My Eliza Dushku Story
The first time I met Eliza - and believe me, I'm beyond amazed that I can actually speak those particular words - was all the way back in April, 2004. It was my first time in the UK, and also the first time I traveled abroad completely on my own. The plan was to attend my very first convention, but I wanted to make a proper holiday of it, so I planned for a three week holiday, starting about two weeks before the convention was to take place and ending a couple of days after it ended. The flights had been booked for months when I found out that Eliza was going to be in the country at the same time as me, attending a signing event in Birmingham merely days after I would be landing at Heathrow.
I couldn't let the opportunity pass, so early in the morning on that Sunday, a friend and I caught a coach headed to Birmingham. The journey took several hours, so it wasn't until early afternoon before we finally arrived at the event. I immediately headed in the direction of her table, but was told that not only was Eliza out for lunch, but all virtual queue tickets had already been given out - and I was devastated. My friend decided to try and cheer me up, convincing me to come with him to the various stalls - he seemed to convince me that there might be another chance if we headed back later. For some reason I believed him, but it didn't take me long before I decided to head back to her table.
She was back from lunch and signing away. I noticed how I had a really clear view of her and thought it would make a good photo opportunity. Some other people seemed to think the same thing, because before I knew it, many of us had taken out our cameras. The organizers of the queue noticed and arranged a separate queue for us - for taking pictures of her. I was nearly at the front, so I snapped two pictures before giving the person behind me my spot and wandered back. I began to realize that there wasn't going to be anymore virtual queue tickets, that I wasn't going to get to actually meet her, but my mind strayed to the drawing that I had brought with me (a pencil sketch that I had made just the night before with the intention to give it to Eliza when I got my autograph).
I didn't want to be leaving with it, so I approached the woman minding the autograph queue. I quickly explained that I knew I wasn't going to get to give my drawing to Eliza personally, since I had come too late for a virtual queue ticket, but I really wanted her to have it - and could she please make sure Eliza got it. The woman turned and talked to someone else - I didn't really follow the conversation, so I was really surprised when the woman turned back to me and told me I could give it to her myself. Next thing I knew they had pulled me to the front of the photograph queue, asked me to wait while Eliza finished up signing for the fan currently up front, then the guy the woman had talked to leaned over to Eliza to get her attention.
He told her 'this girl wants to give you something' and motioned to me - and I was completely star struck, unable to utter a single word as I slowly approached her and handed her the drawing. Eliza was as sweet as they come, thanking me for the drawing, coaxing a couple of words out of me, asking if I had something for her to sign. I muttered something about not having a virtual queue ticket, and either she didn't understand what I meant by it, or she didn't care, because I ended up walking away with a free personalized autograph in my Sunnydale Yearbook - and a huge, dreamy smile on my face.
The second time happened eight years later, in May, 2012. This time it was at a weekend convention taking place outside of London, at a Heathrow airport hotel. I'm a much bigger fan of conventions than I am signing events, because you end up getting a much more intimate experience with the guests than you do on signing events. And despite my first encounter with Eliza being quite a tale, I would have to say I love the second encounter(s) even more (because it's not just that one moment at conventions, there are several). By this point I was a seasoned convention attendee, with encounters with over a hundred different people under my belt - much more sure of myself.
Originally Eliza was supposed to attend another convention about eight months prior, but had to cancel at the last minute due to some scheduling issues, so it was really a big relief to see her actually walk onto the stage (even though it had pretty much been confirmed that she had made it to the country this time). Eliza impressed from the get-go, apologizing for how she had been unable to make it last time, and even sharing how that almost happened again - only this time she wouldn't hear it. Hell to the no - she was going.
It wasn't until a couple of hours later before I was actually face to face with her - at the meet'n greet. The people at my table had decided to engage the guests in a guessing game - as we were seven people coming from five different countries. So most of the conversation at the table was rooted in this game. Some might think it was wasted time (of all the things we could talk about, we made it about where we were from, lol), but it was actually a lot of fun - especially since everyone (including Eliza) had such a hard time guessing where I was from (at first the only clue they got was our accents, then eventually we let slip some trivia about our individual countries) - I gotta give Eliza some credit, although she needed a moment to think over which country was known for giving out the Nobel Peace Prize, she did actually guess right on her first try.
I got up at the microphone at both her talks, the first time asking about Dollhouse, the second time asking about Tru Calling. And I have to give her major props for choosing to be completely honest in her answers. It would have been so easy to indulge us as fans and pretend she didn't have any negative feelings about the show [Tru Calling], but instead she honored us with the truth. However she must have felt bad for not being able to answer my actual question, so when I returned to my seat, she maintained eye contact with me while she specified that regardless her own personal feelings towards the projects she does, she will always appreciate the way her fans love it and that our support means everything. The fact that she felt the need to comfort me (despite the fact that I truly appreciated her honesty) really says a lot about her.
I also attended both her photoshoots. Having not had the opportunity to get a picture together with her the last time, and knowing the chance of getting to meet her a third time was slim to none, I wanted to take proper advantage of the opportunity. So I bought two single photos (one for each photoshoot) and a double of her and Dichen [Lachman]. On my first single photo I got a regular pose, but on my second I asked if I could have a hug, which she happily obliged - and oh, how I will treasure that picture.
It was in the autograph session that I got my final chance to speak to Eliza. I collected a couple of autographs for friends of mine, explained how I had bonded with one of them over our shared love for Buffy - with the both of us favoring Faith as a character and Glory as a villain (she asked me to pass on some 'pzazz' to him and we bumped our knuckles together). I also ended up telling her the story of our previous encounter eight years prior, including how I struggled to get a single word out - she responded that she was happy to see I no longer had that problem. I also ended up giving her parts of my story with Clare [Kramer], briefly explaining that one of the reasons for the change was what Clare has done for me over the years and before I left the table we also briefly chatted about her.
I adore Eliza, she's a terrific actress, but she also comes off as very genuine, sweet and kind, but at the same time you realize you probably shouldn't try to mess with her. Of course I would always welcome the idea of meeting her again, but at the same time I'm very content and happy with the time I've been blessed to spend with her.