And without further ado...
I took the train into London from Colchester and arrived at the venue around 11:30am. With the exception of finding moxie_fic, I was settled into probably spending most of the day by myself. I'm not an outgoing person by nature and going up to strangers just to talk is just not my thing. I specifically took my notebook and two pens so that I could sit and write in all my down time. Well, I saw psubrat right away and talked to her for about 10 minutes regarding her days in London and such. I also finally got to meet rockgoddes, who has one of the most thankless jobs and is still one of the nicest people I'd want to meet. My hat goes off to her.
As I was talking to psubrat, I spotted someone out of the corner of my eye as she approached me. Turns out it was the woman I met last year in line at the Edinburgh Special Audience, and I spent the remaining time before the doors opened catching up with her. We were joined by Spikeforever (if you're on LJ, hon, my apologies) who I hadn't seen since Dragon*Con and was a complete surprise to see walking up to me. So the hour and a half before I could go in was spent in some wonderful company.
Well, they were taking #'s 1-101 in pre-registration and as I've moaned about here before, I was #102. I was OK with that, actually, as I was near the doors and everyone was organized inside in blocks of numbers according to your ticket. But then, before they opened the doors for regular registration, they came out and did a last call for pre-registration people. And said everyone through 102. I don't know what changed, but I got to go in at that point, registration was empty so I got my stuff right away, and went straight in.
After finding my row (I was in row D and snagged a seat right on the inside aisle, I didn't want to have to climb past people when I wanted to leave), I went up to where the signings were taking place. They called people by rows, but those who went in first were automatically shuttled up to get James' autograph. I got the bands autographs first. There was hardly a line for them yet, so I bought the EP to have them sign. Sean was first, and I caught him drawing horns and a mustache on a picture of Aaron that the guy in front of me was having signed, so I teased him about that. Then came Charlie, who was in a remarkably chipper mood (which means he wasn't being ultra-sarcastic yet) and I actually had a lovely little conversation with him. He asked my name to write it, and then was asking me questions about it. THen Kevin, who's always a sweetie, and finally Steve. I'd brought my "New Man" single for him to sign, and I switched over at that point. I've always thought, and I still think, that he's the most talented one of the bunch, and his songs are invariably my favorites. So, through my babbling, I told him so, and he was incredibly smiling and charming in response. He saw that I had the EP and asked if I wanted him to sign it. I said that I thought he could only sign one thing, to which he just grinned, gave me a wink, and said what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, and promptly signed it for me. Lovely encounter.
I queued up at that point to get James' autograph. It moved fairly quickly, though registration messed up at one point and was telling everyone to just come up and queue regardless of row number. When I got halfway up, they had to send a lot of people behind me back to the auditorium to wait for their row to be called.
James was in a great mood, laughing and joking with people in front of me. A lot of people were talking about the gigs, which I haven't had time to attend this year, so he was quite animated. He was dressed in his Spike gear---black tee, black jeans, black boots, silver necklace and silver bracelet. The hair is starting to grow out and there's this lovely gray at the temples. I thought he looked great, but I'm standing by my earlier assertion that he's looking more his age than younger with the haircut. Hardly a bad thing, in fact quite the opposite. And he's still a beautiful man.
So, it's my turn. I brought my Fool Moon CD's for him to sign (they fit into my purse and I wouldn't have to worry about them on the train). I had this whole speech planned about what I was going to say, had practiced it over and over in my head, and then...I opened my mouth. And on the third word, messed it up and just turned beet red as I stumbled over what I was trying to express. One thing that I admire most about my James is how he shifts personas, depending on who he's dealing with. He does it effortlessly, and I've seen him switch between them on more than one occasion. I wonder if I was just wearing a big sign on my forehead yesterday that said, "I'm shy. Be extra nice to me," or something, because of a) the way Steve interacted with me and b) James' treatment. While he was still very smiley and upbeat when speaking with me, it was...gentler, I think is the best word for it. Like he thought I was terrified and wanted to make it easier for me. I suppose from his perspective, it probably looked like that. I wasn't, just pissed at myself for screwing up what I wanted to say. But it did mean that I got a series of reassuring sincere smiles, and that tilt of the head while I was trying to spit out what I wanted to say. He argued with me slightly about I said---I basically told him that I didn't have anything witty or funny to say, but that I sincerely hoped that the future brought him joy, that he'd spent so many years working hard and bringing joy to so many fans, that he deserved it (the only part that came out exactly as I wanted was the future bringing him joy part)---saying that the way he figured it was that he'd been way too lucky and fortunate the past few years and was karmicly due for a downshift. But it was good-natured and I got another one of those lovely soft handshakes and smiles, and then I was done.
Back to the auditorium. To sit for an hour and a half while we waited for the GotR Q&A to start. They showed music videos and the Andromeda episode while we waited. I basically wrote. :)
The GotR panel started around 3pm. Frankly, the questions are kind of a blur, but I'll try to remember some of them.
- They were asked a lot about influences, and favorite songs, and such, and we got the usual range of answers from them (JM quoted his usual Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, with a punk/folk influence).
- At one point, James made a comment about Kevin being the rocker of the group, saying that Kevin hadn't gotten in the previous night until 7:30 in the morning. Kevin immediately turned to him (James was sitting on his left) and said that his mom gets online to read the forum, backed immediately by Charlie confirming it, at which point James turned back to the audience and immediately launched into a whole spiel about what a good boy Kevin was and how he never did anything and the like. It was funny.
- Someone from Australia asked if they'd ever go down under and they said they were in July. She didn't know and joked that now she felt really stupid having asked.
- Someone asked about the lyrics for "Angel." James started to talk about his ex who inspired the song, but after only a minute or so, got a little emotional about it, and begged off the rest of the answer. He actually bent over in his seat, with his head bowed, composing himself in time for the next answer. As the next question was being asked, I caught Steve (who was on James' left) asking James if he was all right with a pat on his back. James just nodded and did his best to get back into the swing of things by the next question.
- I'm very impressed by Sean, the new drummer. For such a young man, he a) has excellent taste in music, with a strong jazz influence (he repeatedly brings up John Coltrane), and b) is incredibly articulate and poised in front of so many people. Aaron was my favorite before, but I have to say that Sean is closely replacing him for me. ;)
- Someone asked where they'd live if they could live anywhere in the world. After a lot of thinking, James said Costa Rica, Sean said Brazil, and Charlie gave Sean hell for taking his answer.
- Someone asked Charlie what "Call 911" was about. He was kind of at a loss, saying he was just really angry when he wrote it, but then James took over with how he interpreted it while he sang it. Charlie said he much preferred James' take. ;)
I know there's so much more I'm forgetting, but that's all I can think about at the moment on this. If I remember more stuff later, I'll add it.
The Q&A lasted about 45 minutes, at which point they resumed signings with JM. For those of us in the auditorium, they showed Chance. I've seen it a few times, even recently, so I ducked out with my notepad and found a quiet corner downstairs and wrote for the next hour and a half. I still consider it time well spent. :)
WHen I went back up, I decided I needed to try and find Moxie. I'd actually approached someone earlier who looked familiar as I knew she was in my row, but it wasn't her. Then, across the aisle, I saw someone with a badge of 107. I was 99% sure that Moxie had said she had tickets 104-107 so I screwed up my nerves and went asked the woman. I got it right this time and she said Moxie had been looking for me. After a few minutes of lovely chatting, I pointed out where I was sitting so she could let Moxie know when she returned to her seat.
Well, I went up and got a water from the bar at that point as it was now after 5pm and I hadn't anything to eat or drink all day. And I saw the woman with 107 there talking to a woman who matched Moxie's description and promptly walked over. So, I finally got to meet up with her. Such a lovely person, and we had a wonderfully long conversation about so many different things---OK, mostly fanfic, but it was still lovely. ;)
The JM Q&A was supposed to start at 6pm but the signings ran over and it didn't start until after 6:30. They did the raffle---James picked out three badge numbers and gave away the items, complete with a hug (lucky bitcas)---and a presentation from More Than Spike regarding the Bleedathon. The girl doing the presentation spoke too far away from the mike, and he teased her about having to put it right up to her lips and "eat the microphone." That started a whole thing about putting lips on mics (which isn't naughty at all, oh no...not). Then came the questions. Again, my memory is sketchy, but here are some of the highlights I remember:
- James' favorite playwright is Athol Fugard, and when pressed, he singled out "Master Harold and the Boys," as a favorite but was quick to say they're all brilliant.
- If Angel had continued, the relationship he was most excited about getting into more was Spike and Angel's. He felt that they were just touching the tip of the iceberg with the pair and he regrets not having the chance to do more. He talked a lot about the big brother/little brother vibe they have, and how the love in the relationship is what drives it.
- When asked what character he's played that's most like himself, he answered all of them. This sparked a conversation on how he approaches acting, how it's not about wearing masks but about stripping them away, so he always tries to find a piece of himself in everything he does.
- He was asked how he felt about wearing the dress and lipstick in Chance. Embarrassed as hell was the response. He figured that since it was for a friend, and that he was helping her out, that people would be nicer about it, but that he got teased mercilessly about it and played hiding out in the bedroom being all upset about being teased. It was cute.
- More talk about MacBeth and how he would produce it. He doesn't want to do it onstage; he's done that and wants to see it cinematically now.
- The character he'd like to play that he won't now is Hamlet. He's too old for Hamlet now as he firmly believes the actor has to start believably as an adolescent (otherwise the "to be or not to be" speech comes across whiny) and that even if he was offered it, he'd turn it down.
- Someone asked what other character he wished he could've played on Buffy. His answer was none of them. He honestly believes he got the best with Spike.
- He confirmed that he does have an audition for Harry Dresden when he returns to Hollywood, but he was quick to add that just having an audition in Hollywood pretty much means jackshit.
- When asked about the best thing he took away from his experiences with the Jossverse, he gave two answers. First was how to deal with the angst of being an actor. He talked about how he learned not to take it out on the set, to take the emotions, go into his trailer, break a mirror to get it out of his system, and then pay for the mirror. ;) The second thing was his relationship with the writers. He talked briefly about how he felt they were taking stuff they knew about him and putting it in the show, and how that didn't make him feel very good until he realized that pretty much nobody knew what they were doing (meaning the viewers didn't know) except for him. So he was making a mountain out of a molehill.
- Someone asked him if he was stuck on a desert island, would he prefer to be stuck with the cast of Buffy, or the band. He laughed, joking that she was making him choose between sex and friendship. He then added that as he's getting older, he's started thinking with his head as opposed to lower parts of his anatomy---using the appropriate gesturing so that we knew exactly what he was referring to---and said that he'd pick the band. He then joked that the first couple months with the Buffy cast would be amazing but after that it would be hell.
- Actor he'd most like to work with was Meryl Streep. He jumped on that before she even finished the question, and said he'd been in love with her forever.
- Someone asked him what the strangest thing he ever saw, and after a moment of contemplation, he said, very seriously, "A guy being stabbed in the neck." The audience kind of gasped at the bluntness of his reply, to which he just shook his head and commented, you asked the question, you run the risk of getting that kind of response.
- He was asked about what he liked most about the US and the UK. He begged off the US part of it but said that he thought Brits were more informed and more in touch with their communities than Americans, and he loved that. Plus, "the girls are hot."
- If Angel had continued, he doesn't think he would've directed like DB as he doesn't know the language of cinema yet and didn't want to have to abdicate that responsibility to his director of photography as he felt that would make him a fake.
- He won't be doing theater for at least 10 years. The only places that he feels he could do theater without feeling like he was taking a step backwards would be London, Chicago, or New York, and he is tied to the west coast for at least 10 years. So it won't be happening any time soon.
I know there's tons I'm missing, but my cold-addled brain is drawing a blank. Like with the GotR panel, if I remember anything, I'll add it later.
Overall impressions of JM this time...there was a lot more intelligent James on display during the Q&A. He's such a smart man, but a lot of the times, the circumstances dictate that he downplay it, or the questions aren't conducive to reflective answers. We got more thoughtful answers to some of the queries, and I can't help but fight the desire to have a one-on-one conversation with him where he didn't have to "be on." Oh, sure, the little boy, flirty, simple glee side of him is valid and charming, but there's such a sharp brain behind that face we keep getting distracted by, and I would *love* the opportunity to interact with that side of him for a change. And I know there's a lot of flack about some of his personal issues, and some of his choices, but I'm going to be completely honest. They *still* don't bother me. I *like* who James seems to be, and my gut is telling me he's basically a good guy. And I trust my gut.
That being said, he is looking happy and relaxed, which was a delight to see. He was very tired by the time of the Q&A, but still maintained a lot of energy. One thing I noticed is that he seems to be playing with his head a lot more than he did before, probably as a result of the haircut. He kept touching his hair, and scratching his head, and the like, completely unconscious of it I'm sure. It's starting to grow out, but is still quite short. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like a little bit longer.
One thing I worry about going to see James and the others in these types of environments is that I'm going to see something that bursts my little bubble. I know there are more...rabid types out there, and I'm not so blind in my support that I don't realize that these are just guys, and that they have their own issues just like anyone else. So every time I see them, I wonder if something is going to happen to change my perceptions, if I'll see something that jolts me from this place where I can appreciate James and the others.
It didn't happen. I walked away yesterday with just as much delight in this man as I did going in. Probably more so. The more I see him, the more real he becomes. I *like* the real. Yes, there are aspects of his persona that make me roll my eyes, but then that's true of just about everyone I know, just as it's true for other people's perceptions of me. I'm proud to consider myself a James Marsters admirer/fan (I'm not keen on the word fan in general, simply because of some of the negative connotations). I believe it is energy well placed.
And that was the audience. We got shuttled out right away, and I went and met up with i_digress_uk for a wonderful night of gossip, and chatting, and drinking (OK, only one drink, and I really should've eaten first), and food, and then home by midnight. An absolutely lovely day, but now it's back to getting ready for the move.