Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Blast From The Past?

In the early nineties I constructed the"Barbarian Buff" asymmetrical armour iteration, stitching together several moose hides with about 20,000 stainless lock washers. The design was inspired by "buff coats" from the English Civil War. The majority of the work was done whilst I was employed as an autumnal curator for our local museum.

This coat, along with some other components and heavy bone mask formed the base of a costume I called "The Collector."
 In 1994 I spent my second season with the Gore Bay Summer Theatre as lights, sound, backstage Foley and stage manager for a production called Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii by Allan Stratton.

One of the cast members was a high school teacher and one day during play practice we got talking about Star Trek. Next Gen was just ending around this time and DS9 just starting. He was particularly curious about how warp drives functioned. I wasn't sure about the technical details, so I did a little BBS research. This was long before the Internet and 99.8% of computer communication time was spent connected to long distance Bulletin Board Services.

I managed to dig up a technical description of a warp drive which I passed on in 9-pin tractor feed print at the next rehearsal.

That's when this particular cast member told me that I should meet their friend from Southern Ontario who was involved with something mysterious called "conventions."

My curiosity was piqued, but I didn't think any more of it until one evening I received an invitation to meet said friend at the cast member's home. I was pretty shy at the time, but my curiosity won out.

That evening I was introduced to all sorts of concepts I'd never come across before in terms of stories and videos of live convention events from Toronto. Such as Jason Taniguchi and his infamous Wrath of Khan in 10 Minutes. A character whom I'd later hear on the CBC being interviewed about Toronto's Serial Dinner's Club.

Even after everyone else had gone to bed we stayed up talking about all things sci-fi and fantasy. This was the first time I had ever met another person who knew who Doctor Who was. I don't think I got home until after 4 in the morning and I'm sure that her family wondered what we could possibly be talking about.

She introduced me to the concept of conventions or cons as they are known by participants and also "filk music." Which, much like Weird Al Yankovic, is when you hijack popular folk tune with your own sci-fi lyrics.

I was hooked and later than year had the privilege of attending my first Primedia convention, which I think was out near Brampton.

At that time Tek War and Forever Knight were popular series, so it was thrilling to attend panels with actors such as Natalie Radford and Nigel Bennett. This may have been the first time I saw actual TV stars interviewed in person.

Completely hooked, I spent the next year planning my first full weekend Con attendance for Primedia 1995. I was particularly exited about the Masquerade, as I was totally into costuming.

This is the version of The Collector I wore for the Primedia 95 Masquerade. Somewhere I may have the 1 minute audio presentation I created for this costume which was a combination of "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred and "Intergalactic Fashion File" on audio cassette.

Much to my surprise I won two top awards for my costume including best overall and best construction.

The early 90's was also when the X-files first started to gain polarity. In 1995 we had just gotten cable television on the north side of Gore Bay, which meant more than the 3 usual channels. But it would still be another year or so before we got Global and I finally got to see what all the X-fuss was about.

Despite my nativity, Chris Carter was actually present as one of the main attraction for Primedia 1995. Although I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Rick Green and Spider Robinson more. Especially when Spider sang a filk version of "A Boy Named Spider." I also recall that he was found of defying non-smoking by-laws by utilizing a portable ashtray with filtration s stem.

Primedia 1995 was also the first time I danced with a girl. We never kissed, but did attend the late night "flirting panel." I was too shy to do more.

Another extraordinary aspect of Primedia 1995 was that it was the location for the filming of the cult classic "The Marriage of the Maid Shonda and G'narr the Victor" which is generally known to fans as  G'Narr.

G'Narr contains a little bit of everything including time travel, the X-files and a uniquely rare slice of early 1990's convention life. This may not sound like much, but in today's world where the word "cosplay" has been part of the regular geek vocabulary, G'Narr is a unique peek into this now burgeoning hobby.

I made friends with one of the actors and actually appear in G'Narr four times. Three in costume and one completely embarrassing bare-faced outtake where I forget the couple's names. At one point I was  invited to one of the cast parties and to this day regret my shyness for not attending. Who knows, I could have become part of the Toronto acting/costume scene if I'd been more bold. But this was well before I knew that I loved the stage and acting.

After the convention I was sure to stay in touch with the creators of G'Narr long enough to score an original VHS copy.


(Addendum: I also just remembered that Primedia '95 was the first time I was ever exposed to "anime" in it's proper context. I was hooked.)

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