Xena-Mania Sweeps The City!
HX for Her
Scanned by Roger
RILED-UP FANS GATHER TO REVEL IN THE WARRIOR
PRINCESS'S DYKE APPEAL
IT'S the second
Tuesday of the month at Meow Mix—aka Xena night— and regular
attendee Dara Eskenazi is nervous because the first episode of
Xena: Warrior Princess is about to begin and two of the other
most devoted fans have not yet arrived.
"I'm saving them
seats at the bar," she says, pacing anxiously between the stools
and the front door. Finally they burst in and it feels like a
family reunion, with hugs and kisses and playful apologies for
Eskenazi, a 37-year-old schoolteacher, is one of about 20
hard-core fans who gather around Meow Mix's television each
month to view three pretaped Xena episodes and to bond with
other "Xenites" about their favorite superhero. She and her
girlfriend make the trek from their home in Valley Stream, Long
Island, and they explain that while they originally got hooked
on Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle because "they were both so
cute," their now full-blown obsession is based on much more.
"Xena is a strong female who doesn't need a male to succeed or
to prove herself," Eskenazi says. "It's something that's been
needed [on television] for so long."
She is far from alone in her undying admiration for the
character (and for the lusty actress who plays her, Lucy
Lawless). Tonight, close to 100 women (and several men) are
packed into the place, along with a CNN camera crew that has
come to film the quirky evening for national TV viewers. The
fans—already documented by a story printed in Entertainment
Weekly magazine earlier this year—are by now unfazed by the
spotlight, and whoop it up even louder than usual for the
Meow Mix is also not the only Xena game in town. A weekly
Saturday-afternoon gathering has been taking place at the East
Village's Boiler Room ever since Xena hit the airwaves in 1995.
Organized by bartender Joe Hepworth, the party attracts a small
crowd of devoted male and female fans who enjoy the show's
And in the lesbian social hub of Park Slope, Brooklyn, Rising
Cafe has started hosting its own weekly Xena night on Tuesdays
"cause she's a babe and she kicks butt," according to cafe
employee and Xena fan Shannon Baumann, who is responsible for
taping the episodes each week. The regular gathering, which
started in mid-May, has already attracted close to 30 fans, and
was just switched from 7:30 to 8pm to accommodate women who take
a night class at Brooklyn Women's Martial Arts and didn't want
to miss a chance to meet others who share in their
admiration of the ironclad diva.
Meow Mix's Xena party—which will celebrate its one-year
anniversary on June 10—was founded by bar employee Andrea, aka
Big Mamma Freak, because her television had bad reception and
she needed a place to watch her favorite show, according to
co-host and Xena video archivist Montana. Also, she says,
Andrea's girlfriend "hated Xena," so it was best that she not
watch it at home. The crowd quickly formed from there, and the
night really took off.
Big Mamma has since moved to Los Angeles, and drag king/DJ
Lizerace has filled her shoes since then, at the behest of bar
owner Brooke Webster. Montana, who tapes and catalogs the shows
and edits out commercials, says that she sometimes organizes
certain episodes for special Xena theme nights like "lesbian
subtext night" or "Gabrielle night."
For those who have not yet caught on to the craze, Xena: Warrior
Princess, a Renaissance Pictures production for MCA TV, is a
spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The show, which is
about to enter its second season, is set in ancient times, in a
treacherous mythical world filled with capricious gods and
greedy tyrants. Surrounded by barbaric tribes, slave traders and
countless other evils, Xena (Lawless) is on a mission to protect
and defend the powerless, freeing them from tyranny and
injustice. She works closely with her younger protegee,
Gabrielle, played by Renee O'Connor, and often risks her life to
save her "best friend."
Montana, who has been a part of Meow Mix's Xena night since its
inception, says she has watched it grow from a regular gathering
of 10 to 15 people to at least 30 or 40, even in the freezing
months of January and February.
"People here have rearranged their work nights to be here," she
says proudly, adding that the all-are-welcome attitude brings in
women who might not normally spend their time hobnobbing in
bars. "The only prerequisite is that you're a Xena fan," she
says. "We don't care if you have three heads."
And although there are no three-headed monsters in attendance,
the crowd is anything but uniform, with fortyish dyke couples
who have come from New Jersey, Long Island and out of the
neighborhood; to a few straight men who have wandered in by
accident and are staying for the fun; to baby dykes from New
York University. One young woman, Mila, has brought along her
mom, who is visiting from Germany.
"I just wanted to show my mom," Mila says, explaining that her
mother had always taught her to fight back. Xena is "the first
girl who would go into a bar and, if someone is bullshitting
her, she's like boom\" she says, popping her fist into the air.
"It's about being strong and kicking back. It's beyond just a
stupid adventure series," she adds, her mother nodding in
agreement and laughing aloud at Xena's campy on-screen antics.
Marsha Weiler, 42, who lives in New Jersey and sits at the bar
right in front of the screen, is one of the hard-core fans who
never misses a Xena night at Meow Mix. Also a Star Trek fan, she
says she instantly related to the premise of Xena, as well as to
the relationship between the princess and Gabrielle.
"I love the fact that it's subtle," she says about the hinted-at
lesbian relationship. "I don't feel that Xena has to come out."
CYBERSPACE WARRIOR PRINCESS
When Xenites are not huddled in front of the blue glow of a
television, many can be found basking in the white glow of their
computers, surfing the Internet for Web sites about their
mythical heroine. We found more than we could handle in a recent
search. Here is just a small sampling:
For a basic Xena overdose, check out Tom's Web Site at
www.Xenafan.com, which begins with a slick and sexy photo of the
warrior princess. Among the many features at this graphically
impressive site are a Xena trivia contest, an image archive with
"thousands" of Xena and Gabrielle pics, fan fiction, audio
tracks of Xena's voice, biographies of the actors, a list of
past roles played by both Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor,
articles published about Xena, and transcripts from recent TV
Xena: Warrior Princess at Logomancy, The Grandpappy of all
Xena Sites, at plaza. interport.net/logomac/XENA/index.html, is
a similar site, featuring a link to a brand-new Spanish Xena
site and images of the princess from a recent Entertainment
LynKa's Fantasy Page, subtitled "She's a Mighty
Princess and Cute, Too!" (reality.sgi.com/law/xena.shtml),
was the dykiest site we explored. There are tons o' sexy pics of
the superhero, links to lesbian resource and publication sites,
and the Xena Lesbian Fantasy Site ("for the womyn warrior in all
of us") featuring "hot shots" of intimate moments between Xena
and Gabrielle. Also check out Miss Gabrielle's Home for
Wandering Bards—A Gabrielle Fan Page at
members.a0i.com/Misschf2/index.html for hot shots of the sexy
sidekick and a link to the Official International Renee O'Connor
Fan Club. We found the Xena's Campfire Girls feature especially
titillating, with a photo of the girls locked in a kiss and
notes about the lesbian "subtext" of the show.
Drop by DAx'S Obsession (members.aol.com/
Jadzia7627/obsession/TheKid.htm) for cool graphics, sexy pics,
lesbian fan fiction and links to sites featuring broadcast
schedules and character profiles. For some serious Xena sounds,
tune in to Aida's Xena Page, "a tribute to my heroine," at
members.aol.com/xenagodesz/ xena/xena.htm, with recordings of
the princess's famous yell and a scream of "Take the villager
among other popular screeches. The oddest Xena site we found was
Xena and Barbie at
features weird comic book-like adventures of the superhero and
doll brought to you through the magic of clip art. Creepy!—B.G.