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Xena-Mania Sweeps The City!
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HX for Her

June 1997

Scanned by Roger

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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 lateness.
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 cameras.

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 campiness.

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." •





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 interviews.

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 Tonight broadcast.

LynKa's Fantasy Page, subtitled "She's a Mighty Warrior

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 ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/racoon/xena.htm, which features weird comic book-like adventures of the superhero and doll brought to you through the magic of clip art. Creepy!—B.G.