Lisa Milbrand
October 06, 1995 AT 04:00 AM EDT

You’d expect Anne Rice’s admirers to raid a Red Cross bloodmobile, not to contribute. But at Dutton’s Bookstore in Brentwood, Calif., dozens of Rice fans literally gave blood for a chance to cut to the head of the line at their idol’s recent book signing, a queue that started forming at a very unvampirelike sunrise.

For the eclectic mix of 12-year-olds, grandmothers, and black-lipsticked Goth followers, devotion overcame fears of anemia. Many bore gifts for Rice: T-shirts, roses, and homemade tinsel tiaras. Some of the 1,200 who attended had trekked hundreds of miles. A few burst into tears at the sight of Rice, whose latest installment in the ”Vampire Chronicles,” Memnoch the Devil, has haunted best-seller lists for 10 weeks. ”She transports you through her books, and you can feel whatever it is that she feels,” says Michael Prieto, who had traveled from Fresno, Calif.

Prieto and other members of Rice’s Internet fan club were clad in black-and-red T-shirts that proclaimed their undying love for Armand, the ancient vampire who may have perished in Memnoch (and who was portrayed by Antonio Banderas in last year’s Interview With the Vampire).

Their fashion statement, though, was overshadowed by Rice’s: a black satin gown, a gold beaded headdress, and a black wig. ”I’m the bride of the moon and the stars,” says Rice of her costume, one of many outlandish ensembles she’s worn to book signings over the years.

While autographing copies of Memnoch, Rice asked fans for their thoughts on her previous books as well as the movie version of Interview, which she passionately opposed early on because Tom Cruise had won the plum part of the vampire Lestat. Then, in a well-publicized reversal, she praised his performance. ”I will never complain again about anyone being cast as Lestat, including Pee-wee Herman,” she says. Will she continue the ”Vampire Chronicles”? ”I don’t know. These things come to me, and they’re really like visitations.”

Six hours later, the party was over. Rice sketched a tree and a full moon in the last person’s book, a gift she gives only to the first and last book bearers. ”She’s like knowing Charles Dickens or somebody,” says Eldon Daetweiler, whose band has played at Rice’s Halloween balls for the past four years.

And Dickens never dressed half as well.

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