Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road

Universal Studios In Florida, Take 2
July 10, 1997

By Cathy Hoffman
WHOOSH! Report
Copyright © 1997 held by author
2551 words

July 9, 1997 (01-04)
July 10, 1997 (05-08)
     The Ceremonies Begin (09-13)
     Wizards of the Screen (14-18)
     Press Conferences (19-25)
     That's All Folks! (26)

Universal Studios In Florida, Take 2
July 10, 1997

July 9, 1997

[01] Our saga actually began Wednesday, July 9, 1997. I left Jacksonville headed for Orlando, Florida to see two of the hottest television stars in the world, Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless, cut the ribbon for the new Hercules/Xena exhibit that just opened in June. I was to meet up with some other Xenites: Taz, June, Lunacy, and Critter at the Days Inn close to Universal's main entrance.

[02] When checking in, I noticed every time the phone rang, the clerk said "sold out" and I thought "Oh, No, its going to be a zoo tomorrow". I met the gang in the lobby at 7pm and we headed over to a restaurant called "The Mill". It turned out that Taz, June and Critter had gone to Universal studios to the attraction that day and had staked out where to go and what time to be there.

[03] Universal had planned to open the park early at 8:30am for the influx of media that was expected to cover the event. Taz was also told by a security guard that he was picking up Lucy Lawless at 6am to bring her to the park. Needless to say, she begged to go with him but he said "I can't". Kym Taborn of Whoosh! had press passes for us to possibly get us in closer to the festivities. This event really was for the media, Universal made it clear that it was not for the fans.

[04] After dinner, we headed up to Taz's room and watched music videos done by fans of the show. They were excellent, needless to say,and hyped us up for seeing Lucy Lawless in particular the next day.

July 10, 1997

[05] We got up at 5:30am and were at the adjoining "Dennys" restaurant by 6:30am. A few more fans wandered in to meet us, and with a group totaling about 10 people we carpooled over to Universal promptly at 8:00 am.

[05] While we were taking the long hike from the parking garage to the exhibit, a lady with 2 children told us she had driven all the way from Memphis for the event. It turns out she was their 3rd grade teacher, and they had turned her on to Xena. The boy was the biggest fan and absolutely loved Xena. This surprised us that he chose Xena over Hercules. We found out many people had driven or flown a long way for an event that Universal did not advertise. Only if you happened to be on the internet was the only way to know about this in advance.

[06] A security guard told us that Universal was afraid of crowd control and wanted this to be for media only. We got to the spot in front of the exhibit where the ribbon cutting was to take place. Our Whoosh! badges did not get us up there with the big boys, "ET", CNN, E!, Access Hollywood, etc., but did get us directly behind them and in front of all the fans that were starting to accumulate. We saw Chris Wragge from "Entertainment Tonight" among the hundreds of media types. I have never seen so many cameras, boom mikes, etc. in my life.

[07] The media that covered this event was awesome! We did get really lucky and saw Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless rehearsing their speeches and entrance. They rode up on separate chariots to the stage. Lucy Lawless was in a man's blue long sleeve shirt with the arms rolled up, white shorts and tennies. She had on amber sunglasses. We yelled to her, "Hey Lucy!" and she peeked over her sunglasses, got a big grin on her face and waved to us with both hands. That made my day! [08] She and Kevin Sorbo were then whisked away to get ready. The crowd was getting very large by now and it was getting hot! A girl behind me fainted, and I gave her my water I brought for emergencies. "ET" and "Access Hollywood" came up to us and interviewed a few people before the festivities began. They did start right at 10am. People were getting too hot and some were passing out.

The Ceremonies Begin
[09] Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo rode up on their chariots, now Ms. Lawless had on a sleeveless blue sundress, and took center stage. They both said a few words about the opening and then took their swords and cut the ribbon that was holding a large drape behind them. The drape fell and a large sword with "Hercules" in red letters and "Xena" in purple letters was displayed. Then the media surged forward, everyone going for Lucy Lawless. Kevin Sorbo walked over to where we were and shook my hand and said "Thanks for being here". I looked over to where Lucy Lawless was and just saw a mob of people. Then Ms. Lawless and Mr. Sorbo were rushed off inside the exhibit for a private press conference.

[10] We did not get in on that, but were told they would be back out around noon to go to lunch. A guard told us they were having lunch down the street in the "green" room of a restaurant called "The Stars". We decided not to stalk them, because there would be another press interview at 2pm in the park outside the exhibit.

[11] We did wait for them to come out to go to lunch. Lucy Lawless came out first and a throng of fans rushed her. One touched her shoulder and yelled "You are Beautiful!", but Ms. Lawless just kept her head down and said "Thanks". About 10 minutes later, Lucy Lawless came out again, and was walking very fast with a gang of security behind her. This same fan actually ran to catch up to her, latched onto her arm and was saying, "you are my role model, you are beautiful, you are my life, etc." Lucy Lawless was really annoyed and kept her head down. She muttered "Oh, just shut up" and then security restrained the girl.

[12] Lucy Lawless went on in the restaurant, and in a few minutes, a security guard came out with an autographed picture for her. We figured Lucy Lawless felt badly about the incident, but also wanted this girl to leave her alone so she gave her what she wanted. The girl told the security guard to be sure to tell Lucy Lawless she didn't mean to scare her and she was sorry.

[13] Meanwhile, we had some time to kill, so we checked out the Xena merchandise cart right outside the exhibit. They had lots of T-shirts, hats, mugs and dolls. Taz found two "Xena 1" dolls mixed among the 40 "Xena 11" dolls. Those are now collectors items and are worth 50 dollars in an unopened box so I'm told. I bought one and Critter bought the other. What luck!
Wizards of the Screen
[14] By this time, they were ready to let the general public into the Herc/Xena exhibit. We got in line to catch the first show. The lines were long, this exhibit is already extremely popular...."Xena, Warrior Princess" is currently the Number One syndicated television show! I was a fan early on, and most people think the show is just about a leather clad amazon woman who beats up bad guys. Its our secret that the show is about an incredible friendship between two people who have fantastic adventures with mythical creatures like centaurs and amazons in a time of ancient Gods and kings. Now, the secret is out! This show has caught a wave and is growing in popularity daily.

[15] When you first enter the exhibit, there are huge wall sized posters of Sorbo and Lawless. There are story boards on the walls for the episodes and props from the show. There are three chakrams, swords, and even Gabrielle's BGSB is now in residence. (BGSB= Gabrielle's bilious green sports bra) Gabrielle's getting a new outfit this season! There are also wonderful pictures of the cast and crew behind the scenes, and a darling picture of Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick taken at the Burbank con in a cheek to cheek hug. (Xena and Callisto with their arms around each other in an affectionate hug you must see for yourself!).

[16] A live commentator starts the show, telling us how they get live feeds of the new episodes from New Zealand, where its filmed, and then they dub in special effects and music. The episode currently being done is called "Magic of the Gods" and in this episode, Hercules & Iolaus, Xena & Gabrielle have to fight an army from Hades summoned by Ares. Hercules' nemesis, Hera, creates a crab-like monster that has Gabrielle in its claws. We all laughed when the commentator says, "The monster has Gabrielle in its clutches, and won't Xena be jealous" (wink) and then we are all shuffled off to 3 theatres to see how the make centaurs, monsters and finish the episode in production.

[17] They actually take people from the audience to be part of Ares army and centaurs. It is so funny you laugh the whole time. We thought it funny that when the monster dropped Gabrielle, it was not Hercules or Iolaus that caught her, it was Xena!

[18] Any fan of the show will just love this exhibit. Seeing the BGSB encased in glass among the swords and chakrums was just too much. There are also monitors outside the exhibit that play a tape of how they make the series for you to watch while standing in line. There are interviews with Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. I thought about trying to bribe the commentator for a copy of this, but you can easily tape it yourself with a camcorder. You probably would not get the audio portion very well however.

Press Conferences
[19] After the exhibit, we headed over to the park where "E!" and an Irish television show were setting up to interview Lucy Lawless. We found a shady spot right behind all the television equipment that was perfect and waited patiently for Lucy Lawless come out in the 95 degree heat. Keep in mind that during these interviews, Lucy Lawless has aluminum light reflectors and stage lights pointed at her in the hot Florida sun and humidity.

[20] Ms. Lawless looked absolutely stunning all day, she is truly a beautiful woman. She is much more slender in person and not as large as she seems on TV. Those blue eyes, black hair and white teeth would make her turn heads in a crowd even if she was not famous. Our favorite Kiwi was baked by the time it was all over. Poor thing walked right past me about 5:30pm and I could tell she was absolutely exhausted.

[21] Kevin Sorbo told us they flew into Orlando from Vegas at 2am, and I know Lucy Lawless was picked up at 6am to go to Universal. The warrior princess was pooped! I really got an appreciation of how hard these stars work. And then to have to smile, wave and not be b*tchy when kids are screaming at you "Xena! Hey Xena!" and mothers are shoving their kids in your face for a picture with them.

[22] During the day we met up with many other Xena fans on the internet. I remember seeing Marilyn, Margaret, Diva and Barbara and met so many others I cannot remember all the names. A xenite named Evy got a personalized autograph from Lucy Lawless and we were so happy for her....she had posted to the xenaverse that week begging for a ride with someone from Tampa to Universal.

[23] Much of the fun of being a Xenite is meeting so many nice people. A lady approached us who worked for Universal pictures, she claimed to be the supervisor of the film division for the city of Orlando. She had come to check out how the day was going, and was shocked to see all the Xena fans roaming around the park. She was so nice, and told us stories of set visits she had made for various movies and what Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Sly Stallone were like in person. (Mel is nice, Tom is darling, Sly is a creep) She told us that Xena was so hot for Universal that even employees could not get press packets and promo tapes of the show! I always felt Lucy Lawless was going to be a big star, but now its a given. I'm so glad I met her before she becomes such a big star that security around her is so tight you cannot get near her.

[24] At one point while going to an interview, she came in our direction and said to the guards, "Just let me say hello" and they said "No" and led her away from us to the next interview. The previous encounter with that obsessed fan made them afraid to let her mingle with the crowd anymore, and I could tell she really wanted to come over.

[25] After a weary Lucy Lawless called it a day, we did too. We did pop into the "Terminator 2" ride and it was awesome! Don't miss that one if you go to the park. We had one last soft drink together at our cars and said our "goodbyes", knowing what an incredible day we had had stalking the warrior princess!
That's All Folks!
[26] Our next big adventure will be in Valley Forge, PA! We want to give Renee O'Connor's first experience at a convention one she will never forget! Everyone just loves her and we plan to prove it to her so her Momma does not have to videotape fans at these conventions telling her its not just Lucy Lawless we want to see! We all agreed that the day Creation can get Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor together at a convention we will be in heaven. This day at Universal, getting so close to Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo for an entire day, in a non-convention setting, was a very special event. And one we'll all long remember.

Cathy Hoffman Cathy Hoffman
Born in Jacksonville, Florida where I reside. Went to Jacksonville University. Got a BS degree in Biology. Work as a Medical Technologist at St.Vincents Medical Center, specializing in Clinical Chemistry. Currently, I am single, age 41. Enjoy travel, doing stained glass, photography/video, and anything sci-fi (movies and tv).

Favorite episode: This is so hard. I have many, but if I have to pick one it would be: ALTARED STATES (#19).
Favorite line: "I have many skills." TIES THAT BIND (#20); ULYSSES (#43); HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (#35); THE BLACK WOLF (#11).
First episode seen: THE RECKONING (#04)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40)

Whoosh! On The Road