Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Whitney Houston 1963-2012

A beautiful talented artist with sheer virtuosity

Whitney Houston: Queen of the Night, "The Bodyguard"

Special to the San Francisco -
February 11, 2012
by Moira Sullivan

Queen of the Night

The Bodyguard (1992) is a timeless memento of vocalist Whitney Houston. It is one of the few films she made in her extraordinary music career.  Others include Forest Whitaker's Waiting to Exhale (1995) and Penny Marshall's The Preacher's Wife (1996), both where Houston was nominated for Image awards for best actress. Her new film Sparkle will be released this year about drug and alcohol abuse in the lives of three sisters who form a successful singing group. In the beginning stages of production for 2013, was a sequel to Waiting to Exhale where Houston would return to play Savannah Jackson.

At it's premiere in 1992, The Bodyguard  opened to negative reviews. The criticism was aimed at the direction  (Mike Jackson), script (Lawrence Kasdan), and film style --but not Houston, and certainly not her mesmerizing performance in the film. She adapted  Linda Ronstadt's cover of "I Will Always Love You" written by Dolly Parton and together with Clive Davis produced the music for the film.  In her phrasing, Houston shows her virtuosity and brilliance as an artist, in a song emulated by young vocalists for years.

The feature is built around pop diva, Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston), who is being stalked by a sadistic killer. The film features elaborate costume changes and stagecraft. Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) is hired by Marron's manager to protect her but soon finds it hard to resist her charm, even though he has been trained to not respond to people with social etiquette. Marron is a vocalist who does need protection and that is what Farmer does.

The claim that the film was considered a breakthrough for interracial dating is inflated. The relationship between the two is limited since Farmer breaks it off before it even begins, and shows little personal attention to Rachel afterwards. She is, on the other hand, eternally grateful to him for saving her life, which is how the theme song "I Will Always Love You" fits with the narrative. The title song has more do with Rachel Marron's unrequited feelings of love for the man who cannot share her life.

On their one date, Farmer takes Marron to the movies to see The Seven Samurai (1954) by Akira Kurosawa, and afterwards to his home where she picks up his samurai sword. Farmer then takes the sword from her and throws her sheer pink shawl up in the air, which the sword slices like butter. This facile detail represents that Marron is no match for Farmer's raw strength, something which is proven the following morning when he calls the date a mistake. This conquest of a great star, who must be totally subjugated in order for him to protect her, endears him to her forever.

Although The Bodyguard is about the buildup and breakdown of Rachel Marron. a powerful woman who winds up falling for her bodyguard, it is more appropriately a showcase of Whitney Houston and her talents. It features the song that has become most associated with her - "I Will Always Love You", who took it to a level that the song writer never did. In her phrasing, Houston shows her virtuosity and brilliance as an artist, in a song emulated by young vocalists for years.

Whitney, Bobby Brown, Cissy Houston,and Robyn Crawford
According to Houston's high school friend and number one assistant for many years, Robyn Crawford, Whitney had already thought about doing a cover of Dolly Parton's song before Kevin Costner approached her. "She did the movie, she did the music [co-writer of "Queen of the Night"], she did everything", said Crawford, "— and when she was done, she was done. She nailed it. The music supervisor brought her Linda Ronstadt's version of "I Will Always Love You" way before Kevin Costner brought Dolly Parton's version — and she always knew what she could do with it. So when Kevin came in and played it for her and told her he wanted her to sing it for the movie, she said, "Fine." She wasn't much for showing off what she had, except when she had to".

Houston was at the pinnacle of her career when The Bodyguard was made, and even if it isn't the best directed or best written film, it was still a popular centerpiece for the artist.

The Bodyguard shows us the strength and determination that is necessary for a beautiful soul with incredible talent to have a successful career at the expense of a fulfilling personal life. Rachel Marron's temperamental personality as a pop diva is driven by the fact that everyone wants a piece of her. We acquire realistic insights about how life can be for a major vocalist in the public eye, like Houston.

The sad news of Whitney Houston's death February 11, 2012 comes twenty years after The Bodyguard was released, when this brilliant vocalist was only 28.


"It's All About Music and the Love": Whitney Houston

This is the best rendition of this signature song of Whitney Houston, clearly showing her artistry and her creation at work in the moment before a live audience in 1999.  Bless Whitney Houston for her gift to us.

This clip shows the amazing collaboration of Whitney Houston and up and coming Mary J Blige..this is a really sad day feeling all this woman gave us and how much a part of our lives her music is. Bless You Whitney Houston, my personal favorite vocalist of all time....


The Final Episode: Xena: Warrior Princess

From the archives of CinéFemme Forum

Mt Olympus, Lesbos Greece
The Xena : Warrior Princess series is classic, and invites viewers to behold it years after the episodes ended in 2001. I watched Xena now and then in Greece during summer vacations when the show was broadcast, dubbed in Greek. But I had no idea that Xena was Thracian and Mt Olympus was located on the very island of Lesbos where I was, the birthplace of Sappho. Women went to a particular souvlaki tavern to catch the show on the TV, and I have finally understood their enthusiasm years later, having recently finished watching all six seasons this week.
Yes, there are still spectators out their discovering Xena for the first time.

I went to my first convention last month and wrote a report for San Francisco Convention 2010: Still Alive and Living in Los Angeles and did a radio interview for Movie Magazine Intl, San Francisco with Steven L Sears featured on webradio this week.
I realize that my experiences are like others who have discovered and will discover the magic of Xena: Warrior Princess. But many things came clear to me about the series in the final episode.

I knew beforehand that Xena dies in the end. My sister told me and I was crushed But knowing this made me pay attention to premonitions of her eventual destruction. I noticed that there was always this cloud of atonement in the air. Xena had died before and came back to life but nowhere as brutal as in the last episode. It is not only that Xena was killed, but how she was killed.

The Greek Fates or Moirae: Clotho (Κλωθώ),  "spinner" of the thread of life,
Lachesis (Λάχεσις) ,"alloter" of the thread of life allotted to each person,
(Ἄτροπος, "unturning"),  the cutter of the thread

Xena: Warrior Princess devotees, this series would never have founds its true momentum. Thank you Xenites, for being a source of inspiration.
I am still feeling a chill about that last episode.....and a lot of sadness....

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed, So Where was Gabrielle?

The relationship between Gabrielle and Xena was carefully established over the years. Watching Gabrielle come into her own power and learn to fight like a warrior was remarkable, but it never ceased to amaze me how skilled Xena was.  She could take on more than several foes at once, and rescued Gabrielle countless times.
In the final episode Xena asks Gabrielle where they should go next. In synch with her question, a monk arrives with a beautiful sword that once belonged to Xena and he tells her that her services are requested in the East.
The soul-eating demon Yodoshi has been snatching people’s souls right and left so Akemi sends for the “Warrior Princess”  to  set things right.   Xena met Akemi a long time ago and followed her presumably to get the ransom on her head from her family. Along the way Akemi stops by her grandfather’s grave. His spirit tells her that Xena needs a better sword. The warrior princess has to fight for a mighty one from the arrogant sword makers who don’t want to make one for a woman. The monk delivers this to her with Akemi’s request. Xena has to go, and Gabrielle must follow:  "where you go, I go".

Akemi’s father Yodoshi turned into a demon after she put “the pinch” on him which Xena taught her. The pinch causes blood to rush to the brain and death in 30 seconds. Gabrielle is astonished that she would have taught this to Akemi. Perhaps now we know why Xena always hesitated to teach it to Gabrielle. She told Gabrielle that Akemi broke her heart and was the first woman to teach her about love. Well, talk about it anyway, as Xena didn’t understand that Akemi’s rapidly beating heart was a sign of passion.  It was hard to figure out  Akemi's  motives from the very beginning. After Akemi puts the pinch on her father, she suddenly commits Harakiri with a sword. Her dying wish is for Xena to take her ashes to a special shrine for protection. This tragic event causes Xena to momentarily become an alcoholic, and stumble through the streets carrying Akemi’s ashes. The villagers have hacked off her hair. When they attack her again, the urn breaks into pieces and the ashes scatter. In defense Xena takes one of their torches of fire, to defend herself, a fire that spreads through the entire village. She learns later that 40,000 people lost their lives that day. And whose fault was that?

On her new visit to the “Land of the Rising Sun” (Japan), the soul-eating demon Yodoshi has prepared a welcome for Xena with a ton of soldiers. They first set fire to a village. Xena asks Gabrielle what she would do in this case, the first time, and  a premonition of the retreat of the Warrior Princess.  Gabrielle suggests using acrobatics to approach the water tower for extinguishing the flames. “Its not what I would have done”, Xena says afterwards, “but it worked”. Xena teaches her "the pinch," and tells her that if there were 30 seconds remaining in her life, she would only feel love for Gabrielle. Tidings of things to come.
Akemi’s ghost lives in a teahouse outside of town with two other ghouls. When Xena visits, one of them alerts Yodoshi who comes running. He warns Xena what he has in store for her and that she will lose her head. Akemi knows what she is in store for too, but doesn’t tell the whole story, and never has. Xena learns hat she must die to enter the underworld and conquer Yodoshi. But Akemi doesn’t warn her there is no way back after her death.

That a manipulative and child-like waif who is a super tease leads Xena to her death is allowed to reek havoc on the warrior’s life is astonishing after so many tests and ordeals through the series. The fire that took so many lives was started in self defense because of Akemi’s sudden death and Xena’s despair, and it was  hardly an act of malice that the fire spread so quickly.  What about the conscience of the villagers for shaming a woman and ridiculing and tormenting her? But should this end the love she experiences with Gabrielle. Isn’t Xena smarter after all of these years to fall for Akemi's games? Isn't Gabrielle worthy of a life with her? Apparently not. Xena buries her copper breast plate, and adorns a royal warrior outfit with silver and crimson trim, and strikes out on her own to conquer an enormous army, without Gabrielle. She does well in the battle. She sets the soldiers ammunition on fire, which creates a huge mushroom cloud, and takes many of them out with her bow and arrow. The Captain instructs his warriors to unleash a barrage of arrows, several which hit her and wear down her strength. The warriors then attack her with swords. Xena cries out for Gabrielle, unable to hold her own alone any longer. Why would she have done this if she didn’t have the will to live?  And why, for once does Gabrielle not appear ? The Captain marches up to Xena and hacks off her head. The screen goes red, and fortunately we don’t have to witness the beheading. A bloody chakram lays on the ground, used only once when it could have saved her life. Later when Gabrielle finds Xena’s naked body hung up outside a shed and we see her devastated and tear stained face, we know the murder has been brutal.

The Captain tells Gabrielle that Xena was a worthy fighter, but she counters that she died dishonorably, was unfairly outnumbered and slaughtered. She asks to see her head, which is propped up on a nearby plank like a trophy. Gabrielle avenges her death by killing the Captain and refusing to cut off his head. She returns to the little teahouse and meets Xena, who has not yet understood she is dead, for when she reaches for her chakram she cannot grasp it in her hand. She tells Gabrielle that death is the only way to conquer Yodoshi. Gabrielle believes her and burns her body. On the second sunset she is to take Xena’s ashes in a magic spring in order for her to return. When the Captain shows up again and attacks Gabrielle, the urn rolls away. After defeating Yodoshi and seeing that the souls he has captured will be condemned, Xena tells Gabrielle to forget about her ashes. She has to stay dead to atone for the 40, 000 dead souls. Gabrielle is stunned and crushed but accepts it, perhaps all too quickly. Most fans did not.

Writer RJ Stewart scripted this problematic narrative.  Throughout the series, and despite subtle hints, it finally registers that the romanticized “friendship” of Xena and Gabrielle truly fits with the ending. Having Xena by her side in spirit should be enough for Gabrielle. They have experienced being soul mates through declarations of love to each other, or when the frequently injured Gabrielle is held by Xena. In the end, Gabrielle attends to Xena’s corpse and must say farewell to her life on earth. Soul mates or not, enduring screen love is not for same sex mortals like Gabrielle and Xena. Xena has died and gone to heaven, the biggest myth of all. The parallels are transparent. "What greater love than he who laid down his life for our sins". For didn't the villagers attack and torment a grieving woman on the streets of their village, who forgave them, and gave them eternal peace?

When commenting on the episode years later, director Robert Tapert does most of the talking in the video commentary. It is his creation. Lucy Lawless looks somewhat glum while Gabrielle is gushing with comments, true to the character they played. In the preceding episode “When Fates Collide”, both Lawless and husband Tapert make a curious comment about Xena’s love for Gabrielle. While hanging on the cross, Xena says, “ I love you Gabrielle”. Lawless frowns, and says the declaration was "forced". "Yes", says Robert,” it was forced”. Did  Lawless mean that she felt "forced" to say this? Or that she should have said it more convincingly? This is in the MAIN TEXT, not SUBTEXT. For is it not appropriate to exclaim love after taking Gabrielle’s place on the cross? 
Sacrifice is the stuff of Greek tragedies. Gabrielle gets to love Xena in spirit for the rest of her life after the final episode, as it pretty much has been all along. And with chakram on waist, Tapert exclaims, “Its Gabrielle; Warrior Princess, but we couldn’t sell it". Was this the plan? Had Lawless decided to quit and pass the series on to O'Connor?

Endings where women atone for their past with their lives, where women are beaten and assaulted after kicking ass with superior skill for more than six years are problematic. It would be more honest to end in a manner more like Lawrence of Arabia and have Xena fall from a horse in an accident far removed from the battlefield.

So Sad to Fall in Battle is the story of the Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi who lost the campaign at Iwo Jima during World War II. He refused to risk the life of his men in suicidal banzai attacks, but to fight defensively. Isn’t a suicidal attack what the Warrior Princess must do in the end? Suicidal missions have happened before in the series for Xena to clear away the wreckage of her past. The rush of adrenalin released in life threatening missions is the same substance that hooks bungee jumpers, ski divers and rally car drivers.
Gabrielle is not allowed to persuade Xena to remain alive, as Xena so many times has done for her.  Must her demise be the same as Akemi’s with confinement to the underworld ? Why is Akemi’s fate intertwined so much with Xena's?. Isn't it more with Gabrielle? Thank "The Fates" for fan fiction like“The Shipper:  7th Season”.

Lucy Lawless previously said that “Xena is not real”.  Perhaps not, but her character was made “real” through countless courageous and daring episodes affirmed by a dedicated following. Episodes speak to that devotee base. Most of us did NOT think this ending was believable. Xena deserved an honorable death, and was not given one: it was this Xena who was not “real”. Last year Lawless agreed: the ending not only hurt "the fans" but went against the grain of the episodes.

One final compelling question: in their adventures, Xena and Gabrielle have met historical figures such as Caesar, Homer, and Hippocrates. Why in heading towards the end of the season did Gabrielle not get to go to a play by Sappho on her birthday and meet her, but only get a piece of her poetry?
It is erroneously claimed that Sappho died for the love of a younger man by Greeks who are ashamed or threatened of the poet who loved women
(this kind of myth making is also at work in Xena in the episodes).  There have been legal battles to change the name of Lesbos to Mytilini, the capital city of the island where Sappho was born and ran a school for women, and for Greeks to have exclusive rights to the use of “Lesbian to designate "an inhabitant of Lesbos" ( Everyone on Lesbos is a "Lesbian").

Sappho should have been in the Xena series. And Gabrielle and Xena should have also experienced corporeal rather than only romantic love.As Sappho wrote, “Aphrodite crowned in gold, please let this piece of luck be mine”.
Sappho was a right on woman....

χενα lives....


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?