Whoosh! Issue 44 - May 1999

AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH ABBOTT
Exclusive to Whoosh!
By pisafe@yahoo.com
Content © 1999 by author
Edition © 1999 by Whoosh!
3946 words



Author's Note: Deborah Abbott is a Xena look-a-like who comes from Texas. I first met Ms. Abbott through a note left in my website guestbook about her upcoming appearance on Jenny Jones. Intrigued, I taped the show, and found myself impressed, not only by her resemblance to Lucy Lawless, but by her conduct on the show. I felt she did a great job representing fans, like me, by being well spoken and sane. As a result, I was quite curious about Ms. Abbott, and some of the comments made on the show. I asked her if she would mind doing an interview for me, and she did! This is the result.




Xena (01-10)
The First Xena Costume (11-16)
The Props (17-20)
Resemblance to Lucy Lawless (21-22)
The Convention Circuit (23-30)
The Best and Worst (31-32)
Commercial Opportunities (33-34)
The Jenny Jones Show (35-38)
Mentioned in a Book (39-42)
Meeting Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor (43-55)
Interaction with Fans (56-63)
Biography



An Interview With Deborah Abbott





Xena

No, my name is NOT Meg!

Deborah Abbott, Warrior Princess
INTERVIEWER:
[01] There are a few questions I would like to ask you about your experiences as a Xena look-a-like. If there are any questions you do not want to answer, or if you have a story that you would like to share that is not directly asked, please let me know.

DEBORAH ABBOTT:
[02] Let me start out by thanking you for your interest in asking me to do this interview. I have never experienced an online interview and find it quite touching.

INTERVIEWER:
[03] That makes two of us, and thanks for doing this! My first questions have to do with some history, to give us some idea of how your interest in Xena began. First off, when did you first start watching Xena?

ABBOTT:
[04] I started watching Xena from the very beginning. I watched Hercules on a regular basis and one day a quick clip of the upcoming show Xena with Lucy Lawless riding on her horse appeared during an episode. I immediately was hooked. I wrote down the premiere date and taped it to my TV screen so I would not forget the date it aired.

INTERVIEWER:
[05] What is your favorite episode?

ABBOTT:
[06] I do not have a favorite. I love them all and have all of them on tape.

INTERVIEWER:
[07] What attracted you to the show?

ABBOTT:
[08] First and foremost, I am attracted to strong female characters. There is depth to the story that hooks you into continuing to watch every week, and the show has good looking, healthy actors and actress dressed in eye candy costumes.

INTERVIEWER:
[09] Which character is your favorite and why?

ABBOTT:
[10] My favorite character is Xena, of course. She is the show, there would be no Xena without her and truthfully I don't think the show Xena would have been as successful without Lucy Lawless.



The First Xena Costume

INTERVIEWER:
[11] When did you first do the Xena costume, and why?

ABBOTT:
[12] I first made my costume for Halloween in 1997. Every year, for Halloween, I would make a new costume and some of the people at my work said I should make a Xena costume because they thought I looked like her. I didn't think I looked like Lucy but thought making the costume would be a great idea and a challenge.

INTERVIEWER:
[13] How did you create the costume?

ABBOTT:
[14] I am not a trained seamstress or costumer. I just put costumes together visually. I look at photos and cut fabrics from patterns I make, and piece them together on my body. At the time I didn't have photos of Xena to work by so I freeze-framed the VCR and drew quick sketches of the costume. I then went into my closet and dragged out any thing that might work: purses, jackets, belts, roller blade knee pads, a frisbee, 2 plastic bowls, hangers, old dresses, pipe putty, and wood and threw them all on the bed and started cutting. I was like an obsessed mad-man at work. I wanted it to look just right. It took me 3 months to make the outfit. I worked on it during work brakes and after work.

[15] I made the breastplates at work out of two plastic bowls and had to cut them down because they were about the size of Dolly Parton. I asked my colleagues: "Does this look about the right size"? After I got it down to the correct size, I used a sharpy to make the design of the swirly things in her armor. For those who have worked with pipe putty you know you need to work fast because it dries in seconds. On my first attempt, the breast plates looked like whipped cream. I almost cried and I had to start over. The thought even crossed my mind to just forget it, put cherries on it and leave it at that. I took a deep breath and decided to start over.

[16] I must say besides the breastplates, the chakram was the hardest part of the costume. I used a rubber frisbee. Paint does not dry right on rubber. It takes days to dry and when it did it cracked.



The Props

INTERVIEWER:
[17] Do you practice with the sword/chakram/whip so you can use these props?

ABBOTT:
[18] I have a collection of swords, several knives, two whips, many chakrams, and two muskets. One of the whips that I own I got while making the movie, Rowdy Roundup Night Of The Killer Pinatas by Kevin West. It is still being edited but I believe it will be out this year. It is about a Lesbian Ranch hand who, instead of owning cattle, owns men. The scene that I am in is the big Rodeo scene.

[19] I play a Bettie Page type of cowgirl. I get to beat up guys in a band, ride a mechanical bull, and, yes, use a whip on a man. I have to show dominance over my man/pony in a rodeo. They hooked me up with a guy that looked a lot like Bruce Campbell. I was not complaining. I did end up roping him to the ground after whipping him. OH, what I get mixed up in! So, I took home that whip as a souvenir. I have another whip for my catwoman outfit, but that is another story.

[20] I just hang my chakrams on the wall. There is not much you can do with them, they don't come back to you when you throw them. I do practice my sword skills around the house and pretend to shoot objects with my muskets.



Resemblance to Lucy Lawless

INTERVIEWER:
[21] Have people mentioned you look like Xena when not in costume?

ABBOTT:
[22] Yes, but not as much as when I am in costume. I have already mentioned the people at my work thought I look like her. Another time I was swimming at an apartment pool and a guy I didn't know told me I looked like Xena. I was out dancing and a woman told me I looked like Xena. At the first Xena convention that I attended, many people told me I looked like her. Yes, I guess a lot of people do tell me this.



The Convention Circuit

One step closer and the fanboy gets it!

Like Xena, Deb has tried to cut down on senseless killings.
INTERVIEWER:
[23] What conventions have you attended in costume?

ABBOTT:
[24] The first one was World Con in Aug of 1997 in San Antonio. A friend of mine had an extra ticket and asked me to come along and dress in a costume. I was still working on my Xena costume, the knee pads were not done, but I was dying to dress in it so I wore it.

[25] Well, I had no idea that, by dressing in a Xena costume, my life was about to change. As soon as I stepped out of my car to cross the street to get into the convention center I was mobbed. People thought I was Xena or Lucy Lawless. I was being asked for autographs left and right. It was overwhelming! I guess the show was still new and people didn't quite have Ms. Lawless' image memorized in their minds so they mistook me for her.

[26] I finely got into the building and, lo and behold, there before my eyes was a booth set up just for Xena. Anything I could imagine with Xena on it was at this booth, so I went crazy buying merchandise. The company was called Creation. The two very sweet women behind the booth told me they thought I was Lucy Lawless from a distance and that I was making a surprise appearance. You see, at the time, not many people were dressed as Xena, if any were at all. They informed me that they held Xena conventions and there was one coming up in Valley Forge on Oct. 4-5 and Renee O'Connor and Hudson Leick would be there.

[27] I was hooked, line-and-sinker. I booked that baby that weekend, there was no turning back. After the convention I walked around the riverwalk and people were following me. Oh, what Lucy Lawless must go through!

[28] I went to the Valley Forge, Burbank, NY, Pasadena, Plano, Santa Monica, and Dragon Cons.

INTERVIEWER:
[29] Do you compete at conventions? If so, what prizes have you won?

ABBOTT:
[30] Yes. The first time was at the Valley Forge convention in 1997. I was really nervous at first to put the Xena costume on because I thought there were a lot of Xena fans there and what if they laugh at me? But when I walked in, I didn't see any other people dressed in costumes. A few people started coming up to me telling me that I looked like Lucy Lawless. I thanked them and said that I had a costume in my room and should I put it on? Of course, they said, and I was encouraged to put it on. So I did and I entered the contest. Kimmy Kat, dressed as Gab, and I came in first place. Now I compete at all of the Xena conventions I go to. It really does not matter if I win or not; it's not about that, it's about having fun. Sure, you win prizes and they vary from convention to convention. Sometimes they are great prizes like Xena mugs, or plaques.



The Best and Worst

INTERVIEWER:
[31] What are the craziest/worst/best experiences that have resulted from wearing the Xena costume?

ABBOTT:
[32] Some of the best experiences dressed as Xena are: I got to be in newspapers, books, the news, and tv shows. I have made hundreds of friends at Xena conventions and on the Internet. I went to walk around New York city in the costume and rode on the subway to the Meow Mix Club. New York city cops wanted to take pictures with me. Some of the negative experience mostly were peoples comments like: yeah, right, she wishes she looked like Lucy.



Commercial Opportunities

INTERVIEWER:
[33] Have you ever been paid/been offered to be paid to do a Xena appearance?

ABBOTT:
[34] I dress as Xena mostly for free. I do the WB commercials, books, pictures all for free. I have been paid twice for dressing like Xena and that was through Universal to promote Argo, Xena's horse, at Toy Fair and at a horse show. Both were very long hours, but I loved every minute of it.



The Jenny Jones Show

Slip and you're glue, pal.

They let you sit on a horse and get your picture taken at the Jenny Jones show!
INTERVIEWER:
[35] You recently appeared on the Jenny Jones show as a celebrity look-a-like, would you please tell us a bit about it?

ABBOTT:
[36] I must say that was quite an experience, and I mean that in a good way. I was greeted at the airport by a nice man in a limo. He dropped me off at a beautiful hotel. It happened to be the same hotel the Jerry Springer show puts some of his guests in. I go to my room, settled in, and started to hear a racket outside in the hall. It was Jerry's guests fighting! A guy's girlfriend was cheating on him with another woman who happened to be staying on the same floor.

[37] The Jenny Jones show had someone pick me up the next day and drop me off at the Jenny Jones office where we filmed a warrior skit with 3 warrior men taking over the JJ show. They came into the office terrorizing everyone and tried to take over the show by tying Jenny Jones up in a chair. I came to Ms. Jones' rescue and, in the process, was killed. Jenny Jones ended up setting herself free. I brought blood packs with me to use but they didn't go for that idea.

[38] The next day was in front of the live audience, I was a tad nervous because I didn't want to get booed by the audience. I rode in on a live horse that I had never met before. The floors in the studio where slippery and I remember what happened to Lucy Laweless.



Mentioned in a Book

INTERVIEWER:
[39] On the Jenny Jones show, you mentioned that you have been mentioned in a Xena book. Which one and what does it say? Was it an interview with pictures?

ABBOTT:
[40] Yes, I am in a book called, "Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor Warrior stars of Xena" by Nikki Stafford. You can find my picture on page 34 in the Lucy Lawless biography section. I tell you, that happened to be one of those freak accidents that you would never expect to happen to you.

[41] A woman, by the name of Catherine Wilson, took my picture at a Xena convention and asked my permission if they could use my picture for a Xena book they were involved with. I said sure, go ahead, do whatever you want with it, thinking the book was going to be some underground, xeroxed copy fan book. Well, boy was I wrong. I was in Barnes & Noble and they just got in a shipment of Xena books and one of them happened to be this book. When I turned to the page I was on I stood in shock for about 10 minutes. I could not believe in my wildest dreams that I would be in the same book with Lucy Laweless and especially not in the biography section.

[42] It is a 4x6 black and white picture of me dressed as Xena and under it, it says: Xena look-a-like Deborah Abbott. AH, life is wonderful!



Meeting Lucy Lawless

If Lucy can wear it, so can I, bucko!

Wings are in this year for warrior princessi.
INTERVIEWER:
[43] You also mentioned that you have met Lucy Lawless on more than one occasion. Can you please tell us about that? Have you met other cast members? Any comments from any of the above?

ABBOTT:
[44] The first time I met Lucy Lawless was after the Valley Forge convention. I drove to NY to see the play Grease that she starred in. There is a dance competition before the show and I entered. Well, when I got on stage, the cameras started flashing and cheering. A little girl volunteered to be my dance partner. Then, I noticed, from behind the curtain, the cast members were pointing at me and talking. This was making me extremely nervous because I knew Ms. Lawless was back there and I had no idea what they were saying or even if it was about me.

[45] After the show, I went outside hoping to get an autograph. Well, I got an autograph and a little more. Lucy Lawless came out and I think my heart stopped. This was the woman I watch on TV every week and there she stood in person next to me. She looked tired but was still kind enough to sign whatever people had in front of them. I had her sign the picture I had of her dressed as Rizzo, and I asked if I could take a picture with her. She said, "Sure, you have it ready?" We took the picture and she turned to her bodyguard and asked, "Is this the woman everyone backstage is telling me looks like me?" He said yes, she smiled and jumped on the hood of the limo, continued to sign autographs, hopped in her car and drove away.

[46] I met her again at NATPE in New Orleans, but I did not remind her that I was the same woman that met her in NY. I did not want her to think I was following her. I was there with the company I worked with promoting a new character and was dressed in a costume. Rob Tapert agreed that I could take a picture between the two of them. Unfortunately, it came out really dark but I did take one with just her and that came out fine.

[47] The third time I met her was really quick back-stage at the Santa Monica Xena convention. They used several costumed people in a PEOPLE Weekly Magazine shoot. But this time we did not talk at all, she was in and out.

[48] The first time I met Renee O' Connor was at her parents restaurant. I was eating there before the show existed. I am from New Orleans and moved to Austin on business. I missed the soul food we have back home and asked for restaurants with soul food. Well, Threadgills was the place recommenced and I loved the liver and onions. I loved it so much I told the owner, Eddie Wilson, Renee's stepfather, how much I loved it. He liked to hear that because that is one of his favorites dishes as well. When I found out Renee O'Connor was Mr. Wilson's step-daughter, I was ecstatic! I just could not believe one of my favorite restaurant owners was related to my favorite TV show.

[49] One day on my lunch break I went to eat at Threadgils and Ms. O'Connor was there signing autographs. She looked at me with a big smile and giggled. She said, "For a second I thought you were Lucy."

[50] She was overwhelmed that people wanted her autograph and was as nice as could be. She has true southern hospitality. We took a few pictures together and I got to be in a Threadgils commercial with her.

[51] I met Ms. O'Connor again at Valley Forge but the conversation was very brief.

[52] Oh, when I met Hudson Leick at the Valley Forge convention, I only wish I could remember what she told me because she was totally in Callisto character. She said something like: "Come here, Xena, I won't hurt you" I got on- stage with her and took several pictures. Her waist line is so tiny. She is quite a woman and I respect her. She loves her fans and she loves the attention she gets and deserves every bit of it.

[53] I met Ted Raimi at the Valley Forge convention too. He happens to be a friend of a friend of mine in Canada. We ran into each other again at a comic convention in Texas. He just happened to walk into the restaurant I was eating at and I asked him to sit down at my table to eat and he did. It was a delight chatting with him about the show and his experiences growing up with Bruce Campbell who baby-sat him. That must have been fun, having Bruce as a baby sitter! I invited him to go to a party and he politely declined.

[54] I met Bruce Campbell at a New York Xena convention in the hotel lobby with his wife. He was a lot taller than I expected and quite handsome in person. He was interested in my costume and asked me if I made it myself. He seemed to appreciate the labor that goes into making costumes. He talked about the costume-makers on the set of Xena and all of the time and hard work they put into it. He is really a nice guy and can really captivate you with his sense of humor while on-stage. I met him again in Texas at an anima- con and I gave him a t- shirt that I made for him. He was very thankful.

[55] Should I go on? There are many other stars from the show I've met, but I will share them with you at another time.



Interaction with Fans

INTERVIEWER:
[56] On the Jenny Jones show, you had a friend along with you who had very negative attitudes about Xena, and your dressing up as the character. Does this happen often? What do other friends and your family think? How do you deal with negative opinions professed by other people?

ABBOTT:
[57] My family thinks it is great. They do not have a problem with it. I do come in contact with people who do not care for the show, like my friend Dan, who was on the Jenny Jones show with me. He worked with me at an animation studio in Texas while I was making the costume. He was not a fan of Xena at all, in fact he down-right hated the show. He would make fun of me the whole time I was making the costume. I have heard other negative comments, but just ignore people who want to nit-pick because they usually just want to start an argument. I watch Xena because it makes me happy and feel good and that is all that really matters.

INTERVIEWER:
[58] Very well put. While the audience at the show was allowed to ask you questions, a man hit on you. You said that happens often when you're dressed as Xena. Can you elaborate?

ABBOTT:
[59] Yes, I have had countless phone numbers passed to me or have been offered sex while dressed in the costume. At first I was shocked! But now I realize it must be the leather, because when I am not in the costume I do not get hit on.

INTERVIEWER:
[60] Finally, would you please share some Internet sites where pictures of you in costume are available?

ABBOTT:
[61] Well, there is my site http://debb.home.texas.net

[62] Others would be:

Rookie's Official Deborah Fansite

Graphics from the Pasadena Con

Meow Mix

Mr. England The DJ Shagged Me

Valley Forge con Experience

Xenaversity

Memories of the 1999 Xena con

Zaphod does Amerika

Xenaversity

The Arlene Zone

INTERVIEWER:
[63] Thank you so much for doing this interview. I know I found the information really cool, and I want you to know how much I appreciate your sharing your unique experiences with us. Battle On Deb!



Biography

pisafe@yahoo.com pisafe@yahoo.com
I live in rural Minnesota where I work as a biological laboratory technician. In my spare time I like to watch movies, read, and write, including some fan-fiction. I know how to juggle, and enjoy sports. I spend time with my folks and siblings, I like kids in general, indeed, I used to teach.
Favorite episode: None.
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I brought you some soup. It's always good after a battle." GIANT KILLER (27/203); Gabrielle: "Believe me, if I had to spend the rest of my life without companionship, knowing myself wouldn't be a problem." WARRIOR PRIESTESS TRAMP (55/309); Joxer: "Great, I've defiled a virgin priestess, I'm going straight to Tartarus." WARRIOR PRIESTESS TRAMP (55/309)
First episode seen: Do not remember
Least favorite episode: None

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