Star-Tribune Newspaper of the Twin Cities Mpls.-St. Paul
Copyright 1997

Sunday, August 24, 1997

NEWS

Fans muscle up to galactic royalty // TV heroes such as Hercules and Xena were
once the obsession of sci-fi fans and eternal teenagers, but now they are
attracting wider audiences from gays to middle-America families to internet
fans from all over the world.
Neal Justin; Staff Writer

Every Sunday night, Catherine Krog has "family time" with her
four children. They gather around the TV set in their living room in
Browerville, Minn., for a double shot of "Hercules: The Legendary
Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess," the most popular syndicated
shows in the galaxy. There's just one thing missing: the Greek god
himself.

So when Krog had a chance Saturday afternoon to meet Kevin
Sorbo, the down-to-earth actor who grew up in Mound before becoming
the world's most powerful studmuffin, she took a shot.

"Would you like to join us for dinner tomorrow night?" she
asked when it was her turn to chat with the star at the
  Hercules/Xena Convention Tour, held at the Minneapolis Convention
Center.

Sorbo, dressed in a casul jacket and slacks, handled the
question with great dexterity. He insisted he'd love to come, if
only he didn't have to fly to Atlanta the next day to promote his
new movie, "Kull: The Conqueror," but he gave his blessing to the
Krogs' weekly ritual. "Very nice," he said, moving down the long
line of fans, most of whom just wanted to shake his burly hand.
"You're a very wise family."

Despite Sorbo's pass, Krog was thrilled as she returned to her
seat. "It's a show with good morals, good lessons - and he's just
so cute!" she said as her 5-year-old nodded in approval.

Lots of people at the convention think they're onto something
that mere humans still don't get: "Hercules" and "Xena" are royalty
- then, now, always. They outhustle the "Baywatch" lifeguards, save
more lives than the "ER" docs and would beat the living daylights
out of anyone from "Seinfeld" who whined too much.

These hot shows, being made into an animated full-length movie,
aren't the first to receive such attention. This afternoon, the
Convention Center hosts a "Star Trek" gathering, the forefather of
them all, with William Shatner beaming down to sign autographs. And
even though Saturday's event drew only about 800 people, moderate
compared with similar conventions, and the meeting-room setting
seemed about as medieval as your grandparents' wedding anniversary,
the event was striking because of the number of families in
attendance.

Most cult/fantasy shows appeal primarily to sci-fi fans and
eternal teenagers. But Saturday, the fans appeared to be a fair
representation of middle America.

"I get fan mail from 5-year-old girls and 85-year-old
grandfathers," Sorbo said in an earlier interview. "I find it very
flattering that the show is able to reach such a wide range of
people."

Jan Casto left her home in St. Paris, Ohio, at 3:30 a.m.
Friday and drove 15 hours straight with her 8-year-old daughter,
Jackyln. Casto wore a button that marks her as one ofthe Amazons,
an Internet fan club whose members came from all over the world to
meet Sorbo.

"He reminds me a lot of my husband. He's not 6 foot 3 with all
that muscle, but they both have kindness," Casto said.

Yes, it was Sorbo's day in many ways, from a morning ceremony
in his hometown in which a park was named in his honor, to a 20th
high-school reunion in the evening.

But as excited as fans were to see him, the most dedicated,
heartfelt fans were those watching "Xena" with Lucy Lawless, who
wasn't in attendance. Sorbo's popularity has a lot to do with the
show's noble intentions and his even nobler build. But "Xena" has
broken new ground, putting a tough woman in the leading role without
winking at the camera.

She has attracted a major following among gay men and lesbians,
in part because of the undertones of sexual tension between Xena and
her sidekick, Gabrielle. That's one of the reasons Renee Indehar of
Minneapolis is such a fan and dressed up as Xena, wearing a bright
blue dress and a sword and boots that she bought at the Renaissance
Festival. The other reason she put on the costume? "Practice," she
said. "I want to try for the Miss Minnesota Leather title in
October."

  "Xena" also holds great appeal for teenage girls. Faye
Braxton, 14, of Cottage Grove, who came dressed as Gabrielle,
insists that she's seen her favorite episode 47 times and acts out
scenes in the back yard with her friend. "There don't seem to be
enough shows about buff women beating up men," she said through her
braces.

Amiee Fielder, 17, of Blaine High School, dropped a few bucks
at the dealers' tables, buying posters and other items to add to her
massive collection. "The only thing we don't have are the preschool
storybooks," she said as her friend held onto three sacks full of
memorabilia. "We're not that obsessed."

- Staff writer Jeff Strickler contributed to this story.