THE PITTSBURGH XENAFEST,
MAY 3, 1997
Special to WHOOSH!
By Ed Baker
Copyright © 1997 held by author
The Pittsburgh Xenafest attendees (minus Patti, the photographer)
 My only prior experience with XenaFests was the mother of all XenaFests in New York City in March 1997. I was still on a Xena buzz from that Fest when I agreed to be on the planning committee for the Pittsburgh XenaFest, to be held May 3, 1997. I had originally e-mailed a few of the coordinators (Mark Macem and Lenny Z) to get some information, and the next thing I knew, I had been volunteered to be PittsFest E-mail Liaison, which was not as much work as it sounds. Mark had prepared a web site so good that very few people actually had any questions to ask me.
SAL_FAN with his Gabstaff
 Other big plus for me was the chance to work closely with SAL_FAN, whom I am sure many of you are familiar with. I first met him at the NYC Fest. He is a great guy and became the glue that held the whole team together as Fest time approached. In addition, he also picked me up at the bus station in Pittsburgh, and the two of us promptly got lost looking for the hotel and had to ask directions. Fortunately, the area surrounding Pittsburgh is very scenic.
 The first thing we did as a group was to gather at the Pizza Hut in the hotel for a pre-Fest get-together and meeting. There were almost a dozen people there (Joan & Patti, Lenny, Marty, SuZilla, SAL_FAN, Karrie, Matt, and myself, to name a few) -- the entire Fest committee (except for Mark, who could not show) and a few guests who got into town early. We went over last minute preparations and got the last few details worked out (and Joan handed out some of her fantastic 50 Dinar notes), assigning people various roles for the activities the next day. I had to bow out as the Auctioneer, as I wanted to bid on some of the items, but SuZilla did a great job!
 Then came the fun part -- looking at the flyers, goodies for the auction, and the t-shirts. Lenny had provided me with a wonderful idea for the design, and the shirts looked great -- everyone was very pleased with how they turned out. After that, we attempted to get a vcr for the evening in order to have an episode marathon, but the hotel advised us that vcrs were rented out to conference rooms only. So, most of us adjourned up to SAL_FAN's and my room, where badges were handed out, and everyone got comfortable for a few hours obsessing over the show as only Xenites stranded without a vcr can do. We all tired out quickly -- there were very few of us from the Pittsburgh area, as almost everyone had traveled from out of town -- and we had an early start tomorrow.
 SAL_FAN and I were the first to arrive the next morning (he with his Gabstaff were the envy of the Fest!) and we started setting up. It was a small room, but we were expecting 25 people, so it was perfect for our needs. The guests started arriving before the official 9 a.m. start, so we popped in a wonderful video of SAL_FAN's about the special effects of Xena to keep them occupied until we were fully ready. Joan and Patti showed up next, along with SuZilla and Lenny. Soon the whole gang was there, and we started out the Fest with some excellent interviews and specials (Lucy Lawless on Rosie O'Donnell, Lucy on Regis and Kathie Lee, and the excellent E! special, as well as some fantastic music videos by GinaT1000 and Danielle. Great, great stuff!).
Carmon, the chakram throwing context winner...
 People kept coming in during the videos, until about ten o'clock, when we had close to 25 people -- our expected number. Joan and Patti then took over, leading us through a chakram throwing contest. They had painted two aerobies to look like chakrams -- and did an excellent job, too -- and the target was, naturally, Joxer. This was fun, but turned into a somewhat amusing display as everyone gave it a chance and no one could hit ol' Joxer! A second round yielded the same results -- would Joxer go unscathed? Finally, in the third round, Carmon, a local Pittsburgh native, nailed our boy and won the contest. He proudly posed with his chakram, and won the first prize of the day: a Xena soundtrack. I guess we Xenites need to practice those tossing skills just a little!
 Next, Joan and Patti hosted the Name that Xena Tune!, where they would play snippets from the soundtrack and people would have to identify them. This might sound easy to those of us who listen to the soundtrack a lot, but many people (myself foremost among them!) did not do all that well. The prize here was captured by Donna, who got an amazing 12 out of 15 right. After choosing her prize, Donna admitted to studying on the drive into Pittsburgh, listening to the cd, and reading the titles on the cd.
Joan (standing) and Patti (seated) run their wonderful "Xena Jeopardy" game
 Joan and Patti continued their wonderful hosting duties, leading the group in a terrifically well thought out game of Xena Jeopardy. Three contestants were selected at random (Lenny, Matt, and I *believe*, Tina) and went through such categories as Warlords, Geography, and I've Seen You Somewhere (a category dedicated to actors who have played two -- or more-- roles). When the contestants could not answer the questions (some of the higher money questions were tough!), they were opened up to the floor, where Marty and SAL_FAN made short work of most of them. Lenny ended up winning this event.
SuZilla eating fire!
 Shortly before lunch, SuZilla gave us a brief demonstration of fire eating. We had originally gone outside to do this, but it was so windy that an effective demo could not be performed. So SuZilla very quickly gave us a demo inside. After that, we broke for lunch.
 SAL_FAN offered to stay and watch the room, and a few guests stayed to watch videos with him. I traveled with Lenny, SuZilla, Karrie, and Brenda (who had driven all the way up that morning from West Virginia -- what a trooper!) to a local Boston Market. What made the trip a lot of fun was that Karrie had shown up in a remarkably well made Xena suit -- it really could have pass for a real one, it was *that* good -- and that naturally raised a few eyebrows in the restaurant. After all, it is not everyday a Warrior Princess strolls into your local fast food store and regally orders lunch. One young man behind the counter in particular felt the devastating effects of the warrior princess haze, and was just a tad flustered... poor guy!
Lenny Zappardino, a.k.a. Konus, committee member and Xena Jeopardy winner
 After lunch, Lenny hosted the fan fiction workshop/bard competition. Since no one but he and I had brought anything for the contest, I suggested we scrap the idea and instead have a round-robin introduction, giving everyone a chance to speak up and tell a little bit about themselves. While an event like this obviously would not work at larger fests, it was one of the highlights of this gathering. Hearing why everyone loved the show and why it drew them in was fascinating, and it really gave the whole Fest even more of a community atmosphere. After that we collected e-mail addresses from anyone who wanted to offer theirs; they would be collected on a list and sent out after the Fest.
 We were running a little ahead on time, so Lenny gave us the background story and some details on a character he had created, Konus, Xena's youngest brother. His telling of the story was excellent, and it led us right into the martial arts demonstration, hosted by SuZilla and ably assisted by Karrie (still in Xena garb).
SuZilla and Karrie demonstrate staff fighting
 They demonstrated various staff katas, as well as defenses against attackers with knives and other weapons. One of the members of the audience, Art, knew a tremendous amount about martial arts as well, and he also participated in the demo. It ran a little longer than planned, but the session was so entertaining and so enjoyable that no one said anything -- not that anyone could have stopped Karrie and SuZilla if they had not wanted to stop!
Karrie in costume
 Next, we decided to scrap the costume contest, as only one person had shown up in costume (Karrie). This then took us to the charity auction, which was something SAL_FAN and I were keen on. I thought this was one of the highlights at the NYC XenaFest, and we were sort of hoping it would be here, too. As I mentioned, I had bowed out of hosting it before because I wanted to bid, but SuZilla stepped up, and, along with SAL_FAN, did a great job auctioning off such wonderful items, such as a subset of Xena cards from the Hercules series, a 10" dollie of Hercules, a signed picture of Robert (Salmoneus) Trebor, and a full set of Xena novels. We raised over $400 on the auction alone (which is pretty good for 25 people), and $50 on a raffle we had run. There was something for just about everyone!
 After that, we put on the most requested episodes, which, naturally, were the Xena trilogy from HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS (*so* many people have not seen them. I know I had never seen WARRIOR PRINCESS #H09). These were naturally very well received, and then we had a short dinner break before watching THE PATH NOT TAKEN (#05) and MORTAL BELOVED (#16). After that, it was 9 p.m., and we had to vacate the room. Most of us adjourned back to the Pizza Hut, where we stayed until almost 1 a.m. talking about the show again.
Art gives his own martial arts demonstration!
 Many people had left Saturday night, but a few hardy souls (SAL_FAN, Marty, Lenny, Donna, and myself) had stayed until Sunday. Matt, who lives locally, came back Sunday morning, and we rifled through a host of SAL_FAN's extra HERCULES cards while having a wonderful brunch in the restaurant in the hotel. We stayed until noon, just chatting, and Donna took us out to the parking lot to show us her Xenamobile -- complete with rear window sticker and a beautiful image of our Warrior Princess attached to the dashboard. Those of us who did stay got a glimpse of Marty's newest Callisto drawing -- and it is as gorgeous as his other works have been. I cannot wait to see the finished product!
 As I said, this was only my second Fest in attendance, and the very first I helped organize; but we all had such a great time that there was talk before we left of doing it again next year. I had briefly wondered, before we started, if such a small amount of people would work at a Fest, but now I knew those concerns were groundless. We had the best time -- everyone enjoyed themselves immensely -- and I can only say to those of you out there, yes, organizing a Fest does take some work (and money helps too), but the results are *always* worth it. No matter how small your gathering may be, I urge any of you even considering throwing a Fest to do so. You will not regret it.