Special to the San Francisco - Examiner, January 29, 2012
By Moira Sullivan, Film Industry Examiner
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"). Kimsaid 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'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.
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'Connorshowed 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.
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.