By Amy Silverman
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This can't be the place. Even in the darkness of 8 p.m., this is obviously a lovely two-story condo in Mesa, light blue with white trim, all the mod cons. This can't be the dwelling of a vampire, the home of one of the undead, the digs of a child of the night. Can it?
It is, in fact, where a man with the absolutely unhorrifying name of Doug Clark is currently residing, a man I have been told is a vampire. Or thinks he is a vampire. Or something. All I know is, I've had two brief telephone conversations with him to set up this evening meeting. I learned only that he "doesn't go out much in the daytime," something Clark said with no irony whatsoever.
I ring the bell, and the door immediately swings open as if someone had been waiting with his hand on the knob. And someone has. He is dressed in black brothel creepers, tight black pants, black shirt with billowing sleeves and lacy cuffs, velvet vest of dark purple. His face is a mask of white, accented with eyebrows plucked to arched perfection, a mustache as thin and deliberate as Little Richard's, and wavy, shoulder-length hair. Apart from a small patch of white blond just above the right ear (pierced with a silver hoop), every bit of hair is as black as a chunk of coal in a windowless torture chamber.
This, then, is Doug Clark.
He stands there, gesturing me in with the aplomb of a Spanish grandee. So in I go. For an innocuous condo in Mesa, the place has a certain creepy charm. A few small candelabra provide the only source of light, and, as I sink into the couch next to Clark, the bookcase reveals a collection of small skulls, a bottle of fake blood--nontoxic--and a severed head locked in a permanent scream. (I later find out that Clark used to sleep with it, as the thing made him "more comfortable" when he didn't have a girlfriend.)
He has five Marlboro Light cigarettes laid out on the table in front of us; Clark takes long, pregnant drags in between sentences.
Now what about this vampire business?
"No, I don't think I'm a vampire," he says slowly, deliberately, as if he's given this question careful thought. "I live a very similar existence--as many perceive a vampire; in the past 15 years, I've probably been in direct sunlight for one hour at the most. That's partially due to being extremely light-sensitive. . . . I've used that [image] as a vehicle in my music, with the underlying intent to erase and dispel a lot of the ignorance and fear in that realm of things, and replace it with the truth."
While Doug exhales Marlboro smoke, let me tell you that he was in a local, seminal punk/gothic band called Mighty Sphincter from '83 to '87. Sphincter never made it big, but it influenced groups like White Zombie and Gwar.
I wonder if this whole thing, this look and this Dark Shadows aesthetic, is really just a promo angle for his rock 'n' roll. I wonder if I've been taken for a ride. Doug slowly, deliberately assures me this is not the case.
"To me it wasn't a matter of getting into it; it's the way I've always been," he reveals. "All the people I've ever talked to that have a form of lycanthropy [according to the dictionary, this is "the magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf." But I don't butt in; Doug is on a roll] were all born that way.
"With me, ever since I was a small child, from like 3 to 7 [he's now 35], I had the same dream every night. It was a dream of being engulfed by darkness, and darkness finally took the form of a grim reaper, or a figure in a black cape that would chase me. By the time I was 7, I had become comfortable with the dark. Somehow, that came to be part of me.
"And it wasn't until years later that I learned what a vampire was."
But does he drink blood?
Doug sighs, fixes me in his hypnotic, David Copperfieldlike gaze. "I have, but I don't make a regular practice of it; it's not a necessity. One thing I find disturbing is that there has yet to be any kind of movie that portrays the vampire as one who is immortal, but does not need to drink blood. The truth lies more in that.
"I've learned this from years and years of study, and awareness; I've gone to great extents to understand it, so that I can understand more about myself," he offers. "I have always been this way, I have never been any different. I have never known any other pattern in life."
Self-revelation is all well and good, but I demand stories of plasma guzzling. "I've been arrested for drinking my own blood before. In public I dropped a Pepsi bottle and picked up a glass fragment, cut my arm and drank from it. Somehow this was construed as aggravated assault, even though no one got hurt," he tells me.