Special to WHOOSH
By Bret Ryan Rudnick (
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2229 words


The XenaFest podium, big screen, and front rows

[01] Having had some small and insignificant association with the NYC XenaFest committee, I can tell you without doubt that many people worked very hard to put this Fest together, and as tribute to their effort, I wanted to share in words and pictures my experiences during that weekend of 21 to 22 March, 1997. I may well not acknowledge everyone who deserves it in this article, and I hope others can fill in gaps I may leave, but to everyone I met and worked with at the Fest, a preemptive "huzzah" to you all!.

[02] If there was a moment to select that would designate the "official" opening of the NYC XenaFest, it would likely be 7AM on Friday, 21 March. That is when the "Today" show came on the air in New York City, and some of the Fest organisers and participants braved chilly temperatures to show up outside the studio in Rockefeller Center in hopes of garnering a bit of publicity and to alert all within broadcast range that the festivities had begun. Alas, the crowd was large (the host declared it to be the largest and most diverse gathering of people since the show went on the air) and alas, no one from the Fest received a coveted moment of attention from good-natured weatherman Al Roker, but just before one commercial break, centered in a sea of other signs, the NYC XenaFest was proudly, if briefly, featured via placards.

[03] That evening, many Fest participants met at the Manhattan Chinese restaurant Kee Wahyen for a pre-Fest dinner buffet. It was here I met again some fellow New England Xenites, and I also met in person for the first time people of near-legendary status, such as Tom Simpson (of Tom's Xena Page fame) and Betsy Book (a WHOOSH colleague whom I've worked with via orrespondence but never met in person before). I also met a number of people known only electronically prior to the Fest. People attending the Fest came from locations near and far, foreign and domestic. A good number of people were local, but there were attendees from Maine to California and points in between (such as Texas) as well as people from the Canadian Great White North. After a brief evening of dinner and chat, we all broke up into separate groups or went off on our own to prepare for the big Fest on Saturday.


Betsy Book and Kym Taborn, WHOOSH heroines extraordinaire!


Morning Video Sessions

[04]After a brief introduction, the first major item on the agenda was a morning video session. Here we got to see a very interesting New Zealand TV3 special called "Hit and Myth", which was essentially an infotainment piece on HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. They went behind the scenes and talked about how the show was made, spoke with pride about how such a major and widely-viewed pair of shows was filmed in New Zealand, and also put out some interesting little facts such as just how many Wonder Bras the show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, went through. I'm sure most people had never had the opportunity to see this before, and personally, I was so glad I did! We also saw the infamous "corn" skit from the Down Under comedy show FUNNY BUSINESS (a kind of Southern hemisphere SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE). Next we saw the Lucy Lawless appearance on the TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO show from last October, including the skit filmed when Lucy had her accident. After that we saw Renee O'Connor on THE PAT BULLARD SHOW, an E! NEWS DAILY, and Lucy Lawless on THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW. We then saw some brief clips of Lucy Lawless in the Baywatch-esque series HIGH TIDE, and finally, some stunning music videos edited by Danielle (there were three of these, all of them featuring edited clips from the series set to music, the first two being "The Warriors" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", followed by a simply fabulous Callisto feature set to Bananarama's "Venus"). Later in the day, when the music videos were shown again, we were treated to a hilarious Greenwich-Village produced short that featured Xena dolls of varying size, and a Callisto puppet that looked remarkably like Barbie.

Joxer Pinata


C'mon, just a little know you want to

[05] Who among us hasn't at least once wanted to take a whack at Joxer? Well, for a mere one dollar a chance for three whacks, you could buy a charity benefit raffle ticket and perhaps you'd be a lucky winner!


GeriLyn came all the way from Outer New England for the Fest, and to help hang Joxer from the ceiling!

[06] The Joxer that appeared at the Fest in pinata form turned out to be very well constructed. Many determined raffle winners stepped up to give Joxer their best shot, only to be ultimately defeated by this diminutive Joxer the Mighty! His hat, his pie-plate armour, even his legs were removed by frustrated whackers, but his body refused to break, and ultimately, he had to be manually punctured by a judicious application of Tom's knife. "I'm not surprised," one of the Fest workers was heard to say, "There's twenty dollars worth of Super Glue holding him together!"

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Despite valiant effort, Joxer resisted all attempts at being whacked open and in the end, was manually punctured.

Chakram-Throwing Contest

[07] After the pinata, kids got a chance to try their chakram-throwing skills, which involved tossing bagels at a cardboard cutout of Joxer's mouth. So much Joxer abuse, so little time...

Trivia Contest

[08] Kym Taborn was pressed into service to preside over a Xena trivia contest. In this "sudden death" competition, contestants were asked a question from a Xena episode, interview, or story, and given an opportunity to supply the correct answer or select from multiple choice options. They were even asked ahead of time if they were familiar with the general subject matter of the question. Surprisingly, as I listened to this from afar, I actually knew the answers to most of these. And sometimes deceptively simple questions were really quite difficult. As Kym noted, "Trivia competition is sometimes not pretty."


Kym Taborn, Emcee of the Trivia Contest

Other Events

[09] Some events I missed or was not able to fully pay attention to, due to the fact I was also working at the Fest in one small capacity or other. A few of them I audio taped so I could at least hear the speakers later. I was already fortunate to have seen Chris Clogston's chakram, the one she bid for and won at the Burbank convention. Chris has been very generous in sharing this item with other fans, allowing them not only to see it but to hold it and have pictures taken with it as well. It has begun to acquire a kind of mystique all its own, not unlike some of those religious artifacts of the Middle Ages, which made the rounds from city to city, country to country, to allow the faithful a kind of connexion to what they all shared as a common bond. Chris is a very nice person (I met her at a Long Beach Xenite gathering a week before the NYC Fest) and is to be commended for sharing her treasure with the Xenite community. I doubt everyone would be so generous of spirit.

[10] Montana from Meow Mix (a NY club that has a monthly "Xena" night) brought in a very brief message that Lucy Lawless left on her answering machine wishing her well. There was a Bard/Storytelling competition, in which participants read their own works for approval. There was a fanfiction writing workshop by Kevin (Visitor) which discussed the Xena fanfic experience, the noted lack of Hercules fanfic, the quality of Xena fanfic, where to find it, and so forth. Suzilla gave a martial arts demonstration as well as a mini self-defence workshop, and there was even a website workshop for those of varying and many skills to find out about accessing websites or creating their own.

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Left to right, Kevin (Visitor), Suzilla, and Carol Burrell, Betsy Book, Tom Simpson, and Kym Taborn of the Web Workshop

Charity Auction

[11] The charity auction, for a local children's charity, supplied some of the most exciting and touching memories of the entire XenaFest. Most of the items donated were pretty standard Fest fare -- trading cards, posters, magazines, books, most of which could be obtained from other sources, if a collector was serious about it. But the auction was for charity, not mere money-making for the sake of profit, and the spirit of this definitely shone through on occasion.

[12] In addition to an auction, there was also a raffle. Raffle tickets were purchased earlier in the day, and the lucky winners of the raffled items would be selected later. One of the items to be raffled was one of three replica Gabrielle staffs (the other two were up for auction), this one used as a prototype for the series (though not actually used in the series). Another raffled item was an autographed picture of Lucy Lawless, which you will hear much more about further down.

[13] The first staff was raffled off just before I got back to the room. Other items quickly came and went on the auction block, the Hercules items not garnering nearly as much interest as the Xena items. One of the more unusual items was a rare cover/picture that included Robert (Salmoneus) Trebor, and a Fest attendee named Sal-Fan was quite interested in this. But as the bidding for this item ticked up, Sal-Fan saw that someone else wanted it as badly as he did, and after a brief exchange with his competitor, he demurred.

[14] If I felt badly for Sal-Fan at this point, I would feel worse for him later. When the first of the two replica Gabrielle staffs came on the block the opening bid was (if memory serves) $30. There was a little hesitation as the bids ticked up slowly, but soon, it was evident the competition was fierce between two contenders, Sal-Fan, and a costumed Winter Warrior later identified as Dinah (whom it turns out I knew since she is also a New England Xenite who attended our last NEX get-together). The bidding quickly went up to $100, then $200, then $250, then $300, $400, and shortly to $500. The crowd hushed, apart from the occasional "ooh" and "ahh" at these high bids. Dinah, determination in her eyes, went to $550. Sal-Fan hesitated, torn between his desire for the item yet knowing his competitor wanted it as badly as he did. In a gesture of good will, and with a look of dejection, he again gave up the prize. For me, this cast something of a cloud over the next few items. I know that in an auction, the item goes to the highest bidder, yet I felt very badly for Sal-Fan because I saw him more than once give up an item he wanted for no other reason than he could see the other person wanted it badly too. Finally, the third staff came onto the block. The bidding ticked up again, though not as quickly. Although Sal-Fan was bidding for this item too, others showed their desire by topping his bid. It looked for a moment he'd go away empty-handed again, but at last his was the final bid at $450. At the last moment, before the third and final stroke of the gavel, in an act of charity and good nature, he bid against himself and made it an even $500. It would be difficult to craft a happier ending -- the two who wanted the same item most each got one, and a worthy charity got a lot of money.

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Dinah and Sal-Fan show off their hard-won items

[12] But the real magic was yet to come. The final raffle item was an autographed picture of Lucy Lawless. This picture was supposed to be sent by Creation to the Fest, but in transit, it got severely damaged, so much so that it couldn't possibly be used as a prize by any stretch of the imagination. Mistopholees, one of the hardworking NYC XenaFest committee members, could not allow such a thing to darken the Fest, so she gave up her own Burbank-con-obtained autographed picture of Lucy Lawless to substitute for the damaged one. The raffle was won by a Xenite identified as Rosebude, who, upon winning the picture, gave it back to a surprised and delighted Mistopholees. "I heard the story about the picture before the raffle," Rosebude told me, "And I said to myself if I win, I'm going to give it back to her. I know how much that picture can mean to someone." In a generous and selfless act that so personifies the spirit of many Xenites, Rose did just that, to thunderous applause. If any single act during the Fest stood out as exemplary of Xenite fandom, this is it.

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Left to right, The Selfless Rose, Rose at the podium winning the picture and giving it back, a delighted Mistopholees

Costume Contest

[13] What can I say, but that this was one of my favourite parts of the entire programme? There were some truly excellent costumes here. Some I got advance pictures of, but a couple of contestants didn't appear in costume until just before the contest, so I regret not getting closeups of these as well. There were eight contestants in all, all of them women. We had Three Xenas, One Gabrielle, One Callisto, One M'Lila, One Theodoria (female version of Theodorus) and one completely original Winter Warrior. The judges were chosen at random from the audience. I regret only one winner was chosen, because they were all so good, but they're all winners to me!

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Left to right, Xena (anon), Theodoria (MDYCH), Winter Warrior (Dinah), Xena (Julie), Callisto (Lisa), Xena (anon)


Left to right, Theodoria, Callisto, Xena, Xena, M'Lila, Winter Warrior, Gabrielle, Xena

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The winning contestant, Xena, who wished to remain anonymous

Summing Up

[14] I had a ripping good time.


A "Birthday Scroll" for Lucy Lawless at the fest, meant to be signed by all.

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