Q) Where does a vampire go on a Sunday night? A) Clubbing. OLIVER SWANTON investigates
There's no such thing as "safe" vampire sex. That's what worries Fay about tonight's vampire fetish party, Vampyria. "I'm very concerned about sharing bodily fluids with complete strangers," she says. As maybe she should be. Vampire enthusiasts apparently take their fetishism very seriously. We're not talking about coy nibbling of ear lobes here - we're talking filed teeth piercing the skin.

Over 1,500 devotees of the undead will gather at the Complex nightclub in London tonight. Uniformly dressed in black, faces whitened, lips and eyes reddened, some even with teeth filed to a point. They'll look the part, act the part - some even believe they are the part. "You always bump into characters who actually think they're vampires," says Fay. "They're a bit creepy, but they don't worry me personally - just as long as they don't draw blood."

Tonight's vamp fest is no aberration. Vampire fetishism is alive and well (if you'll forgive the pun). In addition to the dedicated club nights, there are glossy lifestyle magazines, book clubs, web site communities and even wife swapping parties for "vampires" (yes, seriously).

Vampyria will be "a pure experience of unrivalled passion and blood lust", say the promoters, Dark Angel Productions. It's the third in a series of hugely popular events. The first, held in August 1997 to celebrate the centenary of Bram Stoker's Dracula, drew more than 1,000 "vampires", making it the largest such event in Europe. It was so successful, in fact, that a quarterly magazine "by vampires for vampires" was quickly launched. Bloodstone, says the magazine's editor, has "something for everyone with a passion for the unlife". Bloodstone now sells in "specialist" shops all over the world, as well as local branches of WH Smith and HMV. Last month was the cult collectors bun fight, Memorabilia 99 at the Birmingham NEC, featuring Dark Angel stalwarts, "vampire vixens" Eileen and Daly and Mistress Alkaya. Next year, Dark Angel Productions will take on the Continent with a series of large events "to unite the vampires of Europe" in Poland, Italy and Germany.

The spiritual home of vampirism is, however, America - California to be exact. Hollywood has been entranced by the blood-sucking myth since time began. From Vlad the Impaler to Tom Cruise, they've hashed and rehashed the genre. Most recently it has been given a post-feminist makeover in the form of cult television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, broadcast in Britain several times a week on BBC2, Sky and flying out the door on video at a store near you this Christmas. For the uninitiated, Buffy is a wise-cracking, short-skirted, pouting, arse-kicking slayer of vampires and assorted bad guys. Week in week out, Buffy saves small town America - Sunnydale to be exact - from dark hordes. Girls feel empowered, adolescent boys feel a little hot under the collar. And therein lies the key to vampirism: sex.

OK, it's not exactly the sort of love bite you get behind bicycle sheds (or at least it shouldn't be), but it is nonetheless an overtly sexual act. This has, of course, not been lost on celluloid. Jesus Franco's classic Vampyros Lesbos, an erotic horror about a vixen vampiress seducing and killing women to appease her insatiable thirst for female blood, even inspired a tract of Seventies retakes on the standard male domination/ female submission formula.

Moreover the female bitee is freed from the normal constraints of society, adds Fay. "Once bitten you're no longer responsible for your behaviour and you can get away with stuff deemed otherwise inappropriate," she says. "Vampires appear to the outside world to be innocent weak females, but at night they turn into these raving, horny beasts."

And that's about as risque as Vampyria is likely to be tonight. Despite constant references to the "dark side" and the implication that "real" human blood is a serious vampire fetishes stock in trade, there's nothing here for Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells to get panicky about. No Satanism, no sacrifices, no goats, no really bad behaviour at all, I'm sorry to report. The links from the vampire fetish internet sites to blood transfusion safety advice forums are just laughable. The vast majority of Bloodstone readers are middle-aged Goths and dungeons-and-dragons geeks up for a bit of titillation. Vampyria is just bad Kiss make-up, high street S&M rubber wear and pseudo-lesbianism. WASP, the Eighties rock shock artists, used to do a stage show that featured buckets of puke and half naked female audience members tied to a cartwheel. It was a 100 times more controversial.

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