As a former presenter of Blue Peter, I've had some extraordinary experiences. I've gained my skydiving license, set a world record for swimming, filmed in 125 different cities and oiled up to wrestle with some of the burliest men in Turkey. So I didn't ask too many questions when the producers of a new Channel 4 series, World of Weird, told me I'd be heading off to the US to meet a Black Swan. I knew it wasn't going to be a wildlife documentary, but surely it couldn't be as bad as being stuck in a head lock with a sweaty Turk dressed in leather chaps and dripping of olive oil. I even allowed myself to dream of a certain steamy scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Darren Aranofsky's wonderful ballet movie (yes, I'm sure there were other pivotal scenes, but for some reason, that one has particularly stayed with me).
Cut to the wonderfully named Hotel Indigo in Downtown Dallas, one of the oldest hotels in the city and one that prides itself on its 'funky bar'. Picture a Travelodge but with floral bedding and a smattering of gold and faux marble. I'm meeting with Blut, our Black Swan, in her bedroom as she's getting ready for a night out. Blut is a florist by day, but by night, a self-styled Vampire. Full disclosure here, it's not often I meet a woman for the first time in her bedroom, and especially not with a full camera crew! She and her partner, Michael, a masseur, meet up a few times a year to 'feed'. And my uncomfortable role is to be in the same room while it happens. Believe me, you really know you have graduated from children's TV when you're booked to watch two individuals engage in an intimate act in their hotel bedroom - Peter Purves would never have signed up for this.
The following morning I met Michael, our vampire and feeder, he was dressed in black, sporting rose-tinted glasses. There was nothing particularly Transylvanian about his look, he was, in fact, surprisingly shy and awkward for someone who relaxes by feasting on human blood. Okay, he looked a little battish, but there were no tell-tale fangs or other signs of his leisure pursuit. At a local beauty parlour he took me into a small room, and I tensed up as he lay me on a massage table. This wasn't love at first bite for Michael, he just wanted to read my chakras. When he isn't sinking his teeth into someone's neck, Michael practices as a healing therapist. Or maybe I just wasn't his blood type. We spoke about his love for blood and all things vampire related, and for him it was more of a spiritual experience than anything to do with the supernatural.
Blut, our Black Swan, was, on the other hand, distinctly gothic, with her blue rinse hair and tightened corset she looked every bit a dominatrix. I hung out with her in her hotel bedroom as she got ready for a night out with Michael. Shy and sweet, her family completely accept her unconventional lifestyle - surprising, deep in the Texan Bible belt. I was struck by her sweetness and loving nature, and almost felt like I wanted to hug her; probably not a good idea, given that I was a strange man in her hotel room, travelling with my own film crew.
I followed Blut and Michael to one of their favourite night spots, the focal point of the local fetish scene. People of all shapes, races and sexual preferences congregated in a dark space listening to electronica and the latest chart hits. In this anything-goes atmosphere, I felt surprisingly liberated, and ended up dancing the night away with a woman who was clearly old enough to be my mother. Ironic to feel like I was shaking off my repressed Nigerian Catholic upbringing in one of the most conservative and Christian states of America. In this company of freaks and fetishists, I could have danced all night, but that was mainly because I was slightly dreading what was coming next.
We were all heading back to the hotel, where Michael and Blut wanted me to watch them 'feed'.
This was the moment I'd come to witness; Michael was going to suck his Swan's blood, a scene I'd witnessed in everything from Twilight to Dracula, but had never particularly wanted to watch in real life. I entered Blut's dimly lit room, where both of them sat on a sofa still in the clothes they'd been out in. I babbled small talk. The whole scene was weird enough, without having a camera crew on my shoulder trying to capture it all as 'naturally' as possible. On the table was a scalpel, lavender infused alcohol and a plaster. Michael slowly peeled his Swan's bra back to expose the area where he'd make his first incision. First he cleaned it with the alcohol solution, then made the first incision in her back, and the second on the same line. I could see he was becoming excited at the prospect of finally getting his late night feed, she was waiting patiently in anticipation of being eaten and licked by her Vampire. Michael teased the blood out with his hands and sucked it up with a swift lick, going back for more, then lifting his head up in a way that can only be described as orgasmic and breathing deeply.
At this point, I could feel my virtual Blue Peter badge spinning, and I began to speculate wildly about how I could get out of the room. I'm just not into people getting their sexual kicks a few feet away, I felt a little sick. Having to act like I was cool around blood being slurped was a tough ask, and I had to leave the room.
But as awkward and squeamish as the situation left me feeling, it was clear that here were two individuals living out their greatest fantasy in a very safe place of mutual trust and love. It was inspiring to see how liberated both were in allowing us the access to show such an intimate part of their lives. They clearly had great affection for each other. And what a wonderful thing that they -with their one-in-a-million fetish - had found each other and forged a satisfying relationship. It may not have unleashed any inner vampiric response in me or the film crew, but it did start me wondering: how come a blood-sucking vampire can find a nice polygamous girl to go out with, and I, whose idea of a good date night is a nice supper and a bottle of red wine, am still single?
World of Weird starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday at 10pm