Hot recap: Dark Shadows at Twilight at the Paley Center

paley_111409_195 From left: Sammy Buck, Alan Kistler, Chelsea Doyle, Andi Teran (Photograph: Cloe Seldman/Michael Priest Photography)

You would think that prior to a mini--vampire convention, the straitlaced Paley Center would be bustling with at least a dozen adolescents wearing lacy, Stevie Nicks--gone-supergoth outfits and holding frenetic conversations about what sort of Twilight tribute tattoo they were getting to commemorate the premiere of New Moon. It was not so. We looked for them everywhere, but the only people we saw smoking outside, holding programs (not proposed skin-ink sketches), were a couple of middle-aged ladies who looked like our mom. This was typical: The appeal of vampires, and most specifically, the vampires in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, transcends age, gender and embarrassment.

It is perfectly acceptable to be old and harbor an intense lit crush on the Twilight version of the ideal, heroic male, Mr. Sexy Vampire the First, esquire (a.k.a. Edward Cullen), because we are—as this past Saturday's Dark Shadows at Twilight: A Paley Center Vampire Weekend event proved—in the midst of an explosion in the popularity of vampires in pop culture. A panel of six journalists and editors, corralled by moderator and Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large Ken Tucker, were prepared to defend their vampires of choice and debate exactly how important each of them is. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the vampire," Tucker intoned in his introduction. He forgot to say that if toddlers thought Twilight's heroine, Bella Swan, was as cool as Aladdin's Princess Jasmine, Disney would have to rush a High School Musical: Vampires in College OMG edition into production. And they'd have to like it, because Zac Efron would be wearing fake fangs. (And stop tanning so much.)

Panelists included Angel Coh of Television Without Pity; tvland.com blogger Sammy Buck; Starpulse.com freelancer Chelsea Doyle; comic-book historian Alan Kistler; Jim Pierson, who produced the Dark Shadows DVDs; and Andi Teran, a contributing writer at vanityfair.com. Each spoke in spirited, at times philosophical defense of their chosen vampy coven, showing film and television clips to illustrate the finer points of gothic Jane Eyre--esque metaphor, terror, history, the role of female subversion or dominance and, natch, hottieness. "It is Edward's restraint that makes him so powerful," said Teran as she dissected the relationship between our Edward and his Bella, whose blood is his heroin and his siren call. Yum! Nobody officially won the debate, although Buck (who argued for the '70s Salem's Lot), Doyle (who spoke for Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel and Spike) and our personal favorite, Teran (for Twilight) dominated with the strength of their conviction and their unself-conscious humor. ("Angel and Spike won the Paley online popularity poll!" noted Doyle, and suddenly such a thing actually seemed to matter.)

Following a trivia contest, during which several people fell into their chairs sighing because they couldn't remember who sired whom on Dark Shadows, the Paley screened Robsessed. This documentary, which is actually more like an E! True Hollywood Story for 13-year-olds, follows the life and career of Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays the part of Edward Cullen in the Twilight films. There is no interview with Pattinson, and most of the statements are courtesy of people like Pattinson's celeb biographer and a chick he modeled with once, revealing very little. But everything seemed wildly important, especially if you follow the celluloid-to-reality saga of Pattinson's maybe-romance with Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella Swan. (So important, in fact, that at the London premiere of the doc, two girls got into a pushy! shovey! ow! fight trying to grab the last free R-Patz poster, which wound up being ripped in half, anyway.) Based on the growing list of comments on our New Moon review, such a thing is merely par for the course. Hot boys are also undead. Sucking blood from people's necks has become an accepted version of onscreen foreplay. Free posters are bound to get torn. And instead of signing petitions to stop the city from gas drilling in New York City's upstate watershed, they're signing them to encourage Pattinson to take a bath. With a fan. Naked.