Whoosh! Issue 49 - October 2000

By Nina Knapp
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2093 words

Heroes (01-02)
Fans, Merchandise And Conventions (03-05)
The Fans (06-12)
The Stars (13-20)

But For the Fans...


[1] The hieroglyphs of ancient Egyptian pyramids chronicled the great deeds of their pharaohs. Greek and Roman mythology brought us timely tales of heroes and Gods. The American pulp novels of the late 1800's played on our adventurous spirit, creating larger-than-life legends out of cowboys, gunslingers, and thieves. Today, technology brings a new kind of hero to the world, one born out of human imagination, one that demonstrates the best in humanity and the adventure we wish we could taste for ourselves. Where are these 21st Century heroes found? In cult TV.

[2] The warriors portrayed in these television programs have given us our modern-day mythology, providing action and adventure, travel to different times and places, explosions, monsters, and romance. These shows have also produced fans who love to go along for the ride; fans who extend their admiration and loyalty to the stars who portray their favorite heroes, and fans who remain loyal to the actors in other TV and film projects.

Fans, Merchandise And Conventions

[3] This fandom means money to the studios in merchandise dollars and a ready market for their film projects. "Fandom has changed with regard to its power," stated Gary Berman, co-owner of Creation Entertainment.

[4] Over the years he has seen the studios come to recognize that fans offer a viable source of revenue. Today, the studios offer props and costumes that, in the old days, were merely discarded. They also license companies, such as Creation Entertainment, to produce merchandise solely for sale to the fans.

[5] Fan conventions have become a natural by-product of this drive for merchandising dollars. "I think the conventions are a small part of a larger fandom that might influence studios to produce sci-fi," stated Berman. "With the huge amount of choices consumers have, specific niche programs are much more important now. Sci-Fi always attracts an audience that is especially loyal if they like the project. So the fact that conventions exist, along with websites, fanzines, mailing lists, fan clubs, and such, studios are offered an easy means for reaching this audience".

The Fans

[6] The fans have their own views about why conventions have become important, and they expressed these opinions at a January 2000 fan convention for Xena and Hercules in Pasadena, California. Several thousand fans attend this event every year: parents with their children, high school and college students, adults of every imaginable age, gays and lesbians. Some fans come from as far away as Holland, England, and Australia.

[7] When you first enter a typical fan convention area the first thing you notice are the merchandise tables with everything from T-shirts to 8 x 10 glossies, scripts, and other colorful paraphernalia emblazoned with symbols from the shows. That is what we quickly recognize, but that is just the surface. Looking deeper, at the actual fans, one sees other dynamics taking place. Friends from Internet mailing lists meet for the first time. Fans get acquainted with one another while waiting in line to buy memorabilia. People exchange e-mail addresses. Writers of fan fiction sign copies of their stories, and fans in costume wait patiently while others admire the quality of their attire and clamor to take their pictures.

Pay no attention to the amazons behind the curtain

(L. to R.) Janet, Meredith, Jennifer and Lisa in Amazon costumes. (photograph by Nina Knapp)
[8] One group of costumed Amazons (Janet, Meredith, Jennifer and Lisa) stated that they had spent every moment of their spare time for over six weeks creating their costumes. To get the authentic look of the Amazons they were portraying, they would play episodes over and over, freeze-framing to study the masks, belts, and weapons. When asked why they felt so strongly about these shows, their responses were similar to other fans' that weekend: they liked the strong female characters on both Xena and Hercules, and the actors made you believe in the characters. Janet gave another important reason for attending the fan conventions, "Fandom gives people a place to be with others who have similar interests and there is no judgement, only an appreciation of each other. Fandom is accepting of everyone".

Stand back! He's gonna throw!

Carrie in his Xena costume for Pasadena Convention. (photograph by Nina Knapp)
[9] Carrie has found this acceptance to be very true. Carrie attended his first fan convention in 1998, cross-dressing in a Xena costume that he continues to wear at each annual convention in California. What brings Carrie back, year after year, is the acceptance he receives from the other fans and the friends he has made at these events. He continues to support the stars of the shows, as they seem "real" at these conventions, and feels they really do like the fans. "If they show up for us, how can we not support them?" Carrie asked.

This is what you find in Reformed Warlord Heaven

Deborah Abbott as "Arch Angel Xena" for the Pasadena Costume Contest. (photograph courtesy of Margaret Dowling)
[9] A popular costumed fan at these conventions is Deborah Abbott, an artist, actress, and model [Editor's note: And also is interviewed in Whoosh! #45, May 2000. Deborah caused Willa O'Neill's (Lila on Xena) mouth to drop during the Sunday Costume Contest when she came on stage as the "Archangel Xena". Some of you may know Deborah from her appearance on the JENNY JONES SHOW when they did a Celebrity Look-A-Like segment with Deborah wearing her Xena costume.

[10] Deborah explained how this came about:

"Most nights I can't sleep, so if I decide to watch TV there isn't much on at 6 a.m., except infomercials and Jenny Jones. So, one of these nights the JENNY JONES phone number flashed across the screen and a voice said, 'If you or anyone you know is a look-a-like and would like to be on the show call us'. So I called and got an answering machine. I left a message that said something like, 'If you don't call me back, me and my army will take over your show!' Then I did the Xena yell. They called me back, then sent a Federal Express guy to my door the next day to get pictures of me dressed as Xena. They liked what they saw and invited me to appear on the show".

Lucy gets Rolling Stone, I get 2,000 fans' scrapbooks.

Deborah Abbott as the Arch Angel Xena. (Photograph courtesy of Carrie Foster-Campbell)
[11] Deborah stated the experience has helped her a little in auditions. "I think people want to see what kind of weirdo I am". Deborah likes to go to fan conventions to meet the celebrities and writers, to see the real faces that are on our TV sets, and hear what their experiences are as part of the shows. Deborah's own film career includes working as an animator for studios such as DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, and Disney, and she is very proud of her work on Space Jam (Joe Pytka, 1996), The Quest For Camelot (Frederik Du Chau, 1998), The Prince Of Egypt (Brenda Chapman et al, 1998), and Anastasia (Don Bluth et al, 1997). She has also appeared in several feature films.

[12] When asked what she thought the guest stars get out of the conventions, Deborah stated that it must be overwhelming to get all the love and gratitude from the fans at these events. "I can't think of anything more rewarding than others loving your work".

The Stars

[13] In the feature film Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999), the stars were portrayed as cult TV has-beens who were now exiled to the convention circuit in order to make a living and stay in the public eye. Gary Berman stated that stars attend for several reasons, with the most obvious being that they are paid for their appearances and for autographing. "I have no doubt that some think it is fun", stated Berman, "but for the others it is a job."

[14] The stars also attend to promote upcoming projects. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy used the convention circuit to hype their Star Trek films. Patrick Stewart will be seen at future conventions to promote his film The X- Men (Bryan Singer, 2000).

Gina knows that trouble is coming now

(L. to R.) Jennifer Sky, Victoria Pratt, and Gina Torres on stage in Pasadena, demonstrating why we don't want to mess with "Sarge". (photograph by Nina Knapp)
[15] At this convention, Renaissance Pictures was promoting one of its new shows, Cleopatra 2525. This unveiling included the showing of the premier episode with all three stars, Jennifer Sky, Gina Torres and Victoria Pratt, in attendance. These three actors were well known to the fans from their appearances on Xena and Hercules. Overwhelmingly, fans stated they would support this new show and its stars because they liked the episode aired at the event, and because the stars showed up for them.

Wow, look at that... I'm the most formally-dressed person here!

Ebonie Smith on stage in Pasadena, answering questions from the fans. (photograph by Nina Knapp)
[16] Ebonie Smith, who portrayed M'Lila in the Xena episode DESTINY (36/212), gave her point of view as an actor, "These shows don't make it without the fans," she stated, "and the conventions provide a safe and common place for the actors and fans to meet". Ms. Smith also stated that the actors who attend these conventions do a lot to keep the fans charged up about the shows.

No, Joel, you may not have the key to my hotel room

Ebonie Smith performing during the Saturday night Cabaret in Pasadena. Ebonie's rendition of "Fever" was a huge success.(Photograph by Nina Knapp)
[17] This was Ms. Smith's first convention event, and she enjoyed the interaction with the fans. The popularity of the role she played on Xena was a great surprise to her, and to this day she finds her pictures popping up on the Internet. In talking with fans, she found their involvement with the characters on the show and the effects on their lives to be very humbling as an actor, and made her feel that her art was important. Ms. Smith also commented that she felt Renaissance Pictures does a wonderful job in looking beyond ethnicity when casting actors for their productions, which she felt was so critical for the children who are fans of the shows, and who look for role models.

OK, that's it, party at my place for ALL of you! C'mon, guys!

Willa O'Neill in Pasadena, enjoying her interaction with the fans. (Photograph by Nina Knapp)
[18] Another first time guest star at this convention was Willa O'Neill, who has appeared as Lila on Xena and as other characters on Hercules. "I love that I can put my art out there and get such great feedback from the fans," she stated.

[19] Both Ms. O'Neill and Ms. Smith wanted the fans to know what a fantastic experience their first convention had been because of them.

[20] Fans travel to conventions to share a moment with the stars that bring their heroes to life, to see old friends, or make new ones. You can portray cult TV fans in spoofs, as Shatner did in a Saturday Night Live skit with the comment "get a life!" Or, fans can be viewed as intelligent people as seen in the last few moments of Galaxy Quest. No matter how you view them, fans and fandom are a force to be reckoned with, and they will continue to want their cult TV.

My name is Lucy, and these are my angels.

(L. to R.) Jennifer Sky, Victoria Pratt and Gina Torres on stage in Pasadena, answering questions from the audience. (Photograph by Nina Knapp)


Nina Knapp Nina Knapp
I have lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 21 years. I have published in small lesbian and political publications over the years, but I'm currently working on a novel and a sci fi screenplay. I am the list owner for Alt-screenwriters@egroups, which is a discussion and critique group for writers whose goal is to become published (novelists) or produced (screenwriters).
Favorite episode: I loved the two-part ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402) as a dramatic episode, and FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318) as a comedy.
Favorite line: Xena: "Come on, Gabrielle. Let's get wet!" FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318)
First episode seen: I have been watching the show since its beginning and I saw Lucy as Xena and other characters on HTLJ. So, I guess I have watched XWP since THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109) on HTLJ.
Least favorite episode: MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS. Need I say more?

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