjoy the view, especially Ange who turned around to see what the rest of us were looking at and was suddenly face-to-butt with George. No, she did not complain. Mark, George and Robia were all moving freely around the room. Mercedes, like Tony, ended up surrounded by a crowd in one area. She was taking pictures with people and the con folks pulled her aside and told her to stop (since they were selling photos with her, Tony and Nick, no pictures were supposed to be taken with those three at any other time). She got around that by pointing out to people that if a friend happened to take a picture of her while talking to someone, it couldn’t be helped if other people ended up in the photo along with her. I was amazed at how tiny Mercedes is, which is especially noticeable in a crowd.

After about an hour, Tony was still on the other side of the room so I finally decided to go over there to see if I could say something to him or at least take some decent pictures. Neither happened. Just as I finally got near enough to actually say something to him, his convention escort decided it was time for him to move to the other side of the room and off he went. At this point, I said screw it and got the hell out of there.

The next morning, I headed into the dealer room early to see about getting autographs from the guests whose autographs were not included with the convention ticket price. Only Robia LaMorte and George Hertzberg were there already and separate lines were forming for them. Morena Baccarin and Mark Lutz arrived before long though and the two lines thing just wasn’t working well. They actually stopped anyone else from entering the room until those already inside got their autographs and they could get one line started. Later that day, they ended up moving those guests into a different room because there really wasn’t enough space to move in the dealer room. I ended up getting Morena’s autograph first. I did enjoy Firefly, but have not been a fan of that show to the same extent that I am of Buffy. So I honestly couldn’t think of a thing to say to her other than "Hello" and "Thank you". She was very lovely and friendly though.

Robia was next and just as it was my turn, she looked at me and, in complete seriousness, asked, "Do you mind if I take a bathroom break right now? I promise I’ll be right back." I said something to the effect of, "Well, duh, of course not." As if I could protest against that: "No! Sign now! Pee later!" I suppose she has encountered fans who might have protested. Anyway, that gave me time to change my mind fifty more times about which photo I wanted signed. She had a promo picture from her days with Prince and I wished I’d thought to bring my Diamonds and Pearls CD. When she returned, she very sweetly thanked me for waiting. I said I missed Jenny. She said thanks and kindly left off the part about hearing that a million times already just that day. I will say this, I’ve always thought she is a very beautiful woman and in person she is flat out gorgeous.

At point, it was almost time for Tony and Mercedes McNab’s autograph sessions to start in the main ballroom, so I headed out. I was planning to get George and Mark’s autographs later, but never did get around to it. Anyway, Tony arrived first for the autograph session to a huge round of applause. Then it was sit and wait time for Mercedes. After a few minutes, Tony took it upon himself to provide entertainment while we waited. There was a rule against flash photography up close to the autograph table and Tony commented on how poor the lighting was, saying no one’s pictures would turn out without it. He specifically mentioned to make sure not to do it with Mercedes, which I took as him giving permission to use flash when taking a picture of him. No one did though because the con people were very strict with enforcing that rule. I was trying to figure out what his shirt said and finally someone asked him. It said, "This is NOT a Lucky Brand shirt". Hee! He said that Alyson Hannigan had given him a Lucky Brand shirt and he liked it so much that he bought another. He wore one or the other, or both, to every convention he did last year. He said that he was just wearing what he liked but some people (like yours truly) got tired of it and some German fans had given him this one.

Mercedes arrived after a few more minutes and the autographs were under way. Mercedes wasn’t really chatting and gave off a definite "Do not engage in conversation" vibe. It wasn’t in a rude way though, but more of an uncomfortable way, as if she didn’t know what to say. She didn’t seem to be relaxed or enjoy herself much during the more formalized events. Someone told me this was only her second con, which explained a lot. Hopefully, if she continues to do these, she’ll get over the nervousness and enjoy herself.

I told Tony that I loved his shirt and joked that I was one of those whining about him always wearing the same thing. He laughed, but for a moment I wondered if I’d genuinely offended him. The con folks were moving the line along fast and no personalization, and very little conversation, was being allowed. He did smile while I took a picture, which like all the rest did not turn out at all.

After that, I decided to check out the auction that they were holding. This wasn’t a charity auction, but since one of the items was a seat at Tony’s table at the Saturday night banquet, I figured I’d show up and see if I had a shot at winning. While we were waiting, Fernando (one of the organizers) announced that Tony was planning to show up once he was done signing autographs. He also said that Tony had agreed that morning to do their Oakland con in August. I’d been looking for an excuse to justify going to that one and now I have it. Once the auction started, most of the items sold were autographed pictures. Seats at Nick Brendon’s table were soon auctioned and went for $350. They also auctioned off seats at Mercedes’ table and those went for @ $300 ( I can’t recall the exact amount). I was beginning to realize that the $400 maximum I’d decided I could bid on Tony’s wasn’t going to do it. In fact, it wasn’t even close. As soon as Tony arrived, bidding started for his table. It was up to $1000 within a minute. Tony, as usual, was playing along, at one point turning around, lifting his jacket and wiggling his butt around. There was a woman he had been walking the items up for bid around the room and she took Tony’s arm and they walked up and down the aisle with him doing his best fake catwalk moves. You know, as sexy as I find Tony Head, it’s really this goofy side of him that endears him to me the most. The bidding was soon down to two women and was passing the $5000 mark. It eventually hit $7100 (passing the amount bid for James Marsters’ table at a con the year before). At this point, Fernando stopped the bidding and said each woman could have seats for themselves and a guest for $6000 each. Tony seemed shocked at the amount (and probably grateful that the amount didn’t involve the right to grab his ass).

I was late to Morena’s Q&A because of the auction and I’m afraid I don’t remember a lot of hers other than she was asked a lot of questions about the upcoming Firefly movie. She confirmed that they started filming in June. She did say that the Reavers would be a part of the movie and that we would actually see them (unlike on the show where they were never seen).

I really enjoyed Robia’s Q&A. I was a little worried before the weekend started, because my experience with born-again Christians has, unfortunately, been mostly negative. However, I was really impressed with her. She came across to me as being very strong in her beliefs but not judgmental about people who may hold different beliefs. She was asked what was probably my favorite question of the entire weekend: "Who was harder to work for, Joss Whedon or Prince?". She said something very diplomatic about Joss and complimented his talent. She pointed out that Prince was not difficult to work with at all if you were a dancer. It was the musicians that he was tough on. She spoke very fondly of her experience working with Prince. She was originally hired to be just one of many back-up dancers for a video but then he came up with the idea to have her and another girl be Diamond and Pearl and do all the publicity for the album. She decided to transition to acting after that because that was about the highest she could go as a dancer and going back to being a back up dancer in videos would feel like a step back. She’d originally been inspired to be a dancer after seeing Flashdance. She said that if she had been a part of Once More, With Feeling, she would have liked to do a Chicago-style dance number. She joked it could have been a "Holy Hot for Teacher" routine.

She was asked, given her beliefs, how she felt about Jenny being a technopagan. She said that never really bothered her. She didn’t feel that it was something that was emphasized and that her beliefs were not the same when she started on the show as they became later. She did confirm that she did not like portraying The First in Amends, saying she felt it portrayed evil in a positive manner. She was asked to commit to doing the episode before the script was ready and if she had read it first, she would not have agreed. She said she would have been happy returning in some other manner. For example, she had no problem with doing the scene of Drusilla tricking Giles into believing she was Jenny. But they never asked her again.

She also revealed that she was approached to do The Bachelor (with Bob). She thought it might have been a good opportunity to have someone on a reality show who wasn’t all about hopping into hot tubs with anybody and everybody, but decided that it wasn’t worth giving up three months of her life for it. She doesn’t take roles that conflict with her beliefs which limits her roles. But she is more focused on her religion than her career at this point in her life, so that doesn’t bother her much.

Mercedes was up next and, as with the autograph line, she seemed uncomfortable. She was asked repeatedly if they were sure that Angel was over and she kept saying that it is. She also knew nothing about the rumored Angel TV movies. A man at the back asked her how she kept her skin so soft and everyone was surprised at the audacity. The next question was if she regretted that she never had a chance to work with Mark Lutz as The Groosalugg. This questioner turned out to be Mark himself and the previous question had actually come from George Hertzberg. Mercedes asked Mark to come up on stage with her, which he did for the rest of her Q&A. I heard later that they had arranged this ahead of time because she did not want to do it by herself. For the rest of the Q&A, Mark did most of the talking, even when the question was directed to Mercedes. This was especially funny when someone asked her if James Marsters was a good kisser and Mark said yes, going off on a long, convoluted story about how he and James met on a boat over from Ireland. Mercedes was asked how casting people reacted to seeing Buffy on her resume. She pointed out that she never saw their reaction since she wasn’t present when they first looked it over. Mark, naturally, had a long, convoluted story about how he used to put strange things in the Special Skills section of his resume, starting with "never sleeps more than 16 hours a day". Once a casting agent commented on that, he switched it to "can spell photosynthesis".

Next up was Tony’s Q&A. I’ll be doing a transcript so I won’t go into too much detail here. He indicated that he doesn’t have any current projects that he’s working on, saying that he wants to spend time with the family after five months doing stage in London. He did mention that he had been asked to do a movie to be filmed in Canada but had to drop out because of visa problems. When I saw him at the stage door in London in early March, I thought I’d heard him telling someone that he had just signed to do a movie. But nothing was being announced about it and I was beginning to think I was hallucinating. So at least now I know I heard right. He did also say that he is thinking about doing an acoustic album and has been talking a guitarist who used to work with Seal. He said though that he needs to write some songs and clean the spiders out of his studio at home first. Amusingly enough, someone asked him whose idea it was for him to bare his butt in Manchild and he had completely forgotten about having done that. It wasn’t until someone mentioned the apron that he remembered it.

After that, it was several hours of wandering around and chatting with friends before it was time to get ready for the banquet. I have to give the con high marks for the organization shown in getting 150 people seated without everybody tripping all over each other. I wasn’t seated at a table with a guest but I did end up sitting with a fellow poster at my favorite website, Television Without Pity, which was just as good as I’ve never had a real face to face conversation with anyone from there before. As usual, Tony was the first guest to arrive. Nick was late, since he’d just arrived in Cleveland a few hours earlier. As soon as he arrived, Tony dashed across the room and gave him a huge hug. I remember thinking at the time that it was awfully intense for a hello hug, but given what Nick told us the next day, I think there were probably a lot of other emotions behind it as well. Nick had cut his hair short and was wearing glasses, very different look for him. At this point, the banquet was underway. The food was good, but they only had chicken and beef as main dishes, so vegetarian Tony had something to eat earlier, although he did partake of the pasta. Periodically, someone would approach Tony or Nick and ask for a picture but the con people would shut that down fast.

For me, the main reason for attending the banquet was to hear Tony sing afterwards. When he headed for the stage on the other end of the room, there was a mad rush to the seats. Nick introduced him and gave him a huge kiss. If any pictures of that moment show up online, it will be the inspiration for quite a few Xander/Giles slash fics. The guitar Tony was using was out of tune and he had to stop several times during a song to tune it. He did have a backing track for several songs instead of the guitar. He sang the following songs (many of them from the Music For Elevators album): I Can’t Stand the Rain; Babies (The In Between); Last Time; Highway, Highway; Que’st Ce Que J’ai Fait; Talk to You; and Man Smart, Woman Smarter. I know I sat there with a huge, dopey grin on my face the whole time he was singing, but I don’t care.

There was a dance after the banquet, which neither Tony or Nick attended. Word had it they were staying at a different hotel, while the rest of the guests were at the same hotel as the convention. I’m sure that had something to do with it. The rest of the guests showed up and George and Robia had a brief dance-off which was awesome to watch. I left shortly after that because I was tired and not really enjoying the music that they were playing (yes, I am officially old).

On Sunday, Tony and Nick were signing autographs at the same time, Tony for people who didn’t get one the day before and Nick for everyone. They came in together and sat at the same table. Fortunately, someone was smart enough to realize that was a bad idea since they were signing for different groups of people and had Tony move to a table at the other side of the room. There was a picture of Nick sitting on this table and when Tony saw it, he took it back over to Nick’s table and asked him to sign it. Nick wrote for a long time (I would love to have seen what he wrote). Once he was done, they did the heads together, big grin pose you always see in pictures of people with the stars. Tony then ran back over to his table waving the photo around and screaming "I got Xander!!!!"

It didn’t take me long to get through the line for Nick’s autograph. He wasn’t very talkative and was giving off a distant, but not unfriendly, vibe. I left the room after getting his signature and returned when the Q&As were almost ready to start. Funnily enough, considering that Nick had more autographs to sign, Nick was just finishing up while there was still a line waiting for Tony’s. You could tell who the chatter was that day.

The first Q&A on Sunday was Mark Lutz (incidentally, this is pronounced Lootz). As was evidenced from his Q&A with Mercedes the day before, he is certainly prone to long, convoluted stories. Someone asked for a funny story from the set and he talked about the time a crew member from Australia had received a care package from home and shared a snack food called Twisties. The bag in question was chicken flavored and this apparently cause him and Andy Hallet to start wondering what kind of factory manufactures chicken flavored Twisties. He started demonstrating little old ladies twisting chickens until they reached snack size. It basically involved repeating the word twist a thousand times or so. There’s simply no way to do this justice, but I found it hysterical. He mentioned that he was on The Facts of Life reunion movie as one of the guys competing for Natalie. He does a killer Mrs. Garret impression. He and his brother are producing a movie about an athlete who was killed in a car accident. The athlete wasn’t anyone whose name I recognized though.

Next up was George Hertzberg. Oddly enough, even though I enjoyed this a great deal, I can’t remember much of anything from it. I was surprised to find out that he is also a Christian. Don’t know why that surprised me, but it did. Like Robia, he will not take roles that conflict with his beliefs. I did find it rather annoying that he ignored the con person’s signal to wrap it up, since that meant Morena’s Q&A was late getting started, and in fact ended up getting cut short so that they could get back on schedule.

I felt bad for Morena as about half the audience left when her Q&A started. Of course, I suppose a lot of them had been at her Q&A the day before. I don’t think she’s a big enough draw as yet for them to have scheduled her for two Q&As. Again, she talked mostly about Firefly. Then came Nick. I was really looking forward to this as I’ve always been a fan and consider him to be the most underrated actor on Buffy. He was certainly as funny and enjoyable as I expected.

As has already been reported in the press, he did reveal that he is currently in rehab. It really wasn’t a planned announcement. Someone asked him what upcoming projects he was working on. He hesitated, laughed rather nervously and was looking over at someone at the side of the room for guidance. After a bit, he finally said he wasn’t working on anything at the moment because he was in rehab. He also revealed that the guy who was going everywhere with him wasn’t a friend, as he’d been referred to previously, but someone from the rehab center. I’m just glad that it became public at a time and place of his own choosing rather than through gossip column. Hopefully, this will work out for him.

Nick was asked twice to do the Snoopy dance, the second time by someone who was late. He gamely did a brief dance both times. He talked about his twin Kelly a few times. He mentioned that once when they were little, Kelly was lost.. For a long time after that, Nick would panic whenever he didn’t know where Kelly was. So naturally, Kelly used to deliberately hide to freak him out. Kelly was also his stunt double for the last few seasons of Buffy. However, on his very first stunt, Kelly dislocated his shoulder and they fired him. Nick went the producer responsible (he didn’t say which one) and got Kelly’s job back.

He also mentioned that when he got married, the show switched around his schedule without telling him and he got a call that he had to be at work while still on his honeymoon. Interestingly, he spoke of the Buffy animated series as if there has been recent work done on it and it is still being shopped around.

Tony’s second Q&A was next. He barely got started when a woman started sing Reunited by Peaches and Herb - it was Robia. She joined him onstage and they did the rest of the Q&A together. There was only one chair on the stage, which was bar stool height. Someone brought up a regular height chair, which meant they were sitting at different heights. Tony eventually turned the sorter one around and stood leaning against it until someone finally brought up another chair the same height as Robia’s. They had a great time playing off of each other. Tony would fake sobs every time he mentioned Jenny and Robia acted outraged when someone asked about Joyce and the stevedore line. Someone asks them if they would kiss and they were genuinely annoyed, but polite, while refusing. Being a Giles/Jenny fan, seeing these two interacting was the highlight of the weekend for me.

And that was that. All in all, an excellent and enjoyable weekend.

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