Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE HUDSON HAZE? The power and grace of one (DE) [413-426]


Photo courtesy of Debbie Cassetta

[413] Author's note: This is an article that may seem biased because it is. No, wait, let me rephrase that. I set out to write this article not *just* about the Burbank appearance by Hudson Leick but by the amazing phenomena I have seen in the influx of new fans of Hudson Leick after seeing her live. To that end, this article may sound like nothing more than a "Hudson is a Goddess" tangent, which only slightly resembles my intention. Just kidding. I wanted to try to cover as much of the experience as possible. One other point of merit is that many of the quotes are taken directly from individuals who responded to an on-line questionnaire. Unfortunately, when I sat down to write this I wrote it in longhand and did not note who said what since I was trying to compile and assimilate as much of the overwhelmingly insightful and incredible observations that were made. My apologies and if you believe that you see yourself quoted out of context, it was not the intention.

Callisto's Impact on the Xenaverse

[414] Once upon a time there was a television show and it was a good television show, a fun television show, an intriguing television show. Weekly the dark heroine traveled the land with her young sidekick and battled warlords and baddies and the specter of her past. One day there came riding from the flames with a shriek of fury that cut to the bone a woman from the heroine's past seeking vengeance for the death of her family. In the gallery of rogues, Callisto came onto the scene and the world of Xena and Gabrielle was forever changed. I could go on about the complexity and depth of the character Callisto and her impact on the Xenaverse but there already exists a brilliant article in the Whoosh! archives by Bret Rudnick . If you are a fan of Callisto and have not read this article or the others that are in the Whoosh archives, get thee gone there now and then come back and finish this one. I will provide some commentary and feedback from fans on the character of Callisto but the focus of this article is the actress who brought Callisto to vengeful, pained, psychotic, humorous life. Hudson Leick.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Cassetta

The Hudson Haze

[415] The term Hudson Haze was coined by Ephany and myself regarding the state of mind that seems to take place after seeing Hudson live. We have created, in our minds, the Hudson Haze Club, membership of two. Born in Burbank 1997 it was cemented by Valley Forge 1997 and became etched in our terminology by Burbank 1998. However, as I have learned, this does not necessarily need to be the case in order to achieve a state of haziness. What is a haze? According to our fave word man Webster's it is a vague or disoriented state of mind. Foglike. The reason for such a state of mind? Encountering the warm, gracious and playful Ms. Leick. The effects? To collapse into giggles or smile just because of reliving the experience. To recall the moment that when you spoke to her and she focused all her attention on you and only you.

From Psycho Barbie to Worthy Adversary

[416] Let's start back at the beginning though. When the character of Callisto was first introduced XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. I will be first to admit that as a villainess I had initial problems when I saw the promo's. In the sometimes unforgiving scrutiny of the on-line lists the fact that she had appeared on MELROSE PLACE immediately branded her as an 'potential cast member for BAYWATCH', certainly not fit competition for the Warrior Princess. Too blonde, psycho Barbie, psycho cheerleader, too skinny, too small. etc. etc. were some of the laments by the fans. Eating crow, especially for me, was not a problem once I saw RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29). Nor was it a problem for the legion of naysayers out there. There were those fans that immediately adored Hudson as Callisto and others, like me, who eventually came to our senses because of the depth and complexity that Hudson gave to the character.

[417] Some comments about the character included how from her first appearance in "Callisto", the foundation was laid for the atypical villain. Unlike the Joker in the Batman series, the creation of Callisto is pretty clearly identified as being a direct result of the action of Xena and her army in her warlord days. As one fan observed, "Her (Callisto's) motivations are pretty complex and it's possible to feel for her even though she's obviously a pretty evil character. She's the villain most able to get under Xena's skin -- one gets the feeling that she haunts Xena's nightmares." Other notes about how Callisto made the viewer sit up and take notice, some later than her original appearance on Callisto. "By RoC we got more of an in depth feeling of the hatred and obsession that Callisto has. Xena has the power, physically, but Callisto has all the power mentally." This thought was echoed by others, "Callisto is the most worthy adversary Xena has ever faced. So evil yet with an integrity like no other opponent... She feels in her heart (as dark as that is) that what she is doing is right." "Most other villains (on the show) have been caricatures, but Hudson has given Callisto depth. On a strange level, the viewer cares what happens to her. This is a testament to Hudson's fine acting."

[418] A further testament to the triangulation of the Callisto, Xena and Gabrielle relationship is the almost palpable tension that exists between Callisto and Xena. Even the way Callisto speaks Xena's name, with the slightly sibilant "Sssss" and drawn out "eeeeeee" effect makes the way she calls to Xena uniquely her own. Seductive, taunting and a little arrogant. This is the dance that these two warriors do, arrogant and flirtatious. No wonder the appearance of Callisto makes every one a little jumpy, almost like the re-appearance of a scorned ex who won't go away. Hudson has talked about the love hate relationship that she feels Callisto has towards Xena. As the actress who brings this tension into play with Lucy, Hudson playfully acknowledges the subtext of the show and the large fan base it appeals to. "I appreciated her accepting attitude towards lesbian fans and her having fun with subtext. She didn't have any big need to distance herself from it/us, make fun of it, minimize it. She was game... " The admission by Hudson that she and Lucy approach some of their scenes with the 'Let's flirt' attitude made one fan acknowledge, "Hey, Hudson gets it... Then I thought Hudson must be way kewl!!!" Another replied, "I do think that her support of subtext is wonderful and deserves mention."

Photo courtesy of Debbie Cassetta

In Praise of Hudson

[419] This provides an excellent springboard into the litany of praise for those newly converted to the Haze. No, it isn't really that cult like, unless of course you want... Never mind. I'll start with my own perceptions. I stated earlier that the character of Callisto certainly had its draw but in reality, it wasn't enough to warrant a deep and abiding affection for the professional who played the complex character. Until I saw Hudson live at her first Con appearance, Burbank 1997. Her appearance kept being confirmed and then canceled until a production member gave up her time slot so that Hudson could take the stage. She stepped out onto the stage, dressed in an understated, almost demure outfit and tentatively introduced herself, "I'm Hudson Leick and I play Callisto." Of course, she could barely be heard for all the screaming that erupted from the auditorium. She had a moment where she looked like she might bolt off the stage, that look of sheer amazement that there were 2,000 plus people screaming at her. She quickly recovered and began chatting and answering questions. She was, in a word, charming. A few more adjectives that came to mind, warm, sweet, sincere, funny, kind, vulnerable, strong and generally gracious. During the autograph session she sat beside Ted Raimi and the two of them joked a bit and chatted with the seemingly endless line of fans that swarmed by the table. She listened to every person that spoke to her, meeting their gaze before she signed whatever they offered to her. (That would likely be the praying mantis pose that was, for too long a stretch of time, the only picture that seemed to be available for Callisto, which they also ran out of, so I am not sure what else she signed before the night was through.) My own brief encounter? I set the picture down and thanked her for staying so late. She looked up at me and smiled the warmest smile. "No, thank you," she said. Once she had signed the picture, as she was handing it back to me she asked, "Do I know you?" You may insert any array of emotions, disbelief, stunned amazement or dazed disassociation. I opted for the latter and replied, "Not that I'm aware of." She cocked her head quizzically and looked at me a moment longer before smiling again and turning to meet the next person. In that exchange and the subsequent stories I heard (if you've been to a Con then the autograph line stories are de rigor in the evenings rehashing.) I came to the conclusion that there was something incredibly special about this woman, Hudson Leick.

[420] Seeing Hudson Leick live is worth a thousand words. In Valley Forge, I listened as those who had been ambivalent about their like of Ms. Leick gushed, raved and admitted they were hazed from the experience.

[421] Some, hah, who am I kidding, the litany of haze wonder begins here. When asked how they felt about Hudson Leick based *solely* on her appearance on XENA, fans responded with a gamut of responses: "This was the first work I had ever seen Hudson do. I liked her a lot." "She is marvelous... Her mixture of hate, rage, childlike innocence, and psychosis is unique and powerful, to say the least." "I didn't really know anything about her as a person, I didn't think much about her... In my mind she had really embodied Callisto." "At first I was unimpressed by the actress. Even tried to suggest better blondes for the role, with my on-line buddies. But then return of Callisto aired and I was HOOKED... Couldn't wait to see another episode with her in it." "OK actress -- I didn't think Callisto was that hard to play. I was more impressed when she played Xena." "She is the most talented actress I've seen yet." "I think Hudson is brilliant (as an actress)." "I thought she had a fair amount of talent and a lot of style/presence. After seeing her as Xena in INTIMATE STRANGER (#31) and TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (#32) I was impressed with her raw acting skills as well."

Conversion to the Haze

[422] Then came the question, what made you become a fan of this woman, beyond the character Callisto, beyond her presence. The replies begin to take on a kind of mantra about the person we were getting a glimpse of: "I became a bigger fan in part because I appreciated her big heart toward fans. I was surprised at the level of vulnerability that she sometimes shows in interviews and during appearances." "When I read the March 1997 Axcess magazine interview... and learned about her growing up, and the problems she had with acceptance among peers... One more thing. Her devotion to her fans, that as of a year ago she really didn't know she had, is truly phenomenal. She gives us so much in her work and her appearances that you cannot help but love and appreciate her." "I never took time to find out anything about Hudson. Just rumors but (those were) shot down after I saw how she interacted with the fans at Burbank... When you see her in person you can tell she is a very deep and caring person." "The live appearance *definitely* converted me to fandom on many levels. I was very impressed with how she worked the room from the first moment she strutted on stage... She let us see many shades of herself... her honesty on stage and her willingness to play and/or be serious as the question/situation warranted...I was very taken with the fact that she was *with* me, all her attention focused, while the photo was being taken. What I appreciate is that she is so willing to 'be there' with the fans." "I think Hudson goes out of her way to be accessible to her fans. She doesn't have to do that and it makes her loved even more." "Hudson was performing for us in the most entertaining fashion and yet, occasionally, she let the mask drop and we got to see the caring, thoughtful person beneath... Her thoughtful answers to some of the questions (at Burbank 1998) - like "find the love" and "don't worry what other people think" and the way she broke the rules and let people on-stage!" I feel she has a presence on stage that is very magnetic. I think she was a little higher energy at Burbank... What I came away with was the sense that aside from being playful and a bit wicked, Hudson is really at the core a very nice woman. She really impressed me." "I thought she was awesome in person. She was very vulnerable and honest with the audience. I also thought she was much more beautiful in person... She was very giving to a bunch of whacked out screaming people that anyone on her right mind would have hid from. She really seems to appreciate her fans. I was one of the screaming my head off -- I *loved* her energy." "Seeing Hudson in person the first time really blew me away... She must be experienced to be believed. After signing (autographs) for hours at VF she came out in the lobby and took pictures with everyone there! Amazing. When I came up to her she looked dead in my eyes and treated me like a person. That is not easy with a stranger and 10 times harder (I would think) after an exhausting day... Hudson is just a very special lady. I was really impressed with her honesty and depth." "(seeing her live) heightened my interest in her... She was dressed beautifully and she was a fun guest. In the autograph line, she really won me when she had them stop the line while she got up on the table to pose for some sexy pictures. Then she got down and sat in her Mom's lap with the cutest girlish smile." "Seeing Hudson live reaffirmed my affection." "Her live appearance clinched it for me. She was just such a darling person and still deliciously wicked." "Do you want to know about someone who has become a huge fan after seeing Con photos and reading Con reports and posts from others who saw her there? After VF, my interest in Hudson really blossomed into adoration. It's now cemented after seeing and hearing about her in Burbank" "She gave the fans what they came to see... and what I presume to be her 'real' personality -- thoughtful, caring, sincere and warm." "Well, I have to admit it and I am proud to admit it. I have the haze. I was extremely impressed by Hudson... She is an incredible woman." "There is her beauty and underneath it all her humanity and kindness. I felt that she cared for and appreciated her fans." "What really impressed me was her spirituality, which I didn't expect to find." "Hudson is AWESOME!"

[423] See what I mean? When I sat down to write this and ask if you've experienced the haze, I could think of no other way to tap into it than to quote so many others. The words become limited when trying to describe the haze. They seem almost incomplete when trying to describe Hudson. Even in other interviews, the interviewers often convey a sense of her fierce spirit that is interwoven in with a vulnerability and a deeper spirituality.

The Fan Club

[424] I believe that Hudson's star is another one that is about to go supernova and while I still have the Hudson Haze club -- co-prez with Ephany -- there are new members converting every day. For her official fan club information and I believe a complete listing of articles that Hudson has done, visit the web site http://www.hudsonleickfan.com

Callisto the Archetype

[425] No matter what happens from here on out, everyone who has the haze knows the woman behind the actress who brought Callisto to life is a warm, kind, astonishing woman. Her passionate and memorable portrayal of Callisto has given her a unique place of fame in the Xenaverse. Female villains will from here on out be compared to Callisto. "Callisto will live in infamy as one of the all time great villains on TV... In everyday lexicon instead of saying "someone wants to get revenge", they'll be saying "they're going to pull a Callisto". The legendary status that Callisto has already attained will only grow in time is a testament to Hudson Leick's incredible three dimensional interpretation of the character."

[426] So here's to Hudson and to all the fans who share in the wonderful synergy that you create. And if you haven't yet -- I ask you -- are you experienced? I'll see you in the haze.

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