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Starfury: Chariots of War 4 - UK Convention

12-14th July, 2002
Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London

Guests: Hudson Leick, Claire Stansfield, Tim Omundsen, Melinda Clarke, Adrienne Wilkinson, Paris Jefferson

Con Report
The first STARFURY - Chariots of War convention in September 1999 began a tradition of wonderful UK XENA conventions that continued in 2000 and 2001 and come to a close this year with this, the final STARFURY XENA convention. Before I do anything else, a huge thank you to Sean Harry for persuading all these wonderful guests to come and visit us in the UK, and organising a convention I know many US fans are very envious of.

This year, the announced guests - Hudson, Tim, Claire and Melinda - were joined by two late but very welcome additions. Adrienne Wilkinson and Paris Jefferson. The con was also at a new venue - the very difficult to find Thistle Hotel - after 3 years at the Radisson.

As usual, the event began with the Friday evening cocktail party, the first opportunity to mingle with the guest and have a chat. The first 170 or so ticket holders are the ones to get in, and once we had recovered from the shock of the prices at the bar, it was fun to see and chat to the guests in a nice relaxed atmosphere.

On Saturday, we bagan with a talk from a guy from New Zealand talking about Special Effects - although mainly on HERCULES and other NZ projects.
Tim Omundsen opened up the actor talks. Tim was not asked very much about XENA at all - he spent more time talking about the show Judging Amy that he is a regular on, and how becoming a father has changed his life! Tim looked very suave and handsome and retold some of his funny stories about meeting Lucy and Renee and how Lucy took him on a sort of bungee jump ride. Tim was also asked about his good friend Kevin Smith, and he clearly found it very difficult to speak about how much Kevin meant to him, and became quite choked up. Tim is a very entertaining speaker and had more to come the next day......

Next up was Claire Stansfield - always a favourite with fans, but her first STARFURY convention (although she did appear at another event in England a few years back.)
Claire has a reputation for swearing, and immediately brought on some money to pay for her bad language! Claire seems to be very in tune with the fans, and brought the house down with her "dolly porn" movie! A 10 minute film featuring the action figures of Callisto and Alti. Although Claire did admit that much to her annoyance, there is no Alti action figure, so she used the Shameness Xena and coloured in her eye make up! The film featured Hudson doing Callisto's voice - which I didn't think I'd hear ever again! It was hilarious and if you get a chance to see it, see it! Claire also spoke about her decision not to act any more, but mentioned how she had recently auditioned for the new Quentin Tarentino movie and how he is a big XENA fan.

I always love hearing the gossipy bits, and Claire mentioned how she used to share a house in London with Virginia Hey from Farscape, and how Claire went out with Simon LeBon and Virginia went out with John Taylor from Duran Duran! She also mentioned working with Yancy Butler on the movie, Drop Zone and how the producers were concerned they looked too similar, so she darkened her hair and Yancy lightened it. She also said how Wesley Snipes took them all out for illicit skydiving sessions after a few drinks, and very much against orders!

Next on stage was Paris Jefferson and Adrienne Wilkinson. I'm a bit confused over what they said on Saturday, and what they said on Sunday so I'll amalgamate my comments for these two.
Both actors were late additions - with Paris being a very late addition. Adrienne is one of my favourite convention guests because she is such a talker! She spoke about her new show - As If - that unfortunately got canned after just TWO episodes! Although, as Paris reminded her, at least she has something else good for her resume tape now! Adrienne is involved with setting up a production company, although she didn't have any specific projects lined up. She has just filmed a movie for the Sci Fi Channel - something sci-fi-ish, but I've forgotten what it's called. She filmed in Bulgaria and found it very different, with about 5 different languages spoken on the set. Adrienne spoke quite a bit about her character on XENA, and how she enjoyed playing Livia and liked her costume better. She was asked several times about the swearing scene in You Are There - a favourite for the fans AND Adrienne! She said that she keeps in touch with William Gregory Lee (who is getting married in the next few weeks apparently) and Tsianina Joelson, 2 young actors she worked with quite a lot.
When asked if she would like to go back to work with the XENA actors again, she said she would love to, although Paris Jefferson leapt in at this point to say she didn't think another XENA would ever happen, and in some ways it would be in poor taste after Kevin Smith's death. Kevin was cited as a favourite by both actresses, as they both worked with him quite a bit. Adrienne had a nice Hollywood story about seeing Britney Spears and Hugh Hefner in a restaurant!

Meanwhile, Paris spoke about how she was a real wimp in the fight scenes on XENA! She had bronchitis just before and got out of breath after one sword swing! She mentioned how she had gone up for audition for the role of Athena, not thinking she would get the role as she was a lot smaller than the other actresses.

Paris has just moved back to London, after a spell in Los Angeles and she spoke about how difficult it is for actors to get work in Hollywood, simply because there are so many people going for each role. She was asked about the most unusual place she has been recognised and she told how she had been spotted from a role in a French soap opera on Ayres Rock in Australia. She also mentioned someone at the convention who was a dental nurse and recognised her from her teeth in the movie The Diamond of Jeru (which amazingly enough was on TV here the other night!)

Next up onstage was the Hudson Leick/Melinda Clarke double act! The ladies appeared together both days, and they clearly had fun. Hudson is totally outrageous onstage, but with Melinda, she had a partner in crime! I was looking forward to seeing Melinda as she was the one guest who I had not seen before, and I was very impressed with how relaxed and funny she was. I don't know if she has done many conventions, but she certainly seemed at ease. We had a few bursts of her excellent singing voice too, although her singing the Teletubby theme song to a small child on Sunday was certainly the cutest! Melinda has a young daughter herself, and proudly displayed her photo all weekend.

One interesting question she was asked was about the story that she was one of the actresses that turned down the role of XENA all those years ago. She said she wanted to set the record straight - that she had NOT turned it down, although she went on to explain that the script was doing the rounds and she knew about it but wasn't available. So she wasn't exactly OFFERED it, but it still sounds like she was one of the actresses considered.

Melinda was asked about her action figure, and she replied that she didn't have one. As there were quite a few on sale in the dealer's room, she leapt off the stage and raced to get one! She did quite like it, but claimed the nostrils were too huge, and that she could park a car up each one!

Meanwhile, Hudson even answered a few XENA questions this time, plus a bit about her time on HERCULES playing Liz Friedman. However, as usual Hudson's main interest was tormenting the audience! She brought up men(and a few women) to be human chairs for her and Melinda to sit on, played that game where you pass an orange under your chin on Sunday, and (as usual) got the audience to do some screaming therapy - which I think alarmed the hotel staff! Hudson also likes to go for walks into the audience, sitting on people's laps and being outragous. We loved it of course! She is a terrific entertainer, although she rarely gives out much information about XENA or her other acting projects. She seemed genuinely surprised that we had all seen Claire's dolly porn film with her doing her Callisto voice, and gave no details. I asked her in the autograph line if it *was* fun to do, and she claimed that it was actually quite hard work!

On the Sunday, Hudson was in a VERY revealing dress and at one point both actresses went off to the bathroom..however, they emerged a few minutes later wearing 2 of the costumes from the Saturday night fancy dress contest. I guess they must have accosted the competitors! The Fury outfit Hudson wore really suited her actually, and Melinda's wood nymph costume got a few laughs when the people on the video kept flashing up messages like "pray for autumn" and "who's got a strimmer."
Also in relation to the fancy dress, Melinda came in acting all pouty on the Sunday, mock complaining that there had been no Velascas in the fancy dress. "There's only one Velasca" yelled out one wag - which cheered her up a bit!

I know the ladies were a huge hit with all of the fans. This was Hudson's third STARFURY appearance, and Melinda's first, but they were greatly enjoyed.

Saturday night was the now legendary STARFURY Fancy Dress contest. This was supposed to have been preceeded by the Sci Fi Quiz - which I was looking forward to, but sadly this was cancelled and we had the Spider-Man movie instead. Not really the best place to watch a film, but at least we all got to cheer like mad when Lucy Lawless' 2 second appearance came on.

The Fancy Dress contests have been such a success thanks mainly to Ted Raimi in the past. Ted is extremely good at quick improvisations and his banter with entrants has been very funny in the past. With no Ted this year, most of the dialogue came from Tim Omundsen, although Claire, Hudson, Melinda and Adrienne joined in. Some of the entrants were only vaguely XENA related, with various nymphs and monsters. It was fun to see Claire Stansfield taunt the excellent Jo Marriot who was in a fabulous The Debt outfit - Jo looks more like Xena than Lucy does sometimes! We also had three furies in extremely authentic looking costumes - and very skimpy there were too! Quite popular with the audience for some reason...

The winner was a very dashing Ares, with prizes for all the competitors as usual.
Sunday saw it all over again! Paris Jefferson and Adrienne Wilkinson were on alone, then it was Tim Omundsen and Claire Stansfield together. Tim came on dressed as a punk in a Sex Pistols t shirt, spiked hair and felt tip tattoos saying "Sex, Drugs and XENA" and "Eli is a fag!" Quite a change from his ultra debonnaire look on Saturday. Lots of nice black eye liner too I think.
They danced around to Anarchy in the UK for a bit too. Claire told us how they had been into London and went to the Globe theatre. Tim was looking around in awe at this piece of history where Shakespeare's plays were first performed. Claire said she was checking out the cute guys! Tim spoke about how much he has enjoyed the convention scene in that he has really got to know people like Kevin, Claire and the other XENA actors at conventions rather than on the set in New Zealand. He said that a group of them often got together when Kevin was in town and went out together and drank a lot! Claire agreed, and spoke about how she got to know Danielle Cormack when they were at the Manchester convention a few years back. She also mentioned that she would love to direct Danielle in something as she thinks Danielle could be the next Nicole Kidman as she is such a good actress.(Something that I have heard quite a few people say.)

If the STARFURY fancy dress has become tradition, the STARFURY cross dressing is legend! In previous years we had Ted Raimi, Karl Urban and Starfury organiser Sean Harry wear Hudson's dresses. Kevin Smith also wore Hudson's dress at last year's Michigan Con. So naturally, we weren't going to let Tim Omundsen off! Actually, he did quite well as Claire Stansfield's vinyl miniskirt and top was much less outrageous that Hudson's dresses! The best bit though, was that they went behind a screen to change where the camre was shining, so we saw they in silhouette the whole time and could spot each item of clothing coming off and going on! Tim's boxer shorts didn't really go with the mini skirt, but he was a good sport to do it. Claire seemed quite happy with the punk t shirt and jeans!

After those 2, the convention finished off with Hudson and Melinda once again to bring down the curtain on 4 great years of UK XENA conventions.

The closing ceremony saw the guests lead everyone in a round of applause and a standing ovations for convention organiser Sean Harry, who has done a great job and provided us with the best XENA conventions around....eat your heart out Creation! The only thing missing from Sean's conventions were Lucy or Renee, but seeing as they have only done one convention between them in the last 2 or 3 years, I guess we can't complain. All the guests were very friendly and relaxed, and the atmosphere was really nice - even the stweards weren't too power-hungry this year. Mainly.

The reason people go to conventions is varied. Mainly to see the guests, but for many of us, the social side of seeing all our XENA pals is a major factor, and I for one am sad it won't be happening next year.

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