Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road

VSDA Convention
July 9, 1997

By Stacey Robillard
WHOOSH! Report
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2446 words

The Call (01-04)
Press Conference (05-16)
Autograph Line (17-20)

VSDA Convention July 9, 1997

What? Is Herc standing on a box or

A podium with merchandising in mind.

The Call

[01] In early May, I got a phone call from my distributor representative telling me exciting news: "Xena is going to be at VSDA." Everyone who works with me knows that I am a total Xena fanatic. Stills and posters from the show adorn my office walls. Whereas most people have photos of family members and friends, I have framed pictures of Lucy and Hudson from the Burbank Convention on my desk.

[02] I need to make a few explanations here. I am a buyer for a large chain of video stores in the midwest. VSDA stands for Video Software Dealers Association, and the acronym is also used for it's annual convention. The convention was held this year in Las Vegas, at the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center from July 9th through the 12th. The Convention is a place for video retailers and studios to congregate for meetings, functions (i.e., parties) and lots of product (especially movie) talk. Most studios and distributors have booths on the show floor, and they bring in stars from upcoming releases to sign autographs.

[03] I found out in early July that Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo were scheduled to appear at the Universal Studios booth on Wednesday, July 9th. Also, they were going to be the official ribbon cutters for the opening of the show floor. The booth appearance was to be from 1:30pm to 3:00pm, and the opening ceremony was to be at 10:30am. My joy went to instant agony. I had meetings scheduled during both of those events. Meetings that I could not realistically miss. Oh the Horror!

[04] So I called my Universal Representative: "Was Lucy going to be anywhere else? Was this it?" She checked into it and called me back. Turns out Lucy (and Kevin) would be appearing at a Universal press conference to announce the release of the animated video on Wednesday Morning at 8:00am. She assured me that while this was not technically open to the public, I would have no problem whatsoever getting in. The only problem was she did not know where exactly the press conference would be held -- only that it was going to be at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, and she would not find out until she got to Vegas. We made arrangements for her to leave a message at my hotel Tuesday night telling me where to go for the press conference.

Press Conference

We're not bad...we're just drawn that

Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless next to likenesses of their alter-egos.

[05] I arrived at the Las Vegas Hilton at 7:30am. I met up with some internet friends, Margaret and Marilyn, who had decided to take a chance and come to Vegas in hopes of seeing Lucy Lawless. They had already scoped out the area and had checked us in to the press conference (attendees were supposed to RSVP, but they were not being too strict on that point). Around 8:00am, they led us into the room. It was pretty small, but was decked out with giant posters of each of the animated characters, along with blowup pictures of Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo from recent press clippings (the TV Guide cover and the People picture of Lucy were especially appealing). At each chair was a bag that included a T-shirt for the movie, a press kit (promo video -- not the movie because it's not finished yet), some animation cells, a button, LOTS of press info, a mini-poster, and a doll (most of them seemed to include the Xena version 2 figure). The crowd (around 80 people) was about 99% press (mostly photographers) and Universal Employees. I believe that we were the only Hard-Core Nutballs there. We had really good seats, second row center.

[06] First up was Louis Feola, the President of Universal Home Video. He thanked everyone for showing up at that ungodly hour (nobody gets up that early in Vegas). He talked about the animated movie, "Hercules & Xena" animated movie "The Battle for Mount Olympus"; about how Universal had high hopes that Hercules and Xena would be the studio's next big franchise; and how "really lucky" they were to have such enthusiastic star support. After giving a long disclaimer that this was not the finished product (the music was not done, the animation was not cleaned up, the sound was not properly synched, etc.), Feola showed two clips from the animated movie: one of Xena and Gabrielle fighting some goat-men over a bag of gold and the other Hercules and Iolus climbing Mount Olympus.

[07] The animation is unusual. I realized that it reminded me of Saturday morning cartoons from the 70s (not necessarily a bad thing if you grew up on those).

[08] Then, Andrew Kairey the Executive VP of Universal Home Video got up to speak. His job was to talk about all the marketing support that will surround the video release. The really interesting thing is the "Hercules & Xena Road Adventure." This truck tour will hit ten of the top markets in the country and will consist of "The Hercules & Xena Road Adventure Museum" -- featuring animation from the movie with real storyboards, art cells, and original character sketches. Also the truck tour will include live DJ remotes from local radio stations, interactive games similar to American Gladiators, and giveaways. A tentative listing of cities includes Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

[09] The October Conventions are also playing into Universal's promotional plans, billed as "Hecules & Xena East" (Valley Forge, PA) and "Hecules & Xena West" (San Francisco). Unfortunately, Universal is advertising Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo at these conventions. But according to Creation Entertainment, neither one is scheduled for either con. However, as of the date of this article, Lucy Lawless has been scheduled for a New York Con in September, and Kevin Sorbo for an August Minneapolis Con. Neither are still schedeuled for either Valley Forge or San Francisco.

[10] Finally, Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo were introduced, and the flashbulbs started popping. They each talked briefly about the video and how much they love and support it. Lucy commented on how "lush" the animation was. They offered to answer questions, but only two people asked. (I was too in awe to structure any sort of intelligent question.) Kevin Sorbo made some jokes about Disney's Hercules movie, and Lucy Lawless made a comment about how watchable and fun the animated movie was...and how important that was as a parent because kids like to watch things over and over, and this movie will not "drive you crazy" after repeated viewings.

I look like LENO!!!

Lucy Lawless and cartoon Xena. Any resemblance?

[11] At this point, Lucy and Kevin stepped off the stage and were mobbed by the photographers. I decided to wander over and try to get a closer look. I stood against the wall and had a pretty good view. Then my Universal Representative spotted me. She grabbed me and took me over to Andrew Kairey. Seems that they knew all about me. Andrew said, "Let's get you in there." Lucy was talking to some press people, but Kevin was open. So Andrew brought me over and said, "Kevin, this is Stacey Robillard." I shook his hand and made some small talk (I do not really remember any of what I said because I was doing a mental countdown to meeting Lucy).

Psst...Kev...You're havin'

Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless politely pose for the press.

[12] Andrew grabbed Lucy and brought her over. I just have to say that I think I held it together pretty well. Andrew again introduced me: "Lucy, this is Stacey Robillard," but he added, "She's a big fan." She extended her hand, and I shook it, placing my other hand over it. She then looked at me strange and sort of pointed at me -- like she was trying to place me! I told her I had been at the Burbank Convention, and she said, "Yes, that's it." (I was telling this to a friend who had been in Burbank with me. She said it did not surprise her that Lucy remembered me -- considering what I had her sign. Those of you who read the Whoosh Convention reports may remember the story of Lucy signing a t-shirt that portrayed Xena and Gabrielle kissing, and Lucy telling the story about filming with Renee in a hot tub. Well, that was me.) I lifted up my Chakram necklace, so she could see it, and she said, "I've got one of those!" I told her I knew, and she asked if it had come from me. (A friend had these Chakram pendants made exclusively for a few friends, and we gave MommaROC two at the Convention -- one for Lucy and one for Renee.) She said that Daisy keeps trying to take it from her, but she would not let her have it! I told her that I was going to New York, to see her in Grease -- and Kevin (who was standing off to my side) asked when she was starting that. I told her I was also going to be at the next Convention, and I was really looking forward to seeing Renee. She asked if that was the Philadelphia Con. I said yes, and that I was disappointed that she was not going to be there, but I understood about her Grease commitments.

[13] Finally, it was time for some pictures. A Universal photographer and Margaret were taking the pictures. Kevin was on my right, and Lucy on my left. They put their arms around me and took a bunch of pictures that way. I joked about them being so tall and towering over me (I'm 5'3" on a good day). So they both moved to stand behind me -- Lucy leaning her arm on my shoulder!

[14] Alas, all good things must come to an end. I turned to Lucy and thanked her for being so gracious. She shook my hand again and asked how I pronounced my last name (people screw up my last name all the time). Before I could walk away, she said, "I'll see you in New York, and thank you." I shook Kevin's hand again and thanked him.

Kevin and Lucy pose with the inventor of

Left to right, Kevin, Stacey, Lucy.

[15] I could have stayed there all day, but this was a working convention for me, and I had a meeting to attend, so I had to leave. But not before groveling at the feet of my Universal Representative for making it happen. She told me that she would make sure to get the pictures to me.

[16] To say that was the best experience of my life is not doing it justice! Lucy was more sweet and friendly than I could have ever hoped for. I was talking to a representative from another studio before I left the convention, and she said that out of all the celebrities who were there, everyone was saying that Lucy and Kevin were the nicest and friendliest.

Autograph Line

Use that flash again and I'll...

Lucy Lawless, armed with a pen.

[17] The official autograph line at the Universal booth was scheduled from 1:30pm to 3:00pm. I had a lunch meeting at the Hard Rock Cafe at noon, so I was really anxious about getting back to the Convention Center in time. I basically skipped out of the meeting early and grabbed a cab at 1:00pm. I arrived at the booth at about 1:15pm. The line had already started to form (about 50 or 60 people I'd guess). My problem was that I had another meeting at 2:00pm, so I only had a half hour. Standing at the booth, I noticed Margaret talking to someone. She then pointed out that Marilyn was standing in line already (she was about 15th in line) holding "our" places. Problem solved -- I would get my autograph. I had brought some pictures in hopes of getting Lucy to sign one of them, but I was told that they were only letting Lucy and Kevin sign the glossies they had brought. The pictures were B/W publicity photos (not Xena pics...but Lucy pics). Lucy and Kevin showed up mobbed by photographers. They took pictures for about 5 minutes.

[18] Lucy and Kevin then got behind the booth to get ready to sign. The signing booth was set up as a circle with Lucy up first, and Kevin on the other side. I got up to the front, and Lucy smiled at me and said, "Hello again." She asked how to spell my name, and I told her s-t-a-c-E-y. She signed, "To Stacey," then went back and re-did the E to emphasize it. Then she signed, "Love Always," (most people just got a personalized pic, but Margaret and Marilyn and I each got something extra because she recognized us from the press conference and acknowledged the fact that we were huge fans). I thanked her again for everything, then Marilyn yelled for me to turn around and snapped a picture (I have the goofiest look on my face).

Please, please, please sign my cheek....

A contented Stacey receives her autograph.

[19] I had to run to make my next meeting, so I could not stick around. That was the last time I saw Lucy. I had such a busy day scheduled, so I am lucky I got in what I did. I missed Lucy and Kevin at the ribbon cutting, but I really cannot complain. I got more than I ever could have imagined out of the day -- it was bliss.

[20] Since the convention, Universal has announced that they were delaying the release of "Hercules & Xena - the Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus". The scheduled release date of October 14, 1997 has been changed to January 6, 1998 due to "production delays."

Stacey, doing her best Michael Jackson impression. Stacey Robillard
Stacey Robillard was born May 10, 1969. She is a New Hampshire native currently residing in Milwaukee (and to think, I don't like beer, cheese or the Packers ... what am I doin' here?). Occupation: Vidiot aka Video Buyer (Fave Movie: "Heavenly Creatures"). Hobbies: obsessing over all things XWP.

Favorite episode: Who can pick only one?!?! I'll have to break it down . Fave Renee O'Connor episode: THE QUEST (#37). Fave Lucy Lawless episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (#24). Fave Comedy: A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39). Fave Drama: THE PRICE (#44). Fave Callisto episode: CALLISTO (#22).
Favorite line: Too many to possibly go through them all. So I'll go with my current favorite. Gabrielle: "Can anyone stop them?" Xena: "Yeah, but it won't be warriors, it will be someone like you. I just hope that wherever the Horde is from, they have a Gabrielle." THE PRICE (#44).
First episode seen: THE BLACK WOLF (#11)
Least favorite episode: CHARIOTS OF WAR (#02)

Whoosh! On The Road