JemCon 2005: Mischief in Minneapolis
(from the memory of Liz Pemberton)
A little background: In 1990, at age 20, I started participating in the Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA, which is a Medieval & Renaissance living history group. By 1992, I was running events for 150-300 people, and continued to do a lot of work for the SCA for more than a decade longer. I started collecting Jem in the fall of 2002. By 2003, I had been guided to jemandfriends.com by an eBay seller, and was hooked. And in 2004, I decided that we all needed to get together in the real world to figure out those dratted shoes once and for all, and figured that my SCA experience made me the one for the job.
I asked around to see if there had ever been a Jem convention. The consensus was that some people had talked about it, but nothing ever came of it. I also Googled “JemCon” and “JemCon 2005,” and only found a small gathering who were honoring a departed friend named Jem, short for James, I believe. Oddly enough, just this month I Googled “JemCon 2005” hoping to find other people’s photos and discovered a different JemCon 2005, which seems to have been a small weekend gathering of gamers.
Anyway, the response to my JemCon 2005 announcement was very mixed, and very odd, although it looks very internet-standard in hindsight. Some people e-mailed me and wanted me to swear to them that JemCon was actually going to happen. Some people posted publicly about how it was going to be stupid and crummy because there weren’t going to be celebrities there, and it wouldn’t be as big as Comic-Con (!!!???). A lot of people got very excited and were very positive, though. The first person to register was Brian Sheppard, Riot4Jem, and soon after was Ric Conlon, JemBoy.
I got started with the serious planning around October of 2004. That’s when I sent letters to both Hasbro and Rhino Records (who were publishing the first set of DVDs) asking if they wanted free promotional space at JemCon, and if they wanted to work with me in any capacity. Rhino never replied at all, probably because the DVDs were already distributed and they were done with the project; Hasbro sent a form letter warning me not to infringe on their trademarks and copyrights, and that was it.
Requests for help from Jem people went much better, and I assembled a crack international team: co-coordinator and webmistress Antipathy (Nicole Gaucher,) in Pittsburgh; publicity coordinator Karina P. Magalong, in New York; fashion coordinator and special guest JemGirl (Rachael Prins) in Australia; and technical supervisor Kristian Allen in Orlando. The fashion was designed by Philadelphian Jake Putnam (Jayk,) who was (I believe) just out of high school. Caleb Zacherl made the pink beaded Command Performance necklace/”bracelet for YOU!”, and Tommy Blouin from Montreal was our other guest.
While I was not brave enough to approach them, Christy Marx and Samantha Newark heard about JemCon though the Truly Outrageous Yahoo group, and contacted me. I didn’t have the money to bring them in, but Samantha donated five autographed photos, and Christy donated an autographed Jem Bible and two autographed episode scripts. They’ve both been with JemCon since the very beginning.
My mother, Barbara, gave me the money to hold JemCon, and did it of her own volition, despite absolutely HATING my doll collecting, and having, in fact, bullied me into staying away from toy stores and putting away my Barbies in high school – in 1986, to be precise, just in time to miss Jem entirely.
I needed a site. Events in the SCA mostly used schools and churches, and some college sites. I had graduated from the University of Minnesota –Twin Cities with my second Bachelor’s degree in 2003, and I knew that they hosted shows and sales and smaller convention-type things at the student union building, including a GI Joe convention earlier and, the week before JemCon, a My Little Pony convention. I knew that the actual Minneapolis Convention Center and the various hotels would be beyond my means, and Coffman Union looked like a great site, located in the middle of a major university campus on the edge of both downtown Minneapolis and the Mississippi River. There were multiple food options in the building, and it was also very affordable.
It was not, however, a hotel, which made things weird. There was a hotel about 6 blocks down the street, and several others within a 2-mile radius that included the rest of campus and downtown, and the hotel cluster around the Mall of America, 30 minutes away by bus and right by the airport. People ended up at several different hotels in all of those places. If I could do just one thing differently about 2005 – and there’s a LONG list of things I’d do differently – I’d have gotten a hotel block.
Nevertheless, we did have community. I was going to host two people, but we had a heat wave that made my un-air-conditioned apartment uninhabitable (at least for my guests – I still stayed there. Yep, I slept at home for JemCon – unthinkable now!) Temperatures in the upper 90’s (Fahrenheit) and humidity in the low 90%’s were, and are, HORRIBLE. So poor Rachael and Tara found a motel way out in a suburb. Did I mention it was July?
Meanwhile, other staff members and attendees were arriving early. Antipathy was a former St. Paul-ite who came early to visit her family, and we met her at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge for vegan pizza and tiki drinks (it’s a cool place!) on Wednesday night (maybe Thursday? It’s been 10 years…)
Tommy and Kristian also came to town early, and we sat up late on Thursday night (maybe Friday?) in my sweltering apartment, directly under the ceiling fan, to enthuse about Jem and JemCon and to assemble the raffle bags. We had a lot of cool donations, but I especially remember that we got 17 Flash ‘N Sizzle Jem outfits, fresh off the dolls, from someone who wanted to display everything on FNS Jem, and bought NRFB dolls for that purpose.
The first scheduled event for JemCon 2005 was a gathering at the Mall of America on Friday night. I told everybody to show up in one of the food courts, and about 20 people actually did. Sadly, I had met with unexpected complications, and misjudged the time needed for prep work, and so I greeted everyone, thanked them for coming, wished them a wonderful evening…and said I’d see them tomorrow. Then I drove home to continue working.
I am told they all had a great time, with a food court dinner and then wandering the mall, which at that time had an FAO Schwarz, and still has the Lego Store and Hot Topic (and 400 other stores, of course.) Hot Topic even had a few of the Junk Food Jem and Misfit t-shirts, including the Misfits with no Roxy – just Pizzazz, Jetta, and Stormer – which was nonetheless a hit. Someone was also excited about all the candle stores, I remember. Big change-wish #2 is that I could have been with them!
Saturday dawned, bright and hot. Very hot. My car languished and needed to be jumped at the staff breakfast. But we all got there and into the site, which was the Mississippi Room and Fountain Terrace in Coffman Union, on the Mississippi River bluffs. We had a big wood-floored ballroom for the vendors, displays, gathering space, and classes, and a long, narrow, carpeted and upholstered lounge for the discussion panels, and for random gathering as well.
With the invaluable help of many attendees and my dearest friends, Cathy, Bryan, and Susan, we got things set up with only minor freak-outs. I think. I may have blocked some more major freak-outs on my part. We got started late, of course, which really bugged me.
I had advertised in various places. I called the Minnesota Daily, which was the University newspaper, and they did a feature on JemCon and the MLP convention, with a big photo of me and my dolls. I ran some radio ads on the university radio Station, Radio K. I also left literature at the local doll show. So we had one big-time doll vendor, and a table of my stuff run by Susan, and a table for Radio K. Barb Cook (Shana’s Fashions) may also have had some things on hand to sell…?
We also had displays: I brought my collection (and didn’t have enough stands, so half of them sat or lay flat on the table,) Ally brought some of hers, Sonia Landon brought her cool knockoffs, Antipathy brought a bunch of her rarer dolls and fashions, Pranceatron brought her cel collection, and Ric brought the one, the only Rockin’ Romance Jem.
Our locked display case was the detached top of a wooden china cabinet that someone abandoned out behind my apartment building. All the glass was intact and the frame was sturdy, and the finish was even decent, so I rescued it, cleaned it, had my visiting Dad make a new base panel for it, and somehow got it to and from JemCon without breaking it. A few months later, the original owner also threw out the bottom cabinet part, and I grabbed and rehabbed it and re-united the two halves into one whole piece of furniture. It currently houses my collection of cute little cordial goblets (nothing taller would fit once the other shelf was adjusted for dolls) and my collection of vintage and vintage reproduction Barbies, plus my more expensive collector Barbies. Yeah, I said Barbies. (But my Jem dolls get their own room.)
So we had vendors and displays in the main room, and cartoon discussion panels in the Fountain Terrace, led by Heather Milo (“Hollywood Jem,” “When It’s Only Me and the Music”); Marianne Merola (“She’s Got the Power”); and Kristian Allen (“Our Songs are Better”). We had a free-stuff Treasure Box. We had a fan fiction contest (whose winner escapes me – was it Ally? Old lady brain!) and a costume contest won by Heather Milo as Roxy. We also had two special guests from the Jem community, both very well-known and in-demand custom doll artists: Tommy Blouin and JemGirl (Rachael Prins.)
Tommy did a class on “Basic Re-Rooting and Hairstyling,” and among other things he showed how different types of hair fiber behaved, and did some demo curling on one of my 80’s Barbies. He also did a quick cut and style on one of my Videos – very lovely! Rachael did a class on “Fixing Doll Limb Splits” which also covered various cleaning and maintenance techniques.
Antipathy, Pranceatron and I collaborated on the first Ultimate Shoe Explanation Roundtable, or ULSER, which was basically my whole original reason for JemCon. Everybody showed shoes and discussed how to identify them, and it was AWESOME! I kept that class going for several years and have steadily improved my shoeboxes over the years, and I bring them to every JemCon for anyone who’s interested.
Meanwhile, people needed to eat lunch and dinner. I had chosen the site because there was a food court in the building, and indeed there was – and to my shock and horror, it was closed on weekends during the summer term. So everyone had to walk at least 6 blocks in the horrible heat and sun for food. I never left the room, so I don’t believe I ate. If I did, it was due to Bryan bringing food for us.
We didn’t have a charity auction, because I wasn’t that smart. I did decide and announce that any surplus funds would go to Toys for Tots, and in order to pay more of the JemCon costs and hopefully generate those surplus funds, I wanted to do a raffle, because the SCA always did raffles. Because Minnesota has strict regulations on games of chance, we couldn’t do a regular raffle. Instead, we did a kind of mutant raffle. People bought tickets, which they exchanged for numbers that corresponded to mystery bags, so everyone got something with a value that was equal to or greater than the price paid for the ticket. It was weird and complicated, but people were very excited.
In addition to the 17 Flash ‘N Sizzle outfits, the various bags contained two NRFC fashions (rare 2nd year ones, can’t remember which), Glitter ‘N Gold Jem and GNG Rio, the autographed scripts and Jem Bible from Christy, the autographed pictures from Samantha, and a whole bunch of loose Jem fashion pieces and nude dolls. I bought one bag, and it contained – what else – an incomplete original Jem/Jerrica outfit. Not even the Flash ‘N Sizzle! Woo hoo. I didn’t come close to covering my costs, but I did go out and get some toys and donate them to the Tots anyway, anonymously via Toys R Us drop box.
After the raffle, it was just social time. Rachael was the DJ, and we sort of danced and sort of lounged and mostly crashed, and Antipathy’s friend brought her roller skates and skated to the music. The site closed at 10:00 PM, and we all dispersed – I went home, by myself.
There was a doll show on Sunday, and a gaggle of us banded together at the hotel where most people were (down the street from the site) and went to it together. It was disappointing, Jem-wise – although by 2005 I think the vast majority of the Jem stuff had been cherry-picked from doll shows and was circulating on eBay instead, anyway - so we went to Toys R Us after that and several of us binged on Barbie (yes, I said it.)
And then we all went our separate ways, and JemCon 2005 was over.
At some time during the weekend, I talked with Kristian about holding JemCon in Orlando in 2006, and Alysia was very excited about having a Chicago JemCon. And lo, both of these came to pass.
I would be remiss not to mention the people who were present at 2005 and returned to attend JemCon at least once over the years (alphabetical order): Kristian Allen, Ric Conlon, Barbara Cook, Krista (Pranceatron,) Alison Lewis, Karina Magalong, Marianne Merola, Rachael Prins, Alysia Robinette, Brian Sheppard, and Luis Trujillo.
I know I’m forgetting some people, here and elsewhere, and I apologize sincerely! I’m old and the years are melting together in my head! PLEASE send corrections!
However, straight from the program, here are two more lists of notable people.
Volunteers at large: Tara Anderlich, Susan Burrows, Miranda Cole, Cathy Fylling, Bryan Lambert, Alison Lewis.
Brainstormers: Kristian Allen, Tommy Blouin, Ric Conlon, Barbara Cook, Nicole Gaucher, Omar Jenkins, Bryan Lambert, Alison Lewis, Karina Magalong, Rachael Prins, Alysia Robinette, Brad Smith, Kim Turkel, Caleb Zacherl.
JemCon 2005 Custom Fashion on Display
JemCon 2005 Custom Gift Jacket (by Rachael)
JemCon 2005 Displays (Liz and Ally's Dolls)
JemCon 2005 Custom Fashion NRFP
JemCon 2005 Custom Fashion Jem Prototype (By Rachael)
JemCon 2005 Custom Fashion Jerrica Prototype (By Rachael)
JemCon 2005 Logo
JemCon 2005 Photo of Liz (featured in the Minnesota Daily)
JemCon 2005 Vendor Flyer
JemCon 2005 - Video Doll (By Tommy)
JemCon 2005 - Video Doll - Back (By Tommy)
JemCon 2005 - Video Doll - Closeup (By Tommy)