Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road



THE CON, THEN AND NOW
By Michelle Werlich [12-41]
(2498 Words)




THE CONVENTION IN 1997 [12-13]
THE STAR TREK CONNECTION [14]
ATTENDANCE [15-16]
ROBERT TREBOR [17-18]
KEVIN SORBO [19]
ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT [20]
MERCHANDISE AREA [21-22]
AUCTION [23-24]
VIDEOS [25]
HUDSON LEICK [26-31]
COSTUME CONTEST [32]
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION [33-37]
SEASON FOUR SLIDES [38-41]






The Convention in 1997

[12] Creation's brand of HERCULES/XENA delights came to Minneapolis for the first time in August of 1997. Of course I attended the show. Kevin Sorbo and Robert Trebor were promised guests.

[13] I arrived a good hour early, certain there'd be scores of heterosexual women willing to travel long distance for a chance to see Kevin Sorbo in person. I had envisioned myself getting elbowed by painted ladies for choice general admission seats. But, once at the Convention Center, I noticed less than twenty members of what appeared to be a Kevin Sorbo brigade. Sorbo's keenest admirers popped $60+ for gold ticket seats and were easy to spot. Each wore a T-shirt that featured Kevin barefoot and forever in blue jeans. "Sorbo fans invade Mound" screamed the white material. For those out of the loop... Mound, Minnesota is Kevin's hometown and a suburb of Minneapolis. Kevin had come home for his first convention. A TV camera crew from ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT was there to catch this momentous occasion on tape.

The STAR TREK Connection

[14] Each year Minneapolis hosts the nation's 2nd largest STAR TREK Convention. Fans trek into Pasadena in greater numbers, but Minneapolis runs second. Wisely, Creation has chosen to schedule Minneapolis HERC/XENA conventions the Sunday after successful Saturday STAR TREK shows. The Trek influence was felt at both HERC/XENA conventions. In 1997, a Trek scene was beamed onto the slide show screen during breaks. More significantly, local Trek volunteers served as guards both years, lording over the HERC/XENA fans with U.S.S. Nokomis T-shirts. "Do you have a ticket?" and "Are you in the correct line?" they barked like sheepdogs, leading fans into proper pens. In 1998, I left my place to see how long the lines of fans were extending around the corner. One guard, who had been especially repugnant the day before (according to the person standing in front of me), tried to stop me from walking up the aisle. I guess I better mention I was going towards the BACK of the line, not the front. I had already heard a couple of stories about him and when he started to reprimand me I let it rip. "Don't you even THINK of giving me a hard time." He backed down quickly like most bullies do.

Attendance

[15] In 1997, I don't think they covered all their expenses with the monies earned from ticket sales. When Gary Berman, Creation employee and master of ceremonies took the stage, we could see him size up the audience. About one-third of the seats were filled. Kevin Sorbo brigade ladies staunchly filled the reserved seats, but dozens remained vacant. The extra space to lounge was terrific for fans, but bad for business. Though I think that Creation was willing to hold tight during a couple years of losses just to get a foothold onto a cash cow.

[16] This was not the case in 1998. Not only was the hall larger, more people attended. A week after the convention, I found out that two (real life) acquaintances had attended AND I NEVER EVEN SAW THEM! This oversight never would have happened in 1997. In 1997 my gaze had rested at least once on each and every fan.

Robert Trebor

[17] Mr. Palindrome himself, Robert Trebor, was a guest also in 1997. For those of you who don't know, a palindrome is a word that is spelled the same way backwards as forwards. For example, ABBA is a palindrome. "Robert Trebor" is a palindrome and I believe his fan club is called Palindrome Pals.

[18] Robert wore a dark outfit, a black sweater and black jeans. He looked svelte and a little bit like a cat burglar. During his time on stage, he made it very clear that he loves acting and if he didn't love it, he would have quit years ago. He had quite the presence. When a fan wondered about Salmoneus' lack of screen time, Robert asked fans to write in and insist that they wanted to see Salmoneus. "I want to work." Robert easily batted back each question that fans threw to him. But, Robert wasn't given the same treatment as Kevin.

Kevin Sorbo

[19] Some of Kevin's keen admirers were rude. They'd ask him a question, during the Q&A segment, but instead of politely waiting to hear his response, they'd start clicking away with cameras. He ended up replying to flashing bulbs. "So Kevin, tell us what you think of...." and then Kevin would try to find the correct words. He'd try to look the questioner in the eye, but the questioner would be hiding behind lens and popping bright lights in his face. He was definitely on display. One wondered if the questioner really liked Kevin Sorbo, the Person, from Mound, Minnesota.

ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT

[20] Camera crews were on hand in 1997, but not in 1998. During the Convention's first year, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT employees took their places on stage, pointed cameras at Kevin and scanned the audience. Kevin tried to lead the audience into a group hum-a-long. "If you hum the ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT theme song, you'll be on television!" Very few people wanted to do this. He tried to rally, but the crowd was lackluster. The camera focused on a few enthusiastic fans, but I don't think the segment was aired.

Merchandise Area

[21] There were a great many more tables and actual items for sale during the second convention. In 1997, the tables were strewn with products one saw in Creation's gift catalogues. There was an additional table full of swords and chainmail that a local artisan put together, but besides the HERCULES and XENA official fan clubs, that was it for the first year.

[22] In addition to the products carrying over from the previous year, this past August had more to offer: movie posters, comix and magazines, a Hudson Leick fan table. Members from a local fan group, The Xenaversity of Minnesota, erected a signboard and passed out newsletters rolled up like scrolls and tied with ribbon.

Auction

[23] Both years featured auctions where fans could buy merchandise at reduced cost. The first year I bought a black leather and wool XENA jacket. Three fans wanted a jacket and we drove the price up. The other two offered higher bids for the first two jackets. By the time the third jacket was put on the auction block, my two main competitors already owned a jacket. So I got mine for a good price. Even though I really wanted the jacket, "It's so practical and warm!" I felt uncomfortable wearing it in public. Once I wore it to work. It seemed like a good idea slinging it over my shoulders while still at my apartment, but by the time I got to work, I regretted bringing it. I could barely stand getting into the elevator with my yuppie co-workers. And once I got up to my floor one of my co-working friends told me that if I paid her $5 dollars she'd wear it down to the main floor for me. "I'm not paying YOU $5 to wear my jacket! You should be paying me!!!" She upped the price at this point.

[24] I attended the 1998 Convention with some friends who had heard the jacket story. We all watched as the XENA jacket was put on the auction block. The bidding was fierce. "Well, look at that," said a friend. "Now you can wear your jacket with pride, Michelle." A few other items proved popular. Two chakrams and the marbelized Gabrielle plaque also went for catalogue prices. Gary Berman, "Sold at the going rate. We're not going to charge anyone more than what we sell them for in the catalogues." Surprisingly, the Hercules marbelized plaque went for half-price. I bet if it had been for sale in one of the more chauvinistic countries where HERC airs, the men would have driven the price up. In the beginning of the convention, someone from Creation made it very clear that HERCULES is the number one rated syndicated show world-wide, not XENA. Apparently, even though XENA is more popular in the U.S., overall more fans are tuning into HERCULES.

Videos

[25] In 1998 we saw the videos that were put together for the 1997 convention plus a few more. In addition to Creation-made videos, local fans had a chance to present some home-made music videos. One of the local productions featured Joxer

Hudson Leick



Hudson Leick
Photo courtesy of Heather McGinnis


[26] Hudson Leick was 1998's special guest. She came onto stage wearing a beautiful clingy dress that kept scooting up her body. Quite often she had to pull it down. Finally she made a joke about it. She claimed that Minneapolis was a beautiful city and that we were very lucky. It seems that she had spent the morning meditating and practicing yoga. Apparently she was more low-key than usual.

[27] Hudson seemed a bit uncomfortable just standing on stage giving a monologue. Almost as soon as she walked on, she wanted to answer questions. She wasn't interested in directing the conversation in a certain direction. I got the impression that she found it easier to just respond to others.

[28] Of course fans were wondering about future performances. We found out that she has a good job coming up in the future. She didn't want to "jinx" it so she refused to divulge what it was. She seemed genuinely happy about this future role. Once again, when a young person asked her, "Why do you hate Xena?" Hudson told the audience that she believed that Callisto was very much in love with Xena. Someone asked Hudson how she felt when Xena stabbed her. Hudson replied, "It was a sensuous experience." Then Sharon Delaney, the X:WP fan club president, grabbed the mike and asked how Callisto might have felt when Xena stabbed her. Hudson replied, "To Callisto, it was an act of love. She felt Xena loved her."

[29] Hudson said under her breath, after someone asked her the difference between working on the XENA set and HERCULES set: "The XENA set has pretty crew members, not that I noticed."

[30] Several times Hudson remarked about convention appearances. "Will I be doing this when I'm forty?" The thought made her laugh. "Can you believe I get paid doing this?"

[31] Someone asked Hudson what she was like in high school. "Were you like this in high school?" asked a questioner. Hudson snorted. "No, I was like this..." and she have a pantomime of a teen loner. She crept on the stage as if she was painfully walking against a school wall, shoulder rubbing the concrete, head slouched down, eyes glued to the floor.

Hudson Leick
Photo courtesy of Heather McGinnis


Costume Contest

[32] Each year some fans dressed up in costume. In 1997, there were only six or seven contestants. In 1998, more than 20 people displayed themselves on stage. The 1998 costumes were more elaborate and closely resembled the actual outfits we see on television. According to emcee Gary Berman, these costumes were the nicest one ever seen at a convention. It was difficult to choose which outfit to clap the hardest for. One woman was dressed as Gabrielle from the latter part of Season Three. Her leather belt was even painted green in parts. Two women looked perfect as Callisto. The Callisto that did a little hand-spring onto stage got many claps. This was a popularity contest, really. Whoever got the loudest applause was considered the winner. Gabrielle is a very popular character so she drew the loudest applause. Discord's outfit was excellent, but many of the fans weren't even sure who she was. She did not get the enthusiasm that she deserved.

Costume Contest
The Costume Contest
Photo courtesy of Heather McGinnis


Question and Answer Session

[33] This segment was not offered in 1997. Sharon Delaney, the president of both the HERCULES and XENA fan clubs, got up on stage and fielded questions while Hudson Leick autographed.

[34] On young girl (age 10?) asked this of Sharon, while at the microphone, "May I have Hudson's drinking cup?" A stir went throughout the convention hall. "Smart girl," murmured adults. Sharon handed the cup over. It was stained with lipstick. It was the one Hudson clutched while pacing back and forth on stage.

[35] A costume contestant went up to complain about the subtext found in XENA. I regretted clapping for her during the contest. And she got quite the applause, during the contest, because she was dressed as Gabrielle. I couldn't hear pseudo-Gabby very well, but she mentioned children and inappropriateness in the same sentence. Sharon repeated part of the question for the audience before she responded. "She's asking about the subtext in XENA." Sharon told us that the writers and producers were interested in reaching as large an audience as possible and that everyone's interpretation was different and that's how it is with art sometimes.

[36] One young man said in the microphone, "I just want to say something that I wasn't able to when Hudson autographed my photo. Thank you, Hudson, for coming to Minneapolis. And I want everyone to know that Hudson is the love of my life!" Hudson whooped at his remarks from the autograph table. He was a good-looking, well-groomed young man.

[37] I went up to inquire about the fate of Amazon Nation. Sharon stated that they had just presented it, but no deal was made.

Season Four Slides

[38] Another nice thing we got in 1998 that we didn't in 1997 were slides showing scenes from the next season. They were hot off the press. Sharon Delaney claimed they were flown in, two days prior, on Friday. We saw some episodes featuring Amazons, but these Amazons are from a different part of the world (than Ephiny's crowd). These Amazons were clothed in pants and furs. It looks like one of them will take guest star proportions. Sharon said that when she first saw one particular slide she thought the actress was Danielle Cormack. "Ephiny," she explained while finding the selection. The audience followed her prompt and many openly agreed.

[39] The slides from the first two episodes of Season Four were intriguing. They had a lush look, and I don't mean greenery. The slides showed environments that were full and active. Like Xena had been dropped from a hot air balloon onto a rich country. Not necessarily wealthy, but a country steeped in history and culture. They reminded me of THE DEBT [52&53/306&307] episodes, but this country didn't look like Renaissance Picture's version of China. There will be flashbacks to Xena's past. It looks like they take off exactly where Xena leaves Lao Ma. She joins up with Borias again. I think there may be a sexy scene on a bear rug.

[40] There will be an episode written by Chris Mannheim entitled, PARADISE FOUND. Sharon warned us not to read any spoilers, not even the one given in TV Guide because this episode will be ruined for us if we do.

[41] They will show four episodes in India, but the four will not constitute an arc. It sounds like all four will be standalones.



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