April 22nd, 2003

Costume Con 21, Skokie, IL

Over Easter Weekend, Georgie Schnobrich and I went down to the Doubletree Hotel at Skokie, Illinois for Costume Con 21. A number of current and former Milwaukee area fans were involved in both bidding and running this unique convention, including Co-Chair Henry Osier, Historical Masquerade Chairman Nancy Mildebrandt, SF and Fantasy Masquerade Chairman Andy Trembly, and Dealer's Room head Kyym Kimpel, and Greg "Animal" Nowak in the Con Suite. I was flattered to have been asked to be Master of Ceremonies for both the major masquerades, and Georgie both acted as my assistant and as the Master of Calligraphy for award certificates.

We got down to the hotel about noon Friday, which left us plenty of time to get settled in, get a pretty good dinner at the "Daily Grill" in the hotel, and change for the evening social, which had a Roaring 20's/Mobster theme. Georgie and I had coordinating pin-stripe suits with white bouttonnieres. There were a lot of other mobsters from other periods represented, including 40's Zoot suiters, 50's refugees from "Guys and Dolls," and 70's "Disco Boys" plus the ubiquitous Star Wars heavies, medieval rogues, and a really spectacular "Blade" outfit. The ConComm laid on a really excellent swing Big Band accompanied by some very talented singers. It was a very good time and went well into the night.

Saturday morning we had time to check out the dealers and catch a couple of panels. The dealer's room was quite small due to limited space. One room was taken up entirely by "Alteryears", who are virtually a general store in themselves, and the other had a corsettier, a dealer in trims, a dealer in beads, La Paloma hats, Poison Pen books, a pattern dealer, and one with a mixture of books, yarns, and other notions.

Technical rehearsals for the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Masquerade "technically" began at noon, but we had a two-hour delay due to problems with the stage setup as provided by the hotel. Once rolling, however, we picked up speed, were actually on time for a few minutes, but lost ground and ended only an hour late--which, given the size of the masquerade, wasn't bad.

We dashed across the street to Panera for a tasty sandwich for dinner, then back to dress for the evening. I wore my "PsiCorps" black Nehru suit, with a silver button bearing the motto "Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp," in place of the badge. (As I said, "The Concom is Mother, the Concom is Father.") Georgie had a very dapper black brocade pantsuit with gold embroidered Chinese motifs.

The SF&F Masquerade had 34 entries, which ranged from the cute to the really spectacular. Winner of Best of Show and several other awards was "The Court of the Crimson King," based on the song of the same title, with a cast of twelve and unquestionably the most magnificent costumes and props. "Night Hunt" was a close runner up, with an etherialy beautiful and poigniant presentation. "Dragon Hunter" consisted of an amazingly engineered Black Dragon with glowing eyes and steaming breath that stood fully twelve feet tall. There were many other beautiful and intricate entries: "The Dragon's Jewel," "Debonair", "The Digital Revolution," "Emperor Cartagia," "Lady of the Nebulae," "The Dream Time," and "Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," were all particularly noteworthy. The judges had a difficult time reaching decisions and the time taken almost ran Moebius Theater (the interval entertainment) out of material.

Tech rehearsals for the Historical Masquerade started next morning at 9:30 to noon, with a wind up session four to five, which actually ended at five-thirty. We still had time to get a good dinner at Ruby of Siam and get changed. This time, I wore my frock coat, ruffled shirt, brocaded vest, top hat and cane. Georgie looked beautiful in her authentic Austrian "tracht", or ethnic costume.

The Historical Masquerade was smaller, with 21 entries, but still the best seen in some years. Top Honors were shared by "The Final Touch," a meticulous reconstruction of a 19th century Danish woman's outfit, and "Dioresque" a "grand golden gown" in homage to Christian Dior. There were many other very beautiful and intricate pieces. "An Evening Out," and "Summer of 1894 in Black and White," were lovely Victorian gowns. "Tempus Fugit" was the most dramatic. And great construction and good humour vied in "Nero Wolf," "Supercalifracilisticexpialidocious," "What if Elizabeth I Went Goth?" "King Henry Tudor-Tankamen," and "Cardoon, A Peasant and her Horse." Words fail to describe all these. If I can find any pictures posted, I'll put up a URL.

The interval entertainment was the first-ever full-scale "Iron Costumer." Kevin Roche put together an incredible spectacle as "Iron Costumer Fantastic" defended her title by taking on two teams of challengers to assemble a costume and accessories featuring the secret ingredients, AOL CD-ROMs and Vinyl Siding.

We also took in the Future Fashion show, with notable entries "Fractal Robe," "Layered Outfit," "Opening Night at the Midnight Ascots," and "The Dragon Queen." The Doll Masquerade and Costume exhibit were well worth looking at, and the sole Video entry, "What's Opera, Doc?" was a pure hoot.

By Monday, we were too tired to do anything but drag ourselves home with heads full of beautiful memories.