Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Xena Convention 2012 - Is it Still the "Final Journey"?

Xena Convention 2012 - Is it Still the "Final Journey"? 

Baby Eve at the Xena Convention 2012 : Costume Show.
Baby Eve at the Xena Convention 2012 : Costume Show.
© Moira Sullivan 2012

Xena Convention 2012 : The Final Journey - Verdict In.

Special to the San Francisco Examiner, January 29, 2012
By Moira Sullivan

Lucy Lawless: Xena Convention 2012, Burbank.
The final day for the final journey turned out to be the final day before the next “final” convention. After photo ops and autographs, a panel of "Amazons" commanded the stage to reminisce about the show:  Jennifer Sky and Sheeri Rappaport. Also scheduled was Tsianina Joelson (Varia) who was unable to attend because of her baby.
One of the events at a Xena convention one shouldn't miss is a play based on a time honored character, and performed by Michael Hurst and Jennifer Ward-Lealand - The Widow Twanky. Hurst portrays an elderly diva who has been married countless times and was once a dance teacher.  Hurst first performed the character on Hercules: The Legendary Journey.
The director of episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules, Michael Levine, explained the differences in working with television in the US and New Zealand and some memorable scenes from the Xena series.
An homage to Kevin Smith (Ares) was a moving tribute made to the late New Zealand actor (1963-2002). Clips from previous conventions were shown where the actor sang covers by Elvis, Tom Jones, and Billy Idol. Trivia questions for the audience included which was the first weapon Ares  gave to Xena. According to the "Creation" emcee, the musical theatre episode of The Bitter Suite (12th episode of Season 3)on Xena set the stage for musicals on television programs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer who owe their lineage to the episode. *[1] The tribute ended with a clip of Kevin Smith singing "In the Midnight Hour" from the 2000 convention in New York.

Last to command the stage for the weekend were the much anticipated Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor. O’Connor came out first and took questions from the audience from both sides of the stage. She shared personal stories about her new triumphs since the series – such as her son chosen to become a school safety ambassador out of 30 children at his school.

Renee O'Connor, Xena Convention 2012
Lucy Lawless sporting red hair for her latest character Lucretia in Spartacus proved to be more energetic than recent conventions and autographed a dog collar for a "working" canine, sang "Happy Birthday" to a fan, and read from Katherine Fugate's script from the previous day about the "really final" episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. As it goes, finally, Xena proposes to Gabrielle and throws her over with a big kiss. The audience exploded at a wish fulfillment that has always been more or less implied in the six season series by their two favorite heroines. Fugate is behind much of this subtext.
It is dificult to objectively report on the appearance of these two actors since for most in the audience, the real Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor are Xena and Gabrielle. Questions such as "would you ever do a drag king show?" put to Lawless were not in her personal orbit. There is a personal responsibility to fans that a star involuntarily inherits, since for many devotees, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred.  Sobbing attendees shared about their fathers or mothers who died, and how much the two meant to them in getting through various personal ordeals.
However, it is clear that "stars" are a part of the people who make them larger than life, and is a mutually beneficial relationship. Any contact with stars via photo ops, autographs, pictures or questions allows fans the opportunity to take a piece of themselves home. For many of these fans, Xena:Warrior Princess is a living legend with ample opportunities to revisit the actual series, enlarge upon them with fan fiction, meet with a community of devotees who attend conventions or engage in community forums such as The Xena Online Forum,  fan fiction about the series and AUXIP - Australian Xena Information Page.
Xena and Gabrielle live!

[1] Lyrics by Joseph LoDuca, Pamela Phillips Oland, Dennis Spiegel ; Musical Staging by Jeff Calhoun;Supervising Music Editor: Philip Tallman

Xena Convention 2012 - Is it Still the "Final Journey"?

Special to the San Francisco - Examiner, January 29, 2012
By Moira Sullivan, Film Industry Examiner (Reprinted).
Hudson Leick (Callisto) and fan who bought her dress.

Is it still the "Final Journey"? Well, it's clear that the 18th edition of the Xena: Warrior Princess Convention will live on, a full 12 years since the last episode wrapped in 2001. The turnout this year certainly seems to have surpassed the "sweet 16" convention.

These are some of the events for which the fans return year after year.
  • Though Lucy Lawless isn't always in attendance, Renee O'Connor is. She's gracious about signing photos and doing photo ops, and promises to wear different outfits for each of the day she attends. Saturday night she signed for the fans, and she was back on Sunday for photo ops.
  • The costume show. Most of the talent this year was young-showing the torch continues to be passed to a new generation. This year, "Poseidon" won the grand prize, a Xenite in an aqua blue painted body suit. Other awards went to two "Xenas" and two archangels from Brazil, representing Gabrielle and Xena. The traditional leather outfit with handmade ornaments went to Xena 1, and an intricately designed dress without plates went to Xena 2 --both Lucy Lawless lookalikes. What were the judges thinking? Ask Xena producer/writer Steven L. Sears and Jacqueline Kim - ("Lao Ma"). Kim said she was waiting for her character to show up in the contest. This year, among others, there was one Gabrielle, one Hope - her evil doppelgänger daughter, the "the three laughing Gabrielles" and a "transgender Gabrielle". One woman dressed as convention organizer Sharon Delaney, and Aries was there, some Amazons including the fallen one, Alti, one of the furies, Eve, baby Eve, the Swedish Vikings - (Gabrielle and Aphrodite), Callisto and a couple of Varias.
Brittany Powell
  • Brittany Powell's underwear auction. Powell has made a hit auctioning off her bras for charity. She told the audience that the "Xena Convention" charity events have raised over $12 million for special causes. This includes a charity breakfast held Sunday’s for Gold pass holders. This year her bra went for a total of $5600 to her charity - the Desi Geestman Foundation. This total was "from both sides of the room", according to "Xena Virgin", a  UK based Canadian Egyptologist turned Xenite. The bras actually go on tour to breast cancer foundations in the US and the UK, and to Lucy Lawless' favorite charity in New Zealand - the StarShip Foundation.Powell said that she was recently interviewed by William Shatner and she mentioned the fans of the Xena convention in particular for their amazing charitable work. It is clear why Powell believes that Xenites are some of the nicest and most generous people for these worthy causes. Powell later appeared on Saturday with Musetta Vander, "Ilainus" of "Amphipolis Under Siege". A surprise visit was made by Athena -  Paris Jefferson who favored "Ilainus" in her entire army.
  • The guests:
Saturday's lineup included some favorite guests. The scriptwriter responsible for the intriguing special narrative twirks of the series, Katherine Fugate, came to the stage with a play for a movie/episode of Xena, where in the end, Xena declares her wish to marry Gabrielle. Actress Claudia Black played Xena, and for a while it was Beverly D'Angelo as Gabrielle. When she gave up Fugate called out for another actress and Renee O'Connor showed up. Lucy Lawless and O'Connor revisited some of these lines on the final night of the convention, in the grand finale of the convention.
Also on the lineup on Saturday was the Korean-American actress who plays the venerated "Lao Ma", Jacqueline Kim. Kim started by asking where the guests came from - mostly north and south Americans, a handful of Europeans, and a few "others" from around the globe. In addition to reminiscing about her character, Kim also sang two songs from her album This I Heard and led a guided meditation.
"Lao Ma" was an empress who came from the ancient kingdom of Qing who gave Xena her title "warrior princess", so she is a very important character. One of the famous scenes with Xena and Lao Ma is called by fans the “underwater kissing scene”. Kim told the audience that the scene was difficult because Lucy Lawless had to be in cold water with chemicals for quite a bit of time for the shoot. The muggy water was better for the photography but not for what was required in the scene. Xena was to hide in the water from "Ming Tzu"(Grant McFarland), the evil guardian of her son "Ming T'ien" (Daniel Sing). To keep her alive, Lao Ma dipped into the water to give Xena some air. Kim revealed that Lawless told her put her head in the water and she would find her lips. The scene is revered for its subtext.
Lao Ma was responsible for changing Xena from the vengeful and dishonest warrior to the Xena who used her combat skills to fight evil. One of Lao Ma's wise sayings that helped to transform Xena was "fill yourself with desire and see only illusion. Empty yourself of desire and understand the great mystery of things".
Kim said that upon reflection, her character was a lonely woman who lived with a cruel husband and tyrant she hated. She kept him comatose but gave him the credit for all her good deeds. “What difference does it make who gets the credit if the deed is good”, she explains to Xena. She had a son who hated her too that later killed her (Ming Tien). But in the end despite the sadness of the skillful regent's life, Kim revealed that she wanted to be Lao Ma because she could fly.
Presently Jacqueline Kim works with her band, This I Heard.
Claire Stansfield (Alti) and Timothy Omudson (Eli) took turn putting hilarious questions to each other in Xena Actor's theater, both as themselves and their characters. They hoped that since their children went to the same pre-school that their off color bantering would stay in the convention hall.

The second day ended up with a mingle and cash bar for Gold Pass holders who will jostle for seat upgrades at “Xena 2013”, yes there will be one, on Sunday night.


Xena Convention 2012: The Final Journey?

Xena Convention 2012: The Final Journey?


Xena Convention 2012: The Final Journey?

Special to the San Francisco -
By Moira Sullivan
January 27, 2012

Touching down at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank today for what has been promoted to be the final Xena Convention, the premonition was that it might be more of a requiem than a celebration. Some "Xenites" in Xena:Warrior Princess forums revealed that they wouldn't come to the Final Journey, the 17th convention: it would be too painful. But even Cher has announced her retirement several times, and still is out there with a new world tour. So, though most of the guests at this convention today alluded to the end: Joxer (Ted Raimi), Callisto (Hudson Leick), and Livia/Eve (Adrienne Wilkinson), the fans know that a 2013 Convention is already planned to be held in Burbank next year, at their request.
After a survey conducted by the organizers of this convention, Creation Entertainment, almost 800 Xenites said they would be back, and pretty close to 0 said it was time to end.
The convention celebrates the Xena: Warrior Princess TV series from 1995-2001 starring Lucy Lawless as Xena, and Renee O'Connor as Gabrielle. There is still a strong, dedicated following and there seems to be no other show like it to date - a journey retold from classic tales from mythology, the fighting scenes in which women are fearless warriors, and above all, the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle: a couple who is subject for study at the now defunct "International Association of Xena Studies" -, a forum that discusses the "context" and "subtext" of the series and which gets into the grit between the lines of the show. "When popular culture is not enough", is the motto of the scholarly forum, and its longevity? - like the conventions themselves:  "like a cockroach that never dies".
Steven Sears , a beloved writer behind several Xena shows, kicked off the 17th convention with his dog, preceded by a video in which the canine caught the coveted "Chakram", Xena's special weapon. He was followed by Adrienne Wilkinson who teased the audience by telling them that she had never gotten the question before about who she preferred as her TV persona, Xena's daughter: Livia, the maniacal warrior, or Eve, the reformed Livia who becomes a religious fanatic.
One favorite character for the fans of the TV show is Brutus, first of all because he tried to spare Gabrielle from being executed and because he stood up to Xena's enemy Caesar (Karl Urban). David Franklin plays Brutus and in one episode he stabs the Roman ruler on the ides of March. This weekend Franklin returned as cabaret artist and screened a bizarre and humourous personal avantgarde video of himself shot in black and white in an empty Xena conference arena. "Brutus" atoned for his visciousness in song and dance Friday night - to the "people he impaled".
Also present at the convention was editor Rob Field from the Xena show, a craftsman behind many of the innovations of the series that made it stand out from the crowd.
Next up was convention favorite - "Joxer" himself, Ted Raimi. The joker, the loyal friend, the bungling fool, the lovable though flawed warrior. Raimi said he enjoyed all the characters he played in Xena, and that "he was paid for all three". Singling out young people in the audience who weren't even born in 1995 when the show started, and remarking "holy shmoly" to a young woman decked out in a Xena costume she made herself, he was in awe, as other guests of the devoted crowd who still pays tribute to a TV show that ended nearly eight years ago, and was telecast for only six seasons.
One fan reminded Raimi that he didn't show up for his high school graduation that he invited him to, 15 years ago, and another undaunted young woman invited him to her upcoming college graduation.
"Joxer" told the fans that his favorite improvisation in the series was the "Joxer the Mighty" tune he wrote for one of the shows - "the dumbest thing I've ever done".
"Six seasons for a series is enough", said the the popular Xena star--"or else it turns into Bonanza". Raini was grateful that the show didn't recycle the series as other shows have to increase longevity.
"Atticus", the vine swinging ape (Joxer under a spell) in a ladies' nightie was the character he said he enjoyed the most, and was also the the role where he received the most injuries.
Currently Raimi is hosting his own show, and has produced a new TV series called Morbid Minute, where is both writer and director.
The showstopper for the day had to be Hudson Leick, Callisto, who not only held a yoga workshop in the morning but has one of the most riveting and racous relationships with the audience.
"What should we do now", she said, "play for an hour?" Which is exactly what Leick can do. "No one owns a toaster in my name", said the actress, "what a shame". Then she posed as a starship in a dress that she auctioned off for $1600 to a young woman who will wear it at her upcoming wedding.
A collage of pictures of past Xena conventions served as intermission to Leick's hour with the fans,  with many memorable snapshots of guests at previous conventions, some of whom will be here this weekend: Lucy Lawless, Xena herself, Renee O'Connor - Gabrielle, Brittney Powell - Brunhilda (who annually auctions off her bras at conventions), Musetta Vander - Ilainus, and Jacqueline Kim, Lao Ma, the ancient ruler of Qing who gave Xena the name "warrior princess". Also present will be Claire Stansfield , the evil enemy of the Amazons and Xena and Timothy Omundson - Eli, the prophet of love whose teachings signalled the end of the Greek gods.
The married couple Jennnifer Ward-Lealand (the warrior Boadicea) and director/actor Michael Hurst (Iolaus) entertained with brilliant musical theatre on Friday night with songs and readings from their current theatrical productions.
One other honored guest this weekend is the late New Zealand actor Kevin Smith (1963-2002) who played the Greek war god Ares in the series. Ares' frequent romantic entanglements include ones with both daughter and mother Livia and Xena. Smith will be honored in a special tribute during the convention. Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Michael Hurst dedicated two songs to him in their cabaret on Friday.
The convention features a host of vendors, including one touching exhibit of a woman who lost her partner of 35 years and who traveled to Burbank from Indiana with the many artifacts the couple collected over the years from previous conventions - which she gave away to the Xenites, asking only for voluntary donations to pay for the shipping of the items - photos, and mementos.
Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, regarded as the quintessential guests of the Xena Convention, will close the convention on Sunday, and signing photos through the evening.