I attended my first science fiction convention (New York's ICON) when I was 17 and a freshman in college. What I remember are movie, tv and book loving geeks dressed up as Klingons and elves, speaking in tongues and buying more dice from the massive dealer's room for their next D&D adventure. It was a haven for fantasy lovers -- whether you were just a huge Asimov fan or a pseudo-goth kid who wanted to get a set of fangs made by a dentist (yes, I have some of those).
Maybe I was just too young to experience the con nightlife at that time, or maybe East Coast cons are different than their West Coast brethren, but things seem to have changed. I popped in to experience a couple of the late night events this past Friday at FiestaCon and got quite an eye and earful.
Local body painter extraordinaire Mark Greenawalt was in the house from 8 p.m. to midnight, slowly covering two half-naked models with fantasy themed artwork. I didn't see anyone checking IDs at the door, but this event was strictly adults only. While Mark's amazing creations aren't in any way pornographic or lewd, it's a bit titillating to sit there and watch the models strip down without blinking (or batting) an eye. And a bit creepy to watch men taking pictures before the art even begins to appear.
Mark's a regular at local cons, having turned women into everything from vampire queens to stone gargoyles. This year, he went blacklight with a Supergirl getup and a seafaring scene straight out of a '70s black velvet painting. It was sweet!
Only a couple dozen people showed up to watch Mark in action. Blame it on the holiday weekend (what's with the Phoenix area cons on holidays??), the more intellectual bend of this particular con (in addition to gaming and a dealer's room, much of the programming was intellectual and literary-oriented) and the fact that many out-of-towners just come in for the Saturday and Sunday events.
Or maybe everyone else was just busy at other events, like the Metaphysical "Advanced Magic" discussion class and the "Men in Tights" contest. Yes, you read that right. Ever since British-accented Cary Elwes shook his cute, green-clad booty in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, some of us geekladies have been obsessed with getting men into support garments.
The event was like a nerdy faux-medieval Chippendale's bachelorette party, complete with catcalls and dollar bills shoved into waistbands. And even though most of the
victims volunteers were coerced into it, the participating guys were really good sports. Most tried on fluorescent tights and fishnets brought by the ladies running the event. But a few came prepared...
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After leaving the sanctity of the Men in Tights party, my jovial mood was marred when some random old dude bit into me (figuratively, thank god!) for being a journalist. Not so strange it itself -- hey, people love to hate, right? -- but cons are usually a sanctuary for geek girls like me. A place where you know you're not going to be harassed or bothered by jerks like you would at the nearby Tempe bars. If someone had targeted me, or any other ladygeek, with rude comments when I was at ICON, you betchyerass some fanboy would've kicked their Magic-playing, Terry Brooks-reading, Borg-costume-wearing butt into the next century. Yeah, cons have changed.
The only one who came to my rescue was this guy, who despite his er, attention-getting pink couture, walked me past the "wolf pack" to safety.
Clearly, real men do wear tights.