INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA WILSON
(RENEE O'CONNOR'S MOTHER)
By Jacquie Propps (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Content © 1997 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 1997 held by Whoosh!
When I discovered that Renee O'Connor's mother would be attending the first annual Hercules/Xena Convention (January 11- 12, 1997) in her daughter's place, I made big plans. BIG plans. Like making a beeline for the Renee O'Connor Fan Club table as soon as I got in the door. Which I did. However, after several trying moments with the "cheery" woman at the Lucy Lawless table (trying to ascertain exactly WHEN Renee's Mom would be available) I gave up and scribbled my name onto a generic WHOOSH! business card. I left it with instructions to let Ms. Wilson know I'd be back to interview her. Gee, you'd have thought I was there to storm the castle and steal state secrets!
Perhaps the woman's reluctance to give out any information was due to the way I was dressed....I did look, um...rather "different." Make no mistake about it. I am member in good standing of the Clan MacGAB -- a dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore GABfan! My appreciation and enjoyment of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is due in no small part to the fact that I LOVE Gabrielle. Gabby. The Gabster. That "irritating little blonde" that Xena considers closer than family. Hey, it could happen...sometimes I do too! My partner accuses me of being a "traitor" -- of liking Renee more than Lucy. I just smile and say nothing. The special spot that I keep inside to honor the Bard is a very personal place.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Wilson
That is the reason I enjoy participating in a twisted sort of fantasy called...The Clan MacGAB. Also, since The Powers That Be were quite firm about not including Renee in the very first official XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS convention, I knew that in the short but proud "tradition o' the Clan" I must stand up to make a statement -- a silent protest against this most egregious omission. The evil stepsistered-ness that would keep our beloved Gabby from attending the Ball would not go unchallenged!
It had been suggested online and filtered through each separate mailing list that Internet fans of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS wear purple ribbons to identify their loyalty...and tell each other apart from any other type fan. But how would the beleaguered GabFans find each other? Meet to console ourselves in the lonely desert of HERCULES/XENA fandom?
At that very moment, a single lighting bolt shot through my window and into my head. Of course! The single most powerful rallying cry heard by the Clan's founder (and most beloved member) Perfessor Puppet, is..."Where's my D*MN DIXIE CUP with the LIPSTICK STAIN?!?!?!" If Gabrielle's fans' cries for redemption and validation were to be silenced at the convention, well at least their DIXIE CUPS would stand up and be counted. "To the CUPS...to the CUPS!" was heard loud and proud over the Xenaverse.
In the interest of full disclosure, and because I'm weird, following is a description of what I did to prepare for the convention...and yes, I knew I'd be meeting Renee's Mother!
Subj: I'm off to see the wizard Date: 97-01-12 02:10:09 EST From: JACQRAT Just so's ya knows: I am leaving tomorrow at 6am (7am flight) to the con -- and I'll be wearing the Clan's colors! Last week I took a color Xerox of the crest and the other thingy and had them reduced in size (well, actually my co-worker did--and we put it on the company tab! ANARCHY! ANARCHY!) THEN, jacquie went to the Craft and Hobby store! (she is NOT artistic) There, the helpful sales clerk picked out some "MOD PODGE", "Aleene's original TACKY GLUE -- As Seen on TV!", and assorted generic pins. Jacquie went home and dutifully (hey, am I turning into bob dole?) "mod-podged" the reduced artistic creations ....and now I have the official CLAN MACGAB shield & crest as lapel pins! AND, that's not all! A quick stop at Safeway and I scored...yes...DIXIE Cups! (my choice of pattern was sadly, lacking...I chose "Lattice Garden" over "Funky Fish" -- didn't want Renee's mom to faint -- especially with all the talk lately about Merkins and pu -- pu -- ah, sticks with white fluffy buds) Now..to find a shade of lipstick for the brim that's close to "frosted innuendo" ..... DID YOU KNOW THAT LIPSTICK COSTS ALMOST FIVE DOLLARS A STICK? (I don't wear it, and was shocked!) luckily, I found the cheapy "WET 'n WILD" .99 cent rack -- and chose color #528! So, I went home and YES, I applied the lipstick to my lips..ewwwww.... but what price beauty, eh? I then "drank" from the Dixie cup...and made some nice markings, if I do say so myself! Glued a pin to the backside, (of course I inverted it, perfessor!) and will wear it at the con with pride. So, if anyone wants to know who the KOOK is that's wearing the Dixie cup/Clan MacGab colors on her "Bilious Green Sports Vest", it's me. Hope I represent the Clan in the manner to which it's become accustomed.... I'll file a full report later...including the police blotter, if necessary!
MY VISIT WITH MS. SANDRA WILSON
Alluding to the definite "female energy" of Xenite fandom, when I got the chance to actually meet and interview the mother of the actress who plays my precious Gabby... well, suffice to say that it's pretty heady stuff! I had the opportunity to spend a few enchanting moments with her Sunday afternoon discussing the wonder and marvel that surrounds XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.
What I discovered is this: Sandra Wilson is a dynamic character in her own right. Here's what she has to say about her little girl, Renee O'Connor.
SUNDAY AT THE CON, SHORTLY AFTER NOON:
I approached the ROC table with excitement and fear. The protective wall of privacy surrounding Renee O'Connor the actress is a well-known fact among her fans. What would Renee's mom make of all these crazy folks running around in costumes and blabbering about her daughter? What if she thought we were all a bunch of no-life weirdos?
My fears dissolved instantly as I saw Ms. Wilson's bright open face, outstretched hand and *very* familiar smile. She took my hand, smiled even wider and said, "Hello, I'm Sandra Wilson. It's VERY nice to meet you!" Then, her eyes landed on the cup. That stupid cup! Why hadn't I remembered to take off the d*mn*d DIXIE Cup?!? Now she had actual, concrete evidence of my insanity!
Not to worry, it seems. Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "THE DIXIE CUP! You have the DIXIE CUP!" She turned to make sure that her "assistant" -- someone Creation had obviously assigned to be her "wrangler" for the weekend -- got a photo of said DIXIE Cup for posterity. As the camera flashed, I was thinking...HOW does she know about the d*mn*d CUP? Then, I saw it -- standing alone atop it's very own Lucite bookstand --The Clan MacGab Lexicon!
Weeks earlier Perfessor Puppet/Kate had compiled a few choice tidbits of the Clan's fevered ranting, bound them together, and added her own creative touch -- the beautiful Clan MacGab Coat of Arms and Badge (complete with gen-u-ine MacGab Armadillo mascot, in honor of the clan's resident GODDESS -- the TEXAS AMAZON PRINCESS). Kate sent the whole enchilada off to Renee's Fan Club [The text of the package was reprinted in WHOOSH #04 as the Gabberish Lexicon]. So, before I left for the con, I asked Kate if she wanted me to ask Mrs. Renee if she'd received it. Ever cautious, Kate deferred..."What if she HATES it? No, best not go there!"
"You, you...got it? Do you like it?" I asked feebly. "OF COURSE!" She smiled again..even wider!
(Sandra is NOTHING if not diplomatic.) Anyway... Kate's fears were apparently, for naught. At that point Sandra asked me to sign the Lexicon. We spent a few more minutes discussing some pendants I wore, and then began.
Do you miss Renee? I mean, she's halfway around the world most of the time now.
Well, yes..it's hard. Renee's home is now in New Zealand. But it's really a loving, family atmosphere over there. They all have a ball at work -- laughing and joking and truly having a good time. Sure, I miss her. But I know she's really happy in what she's doing. After all, that's what a mom wants for her kid. So, I'm happy too. Lucy and Renee adore each other. What you see onscreen is real -- the real thing.
What was it like growing up with Renee?
Renee has ALWAYS been just a wonderful, special child. Never any trouble at all. :) "A little angel." (sweet smile)
Photo courtesy of Sandra Wilson
So, how is she taking all the success of the show?
You know, she doesn't really believe it! Renee thinks all the hoopla surrounding the show is just for Lucy. I try to tell her that she has lots of fans too, but Renee just says..."Yeah, RIGHT, mom!" That's why I'm taking photos of everyone here today, to take back and show Renee. (Note: Ms. Wilson asked each and every person that approached her while I watched to write Renee via the fan club address. This is one mom who LOVES her kid!)
I find it hard to believe that Renee doesn't know how much we all love her! I mean, when the MCA spokesperson named the characters that will appear in the Hercules/Xena Animated Feature, Renee got by far the biggest applause.
I know, I know. Well, now she'll have evidence!
How did this all start? How did Renee become an actress?
Renee got the performing bug very early. "I am NOT a stage mom -- never was!" It was all Renee's doing from very early on. She always wanted to perform. Finally, Renee's big shot came when "THEATER ON WHEELS" came to the neighborhood! The rehearsals were in a nearby church, so I felt safe to let Renee participate. The day of the first performance, I went alone. I hadn't told anyone about it, just went to see my daughter perform. The moment I saw Renee up there doing the best darn caterpillar in the world, I knew. Okay. this is IT! This is really what Renee wants to do. I mean, she even made her own costume, all by herself!
Really? How old was she?
So, kids, remember -- you heard it here first! -- straight from the woman who knows best, 'cause she was there. Renee did NOT start her acting career at age twelve at Houston's Alley Theater, per the official biography. It was the tender age of eight. At Katy, Texas' "THEATER ON WHEELS." D*mn Skippy! Leave it to the staff at WHOOSH! to scoop MCA/Universal!
And, since we're on a roll here...
Never let it be said that this reporter doesn't ask the TOUGH questions. The questions that EVERYBODY wants to know the answers to!
Renee's True hair color?
Blonde. Yep. Blonde. Don't know WHERE it came from, but its Blonde! (Sandra is a brunette.)
And her eyes?
At one point while we were chatting, a shy young woman approached Sandra and offered a pair of homemade Nunchuks -- a martial arts weapon Renee trains with. They were made of blonde wood, with a thick coat of varnish and had Renee's name carved in each side. "They're unique. Only two pair like them in the world. I designed them myself, as an early birthday present for Renee. We're both Aquarians." Mrs. Wilson accepted them and thanked the girl. "She uses these, you know!" "I know. So do I." said the girl..and she slipped away into the crowd. [The woman was Melanie Buckner]
I stood in awe of this diminutive woman with the lion-sized heart. She is such a gracious woman, very engaging, quite charming. I also realized --Sandra Wilson doesn't miss a thing. She is careful to size up each and every person that approaches and asks about her daughter. Sandra gives kind and thoughtful answers to each, and is careful to support her daughter every way she can.
Seeing this, I asked, "What is it like for YOU -- as the mother of the beloved Gabrielle?
She thought for a second and then replied. "Of course I am very happy to see Renee succeed at something she loves to do." At this point, her voiced lowered an bit, as if to share a special secret. "When you know how special and wonderful your daughter is -- and love her...To see that love shared by everyone else..... It's a very, special thing."
A very special thing, indeed.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Wilson