By Saul Trabal
The Start of My Fascination [01-07]
Lucy Lawless Mini-Interview [08-19]
Grease: A Review [20-22]
My Adventure Begins [23-40]
The Photos [41-45]
The Final Show [46-63]
The Start of My Fascination
 My strange fascination with XENA began about two years ago. I'm a writer and illustrator (though more of a writer these days -- I'm working on my first novel) and eventually I hope to get involved in film and TV. I tend to watch a little bit of everything, though my tastes tend to drift more towards film. Television seemed to be a bit on the dull side, although there were the occasional gems like HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET and ER. I watched these when I had the time.
 Then along came XENA. I can't lie to you -- I was drawn into the show by the beauty of Lucy Lawless. (Hey, I'm a guy, and I'm not apologizing for it.) Even so, it takes more than a beautiful woman to keep me hooked. And there was. This show was multi-faceted. This woman could ACT. And let's not forget Renee O'Connor. The show was a mixture of countless things. These people were pushing the creative limits. I was hopelessly hooked.
 When I heard that Lucy Lawless was going to appear in GREASE, I counted my blessings.
 My goals were threefold:
1) Give her the illustration I did of her.
2) Get an autograph.
3) Get photos of her for an illustration.
 Much to my shock, I was able to accomplish all three goals.
 You may have seen my photos. If you have, you're probably wondering: "WHY DID THIS FOOL TAKE SO MANY PHOTOS?!" Ms. Lawless certainly wasn't going to pose for an idiot like me. She's got people to see, autographs to sign -- translated NO TIME TO WASTE. In order to get the photo I wanted, I knew I would have to go through several rolls of film. An expensive proposition, but worth the risk. So I hopped to it, and "rolled the bones". Luckily, I got the photos I wanted for the illustrations I wanted to do. But they will not appear anywhere on the Net.
 The problem that I had with the original portrait I gave Ms. Lawless was that it was based on someone else's photo. Plus, other fans had done an illustration based on this picture. So, I thought, "What makes my piece so unique?" These new portraits I can truly call original because they will be based on my own photos -- not someone else's. Call it the artist in me. I'm a big believer in originality.
Lucy Lawless Mini-Interview
 This impromptu interview was done over the course of several days. Ms. Lawless was busy signing autographs like crazy. So I shouted out my questions to her, and she responded the best she could.
 Saul: You're not gonna be working with rats again, are you? (said with grin)
 Lucy: (grimacing sarcastically) Nah. We're going to be dealing with poisonous spiders next.
 Saul: Are you getting used to playing Rizzo?
 Lucy (squinting in thought): Kind of.
 Saul: Would you like to be on Broadway again?
 Lucy: I might. It's tiring, though. As long as I'm well rested...
 Saul: Of course. You don't want to kill yourself.
 Lucy (sly half-seriousness): I almost *did* kill myself. (an apparent reference to her fall off the horse.)
 A bit later:
 Saul: Hey Lucy, don't overwork yourself!
 Lucy smiled, rolled her eyes and got into the limo.
Grease: A Review
 I had never seen GREASE before, either in movies or on stage. This was total virgin territory. The Eugene O' Neill Theatre was gorgeous. The stage was wonderfully decorated. Best of all, I was in the front, only two rows away from the stage! The crowd packed the theatre, waiting in anticipation. There were people from all over -- Europe, New Zealand, California, and Japan. You name it.
 Even thought my ticket was expensive, the show was worth every penny. Before I mention Ms. Lawless' performance, I have to say that the cast of GREASE is a wonderfully talented group of people. To do this show night after night with the conviction and quality that they brought is a testament to their abilities as actors. With any luck -- if I ever make it in this business, I'd love to work with them someday.
 Now, to Lucy Lawless. Let me tell you this. You may think she's gorgeous on-screen, but after seeing her in person, I've got to say she's easily one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. I have to take issue with the Time Out New York article in which the reporter referred to Lucy as "weedy". Hardly the case, folks. Her figure is *perfect*, neither heavy-set, nor weedy. And not only that, Lucy is a great performer!! She's risen to the occasion. If she was nervous that first night, the nervousness has gone away. She hit her marks time after time, and her singing is something to behold. She did let out a bit of the Xena yell, which drew howls and applause. At the end of the show, she received a standing ovation. Lucy proceeded to thank everyone who came and helped her realize a dream come true.
My Adventure Begins In order to prepare myself for taking photos of this once-in-a-lifetime event, I went to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, on 49th Street -- between 6th and 7th Avenues. At the time, Jeff Conway (TAXI) was there. I went there three times to check it out during show nights. I noticed that after every show, the stars would come out and sign autographs. EASY ACCESS!! I couldn't believe my good fortune. Of course, Jeff isn't a big star, and Lucy IS. So, I was worried that security would not allow me to get as close as people were here.
 Lucy started on September 2nd, but I decided to wait until Friday to scope the place out. I actually was able to make it up to the barricades, and had a brief chat with Lucy. I came back the next night -- got an autograph, and gave her the illustration I did of her. First two objectives achieved. The third would be the most challenging. BUT I HAD A MONTH-AND-A-HALF TO DO THIS. :-)
 Fortunately, I have a CANON EOS 630. This camera-and its accompanying flash, the 430 EZ, I bought around eight years ago. The combined price was about $900. The only way to have been able to get the amount of high-quality photos I got was to have a camera like this. I doubt any other kind of camera would have done as well. I had paid close attention to how people were situated around me, as well as what Lucy did. She would hurriedly sign autographs at either barricade, then run up to her limo and sign autographs on top of it. I instantly knew what I had to do. I had to position myself on the street, by the right-rear passenger door of Lucy's limo. And, as you could tell from the photos, it was a PERFECT spot. No one was obstructing me, and since my camera had the ability to do continuous shooting and focusing, I was VERY ready. Add to that Konica 400-speed film, and I was all set.
 So, for the next four weekends (with one or two weekdays) I went through five rolls of film. This was necessary, because Lucy was signing for only five to eight minutes at a time and was moving REALLY fast. I must have shot over 100 pictures!! Understand that I was looking to get a perfect shot of Lucy to do a portrait from. (I ended up with EIGHT!!! I also figured-maybe I could sell some of these photos.) Lots of the photos came out horribly. Lots of them came out REALLY nice. And there were eight that were AWESOME for a portrait. The new Lucy art you've seen so far, and the ones to come, came from each of those eight.
 Near the end of her run, I wrote Lucy a card, and enclosed a letter with some of the photos I took of her. (I had mentioned the art I gave her a while back.) Some of the photos were pretty humorous, and I wrote some funny stuff on the back of them. I gave her the card, telling her about the photos inside. She said "Thank you." and gave the card to her assistant. I congratulated her on her upcoming marriage to Rob, and she thanked me again. I asked her about how soon after she got back would she start work again. Answer: "Four days." Lucy then went on to sign autographs. Boy, she's a tall lady. About my height, I'm 5'11".
 Rob was there too. I congratulated him on the upcoming marriage. He said "Thanks!" Other people were telling him, "Hey, take care of Lucy and Daisy!!" Rob smiled, promising he would. I had on my mind what I knew would be a dumb question, but the hell with it. I asked it.
 "Hey Rob, what's the budget on Xena?"
 Rob immediately shook his head, dismissing the question with a wave of the hand and a smile. Of course. What else should I have expected? :-)
 "Top secret, eh?" I asked.
 "Yep." he smiled. "Can't tell you that."
 There is a serious side to report also. Before Lucy and Rob came out, I spoke with a couple of women who had been coming on a regular basis to Eugene O' Neill. One of them told me that Sunday night after the convention and both GREASE shows, Lucy had stayed up a good part of the night vomiting, she was suffering from a stomach flu. The woman told me that Lucy herself related this to her. And I heard she was sick the week before that. I slowly got the impression that this whole experience had been a lot rougher than I expected. I felt that Lucy was really trying to have a good time in New York, and in a sense, she was. But I'm also got the sense that Lucy was getting really overworked. I think she was trying to do too much. She was trying to have a good time, but she was also attempting to juggle some personal time and work together. Knowing what burn-out is, I was beginning to wonder if that would happen to her. Four days off before you start work again is not a lot of time, especially when you plan to work 14 to16 hour days, six days a week. Personally, I'd rather not see her do another Broadway show for a few years. Instead, I'd be happier if she rested. None of this sounded good to me.
 I felt that she was stretching herself too thin. Her sickness in part may have been from the stress of having to juggle all this nonsense. I was getting a glimpse at the dark side of fame here. Too many people demanding too much from you, and you end up not having any pieces to yourself.
 One last note, involving the card. One of the drivers, I believe his name was Ahmed, assuming that's his real name, had noticed my frequent visits. He and I spoke briefly. The conversations were pleasant enough; but I'm not some naive idiot. This guy was suspicious. It was mostly small talk. He asked me why I was coming here so often to take photos of Lucy; I explained that it was for artwork I wanted to do. He asked why I did not go to her hotel, I said I didn't want to invade her privacy. He said at one point that he'd like to get a copy of one of the photos, and that maybe we could get together one day. I said, "Maybe." Yeah. RIGHT. I wasn't born yesterday. This guy didn't fool me for a second.
 He was scoping me out, making sure I wasn't some stalker. I wasn't angry, h*ell, it was great to see that Lucy had this kind of security!! I think of those idiots who Lucy said followed her everywhere to every interview she did, INCLUDING NEW ZEALAND!! It gives me the chills to think of the sickos that are currently stalking her, and I KNOW they exist. This guy was smart. He wasn't taking chances. I would've done the same thing in his position.
 I saw him the day I was to give Lucy the card . Same asinine small-talk. He saw the card. I had written on it, on the top of both sides, in black letters -- TO LUCY; and below, in red letters, PHOTOS OF YOU INSIDE!! (This was to get Lucy's attention.) He offered to give the card to Lucy, but I politely declined, saying I would give it to her myself. (Even if she never opens it, at least she SEES it.) And here's the funny thing, some other people asked him if he could give stuff to Lucy. His answer was a cold, blunt "NO!" Why would he do this for me, and not someone else?
 I went to the theater again, on a Friday night. (This was over a week later.) There were two men who had Downs syndrome standing next to me, who were DYING to meet Lucy. They were there with their chaperone. I told them she "would sign their autographs, so not to worry." My photos were done, I was just there to ask her a question or two and get one more autograph. Now, understand that Lucy had been signing autographs at a rapid pace during all the times I shot photos, and I was also hiding behind my camera. (Jeez I must've blinded Lucy with some of the continuous shooting I was doing of her!! I HAD BECOME A PAPARAZZO!!) I doubt she would know me.
 Lucy came out, signed their autographs. I then asked her, "How stressful has this past month been for you?"
 Lucy looked up. At seeing me, her eyes narrowed. She raised the infamous eyebrow. A chill went up my spine. She pointed a finger at me and said, "Hey-hey-hey you!!" She continued on to sign autographs. (I got mine, of course.) It wasn't an angry response, just a sly, blunt sign of obvious recognition. My guess was that it was the card and photos I gave her. It had to be. Why? Maybe it had something to do with the stuff I wrote on the back of the photos. :-)
 The photos themselves were as follows, along with my thoughts:
 1) Lucy staring at a fan in mock shock. My caption: "Lucy is asked about Rob Tapert for the 100th time."
 2) Lucy signing an autograph with a strand of hair under her nose. My caption: "A mustachioed Lucy. Bad Tom Selleck impersonation??"
 3) Lucy signing an autograph with a fan staring wide-eyed at her. My caption: "Lucy happily signs an autograph as a rabid Xena fan looks on."
 Of course, I enclosed *my* picture. Hmmm, I think that was the clincher. :-)
The Final Show
 I went to see the final showing of GREASE on October 19th. It was a highly emotional experience for Lucy and everyone involved. Lucy shed tears during certain points in the show, during the appropriate parts of course, but there was genuine pain in her face. She knew the end was near. And I'm sure that's where the pain came from. During the intermission, I spoke to Rob Tapert for perhaps the longest time I'd ever spoken to him. I had spoken to him once before at the Xena convention held in late September. Our conversation went something like this:
 Saul: "I guess Lucy must be really exhausted, eh?"
 Rob: "Well, she's looking forward to going back to New Zealand and working on Xena."
 Saul: "Doing GREASE was tough for her, huh?"
 Rob: "Well, it was a different experience for her."
 Saul: "I guess it will be a while before Lucy does something like this again."
 Rob nodded. "Yep."
 Saul: "How long a flight is it back to New Zealand? About 15 to 18 hours?"
 Rob: "Well, with the stops and transfers. Yeah, about 18 to 20 hours."
 We both went to the men's room. I got out first, and it suddenly occurred to me to ask him about Kevin Sorbo and his health. When he came out, I asked him. The news was not good. Rob looked at me somberly.
 Rob: "The blood clots Kevin had were giving him a series of mild strokes."
 Saul: "No! Are you serious?!"
 Rob: "Yeah. It really freaked him out. He's resting now. It may delay the start of filming on HERCULES, but outside of this, he seemed as healthy as a horse."
 Rob tried to be a bit more positive, but his eyes told me a different story. Robert was obviously very worried. I felt terrible for Kevin.
 We went back to our seats, and watched the rest of the play. When the end came, I was surprised at how saddened I felt when I realized this was really, truly the end. I guess part of it had to do with the fact that my life over the previous two years was h*llish, and that Lucy's presence these past two months had been ENORMOUSLY helpful. I got to chat with her, see her perform, and take pictures. And, well, I had developed a fondness for Lucy. She really seemed like a decent human being. So, this evening was like saying good-bye to an old friend. I knew I would miss Lucy terribly. I shed a tear or two.
 So did Lucy. She barely was keeping her composure. Lucy said, "You know, every time I was doing a routine, I kept realizing that this was the last time I'd be doing this." She thanked the cast, saying what wonderful friends they had been. The crowd gave her a thunderous, standing ovation. Lucy kept wiping tears from her eyes. They launched into the final song, and it was all over.
 Outside, the crowd was enormous. And when Lucy finally came out, with Rob Tapert, the crowd went wild. A small camera crew from ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT was there. Lucy signed a few autographs, smiled at everyone, waving good-bye. She and Rob then got into the limo, and the black sedan sped away into the night. It was over.
 Will Lucy ever do this again? HIGHLY unlikely. I feel she did this just for the experience. But it was one H*LL of an experience for her, and for us. Quite frankly, you had to be there. She is one talented lady, and I look forward to more of her work on film and on stage.
Saul Trabal, age 33, is a writer and illustrator. His hobbies include watching Xena & listening to the Canadian rock band Rush, his two addictions. You can find Saul's GREASE PHOTOS at http://xenite.simplenet.com/grease/saul/ulthm.htm and his ORIGINAL LUCY ARTWORK is located here: http://www.xenafan.com/gallery/xena/saul/
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? [24/124]
Favorite line: Leah: "Oh PLEASE let that be a petting zoo!!" WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP [55/309]
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER [03/103]
Least favorite episode: WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP [55/309] Ironic, isn't it?? That scene with Leah was the ONLY funny thing about that ep.