In the alley, in the basement, at the Hellmouth
There were two kinds of people within the art-covered walls of Fools Foundation last Friday night: those who love Buffy the Vampire Slayer enough to participate in a sing-along movie night, and those who would sooner extinguish a lit cigarette on their ass.
The latter was an actual suggestion from a friend who declined my invitation to Once More, with Feeling, the touring audience-participation Buffy screening that landed in Sacramento courtesy of the Shiny Object film series. I tried not to take his reaction personally. Though I love Buffy with a fervor rarely inspired by network television, I doubted that watching the show’s one musical episode—which first aired midway through its sixth season—in a room crowded with off-key strangers was the best introduction to the Buffyverse. I wasn’t going to push.
Unfortunately for my friend, but mercifully for his rear end, his burning plans fell through. For want of anything better to do, he queued up with me and dozens of other Buffy fans in the Old Spaghetti Factory parking lot. Shiny Object host Robert McKeown, wearing a vampire-appropriate leather jacket and black jeans, informed the masses that anyone who hadn’t bought advance tickets would have to sit on the floor.
“That’s OK!” yelled the blonde, obviously inebriated woman in front of me. “I brought my own chair!”
She gestured to a rolled-up camp chair slung over one shoulder, then accidentally whacked me with it as she turned back to her friends. Despite my attempts to dodge her intoxicated shuffling, she managed to hit me with the chair twice more before we got inside the jam-packed gallery. By the time our group found seats in the back row, I was ready to draw blood.
I wasn’t the only one. Some audience members toted wooden stakes, while others went the vampiric route. Truthfully, in today’s Hot Topic world, it gets hard to tell who’s wearing a costume and who’s simply “edgy.” Were guys in bleached hair and leather dressed as Spike or just working a retro rebel yell? I was pretty sure the girl wearing only a red bra and panties was in costume, but it wasn’t until 90 minutes later, when Buffy’s friend Anya danced across the screen in lingerie, that I realized why.
Brown-bagged “Buffy kits” contained a monster finger puppet, a party popper, a parking ticket from the Sunnydale police force, vampire teeth, tissues and a kazoo. We learned the importance of each object via a handout titled “Buffy tips or What the hell do I do?” The finger puppet joins the on-screen monster chorus line, the teeth are worn when Spike sings, and so on.
The evening began with a surprise screening of “Hush.” It’s one of my all-time favorite episodes, in which the residents of Sunnydale lose their voices to a pack of monsters who cut out victims’ hearts while they’re unable to scream. I clapped with glee when I realized which episode it was. If that spells g-e-e-k, so be it.
I’m ashamed to say I did not sing the program’s second half, the musical episode “Once More, with Feeling.” This was partly because I couldn’t read the subtitled lyrics from my seat in the back and partly because I didn’t want to subject my friends to my lack of range. They already were annoyed by the chair lady, who’d set up right behind us and emitted slurred, half-heckles until another audience member yelled, “You shouldn’t drink before these things!”
As I’d feared, the evening didn’t win over my newbie companions, but for me, watching the characters dance, sing and slay was like a reunion of old friends. As the music swelled around Buffy and Spike’s closing kiss, the audience cheered—except for my group, which quickly headed for the door.
“That would have been more fun if we’d just watched it by ourselves,” my friend said as we walked back to the car. I couldn’t argue there. Buffy may have a varied appeal, but when the subject is avoiding drunken fangirls, there’s only one kind of person in the world.