You may not have heard of Mark “Sparky” Schneider, a “vampire comic” who goes by the stage name Sparky Drakonis. Born in Michigan and raised in Massachusetts, Drakonis developed an interest in performance art that led him to vampirism, an S&M subculture based on the modern perception of vampires and gothic archetypes in popular fiction. It also led him to my couch.
About two weeks ago, my burlesque show–producing roommate mentioned that her uncle would be coming by to dye her hair red. In walked Sparky, with ’80s-blond, curly hair grown long and distinct bangs cut to frame his plump face. He had a gut that hung below and out of a T-shirt with his name on it.
“Oh,” my roommate mentioned later on, “he’s not actually my uncle.” I figured.
She and Sparky met through Geek Girls, a “smart and sexy” subgenre group of burlesque dancers that performs acts inspired by cult movies, comic books and fairy tales. Sparky loves that sort of thing — the dark, the wicked, and dark and wickedly sexual. He is, as he says, “attracted to the dark side.”
Sparky describes his kind of vampirism as heavily psychic, whereby vampires draw spiritual nourishment from different kinds of paranormal energy. To a lay person like me, this scene can be confusing. Do they really think they’re vampires? Is it just a sexual fetish? Is this some kind of double life? Can one be born a “vampire”? Sparky says that many of us are psychic vampires but just don’t know it. For instance, he explained, you know how you feel after spending time and talking with a friend who just totally drains you? He or she is likely a psychic vampire, sucking out your energy and spirit. But there are positive aspects to vampirism; there are many instances of spiritual healing.
It’s unclear how long Sparky has been involved with the scene, but it’s clear that it got serious and all-consuming in 2006 when he met his now ex-girlfriend Mistress Dominae Drakonis (whose surname he took on and still uses). They met at a New York City vampire event, and he immediately liked that she was beautiful, evil, and going to hurt him. They danced, and he could feel his energy being drawn from her. They connected over similar past relationships — she had recently broken up with her Mister, and he with his Dominatrix — and things just clicked. He and Dominae began their relationship as dominant (Dominae)/submissive (Sparky), and it evolved into a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. And though they recently ended their five-and-a-half-year relationship, they still “play” together. Last weekend, at the Wicked Fair, Dominae flogged Sparky. Sparky is a “switch,” meaning he plays both dominant and submissive roles, but Dominae is known for being a dom.
Sparky featured with Dominae in an episode of the Women’s Entertainment (WE) series The Secret Lives of Women, where the show profiled “a vampire — a real-life woman who actually claims to be as close to a true vampire as a human female can get — including following her as she partakes in typical occult rituals as well as bloodletting exercises where she actually drinks blood.” Sparky acknowledges that this subculture is looked down upon, misunderstood, and seen as abnormal or offensives, but he maintains that they are just being themselves and that they are discriminated against. “There is no vampire lib out there,” he says. “When you’re found out, there’s a negative association.”
On Saturday, I stumbled in drunk at 4 a.m. with a friend and saw Sparky passed out on the daybed. Not only did my room look like a crack den, my friend noted, but there were strange men sleeping in my living room. Ah, to live in New York.
A couple hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, I heard a knock at my bedroom door. “Hello?” I asked.
“Hi, um, I think I found your cards.”
I was confused. Why was this apartment crasher trying to mess with my stuff that he found in the living room? “Oh, thanks. You can just leave them out on the kitchen table.”
“No, I mean, outside,” he responded, and slid my credit cards under my bedroom door.
What was going on? I thought. Why was this announcement necessary at 6 a.m.?
Believe it or not, there was fate at play. I, in my alcohol-induced stupor, had taken my keys out of my wallet on the walk from cab to apartment, and in the process dropped some very important cards in front of the stoop four doors down. A mere hour or two later, Sparky rose early to catch a bus to Boston with my roommate and her boyfriend, but was turned away at Penn Station when the bus seats had sold out. Dejected, he wandered back to his friend’s apartment — perhaps drearily looking down at the ground — and spotted my cards.
He didn’t know who Rachel Oppenheimer was, but supposed he’d seek her out and get the cards back to her. Upon entering the apartment, he noticed a check on the kitchen table with my name on it. What are the chances!
“Sparky,” I said, “I owe you one.” Sparky outstretched his arms, inviting me in for a hug. I complied, grateful for the kindness of one semi-stranger. He told me it was meant to be, his saving of the day. It was simply meant to be.
I asked Sparky again about fate, why he believes in it, and what it means to him. He recounted that during the first weeks of college, when he attended Berkeley College of Music in Boston, he was getting on a bus in Bridgewater, Mass. He dropped his wallet and someone gave him 10 dollars to get on the bus. There must be a guardian angel; there must be a bigger power out there. Now that he’s in the vampire scene, he has a deepened belief in higher powers. He knows that there is an energy out there that can’t be seen, that there is a power behind that vampire electricity. He knows that that energy was the reason he didn’t make the bus to Boston with my roommate and her boyfriend, the reason why Sparky the stranger got me the contents of my wallet back.
To you, Sparky Drakonis, I am indebted.
Rachel Oppenheimer works at the City University of New York on a community college transition initiative that serves academically under-prepared students in New York City’s five boroughs. Outside of work, she trains for the 2012 New York City Marathon and religiously watches ABC’s acclaimed The Bachelor.
Images via Sparky’s MySpace.