Friday, May 20, 2011

Leaving Sunnydale High

This week we watched the "Graduation Day" episodes on Buffy, and we had to say goodbye to high school... not just the high school years, but the ACTUAL high school. So, to honour this big moment, I wanted to share with you some photos I took when I actually went to Sunnydale High.

Back in 2003, I was in LA to attend the Posting Board Party. Waaaay back when Buffy was still on the air, there was an online fan forum called The Bronze. It was run off the WB site, and then when Buffy split for UPN in season 6, it spun off into the Bronze Beta, run by the fans. It was a place where Joss Whedon would drop by to say hello, where the writers would ALWAYS post (writers are notorious for turning procrastination into an art form), and where if you were online at a certain time of night, you could say hello to Alyson Hannigan, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Seth Green, or any number of drive-bys conducted by the actors themselves. How did we know it was real and not an interloper? The VIPS were given a special code that would make their name light up a certain way, and only they knew what it was. That way you knew it wasn't someone masquerading as someone else. (It's like the "verified" Twitter accounts they have today.)

Starting in the show's second season, the fans came up with the idea of having a get-together in LA where fans could all fly in and meet each other, since they'd been spending every night chatting away at the Bronze. Someone stepped up to organize the shindig, and they came up with it being a select party with something like 300 tickets (I'm totally going by memory here), and the fans could buy the ticket that would allow them into a closed party where they could just schmooze with each other.

And then the surprise came. For not only were the fans there, but... Joss, David Boreanaz, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head... pretty much every single person on the show except for Sarah Michelle Gellar (she never showed up to any of them). From that point on, the Posting Board Parties became legendary, and happened every year, with more and more actors and writers showing up each year to mingle with the fans.

I attended in 2003 as one of the VIPs, and at that time it had really grown into a giant affair. No longer was it the intimate little gathering, but instead thousands of tickets were sold. I was in the VIP area, so I got to meet most of the stars down there before heading upstairs to the fan area. It was fantastic. It was mostly Angel actors that year (and a few Firefly peeps) but James Marsters (Spike) was probably the biggest hit of the party. Eliza Dushku (Faith) was there, as well as Julie Benz (Darla), Danny Strong (Jonathan), Joss Whedon, Alexis Denisof (Wesley), and many, many others (I'm being careful to only name characters that you guys would know at this point in the rewatch).

If you have the 2002 edition of my Bite Me! book, I had an entire chapter with tons of photos from each of the Posting Board Parties. Unfortunately, when it went to the Chosen edition, my editor thought that section could easily go because it was more fanny and less episode guidey. I always mourned the loss of that chapter, because I loved it and it was unique to Buffy. But if you can get your hands on that earlier edition, you'll see some great photos.

Anyway! The day before the party, I went on a tour of Sunnydale (aka Torrance, California) to see Sunnydale High and a few other important landmarks. The tour included major LA spots to see Angel buildings, but my favourite part of the tour was going to the high school. As many of you know, Torrance High was used previously on the 1990s version of 90210, so it's a school that's familiar to audiences. Here's a shot from across the street:

I'm standing on a grass island that separates the school from the main street behind me (remember back at the beginning of S3 when Buffy shows up with a picnic lunch for everyone? She sat on that island). Here's a view of the front lawn of the school:

Look in the foreground for the tree Giles walks into at the end of "Earshot." ;) And here's a closeup of the front doors of the school, where you can see the usual school sign, which was replaced with "Sunnydale High School" whenever it was shown on Buffy.

And here I am (yes, I was in my I-dyed-my-hair-red-to-match-Willow's phase here) sitting on one of the benches out front.

Now, if you walk behind where I'm sitting, away from that bench, you'll eventually turn left to go around to the side of the school, and when I did, I actually gasped aloud when I found this:

You may remember this as the outside corridor where Angel chased Jenny in "Passion," before she re-entered the school and he killed her in the window above the front door.

Now, go back to the front doors of the school and walk in the opposite direction from that outside corridor, and you'll find these stairs off to the far side of the school:

These are the stairs we saw several times (usually in night shots) where, for example, Ford pretended to kill the vampire when he was lying to Buffy in season 2's "Lie to Me." Continue around that corner, et voila, the best part of the school:

SO much happened here, and if you look to the top right of the photo, you'll see that the clock tower where Jonathan was loading his rifle in "Earshot" was actually added in digitally, because it doesn't exist on the school. I stood in that courtyard and just pictured everything... Buffy running up the cement side of the stairs to get Jonathan in "Earshot," the gang hanging out by the fountain, Cordelia's speeches, graduation day... SO much happened here. Now, standing in the spot where I took that photo, if you turn 180 degrees you see this:

This is where the giant fight happened on Graduation Day, where the vamps were standing and where Angel and his crew were behind them. These are the stairs the kids charged down to fight them.

Back over in the courtyard, I went up the stairs (eeeee!) and took this photo looking down. I had chills standing up there. Most scenes were actually filmed at the top of the stairs rather than here (it widens so I imagine they were able to fit more camera equipment there).

And then I went back down the stairs and took a closeup of them, thinking of Jonathan sitting at the bottom of the stairs drinking his Big Gulp, or how many times the gang would be chatting about something while standing there.

When the bus left Sunnydale High, we went down a street that's actually quite close to the high school for a special treat. We weren't allowed to disembark, and they asked us not to take photos (yeah, right) but voila... Buffy's house!!

The house exterior was used throughout the series for long shots, but after season 1, I think, they stopped using the interior of the actual house, and instead rebuilt the entire thing on a closed set so Buffy and her enemies could trash the place a little more easily, without worrying about the current real-world occupants. But apparently what we saw on the show was what the house actually looked like on the inside. Imagine living there? Hm. Maybe that would be a little creepy.

Anyway, those are my pictures of Sunnydale High. I have many memories of that school, not just from being there but from three years of watching it on the show. I'm gonna miss that school... until the next rewatch, that is. ;)


Marebabe said...

I knew that you and Buffy and Sunnydale go way back, but this is impressive. It’s like, you were a real VIP insider! I got a couple vicarious goosebumps from reading this.

I can’t remember exactly when you posted a picture of yourself with Joss Whedon, but it was several years ago. Was that picture taken at the 2003 Posting Board Party? And I love all the photos of the high school and Buffy’s house! And you, with the Willow-red hair. Right on!

Christina B said...






mjdolce said...

Since we started this rewatch, I've been meaning to pull out my copy of "Bite Me" to read a few things as we go along. When I first started watching Buffy (I was WAY late to the game, didn't come in until Season 5, real time) a friend of mine bought it for me to help me catch up. But since then it has been sitting on the very top shelf of my bookshelf, and that's really high, so... there it has sat. But while reading this talking about the 2002 edition having pictures of the Posting Board Parties, I wondered which edition I had... And as it turns out -- it's the 2002 one! So excited! I don't remember reading that part the first time around, so it's like finding a brand new book. Thanks for sharing all the great pictures and insights with us!

Missy said...

Very Cool :)
Sooo jealous right now...I shoulcn't be I've met a bunch of the cast but Torrance High is Iconic as is the Summers house.
Had it rained?It looks awesomely dreary....very BtVS ;)

Sue K. said...

Awesome recap Nikki!! Very fond memories of that trip. You put all of your Sunnydale shots in such great order and brought a lot of those memorable Buffy scenes throughout that set to life again for me! Thanks :)

Pamalamb said...

I've been following along with the rewatch but haven't made any comments yet, but I had to comment on this because I grew up in Torrance, Ca! Unfortunately I went to South Torrance High (there are four high schools in Torrance in case you were wondering). If only my family had lived a few miles north I could have gone to the site of Sunnydale High! Oh well. I have driven by Torrance High many times and even attend a couple of events there, but never connected the two. Of course, I haven't lived in Torrance since 1982, so those memories are a bit old. My parents still live in Torrance, so the next time I go to visit them I'll have to swing by Torrance High and have a look. By the way I'm really enjoying this rewatch and the comments by you, your commentators, and the other watchers (no pun intended) are very interesting.

Marebabe said...

@Pamalamb: Lately I've been wondering whatever became of many of the regular posters from back in the days of the LOST rewatch. And here you are! It's so nice you're still around. I certainly hope to see more of you! :)

Ken H said...

I went there this spring while on a trip to L.A. Definitely worth the visit.

They've changed the front lawn of the house.

Pamalamb said...

Hey Marebabe,
Thanks for the nice words. I've been reading Nikki's blog regularly and watching Buffy along with everyone, but haven't really been ready to comment yet. I'm certainly enjoying reading your and everyone else comments though.