Xena Convention 2012: The Final Journey?

Special to the San Francisco - Examiner.com
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" - Whoosh.org, 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.


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