Whoosh! Issue 57 - June 2001

By Philip Tracy
Content copyright © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2001 held by Whoosh!
9157 words

DAY ONE: FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2001 (01-24)
     Footloose and Fancy Free (01-04)
     Merchants of Many Ilks (05-16)
     Entering the Main Hall (17-18)
     And So It Begins (19)
     Robert Trebor (20)
     Hudson Leick (21)
     Zoe Bell and Karl Urban (22)
     Bruce Campbell (23)
     Calling It A Day (24)
DAY TWO: SATURDAY, MAY 5, 2001 (25-49)
     The Winds of Change (25-27)
     Missy Good Sighting (28-30)
     The Problem With Callisto (31-34)
     Auctions (35-36)
     The WHOOSH Panel (37-46)
     Lunacy (47)
     Claire Stansfield (48-49)
DAY THREE: SUNDAY MAY 6, 2001 (50-68)
     Missy Good (50-53)
     Steven Sears (54)
     Ebonie Smith (55)
     Costumed Fans (56)
     Oxygen Channel (57-60)
     Amazons! (61-63)
     Tsianina Joelson (64-65)
     Darien Takle (66-67)
     Robert Field (68-68)



Footloose and Fancy Free

k-Mart tables at Tiffany's prices

A dealer's table
(photo by Heather Perkins)

[01] I arrived at the Pasadena Convention at 11:45 a.m. expecting lines of hundreds of people to be stretched around the block. It was warm, in the 80's already, and headed higher. My friend Robyn counseled that I buy a baseball cap. She did not want a man staying at her house, who was an obvious Xena fanatic, with his brains scrambled by the sun. I told her I was from Pioneer stock, an absolute lie that some women find comforting.

[02] There was a table outside the entrance, manned by two people. There was exactly one woman ahead of me. She had a particularly complicated problem involving upgrading tickets from reserved to Gold Club. The Gold Club tickets cost around $375 for three days but you would get autographs from various minor characters. The transaction took about five minutes. Then the cheerful woman turned to me. I already had my ticket so she smiled, split it, pulled out a hospital tag-like-thing, and put it around my wrist. It sits there as I write this. I am expected to wear this thing for three days and never take it off. It is waterproof so we shall be permitted to bathe this weekend. I would like to note for the record that any similarity between the inmates at my brother's state prison (he is a Warden for the New York State Prison System) and the attendees of the Xena Convention, is strictly co-incidental.

[03] The Pasadena Convention center is a sprawling complex one whole city block in size. The Xena convention was housed in the basement part of it. So you had to walk down a bunch of steps. At the bottom of the steps was the Tavern Wall (TW) crowd, people from my Xena message posting board. You can visit it by going to http://www.screamingxenas.com/tavernwall. Mezzo has her hair done different than in her TW photo but she was recognizable instantly. SaM introduced herself and then I was introduced to everyone. We all took pictures of one another. I am not going to report too much on TW attendees because I might get something wrong and they would get mad at me. There was suppose to be a meeting of TWers in a room reserved by Kym Taborn of WHOOSH for her mail list members so I went off looking for Kym.

[04] I never found her. Better than half the attendees were wearing badges of some kind, as was I, thoughtfully provided by Mezzo. The badge is a handy way to identify a person by organization. "Oh, that person's from Forever Xena. This one's with the Xenaversity of Minnesota." And so on. The badgers do not help you identify people by name. Not unless you are prepared to walk up to perfect strangers and stare at their chest for five seconds. Since 90% of the attendees are women, this struck me as an unwise procedure for any male to employ. Hopefully, I will find Kym Taborn today when I attend the WHOOSH meeting.

Merchants of Many Ilks

Inspired by Teletubbies!

A fan shows off her custom made jacket
(photo by Philip Tracy)

[05] Instead of Kym Taborn I found the merchandisers. I was aware that there were merchandisers exploiting the Xena/ Gabrielle phenomena for their own benefit. Someone, Hawk, I think, started a string on what kind of Xena stuff everyone had picked up over the years. But a world exists between "aware of" and "see". There was so much stuff, if you laid it out end to end, it would form a line clear back to bloody New Zealand.

[06] The first booth had the swords. I am not talking some plastic thingy painted gun-metal gray that you might pick up for the youngest. These were "come near me and I'll take you head off" swords. There were broad axes, I thought I saw a mace, and I hope I did not see a crossbow. I said a silent prayer of thanks that I had fallen under the spell of Xena/Gabrielle and not something more current like Dark Angel or otherwise the National Rifle Association would have staffed this booth. I got away quick as such people make me nervous.

[07] Next up was a guy selling movie posters. Since there never was a Xena movie, I thought he was in the wrong place but probably not. At least a fair number of people were staring at the posters he had mounted behind him. Next to him was a lady selling personalized checks with Xena/Gabrielle images on them. The images were very pale and frankly I thought this was going a bit far in my pursuit of things X/G. Boy, did I have that wrong.

[08] Turning away from the check lady, I entered the first of the two dealer halls. A huge booth that took up most of the center of the main room dominated this one. It was run by Creation Entertainment and all it offered was pictures, hundreds of them, laid out on two parallel tables, manned by a woman dressed as a full Xena, complete with broadsword, bracer and, boots.

[09] Let us take a moment's pause here to discuss Xenas. There are many Xenas. There has been five or six on the show itself. There are many, many more at this Convention. Not all of them are women. Not all of those who are women are displaying themselves to their best advantage in putting on a short leather skirt. Not all of them alas, bring the full Xena. The place where these ersatz Xenas invariably let down is the boots. Xena wears a full dominatrix boot, one that laces straight up the center to the very top of the boot, a lacing journey of at least 10 inches. The only practical way to employ such footwear is to own a slave, hence the name. The sad truth is, from the state of their bootery, most of the Xenas at this convention were slaveless. Some were not even wearing boots. Some skipped the bracer. I saw one that did not even have a sword. Fortunately, I can report that every Gabrielle I saw was carrying her staff. Now back to filthy capitalism.

[10] The Creation table was at least a hundred feet long and the line curled back once each way. The picture displays were exactly the same on each side. Keeping to their show-roles, the Xena staff person kept an eye on the customers to see they did not filch an extra photo or two while the Gabrielle-dressed staff person offered assistance and explanations to the people entering the line. "Yes, the likelihood is you will live long enough to get to the cash register."

[11] A final word about this person. She was in her late 20's, with blond hair and a trim figure. She was attractive, in an unmade up sort of way. It is only when you see such an woman dressed up like Gabrielle that it hits you how bone-crushing beautiful Renee O'Connor is playing that role. There were several women at the convention dressed up as Gabrielle, each one of them to their disadvantage.

[12] Next, a table offering a dozen different styles of T-shirts, including a luminescent Gabrielle that is now adorning moi. I bought it and went and changed it in the men's room. The men's room was absolutely empty. It is private bathrooms for the guys this weekend. I only hope they are not going to serve beer to these women or there is going to be trouble.

[13] In the first of two specialty rooms, one booth sold fine leather boots, the soft kind that ought dress the fair Gabrielle's feet. I wanted to say legs but I thought that was giving the game away, a little too much. There were hats from the Norse cycle, coats made of leather, but tragically, not that Palomino-colored one Gabrielle's been wearing lately, white, brown, and tan. I was glad they did not have that coat. I like it too much. I might have bought it and given it to my niece just to see her wearing it.

[14] The rest of the room was given over to indifferent merchandise. A young woman was offering a vast collection of audio tapes and CDs, but of course, not from the show. Some were new age, some rock, some jazz. Why she thought 5,000 Xena fans would feel the urge to buy record tapes and CDs, any more than say, 5,000 people at the airport, is unclear. She looked unhappy.

[15] So did the three men in the second room who were selling videotapes. Of course, none of the tapes were of the show. Instead, they were tapes of similarly themed shows or movies. Star Trek. That type of stuff. I think they might have made more sales if they had brought along copies of Personal Best or Go Fish. But these guys did not have a clue. Across the aisle from the lonely tape people were a couple who specialized in making period costumes. Very expensive period costumes that might set you back the price of a seven-year-old used car. The Xena costume was only one of several. I liked the wizard's cloak the best. Finally, there was a whole wall given over to humongus posters. If you lived in an ordinary house, these things qualified as wallpaper. Only two were Xena themed, but one had an angelic Gabrielle. The cheapest version cost $25, which was not bad since Creation was selling its ordinary sized posters for $20. I may buy it yet and hope to win the lottery, so I can buy a house to put the poster up in.

[16] In the second hall, which stood outside the auditorium, the Official Xena fan club was selling fan kits from previous years and someone was selling Gabrielle autographed photos of her for $200. Since Renee O'Connor is known to be autograph-shy and averse to the mechanical exploitation of her fame, their authenticity remains in question.

Entering the Main Hall

Clip from the pilot AMAZON PRESCHOOL

Even the young 'uns got involved
(photo by Philip Tracy)

[17] The Main Hall of the Pasadena Center is seven miles long. Helicopters are available to rush Gold Club seat-holders to their section. Taxi's run the reserved seaters to their section for $20 and everyone else is handed a power bar and a bottle of water and told there may be additional supplies along the way.

[18] This place is huge. We want to welcome you to what will clearly be the most expensive television show you are ever going to watch. The front is nicely decorated with black velvet and lots of reflecting thingies that turn different colors. There is a big screen in the center, which is the only thing most people will see. Oddly enough, given the utterly mercenary nature of this event, there are only two small concession stands selling food. It is okay. Most people are not here for a dining experience. But most people at ballparks are not there for dining experiences either and that does not keep the stadium-owners from trying to cram every corner with another beer stand. There are no beer stands at Pasadena.

And So It Begins

Pay no attention to that woman behind the microphone!

Sharon Delaney, President for Life of the Official Xena Fan Club
(photo by Heather Perkins)

[19] The first person up is Sharon Delaney of the fan club, who is personable, welcoming, and not overbearing. They started with videos. This is my first fan convention. I was not prepared for the shouts and hoots that echoed when some favorite scene from the show was played. I come from a more demur background. We applaud when we are pleased. If we are very pleased we stand up and applaud. These people stood up on their chairs and screamed to the rafters, a considerable distance way. And this was only video. I am aghast to think what will happen here when Renee O'Connor and Lucy Lawless take the stage live.

Robert Trebor

Robert Trebor buys Mist at a charity auction

Robert Trebor with Debbie "Mist" Cassetta at the Sword & Staff Charity Diner and Dance
(photo by Debbie Cassetta)

[20] Robert Trebor, who played Salmoneus was the first speaker. He was also the most prepared. He hawked a book, recalled about his time on the show, talked about other shows he was on, and answered questions in a good-natured sort of way. He said several times his was the only character who had not died on the show, failing to appreciate that on a show where death has happened to the lead several times, this may not be a valued distinction.

Hudson Leick

Some barbies don't need accessories

What a red dress
(photo by Lida Verner)

[21] Then came Hudson Leick. Let me briefly mention that the red latex dress was clearly painted on and that the guy who bought the dress clearly was hoping to be present at the disrobing. When someone in the audience shouted up to Hudson to auction off a kiss, she reverted to Callisto in an instant and saying "Believe me, you wouldn't be able to handle it", and I sat there glad I was not Hudson Leick's boyfriend. She vamped back and forth for about an hour and then brought out her mother and father, as if to say "See, I'm normal, just like the rest of you", which was contrary to the image she had just spent an hour building. She also danced through the audience tossing Hershey kisses, one of which hit me in the head while I was hard at work taking these notes.

Zoe Bell and Karl Urban

I will now play the harmonica and sing folk songs

Matt Drudge -- oops, I mean Karl Urban
(photo by Lida Verner)

[22] After Hudson Leick, there was a break. I went looking for Kym Taborn again with a new strategy that proved no more successful that the old one. By the time I got back to the main hall I had missed Zoe Bell, Lucy Lawless' stand in and the second unit director, who is the only one of the speakers scheduled to which I might have addressed a question. It would have been, why did the second unit shoot a whole week longer than the first at series' end, since the purpose of a second unit is to free the first unit so it can jump ahead in the shooting schedule. It is the kind of question only people who have lived too long in Los Angeles think of. Karl Urban was on stage. He was wearing a floppy hat, as if he did not want us to get a good look at him. A very Dorian Grey move.

Bruce Campbell

See?  I wash my hands of JACK completely!

Party animal Bruce Campbell
(photo by Lida Verner)

[23] Bruce Campbell, on the other hand, was a man who had it all together. When someone asked him who kissed better, Gabrielle or Xena, he replied "Why don't you ask them". Asked which he enjoyed more working on, Xena or Jack of All Trades, in which he starred, he asked his questioner, "What type of convention are we at today." When the audience responded "Xena", he then went on at exaggerated length about how his work on Xena was the most fulfilling of his acting career, until he was sure not a single soul in the audience believed him. Asked to compare working on Hercules to working on Xena, he repeated his question about which convention we were at but then went on to say, "When I first started, Hercules was the great big show," saying this in a deep baritone voice. Switching to falsetto, he added "And Xena was the little-bitty girl's show. Now", back in baritone, "Xena is the great big show, and Hercules", in a tiny squeaky voice, "is the itty-bitty show." The line brought down the house.

Calling It A Day

[24] After that I left, my social plans having changed a bit. I never did hook up again with the Tavern Wallers. In a sea of 5,000 people you would be better off carrying banners than badges.


The Winds of Change

An Amazon duel over a potted plant is not pretty

Some wandering Amazons
(photo by Philip Tracy)

[25] Day Two brings changes. There are just as many people but the lines in front of the merchants' booth are definitely less. I enter the line for the humongus picture booth. Ersatz Xena fixes me with a steely eye, as if to say "try something and I'll drop you", but she is also working the register today, which puts her in a submissive role. I consider demanding a 10% seniors discount, which would at least throw her off balance, but decide not to press my luck. Instead, I call her Ma'am when I hand her my six dollars for a photo of one of Gabrielle's innumerable bathing scenes, this a season six bath, which are on the whole considerably racier than earlier seasons' baths. Not THAT bath sequence. If they ever put a photo out of that one, you can be sure Creation Entertainment will ask a lot more than $6.

[26] I go back to check the sword booth. Either they sold out on the broad axes or that was my imagination working overtime. I enter into a discussion with a fetching young woman in a peasant's blouse and skirt. The first thing they teach you in reporters school is always question the pretty, young women first. This is full-time work for her and her associates. They travel a mostly Creation-sponsored circuit of shows. The swords come from different manufacturers. I ask her if she ever has ever been asked by the cops to identify a specific sword that was used in the commission of a crime. She looks at me like I have two heads. The swords are strictly ceremonial, she explains with the forbearance usually reserved for talking to five-year-olds.

[27] Also, the price seems to have dropped on the normal sized creation posters. They are now $10. Or maybe I was looking at the price of some out-sized posters and got confused. Either way, I resist. So far, my total outlay for merchandise is $31, a figure I consider saintly, especially since $20 of that amount was for a Gabrielle T-shirt to wear for her appearance tomorrow. That was practically required.

Missy Good Sighting

My line!  What's my line?!

Missy Good, a fan done well
(photo by Lida Verner)

[28] While eyeing Ersatz Xena as I stand in line waiting for my Gabrielle photo, I overhear a woman say "Look at this, Missy." I turn around and have my first celebrity sighting. Melissa Good is three places ahead of me in line. I am cool. I wait until Xena takes my money and then follow Missy into another room. She has just completed a transaction for some leather and fleece slippers. From the bundles in her hand, it is clear Missy Good is not resisting the lure of the merchandisers.

[29] I introduce myself. We have corresponded by email several times while I was researching an article that was posted on WHOOSH (http://whoosh.org/issue56/tracy1.html). In it, I say some fairly nice things about her writing, which I think is super. She recognizes my name and returns my handshake. She has curly brown hair that comes down past her shoulders and she stands about five foot eight. Missy is in her mid-thirties and is wearing glasses. She asks if I am having a good time, to which I respond with honest enthusiasm. I ask her the same. She mentions she has just purchased a copy of one of her scripts from a vendor. "That was one of the more surreal moments in my life," she laughs ironically.

[30] I could probably talk to Missy Good for hours. Her Journey of Soulmates series has shaped my love for Gabrielle at least as much as Renee O'Connor's rendering of her on the tube. Yet I still carry a reporter's bias with me, even though I have not been one in 15 years. Never show a subject how much you respect them. Always keep it distant and impersonal. "So tell me Mr. Einstein, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?" I am not good at this fan stuff. I wonder what I would say if I ever did meet Renee O'Connor. Probably mumble something about enjoying her work and wish her good luck with the kid and then turn around and walk away. Which is what I did with Missy after telling her how much of a pleasure it was to meet her. Maybe that is what a fan is suppose to do.

The Problem With Callisto

Hey!  What are *you* staring at?!

Hey look! The good Callisto!
(photo by Philip Tracy)

[31] Turning away from Missy, I spot Wes and make a beeline for him. Wes is a nice guy but he ain't no celebrity. I interviewed him yesterday. He is an officer in the Callisto fan club. One of the Creation staff had steered me to a room, telling me that is where the fan-based organizations would have their tables. This was part of my aborted effort to find Kym Taborn. When I got to the room, Wes' group was the only non-merchant in the room. I asked him if there was some other room that I was missing, but no, this was the right one, there just were not any other fan groups in attendance, or a least not to the extent of taking a table.

[32] My reporter ears immediately pick-up an ominous tread. The deeper into the show we go, the more the fans are turning to the villains for inspiration. Wes says "there use to a bunch of fan groups coming to conventions but we haven't seen any others in the last couple of years". Certainly the fans response to Hudson Leick yesterday demonstrate that the show's villains have achieved respectability. The reaction to Claire Stansfield later this afternoon will bear it out.

[33] Wes says the club was formed in 1997 and has just registered its 2,500th member. After we were talking awhile, I felt things were comfortable enough for me to ask my question, which was "If the Xena fans can relate to Xena as a haunted character on the path to redemption, and the Gabrielle fans relate to her as an innocent figure on the path to maturity, just what are Callisto's fan relating to? A psychotic figure on the path to oblivion?" Wes looked at me with a certain amount of betrayal in his eyes. But he was game. "A lot of people can relate to her," he explains. "Her character expresses things people can't express in the real world," he goes on, "so they express them by cheering for her. Besides, she's really beautiful."

[34] That is trump in this game. Good for you, Wes. Callisto is beautiful and besides she has a sexy costume, especially the busier part where it looks like the upper part of her breasts are exposed but actually all you are seeing is flesh colored plastic. We guys tend to notice that. But it does not make me want to be her fan. I could go the pity route. "A beautiful woman, turned horribly wrong". But I grew up in an age when it was expected that you boo the villains. That is what they were there for. This is an age that is certainly short on innocence, but I expected to find more of it at and X/G convention. Xena's dark side was suppose to be in the past. The fan's dark side seems very much in the present. Maybe they ended the show just in time, before Callisto and Alti overwhelmed X/G in popularity.


[35] The WHOOSH panel was proceeded by an auction in the Little Theater. It was also followed by a much grander charity auction in the main hall. Auctions are hallowed part of the Xenaverse. Money is raised for a children's hospital in Auckland (Lucy Lawless' favorite) and a Hofstra University program. Auctions are the way the vast majority of money is raised for the Xena charities, a total of $250,000 before this weekend coming from the fans alone. This is one of the nobler aspects of the Xenaverse, but the method by which it is achieved is a bit demeaning.

[36] The same annoying man ran both auctions. In the Little Theater he sold signed copies of Xena or Gabrielle photos mounted in a cheap frame for $400 to $500 dollars. In the Main Hall, the same sort of items were framed expensively and sold for $1,000 to $2,000. Auctions are ego battles that are conducted independent of the value of the item. The value that is desired is the awe of the audience. The more people watching, the higher the price. This dynamic is aided by the fact that the most valuable objects are reserved for the largest audience. In a high point of this philanthropic instinct, a chakram that Xena presumably rubbed all over her body, sold for $40,000. It is instructive that once the bid was announced -- exceeding the largest bid for a Xena item ever, by $9,000 -- the audience in the hall stood up, trying to get a glimpse of the bidder. She presumably got her money's worth. And the Children's Hospital got her money. But what the audience who watched this exercised got is used. For the record, they did not seem to mind.

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