Books & Writing

How Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed my life (Part 1)

I distinctly remember watching the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched it in my bedroom so I wouldn’t be distracted and demanded total silence from husband and son.

I knew from the TV Guide description that it was going to wow me and it did. When that last downbeat of the theme rang out over that final slayer shot, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the commercials to end and then I wished the clock would slow so the show wouldn’t end too soon.

If you’re a fangirl, you’ll understand. If you’re not, this is all going to sound crazy. When a TV fan finds a perfect match, it’s like a fantastic first date. Your heart beats a little faster, you’re giddy with glee but worried that it might not last. You can’t wait for the next date but at the same time you fuss and fret over every second because you desperately want it to go well. It happens over and over again until you settle in and it becomes routine and then you and your favorite show become like an old married couple taking each other for granted.

Yes, the relationship cycle is the same for a fangirl and her shows and a fangirl and her mate.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t my first love but it was the first one after a dry spell and it felt so good. It also came at a time when I was beginning to spread my wings. I had had some minor successes getting and selling interviews with old TV stars but this was a new series currently in production. What if I could get an invitation to the set? It was a dream I’d had since I was a child but even then I hardly expected it to come true.

Squee. . Squall. . You’ve Got Mail

Giles-buffy-the-vampire-slayerUsing my AOL dial-up connection, I joined a couple of online fan groups. I created a phony persona for myself, because that’s what you did back then and started building a world of my own. Geocities and chatrooms, internet speak and relationships with people who were as phony as I was. The one thing we didn’t lie about was our love of Buffy and specifically our love for Anthony Stewart Head aka Giles.

I don’t know where I found the courage but one day, (while working as a warehouse manager) I called Warner Brothers and asked to speak to the Buffy publicist. Incredibly, I got through. I said I was a TV reporter and I wanted to write a story about Buffy. I might have told her I was writing for Starlog or that I had several outlets interested in the piece.

What’s tough about freelancing is that publicists want to know where you’re going to put the article but magazines won’t commit until they know you have the story. Chicken – egg. So you fudge and hope they don’t ask too many questions. The publicist didn’t. She told me Sarah was working too hard to take the time and I said that was fine. I really wanted to interview Anthony Stewart Head. She said she’d check and within a couple of days she called me back to say that Tony would be happy to give me a phoner.

Wonderful. We set up times, exchanged numbers. I hung up, then I had a panic attack. What was I going to say? What if I froze? How was I going to record it? What if I couldn’t sell it after I got it? How was I going to say it had to happen after five o’clock without making it sound like I had a full-time, boring job?

Somehow, I worked it all out and after some heart-stopping miss-cues, I was on the phone with Giles. I didn’t know it at the time, but that call would be the beginning of a long associating with Tony Head. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was going to become a key player in my career.

Time with Tony

Anthony Stewart Head 2We chatted for a half-hour or more. It’s all a blur and I’m sure I sounded like a fool more than once. What I do remember is that he was warm, and genuine and very giving of his time. During one of our two calls, his little girls were visiting from the UK. I could tell that he was distracted and offered to postpone, he apologized, saying that the girls were putting on a fashion show in front of him, clearly a ploy to get him off the phone. It sounded so ordinary; like two friends talking on the phone. What do you know, actors are people, too.

One of these days, I’m going to transcribe those old interviews and publish them in a book like I did with the Supernatural interviews. It’s tough because Buffy was pre-digital. Everything is on cassette, some on mini-cassettes so it’s not as simple as sending audio files off to be transcribed. . . someday. . . but now let’s get back to that day.

There I was with an exclusive one-on-one interview with Buffy’s mentor and no one wanted to buy it. Starlog expressed some interest but the deal never happened. I can’t remember why. I ended up selling the articles to a couple of small online outlets. These days, publicists love online publications but back then it was a new idea. Mania was a big scifi, comic book site and they bought an interview and kept me on to write weekly episode recaps. I doubt I got paid, but it didn’t matter. I was officially a TV reporter and that’s all I’d ever wanted.

Of course, interviewing actors is like eating potato chips, you can’t stop at just one. I went back to Warner Brothers for more interviews, always carefully avoiding the major cast, knowing I’d have a better shot at the recurring and guest stars. I got Robin Sachs, James Marsters, Juliet Landau, Robia LaMorte; two out of three told me that Tony had said nice things about me. It had never occurred to me that actors might talk to each other about reporters, thank heavens I’d made a good impression my first time out.

Ethan Reigns

Robin Sachs, had a recurring guest spot as the evil Ethan Rayne. I left an interview request with his agent and he unexpectedly called me back to accept. He spoke to my husband who had no idea who he was talking to. When I got home, my husband said, “some guy with an accent called. I think his name was Robert or Robin?” My heart stopped. Robin? British accent? Robin Sachs?

“I guess”, said my husband. “He left a number for you to call back.”

OMG! A TV star called my house! Talked to my husband! Left his home number for me to call back! It was like I was a professional reporter or something! Wow. I started hyperventilating as I dug up a notebook, hooked up the recorder, locked the bedroom door, then called back. He answered. OMG. It’s Robin Sachs! What a voice. I tripped over myself explaining who I was and he made a joke about Hellnotes – the tiny horror newsletter I was working for and it gets foggy from there on in. Seeing a pattern?

Robin, like many of my interview subjects, was a repeater. The second time we spoke was over lunch at Bisou in Thousand Oaks. I got to the restaurant before him and sweated out the meet. What if I didn’t recognize him? Silly as that sounds, I almost didn’t. Some actors look very different in person, especially when they come in wearing sunglasses and snug jeans. The restaurant was crowded and noisy, a terrible place to conduct an interview. You can barely understand what he’s saying on the tape. (Yes, I recorded it) and there’s nothing worse than trying to eat daintily while conducting an interview. I vowed never to conduct another lunch interview but it wasn’t my last.

Robin was a natural storyteller. He had a wonderful way of phrasing things and then you add the accent on top and it was all charm and butter. He made me feel smart and special and professional with just the right amount of flirt to make me feel like he was enjoying himself, too. He gave me his email address that day and we wrote each other on and off for the next few years. I didn’t know him well, but what I did know, I really liked.

But as much as Tony and Robin were giving of their time and their support, it was stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt who gave me the golden ticket – an open invitation to visit the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To Be Continued. . . .


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