I’m sure most of the reporters covering the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala and awards dinner in San Francisco Saturday night were there for the politics, and honestly, I’m normally the very soul of queer political activism.
But that night? Let’s face it: I was there for Lucy Lawless.
Lucy was all glammed up in high heels, evening gown and tousled curls. She sailed into the pre-dinner VIP reception like an old-fashioned Hollywood star, and signed autographs and posed for pictures with adoring Xena fans both male and female.
Since she looks just as good in girly clothes as in jeans and a cowgirl hat — not to mention her Xena fighting leathers — it’s not hard to see why she made it onto the top 100 on the AfterEllen.com hot list. What did Lucy think about that? “Well that’s pretty great,” she beamed. “I love that. Thanks very much for the vote of confidence, girls, and just thanks so much for the support, and I want to be here to support you.”
In addition to her iconic role on Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy played Cylon D’anna Biers on the last season of Battlestar Galactica. Will she be back next season, as was hinted at the recent Xena convention in New York? “Could be, could be,” she said, and smiled. “We’re discussing things at the moment.”
Another hot topic at both the California and New York Xena conventions was the renewed possibility of a Xena movie — something hoped for by fans since the show ended its six-season run in 2001. Unfortunately, things look stalled again, and Lucy seems pretty frustrated with the whole thing. “Oh God, I don’t know,” she said about the chances of a movie ever being made. “This acting thing leaves me cold. It’s great when it happens, but it ain’t the meaning of life and I know plenty of Oscar winners that say none of the rewards a glittery life can bring will make you happy. And I’ve certainly found that to be true.”
Lucy’s been doing a lot of singing lately, starting with last year’s appearances on Celebrity Duets, followed up with a pair of sold-out shows at L.A.’s Roxy Theater, and then three shows in New York during the Xena convention. She lit up at being asked about future concerts, and said that she’s appearing back in San Francisco at an August 5 AIDS benefit, has something tentatively planned for Chicago in October and will be doing a repeat concert in L.A. the last weekend of January 2008.
Lucy was sharing the limelight at the reception with Star Trek’s George Takei, there to receive the HRC’s Equality Award, and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, who was giving the evening’s keynote address. Despite expressing her support for marriage equality and lesbian and gay civil rights in the strongest terms, she told me she was going to leave the political speeches to others. “I figure everybody who’s here is so much more knowledgeable on just any subject you could name,” she said, “so I’m just here as the comic relief, actually. I’ve written a very silly speech, and I’m going to come out wearing a space suit with antennas and things. All you can hope to be is a little bit entertaining. I’m going to leave the erudite, instructional speeches to the other people, and I’m just going to goof off a little bit with my friends.”
And that’s just what she did later that night, when HRC’s Amy Erret introduced her with the words, “Our featured speaker transitioned from Warrior Princess to gay community icon, and everything in between,” and Lucy came out in the slinky catsuit she wore at her concert in New York last month, with the addition of little antennae peaking out from her curls.
“I thought you were going to introduce me as Xena, where no man has gone before,” Lucy pouted, shaking her blond curls at the crowd. She joked about being from outer space and finding the human race pretty incomprehensible, then left the stage for her third wardrobe change of the night. One of the MCs, Greg “the Gay Sportscaster” Sherell, gazed after her appreciatively, and sighed that he’d jump the fence for Lucy Lawless.
She came back out a little later in a gold ball gown, and teased and cajoled the audience into placing exorbitant bids for a pair of cruises being auctioned off to support HRC. She offered to sit on the lap of bidders, and got the eventual winner (“He’s Brian, he’s from AT&T, he’s single, and he’s at table 6”) to pony up five grand for an Alaskan whale watching cruise. “You want to see the whales before they’re all gone, dontcha?” she asked.
Next on the auction block was a Caribbean cruise donated by Olivia, “For the three lesbians in the room — and the men who love them.” When bidding slowed down, she frowned. “You can relax on the glorious white beaches. Yeah bitches.”
After the Olivia cruise went for $4300, Amy Erret rejoined her on stage. “Isn’t this every lesbian’s dream?” she asked. The two later auctioned off a dinner for 14 with chef Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake, who joined them on stage in a snazzy white suit and short blonde hair — and who apparently grabbed Lucy’s ass, to the delight of the crowd. That one went well into the five figures before the gavel came down.
I’d interviewed Lucy once before, at the Xena convention down in Burbank in January , and just like that weekend, she had lots of love for her queer fan base: “Yeah, I’ve always been very grateful for them for basically giving my career the first initial push,” she said. “They really made the show groovy, and hip, and got people talking about it, and continued to be incredibly loyal fans down through the years. I’m here not only supporting my fans, but also my friends, a good number of whom are gay.”
She crinkled up her nose and added in her sassiest Kiwi accent, “As far as I’m concerned gay rights are human rights, so why wouldn’t you care?”
Photos by KT Jorgensen.