The Ingrid Pitt column: taking Vlad around London

Ingrid goes sightseeing around London with a unique companion...

What do you give a Vampire that has everything? A fully gazetted blood sucker (see Dr. J. Gordon Melton’s tome, The Vampire Book, for verification)! He already has a regular, top up, supply of blood from his local hospital, hundreds of golden girls ready to offer their all if he develops a hunger, and young men just dying to get close. Not only that but this one claims to have been born in 1431 after his mother, a young noble woman, was raped by Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, himself.

That was my dilemma when Vlad gave me a call in the middle of the night and said he was coming to London and asked me if I had time to show him around. What could I do?  He had obviously mistaken me for the real thing but I felt it would be discourteous to suggest he tried calling one of his relatives in Translyvania. I told him there would be no problem and offered to pick him up at the airport. I instantly regretted the careless remark. He would obviously make the transatlantic flight by some more exotic means than a mere scheduled airline.  I was relieved when he, without any hint of sarcasm, told me his time of arrival.

I was waiting at the barrier when he arrived. A little disappointed when all the incoming passengers shuffled passed without any sighs of exsanguination. He had probably brought a bottled supply from the hospital. When he arrived he stood out from the crowd. Tall, a flamboyant bandana covering his hair, black open neck shirt under a nattily embroidered sheep skin waistcoat, black Gaucho-style trousers and calf-length boots. A black, tooled leather  bag hung from his shoulder and he appeared to be in a bit of a tizzy. First thing he said as I went forward to greet him was.

“Bloody customs.”

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I had a twitch of fear then. Was it a complaint or a comment on a meal well sampled? It seems that he had walked through the Nothing to Declare funnel and hadn’t been believed.

As we drove to his hotel in Shepherd’s Bush I suggested several places he might be interested in seeing, Highgate Cemetery, London Dungeon, Newgate Prison, Tower of London etc. He didn’t seem to have any problems with any of them and suggested we drop his bag off at the hotel and get started. He was only in London for three days before heading north. I nodded knowingly. He was going to Whitby. The Dracula story might be fictional but he was probably interested in how Bram Stoker had stolen his family history. Perhaps he would like to visit Dracula’s home, Caxfax Manor in Purfleet? He gave me a wan smile at that suggestion so I didn’t pursue it. I decided that the best thing to do was to break him in gently with a visit to the London Dungeon and then take it from there.

The Dungeon was a bit of a disappointment. We had only been there for about ten minutes when he suggested we left. I hastily assured him that we hadn’t really got into the Vampire part of the exhibitions yet but he confessed that he was a little claustrophobic and the crowds of people, dark, leering side-shows and lack of fresh air was getting to him. I raised a quizzical eyebrow, unseen in the dark, and led him to the exit. I expected he would soon change his mind when he was forced to brave the bright June sunlight. He didn’t even blink. I mentioned Newgate Prison and the Tower of London. He thanked me for the offer and asked me if I could drop him off at the hotel. He was feeling tired. I realised he wanted to get a few hours kip before braving the streets of London to search for refreshments. I wondered if I should send an anonymous letter to the Police warning them of the menace abroad on the streets? I decided not to bother. Nobody had caught him out in 600 years so there was little chance that our plods, anchored at their desks by paperwork, would be able to do the job.

Next morning I picked Vlad up early-ish and took him to the Tower of London. He was impressed with the age of the place but the only exhibit he wanted to see was the Crown Jewels. We went and sat in the restaurant and I asked him  what he wanted to see next. He surprised me by saying Hampton Court.  When I thought about it I wasn’t so surprised. For a 600 year old man I suppose Hampton Court would hold many memories of time gone by. I thought it was a bit late to go there that day and suggested  we paid a visit to Madame Tussauds’. He grudgingly agreed but I was happy when he decided against it after seeing the queue for admission which wandered half way around the block.

The following day was another brilliantly sunny morning. I apologised to Vlad for the unusual weather and half promised him that it couldn’t last and that before the day was out we would have a storm.  He didn’t comment. He wanted to get the full experience so we took the boat from Richmond on Thames and chugged upriver with a load of fellow Americans and camera flashing Japanese. I’m a terrible sightseer. I arrive, have a quick look round at what is the nearest and most easily accessed, then leave. That wasn’t Vlad’s way. He bought a brochure, studied the map inside and started out on a room by room examination of the place. I trailed along behind getting more and more desperate.

I first met Vlad Licina at a festival in Los Angeles about ten years or so ago. He was there with his band, Dark Theatre, and was hanging around the exhibits with nothing to do before the evening. He was a very  gifted musician, able to play practically any instrument thrown at him. But he did have a reputation to maintain and was giving out with the full blood drinking vampire persona. But when he wasn’t leering and salivating for the fans he seemed a nice enough bloke. He liked talking music so I told him my daughter, Steffie, was a bit of a singer and he politely expressed interest. The next time I saw him was when Louis Ravensfield put on a horror show at the London Hippodrome. It was a great turn out and Louis did it beautifully. Probably the best themed show of this type to ever be put on in London. Vlad and his band, Dark Theatre, came over from Chicago and went down well with the Goth fans. I was there to do my visiting gentry bit and I took Steffie along. Vlad professed to be interested in her singing and suggested that she might like to go to the Windy City, where he had a studio, and record a DVD for him.

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Vlad did a good job on the recording but unfortunately the DVD got banned. What Vlad had done was rewrite the lyrics to one of the Spice Girls songs, draft in some of the top adult audience actresses, including Debbie Rochon, and put together a very acceptable DVD. But then I would say that. Steffie did all the singer voices including the backing group. Then the Spice Girls’ management got to hear about it, got heavy and Vlad had to take the DVD, So You Want To Haunt Me Lover? by the Slice Girls, off the market. It was also about this time that Vlad was asked by his friend, John Russo, the original writer of Night of the Living Dead (1968) , to write some music for extra footage that Russo wanted to insert into the film. The film was in the process of being re-mastered and Russo thought the added footage would be a prime wheeze. Unfortunately it wasn’t. It wasn’t the fault of the digitalised film or Vlad’s music. After 30 innocent years the insertion of 20 minutes of extra scenes stuck out like a zombie’s lost thumb.

The wild child Vlad is a thing of the past. Married and with a daughter he has settled down to a domestic life, given up his free pass to the local blood bank and very rarely samples the willing Goths. He now provides backing tracks for film and TV.

After the exhausting day at Hampton Court I was happy to wave Vlad off on his journey north from the Victoria Bus Station. It all seemed very mundane. So far there hasn’t been any reported outbreak of rampant anaemia in the Shepherds Bush area so I guess that must mean that he has retired, become a mortal and can now only look forward to a mortal life span.

Ingrid writes every week at Den Of Geek. Read her last column here