Note: I never imagined I would be posting TWO “rare sci-fi convention” videos within weeks of each other, but here we are! So here’s the story…
In the fall of 2019 I mentioned to my friend Whit Norris that I was planning a side project to save some of my old home videos from VHS to digital format. Of special interest was the preservation of footage from of one of Atlanta’s two PBS affiliates, WGTV Channel 8, at the science fiction convention Dixie Trek back in the mid-1980s (here’s where I uploaded that other footage).
As Whit understood what I intended to do his eyes lit up and he said “I have a tape that you need to see. We shot video at some conventions back in the 80s.”
Keep reading to learn more about this star-studded vintage video…
Collector’s Fantasy Video Magazine Vol.1 No.1
The next time I saw Whit he produced a VHS clamshell from his backpack and handed it to me. The cover loudly proclaimed “Collector’s Fantasy World Premiere Edition, Volume 1 Number 1” and indicated that it had been “Distributed Exclusively at the (sic) The Atlanta Fantasy Fair” with that event’s logo branded at the bottom.
Turns out that Whit had worked on the production of this “video magazine” back in the 1980s when, lacking any sort of distribution network like Netflix, fan-targeted projects like this were generally distributed at sci-fi conventions or through really good comic book stores.
According to the packaging 1,100 copies of this tape were produced “especially for distribution” at the 1987 Atlanta Fantasy Fair. I don’t know how well they sold, or whether any subsequent editions were produced. Do you know?
I transferred the tape to digital format and uploaded it privately, so that Whit could show it to his producer friend, Chris Foxx. My intention was purely for preservation, ostensibly to hand off the transferred video file off to Chris, so that he could share it via his own channels (assuming he had any). I did harbor the suspicion that Chris might be older and less technically proficient than he was 30+ years ago, but the footage was so valuable to our nerd community I was willing to lend assistance.
The next time I spoke with Whit he let me know that Chris Foxx had passed away several ago. I did some research and discovered that Chris Foxx was the on-air name for Glenn Glazebrook, a veteran of the radio industry. Here is a link to Glenn’s obituary.
After talking to Whit I decided to go ahead and switch the video to public and share it with the world.
To avoid copyright issues from the lead-in music I used GarageBand to produce an alternate, original opening score. I also made color corrections to the footage, converted the monaural audio track to stereo, and toned down the level of ambient noise.
In this “issue” the producers covered a great variety of topics. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s in this hour of footage.
The Doctor Who Celebration & Tour ’87 ’88, a traveling road show featuring props, costumes, and set pieces from the BBC production of Doctor Who, which had taken the southeastern United States by storm thanks to local public broadcasting stations.
A walk through Magnum Opus Con 2, from fan interviews to exhibitors in the dealer’s room. Maciej Zakazewski of Starfire Forge discusses his swords, Susan Honeck of Honeck Sculpture regarding her lost wax cast dragons featuring opals, Mark Anthony from the Wizard’s Nook regarding plasma spheres (which became popular around that time), and writer Lamar Waldron discusses the Artists’ Alcove.
Peter Laird, co-creator of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, discusses the origin of the Turtles and an upcoming toy line (this is before things went crazy big for them).
Not everything in this magazine is devoted to science fiction! Vinyl fans will be stoked to see a segment devoted to the 6th Annual Alabama Record Collector’s Association convention.
Tish Grolier (“the infamous Trish”) leads a workshop in figure painting.
Art Director Rosanne Stutts discusses the art exhibit and the artists who display there. Artist Doug Chaffee discusses the challenge of retaining your creativity as a producing artist, while painter David Dorman mentions his initial desire to do comics before becoming a cover artist.
The autograph area is shown, with performers like Patrick Troughton (the 2nd Doctor from Doctor Who), Anthony Ainley (the original Master from Doctor Who), James Doohan (Star Trek’s original Scotty), George Takei (Star Trek’s original Lieutenant Sulu), Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez from Alien), author Alan Dean Foster trying to look super cool (LOL),
Fred Dahlke, founder of the Alabama Record Association (ARCA), Scott Michaels, President of ARCA. Exhibitor Mike Morton shows off and explains a vinyl record referred to as the Beatles Butcher Cover. Exhibitors discuss the future of the compact disc.
A preview of the Celebration & Tour ’87 ’88 shows off some of the collection of that traveling tour, and mentions that the 7th Doctor will be announced in England (in actuality, the 7th Doctor was unveiled to the world at Mercer University in Atlanta, when the traveling tour was passing through).
Video of Jon Pertwee telling stories to attendees.
Paul Jenkins conducts a delightful in-depth interview with Jon Pertwee about his career prior to, during and after Doctor Who. They discuss Pertwee’s time on the program The Navy Lark. Also discussed is how Pertwee became the 3rd Doctor and how he eventually left the show.
A nice tribute to actor Patrick Troughton is included, along with footage of the actor signing autographs at Magnum Opus Con 2 (where he died). Jon Pertwee laughingly discusses his fake “war” with his friend Troughton.
What a wonderful treasure for fandom! Thanks to Whit Norris for sharing the original source VHS tape and to Chris Foxx and Mary Brown and everyone who made this project happen.
I hope that you will enjoy opening this time capsule as much as I do, and would love to read your memories of the convention scene from the 1980s in the comments section! Please share this with your nerd friends!
2 thoughts on “Rare 1980s Sci-Fi Con Documentary”
Hey, Drew! Thanks for posting this; I had not seen it for YEARS! It was a great idea, I thought, and this volume was more of a ‘pilot’ project to secure investors, as I understood it.
I went on to work with Comico, DC, Marvel, and several others until physical disability took my finer motor skills.
It was fun (and slightly painful) to watch. Fortunately, my suspenders phase was short-lived but I fear I persisted with the feathered hair a couple more decades.
I just saw this on messenger. I am the co producer in this project. My name in the credits is Mary Brown. My name on FB is Mary Brown Thomason. Look me up!