In order to start “preserving the past” (as the blog tagline reads), it’s high time I begin what I’m tagging The Secret History of DW Fandom but can be better described as Jennifer’s History in DW Fandom. This summer marks the 25th anniversary of Sweatcon, after all.
But to cover how I actually discovered life, the universe, and the Time Lord, we’ll have to set the way-back machine for February of 1981.
I was just seventeen
if you know what I mean and a high school senior. My spiritual sister Jan was a freshman at Northwestern University, and had invited me out to stay overnight and attend her 18th birthday party. Before the party started, we hung in her dorm room, along with several of her really kewl college friends who were all in the science fiction club. They chatted about all things SF. Most of the topics that came up I had a passing knowledge of. When one of them said something to the effect that he had heard that K9 was leaving, though, I found myself flummoxed.
Naturally, wanting to appear hip and kewl (well, as H and K as a h.s. senior can appear to a buncha college puddings), I had to pull a “whatchew talkin’ bout, Willis?” They hipped me to the whole concept of Doctor Who, and pointed out that it aired every Sunday night at 11 p.m. on WTTW. I remarked I would check it out.
It took me several weeks to get around to having a look-in, as 11 p.m. was a little late to be up (I felt, at least– my mom didn’t care one way or the other) on a school night. The last Sunday in March, though, was Spring Break. I stayed up late, took in “Planet of Evil,” and liked what I saw.
Two weeks later, even though it was a school night, I thought I would watch another story, because it did seem interesting and all. “Pyramids of Mars” grabbed me by the throat and tossed me onto the Road to Ruin. Seriously. I became suddenly, thoroughly obsessed with the show.
And, oh, how easy it was to feed the addiction. Pinnacle books had just come out with a series of Americanized versions of various Target novelisations, with a introduction by God Himself. (Harlan Ellison, that is– still my all-time fave rave pick hit of a writer to this day.) Once I had blown through those, I discovered Moondog’s Comics in Mount Prospect, which carried actual Target novels along with the odd issue of Doctor Who Magazine. Moondog’s tided me over until, one dark rainy Wednesday November afternoon, I made the trek into Rogers Park.
I stumbled into Larry’s Comic Book Shop and thought I had died and gone to heaven. The entire front half of his musty, cramped storefront was stuffed to the gills with all sorts of Doctor Who goodies– books, magazines, annuals, records. (And, as the merchandising increased under JNT, so did the variety Larry carried.) I dropped loads of money I shouldn’t have that day, and kept going back for more.
My costume recreation obsession began Winter Quarter 1982. It was freaking cold that winter, and I had to trek over a mile from my dorm to my classes and back again several times a day in -18Â°F windchill. Although I had a lovely wool coat (picked out ’cause it looked like the Doctor’s), a pair of bitchen leather boots (obtained before my obsession, but dayum if they didn’t look like the pair the Doctor wore), and a battered K-mart fedora that, with a pair of earmuffs, kept my head warm, my long scarf didn’t cut the mustard. (In actuality, it was two identical scarves that I tied the fringe together on to make it long enough to be a “proper” scarf– they were thin and loosely knit, so the lake breeze tore through them like a tornado through Kansas.)
I decided the only right and proper solution would be to go into town, score some yarn from the local Woolworth’s, and make myself a Doctor scarf. I didn’t know then how to knit, so I decided to crochet it. I spent most of Winter Quarter on it and all of Spring Break, but I finished it and felt it was pretty durn accurate.
Naturally, I had to then complete the outfit, and had good incentive, because Jan asked if I would be the Doctor as a non-speaking cameo in a video she was making. I hit up several thrift shops, but came up with a good combination that I wore several times.
By the time I heard about Sweatcon, I decided that I should make some companion costumes. I made Sarah’s Andy Pandy overalls (which I wore with the double-breasted Monkees shirt I made the year before) and what turned out to be a really crap version of Romana’s white dress from “Ribos Operation.” (I later converted it nicely into the “Armageddon Factor” dress.) I modified thrift store finds into a Leela outfit and the “Ribos Operation” cloak.
When it came time for the convention, I was good to go. I had money to spend, costumes to wear, people to hang with… Little did I know how much more my mind would be blown that weekend!
Careful readers will note that the only Doctor referenced here is the Fourth. Although I knew of (and had seen plenty of photos of) the previous three and the future one, to all intents and purposes, the only Doctor I had seen in action was Tom Freaking Baker. WTTW had barely shown his later episodes once by then– so I was mostly familiar with “Robot”– “Invasion of Time.” Scary, isn’t that?