[Originally published on N:Zone in 2004]
On Saturday, February 21, 2004, the Wolfram & Hart Annual Review was held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Over two hundred Angel fans, many members of the cast and crew, and some special guests were there.
The recent, unexpected cancellation of Angel by The WB, and an icy downpour of rain not typical of L.A., put a literal and figurative damper on the proceedings. But it was still wonderful to talk with so many people who have worked on Angel and who love the show. The reminders were everywhere that Angel" and Buffy are special and unique.
This was my first such event; I didn't attend the famous Posting Board Parties. The Revue seemed informal and oddly disorganized to me. A celebrity would come in, and excited fans, dressed mostly in the vampire colors red and black, would converge on that person, in some cases even backing them into a corner. Autographs were not allowed, which was understandable, but photos with celebrities were encouraged. Some of them must have been seeing spots before their eyes for hours afterward.
I was fortunate enough to talk with many of the special guests as well as a number of the fans. The biggest thrill for me was speaking with Julie Benz (Darla), who was stunning in person, and very charming. I asked her about her upcoming television movie.
Julie Benz: "Yes, I just did a Hallmark Hall of Fame. It's a true story about a woman, an equestrian, and her blind horse ["The Long Shot"]. It's very moving; the story was written by the daughter of the woman I play. Marsha Mason is in it; her character is a dressage champion."
Me: "When will it air?"
Benz: "April 18."
Me: "Any chance of you doing another episode of Angel before the end?"
Benz: "I'd love to come back. Talk to Mere Smith and Steven DeKnight! [laughs] I think I should be in the last shot of Angel. Shouldn't I? Since I was in the first shot of Buffy?" [everyone in earshot agreed]
I also spoke with Camden Toy, a delightful gentleman whose real face is unrecognizable to most of us. Under a great deal of makeup and prosthetics, Toy played a Gentleman in "Hush," the demon Gnarl in "Same Time, Same Place," the Turok-han vampire in Buffy season seven, and most recently, the hilarious Prince of Lies in the World War II submarine episode, "Why We Fight."
Toy told me that the makeup for Prince of Lies took four hours to apply. "What was really fun was that he was creepy, but he was also comic relief, which is totally different from what I usually normally do. It was so much fun. Instead of people going, ewww, people were laughing their pants off." I asked him how he had gotten his first job on Buffy as one of the Gentlemen in "Hush." Toy replied, "I got a last minute call. I think they might have been having trouble casting the part. I had no idea what they wanted me to do." He said that after the audition, "Joss said that if I was able to scare him that much without make-up, I'd be really scary *in* makeup." He certainly was.
Toy's most recent project is a movie called The Works, with Armin Shimerman and Corey Allen. Toy plays the quiet janitor who knows everything that's going on.
Jonathan M. Woodward (Knox), who has also worked on Buffy and Firefly, showed up in a vintage suit and charmed the crowd. He told my friend Tara, "I'm mostly psyched by all the people who caught Firefly, and the people who remember my episode of Buffy ["Conversations with Dead People"]... It was a slow burn on Knox. I didn't know I was evil until Christmas."
Sarah Thompson (Eve) told Tara that she's had a wonderful year. "I love the turns Eve has made this season, and I love really knowing who she is now. She is constantly evolving... it is interesting now, because she is showing more vulnerability, so I'm getting to play that, which I love. I'm hoping she'll elicit some sympathy from the fans now."
In the auction room, I asked executive producer David Fury if he enjoyed playing Framkin in "Smile Time." Fury replied, "It was torture!" I pulled out my notepad and wrote it down, and Fury did a double take and said, "I was kidding! It was so much fun!" (Let me add that everything Fury says sounds funny; he's joking, folks.) Fury talked about the letters from fans he had received pleading that Buffy not end up with Angel at the end of the series. "Not going to happen in a million years," he said.
I talked briefly with author Nancy Holder, who told me she is publishing a Buffy/Angel crossover in hardcover in August called "Heat."
Several vampires and demons also attended the festivities, and were very gracious about being photographed with the fans. I asked the toner slave from "Life of the Party" how many people had asked him if he was cold. "Pretty much everyone," he replied.
Early in the evening, Darling Violetta performed in the main ballroom. They played several songs, including the Angel theme song.
The sponsored charity at the Revue was the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, an organization that gives positive alternatives to L.A. youth. Donated items from Angel, including many signed scripts and other goodies, were silently auctioned off during the evening. The top bid, $7,500, went to Spike's famed Elizabeth Taylor amulet.
At the close of the evening, there was a check presentation ceremony on stage in the main ballroom. All of the VIP guests went up on stage, including Andy Hallett (Lorne), who arrived late and went directly to the ballroom for the check presentation.
Ron Glass (Firefly) is chairman of the Wooten Center's Board of Directors, and was presented with a check for $15,000. "We are beyond ecstatically happy tonight," Glass told the audience. "You set out to give us $10,000, and you gave us $15,000 instead."
David Fury spoke for several minutes. An audience member yelled, "Where's Polo?" Fury replied, "In my pants! Thank you very much." (Polo was the lead evil puppet in "Smile Time.") He continued, "I want to say that, in my seven years working in Joss' universe, I've never worked with a greater staff of writers... which is really to diss everybody at Buffy. [laughter] No, this has been the most fun I've ever had. And there are also people that don't get the credit they deserve. Joss oversees everything, but somebody has to work the long hours producing the show, and editing the show, and all the things Joss did on Buffy. The people that did it on Angel were the late great David Greenwalt, who isn't dead, Tim Minear, and for the last year and a half, it's been Jeffrey Bell."
Steve DeKnight told the crowd, "The past two years on Angel has been one of the most fantastic experiences of my life because of the people behind me. It's the best cast, the best crew, the best David Fury of any show on television. And the best fans. Without you guys, you would have gotten half a season of Angel. These are the best people in the world to work with."
Then Jeff Bell spoke. "Joss is in England, but he wanted me to express to you his love and appreciation for everything you've done for the show. We made it to a hundred episodes... thank you for everything." He also asked the fans how episode 22 ends, because he doesn't know, and "you guys always know everything."
After the presentation, I talked with Steve DeKnight for a few moments. I asked him how he felt about the cancellation. DeKnight said, "We were surprised, but not surprised. We were surprised that we got another year. And we're having a great year. I'm sure I will work with many of these people again."
Why was Angel cancelled so abruptly? Perhaps the decision was made last spring to end it after the magic hundredth episode. Contracts are up this year, which may have had something to do with it. And the truth is that while Buffy and Angel have both drawn critical acclaim and passionate fan devotion, neither show has ever been a ratings giant. It has also been hard to pair either show with anything else; remember when The WB put Angel with Seventh Heaven? Angel isn't like any other show on the air, and its natural companion show, Buffy, is now gone. All of this logic doesn't make it easier for those of us who passionately love Joss Whedon's shows, and are now facing a future without them.
Some final notes:
Many fans have been writing to me about the cancellation, and asking what they can do. Go to www.renewangel.com and www.savingangel.org if you would like to take action.
And finally, many thanks to my friend TaraDi for her help. Watch for her upcoming coverage of this event on CityofAngel.com.