Panopticon West, July 1983

Having recently returned from attending my 21st out-of-state Doctor Who convention, it’s only fitting that I now blog about my first one. The Virgin Tour, as it were! (And two years before Madonna’s, too!)

In other words, yes, it’s that time again, to hop in the TARDIS and pop back to July of 1983, when Teenage!Jenn hit the road with a busload of like-minded fen to check out Panopticon West 1983 in the wilds of Columbus, Ohio. Someone– and I can’t remember who– organized a bus trip to the convention. I nabbed a space, because I knew that would be the only way I could get to Ohio. It’s not like I had my own car,  and it wasn’t like I knew anyone else going who actually was driving. (Northwestern’s Own Adric was going w/ a neighborhood friend, but as he was only 14, he was taking the bus, too.)

Money was an issue, naturally, me being able to afford NU only because of scholarships and loans, so I spent Fourth of July weekend working a temp job calling people up for survey purposes. This gig was a sure sign of desperation, because I absolutely hated (and still hate, to this day) using the telephone. (Thank Kroll for the Internest, otherwise I would be a complete social leper…..)  At the end of the weekend, I was nicely asked not to return, which was such a drag (not!)…. Still, I had earned enough to pay for the bus and for my hotel room and a little bit of food and swag, too, and that’s all I cared about.

I had to schlep my suitcase down to Chinatown the day of departure, which involved two busses and two el lines, because it’s not like I had any other way of getting down there! (My stepdad had agreed to pick me up afterwards, but both he and my mom were working when the bus was leaving). I barely made it on time, and was relieved to hop on the bus and not have to carry my luggage around for awhile.

Back then, I wasn’t much good at travelling long distances, especially not on the bus. Although I braved things out as much as I could, my stomach still grew fussy and icky, and remained that way most of the weekend. I tried to join in on the “99 bottles” things and the convo, but it was difficult as I kept wanting to hurl over my new aquaintences….

We pulled into the hotel parking lot around 11 at night. The hotel restaurant was already closed, I was too young to go into the bar and scrounge up some bar food, and there weren’t any fast food places within walking distance of the hotel. (Not that I was willing to walk out alone at night in a strange place….) I didn’t think to bring snackage, so I went to bed hungry.

(Probably a good thing,  really– I could very well have upchucked whatever I would have eaten that evening….)

The Hotel Sign for Panopticon West 1983
The Hotel Sign for Panopticon West 1983

I had food issues all weekend, actually, and some 26 years later, it’s what I remember most about the convention. I survived on raisin bran and coca cola. (A fact that my husband– sadistic creep he can be sometimes– still doesn’t let me forget, because that’s how I described it in a letter to him that summer.) I must have had other food, too, but not a lot, money issues etc. (Didn’t even have a credit card yet– wouldn’t get that until the following year.) At one point, I went wandering out of the hotel looking for fast food, as surely there must have been some near the hotel, because it was a hotel! No, not really– mostly residential areas. Mr. Stalker offered to drive me some place to eat, but I sure as shinola wasn’t trusting him with my virture further than I could kick him in the gonads. (More about Mr. Stalker in a bit.)

Panopticon West 1983 Program Book Cover
Panopticon West 1983 Program Book Cover, art by the fab Connie Faddis

I went to panels and stood in several autographs during the weekend.  I don’t remember gleaming much in the way of new info, other than the fact that the newest companion was going to be an American college student with an unlikely name. Oh, Kroll, I was all over that like sick in a toilet! I had spent most of my free time the previous school year coming up with an AUMS (Alternate Universe Mary Sue) companion that happened to be an American college student with an unlikely name. I glommed onto any and all info I could about the forthcoming Miss Perpugilliam Brown. (John Nathan-Turner, who was at the con, didn’t say much about her, but there was a newspaper clipping or two in the display room about both character and actress.)

(And, really, this advance knowledge of Peri was the only thing that impressed my new friends in the U.N.I.T. Irregulars later on, when we compared notes vis a vis Panopticon West vs. the Jon Pertwee/Elisabeth Sladen Theatre Tour….)

Northwestern Universitys Adric
Northwestern University's "Adric"

I didn’t particularly hang with anyone at the con. I may have cramped Adric’s style a bit, because I tended to latch onto him and his friend whenever I saw them (like in the autograph line above). I didn’t really know any of the Chicago peeps I had bussed down with, and my so-called Columbus buddies were busy actually running the convention. (I didn’t think to volunteer– I was fairly out of it that weekend. That bus ride….)

Anthony Ainley at Panopticon West 1983
Anthony Ainley at Panopticon West 1983

As you can see from the above, I did indeed go through autograph lines. JNT was there, Anthony Ainley was there, Fiona Cumming was there (that’s her eye in the lower right of the picture). I was all about Fiona, as she was a Female!Director, and directed some brilliant things to boot. (Being a Radio/TV/Film major, I was quite conscious of the dirth of women involved behind the scenes….)

The big thing for me at the con, though, was cosplay. Okay, we didn’t call it “cosplay” then, because, sheesh, we only knew of Lupin and Captain Harlock, and that was only if we had gone to Capricon where such anime was shown! Still, big thing, wandering around the hallways in costume, and then pulling out something spectacular for the Masquerade. I resurrected my Leela outfit, as no one really in Columbus had seen it….

Me as Leela, 1983
Me as Leela, 1983

For the Masquerade, though, I recreated Romana’s outfit from “Androids of Tara.” The hat was a bit too small for my head, and the boots a bit too tight for my feet, but darn if it didn’t look good from a distance!

(I would totally do it differently now, since I basically took a tunic dress pattern, used a form of heat bondage to put the front panels on, and relied on the belt for any tailoring…. Such a novice sewer then, was I!)

Me as Romana from Androids of Tara, 1983
Me as Romana from "Androids of Tara", 1983

Nevertheless, I managed to score an Honorable Mention with the get-up! It was my first Masquerade Award, and I was thrilled!

Me Winning My First Costuming Award!
Me Winning My First Costuming Award!

The costuming photos were taken by Mr. Stalker. Mr. Stalker was an older gentleman (may have even been 30!) who seemed quite disposed to my person. I thought he was creepy, sort of. Didn’t stop me from utilizing his willingness to photograph me, though. (In retrospect, I came across a number of “older” men who appreciated my nubile self. I never acted on any of their hints, though, because, well, they were older! And also, I was really kind of innocent and disinterested in carnal knowledge….)

A Movie Theatre Near the Hotel
A Movie Theatre Near the Hotel

The above photo I’ve included just beause it was what I found instead of fast food places in my wanderings around the hotel area. Everything else was residential. (I was amused by this; it just confirmed in my mind what losers the Ohio State Buckeyes were….)

We left early afternoon Sunday from the con, arriving back in Chinatown in early evening. My mom and stepdad both were there to greet me, and I was quite happy to see them because I figured I could score some food off of them on the way home….

Afters, in talking with my New Friends in the U.N.I.T. Irregulars, I became irritated that I missed the Jon & Lis show (which was in Chicago the same weekend as Panopticon West), because it sounded like a much better time. Little did I realise I would see them both in November…..

So, with the con out of the way, I plowed forth in anticipation of helping make one’s own Doctor Who. (And, yeah, that’s then next bit of this Secret History!)

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