Tuesday, October 18, 2011

atlanta starcon & comics

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ATLANTA STARCON & COMICS was a one-time show from the former Atlanta Fantasy Fair organizers. After the disappointing 1995 show, the administrators ditched the AFF brand and replaced it with a new convention featuring a wide slate of guests from Hollywood, the comics industry, the martial-arts stars of the WMAC MASTERS, and the usual costume contests, video rooms, gaming, con suites, panels, art shows, and dealers.

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I did not attend this show because it was held on the same weekend as the second Anime Weekend Atlanta. As it turned out the second AWA was a total success and the convention is still rockin' it after seventeen years. How did Atlanta Starcon & Comics go? I don't know.

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I was told that the dealers were packing up on Saturday afternoon, which doesn't bode well for any show. First year conventions, even if they have a staff pedigree stretching back for years, are always a tough sell. This was the last attempt by the former AFF administration to keep a yearly show alive in the face of both Dragoncon and public indifference.

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Note the hotel, the Marriott North Central - Dixie-Trek had already been there a few times and AWA would move in for its next two shows. But Atlanta Starcon & Comics would vanish into the mists of the '90s.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dragon-Con 1989

I've often thought of the growth of Dragon-Con and the concomitant shrinkage of the AFF / Dixie-Trek as emblematic of a paradigm shift among Atlanta's fan community - the older Trekkie/Whovian fan power structure being replaced by a younger crowd more interested in D&D, fantasy, and Bettie Page Look-A-Like contests. And sure, I probably think about this too much.

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Dragoncon started in 1987 and quickly swelled in attendance to match that of the AFF. Dragoncon's administration has freely admitted inflating their attendance figures in the early days, but it's the truth, that was one crowded show. By 1989 they were infringing upon AFF's turf, which was the Omni / World Congress Center downtown.

I'm pretty sure I went to this show and wandered around all weekend without a badge, setting a Dragoncon tradition that many thousands would repeat over the years. I'm not a gamer, not a fan of fantasy or horror movies, so there really wasn't much for me to do at the show other than gawk at the nerds. Again, a tradition many thousands would repeat over the years.

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Wow, $65 a night for a hotel room in downtown Atlanta! At the Omni! Did the Omni still have the skating rink in 1989? The late 80s saw the transformation of the Omni complex into "CNN Center", when it was an oasis of light and order amidst the wasteland of Marietta Street. Which of course now is tourist central. How things change.

I spent many a fine convention meal at that Chick-Fil-A in the Omni, as well as a fine convention quarter in the Gold Mine arcade. At one point CNN Center had a movie theater that showed first run films AND "Gone With The Wind." Every day.

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Whoever had this flyer before me helpfully listed some video room programming, which included Dune, Robocop, Alien, Aliens, three Star Trek movies and the always-entertaining Star Trek Blooper Reel, required by law to be screened at every SF convention forever. Apart from the blooper reel this could very well be USA Cable's schedule for any given weekend.

Dragoncon is still going, in spite of scandals and assault and the baleful eye of the fire inspector. It's become the de facto Nerd Mardi Gras for costumers, fame mongers, gamers, and the newly empowered geek demographic as they parade through downtown in all their Klingon finery and Stormtrooper armor. And they said it couldn't happen here!

Dixie-Trek 1986

Dixie-Trek was a SF convention held in Atlanta GA throughout the 1980s and half of the 90s. An outgrowth of the Atlanta Star Trek Society, it moved from strict Trek into the larger world of media SF, as its 1986 flyer demonstrates.

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I attended the 1986 show mostly because of Peter Davidson; I was not then and never wound up being any kind of Star Trek fan. My memories of the convention include running a fan table promoting our Japanese animation club, filling a car with convention pals for a late night food run, wandering into a room party where BEER was being served (!!) and generally having a good time in the convention environment as an unsupervised teenager. Also note the ubiquitous presence of Brad Strickland.

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Films at the convention were 16mm prints run off a clackety projector. These included, of course, the Star Trek Blooper Reel, which was a highlight of conventions since in the pre-VHS days conventions were the only place you could see them. Of course you couldn't get Dr. Who episodes on 16mm so the convention used their ten-foot video projection screen. Remember those three-lens RGB projectors?

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The world of Japanese animation was only then beginning to carve out a foothold among the Trekkies and Whovians of the world, and I can assure you that every bit of anime shown at this Dixie-Trek was copies of copies of copies of Project A-Ko and the Macross movie. Advance tickets were only $22, which was probably a lot back in 1986, but these days is pretty much what you'd pay for an advance ticket at a comparable show. Though these days you will probably get gouged for autographs, priority seating, and "VIP Access". Note the Century Center was charging $59 a night. You can't get a Super-8 room for that price any more.

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Dixie-Trek faded away in the mid 1990s as Atlanta fan conventions crumbled under the onslaught of Dragon-Con; the Trekkies of the 70s and 80s found themselves with kids, jobs, and no time for filking, while the new fandom of the 1990s wouldn't be caught dead getting Billy Mumy's autograph, instead preferring to play video games and get Todd McFarlane's autograph.

"Dixie-Trek" was also used as the name of a sci-fi convention in Mississippi attended by a character on the TV show "Big Bang Theory". Somebody owes Owen Ogletree some royalties, is all I'm saying.

AWA would hold its third and fourth conventions at the Century Center, which is now a Marriott property and seems to have undergone a complete makeover. If you are planning a 900-1200 person event I highly recommend the Century Center; lots of good memories there.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Overview: the 1990s

Okay, so there was this convention in Atlanta called the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, and according to the internets it might as well not have existed. But exist it did, from 1975 until 1995. The following is an incomplete overview of the AFFs of the 1990s, when and where they were held, and who was there. Information has been culled from various sources including AFF program books, convention listings, usenet posts, and comments from readers. I will keep updating this post as more information comes in. If you have any data, image files of flyers or artwork, t-shirts, program books, please contact me at terebifunhouse@gmail.com.

Thanks to all those who have contributed!

1990 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVI
August 17-19, 1990
Omni Hotel & World Congress Center
Guests: Jack Kirby, John deLancie, Sandahl Bergman, Catherine Hicks, Julie Schwartz, Sharon Green, Linda Thorson, Martin Caidin, Greg Theakston, Boris Vallejo, and Carl Macek.


1991 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVII
July 26-28, 1991
Atlanta Hilton & Towers
Guests: Marina Sirtis, Dean Stockwell, Marc Singer, Matt Wagner, Julie Schwartz, Greg Bear.
Sneak preview of "Beastmaster 2". Costume Contest, "Wheel Of Fantasy". 


1992 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVIII June 20-21
Hyatt Atlanta Airport Guest: Peter David


1993 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XIX June 25-27
Hyatt Atlanta Airport, Atlanta GA. Guests David Prowse, Grace Lee Whitney, Caroline Munro, Monique Gabrielle, Jeff Rector, Gunnar Hanson, Irish McCalla. Memberships: $27 until 6/5, $30 at door.


1994 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XX June 17-19
Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Atlanta GA. Guests: Sarah Douglas, Bruce Campbell, Jeff Rector, Geraint Wyn Davies, John Russo, Ted V. Mikels. Memb: $27 until June 5, $30 at door. Rooms $79 sngl/dbl, $99 tpl/quad.


1995 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XXI, June 23-25
Castlegate Hotel, Atlanta GA. Guests: Claudia Christian, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Jeff Pittarelli, Don Hillsman II, Wayne VanSant, Joe Phillips. Memberships $35 for 3 days. Rooms $69.

So, as we can see, the convention went from being Atlanta's premier SF/Fantasy gathering with top-notch guests and venues (Stan Lee, Al Williamson, Jim Steranko, Ray Harryhausen, the Omni, the Hilton) to a confused mish-mash of scream queens, airbrush artists, and B-movie personalities, operating out of the Castlegate (!). More information about the Castlegate may be found here.

overview: the 1980s

Okay, so there was this convention in Atlanta called the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, and according to the internets it might as well not have existed. But exist it did, from 1975 until 1995. The following is an incomplete overview of the AFFs of the 1980s, when and where they were held, and who was there. Information has been culled from various sources including AFF program books, convention listings, usenet posts, and comments from readers. I will keep updating this post as more information comes in. If you have any data, image files of flyers or artwork, t-shirts, program books, please contact me at terebifunhouse@gmail.com.
Thanks to all those who have contributed!





1980 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VI.
Location: Dunfey's Royal Coach (Castlegate)
Guests: Robert Bloch
Visions #2 published.

Gil Kane was due at 80 show, but didnt make it. Robert Bloch, however was there. They showed his 3 STOS episodes prior to/in conjunction with his presentation. (T. Johnson)



1981 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VII
Location: Dunfey's Royal Coach / Castlegate.
Guests: Al Williamson, Michael Whelan, Bob Burden, Mike Jittlov? Visions #3 published.



1982 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VIII August 13-15
Omni Hotel & World Congress Center, Atlanta GA
Guests: Frank Miller, Ray Harryhausen, Will Eisner, Philip Jose Farmer, Forrest J. Ackerman, Bob Burden, Mike Barr, Dick Giordano, Brad Linaweaver, Somtow Sucharitkul, Len Wein, musical guests "Axis". 4000 copies of program book (Visions #4) published.


1983 Atlanta Fantasy Fair IX, August 5-7
Omni Hotel & Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta GA. Guests: Theodore & Jayne Sturgeon, Gerald Page, WSFAns Ted White & Forrest J Ackerman, Bob Burden, Forry Ackerman, Bob McLeod, Wendy and Richard Pini& more. Rooms were $44 a night, 3 day passes were $19.


1984 Atlanta Fantasy Fair X
Omni Hotel & World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA. GOH: Larry Niven. With: Forrest J Ackerman, Robert Bloch, Sharon Webb, Richard Pini & others. Membership: $25. Write to: Atlanta Fantasy Fair. P.O. Box 566, Marietta, GA 30061

"Not only saw Buckaroo Banzai, but I have a real polyester Buckaroo Banzai headband given out as a freebie at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in the summer of 1984. I wonder if anyone's insane enouW^W^W^^W what it would go for on Ebay? (jackd) "


 

1985 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XI
Omni/WCC. Newt Gingrich and Fredrick Pohl are guests.

1986 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XII
Omni/WCC.
I attended the 1985 and 1986 AFF.(...) But for the 1986 one, Stan Lee was there with a clip from the upcoming monster hit movie "Howard The Duck". It was a big deal at the time. Other guests for the 1986 AFF were Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Archie Goodwin and Tom DeFalco. (J. Helmick)



1987 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XIII
Omni /WCC. Lamar Waldron displaced as con chair before the 1987 convention.


1988 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVI, June 24-26
Atlanta Hilton & Towers in Atlanta, GA. Convention location displaced due to Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Steve Jackson is a guest.

1989 ATLANTA FANTASY FAIR XV.
Atlanta Hilton and Towers, Atlanta, GA.

overview: the 1970s

Okay, so there was this convention in Atlanta called the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, and according to the internets it might as well not have existed. But exist it did, from 1975 until 1995. The following is an incomplete overview of the Atlanta Fantasy Fairs 1975-1979, when and where they were held, and who was there. Information has been culled from various sources including AFF program books, convention listings, usenet posts, and comments from readers.

I will keep updating this post as more information comes in. If you have any data, image files of flyers or artwork, t-shirts, program books, please contact me at terebifunhouse@gmail.com

Thanks to all those who have contributed!


1975 Atlanta Fantasy Fair I
Ramada Inn, I-85 and Monroe Drive
"At the first Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1975, the guests were Stan Lee, Kenneth Smith, and me, with my Superman collection." M. Curtis  Mike emailed me later to correct his name and to note that he sketched on stage while Stan Lee came out dressed as Superman, infringing upon any number of copyrights.

Listen to a WAGA radio news report about the first AFF here! (thanks to Don)


1976 Atlanta Fantasy Fair II
Location: Marriott Downtown
Guests: Frank Brunner, Steve Gerber, Dick Giordano, and Kenneth Smith

1977 Atlanta Fantasy Fair III
Location: Dunfey's Royal Coach (Castlegate)
Guests: Neal Adams, Kenneth Smith
There was the CONAN van, parked INSIDE for I think the 77 show at the Dunfey/Castlegate. (T. Johnson)
Dr. Smith was a guest at all of them up until 1988 or so I believe. He quit coming after he tried to intervene in a very loud and childish argument that some gamers were having while he was trying to give a seminar on techniques. On of the gamers viciously insulted him, and he's never been back to an Atlanta con since.("billy goat")

1978 Atlanta Fantasy Fair IV.
Location Dunfey's Royal Coach (Castlegate).
Guests: Stan Lee, Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin, Jim Steranko
1978, first convention: Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair. Stan Lee, Starlin, Chaykin, Steranko. For some weird reason, Robert Conrad was hanging around the lobby on Saturday night.

1979 Atlanta Fantasy Fair V.
Location: Downtown Atlanta Sheraton.
Guests: John Byrne, Dave and Deni Sim

"In 1979 Deni and I had the table next to John Byrne at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair and we made a fortune on back issues and sketches... " (Dave Sim) Visions #1 was published.