Lisa Frank. Slap bracelets. Fuzzy velvet posters that you colored in yourself. Sky Dancers that were recalled due to a plethora of injuries. That Polly Pocket you desperately wanted that you were either lucky enough to get or forced to watch others enjoy without you. That Samantha Parkington doll you could’ve had eventually, if by the time you had finally managed to save up for it, she hadn’t been discontinued.
What do these images all convey?
As one who was both born and grew up in the nineties, there were many nineties trends that were my childhood. This included the internationally mega-popular Beverly Hills 90210, which, whether or not you were allowed to watch it (in my case, not,) you still heard about from someone whose sibling may have been a bit obsessed with Dylan, or Brandon, or Dylan and Brandon. The gang was, after all, everywhere.
And then, as a teenager of the ‘00s, perhaps you walked into the back of an Entertainmart one day, found season one of the series on DVD, and began watching it to the point that you ended up watching all ten seasons (don’t bother watching the last two if you want to keep your brain cells.) This became a family event when your father decided to watch it with you, which is one of the reasons the series remains dear to you to this day. He was Team Kelly. You were Team Brenda and Team Valerie. You even watched 90210 solely for Brenda, which did start enjoyably until your next generation favourites Naomi, Adrianna, and Dixon repeatedly got screwed over – at which point, you decided to ditch the series.
So it only stands to reason that, when 90s Con announces Shannen Doherty (Brenda,) Jason Priestley (Brandon,) and Ian Ziering (Steve) are going to be attending a short train ride away from you, you immediately go to your colleagues and tell them that you have to go. The chance to meet Luke Perry (Dylan) is long gone. Missing this is not an option. You tell yourself it will be well worth the ticket price and extra photo op fees.
The issue is, tickets for Friday and Saturday are sold out. Sunday is getting there.
You spring for Sunday.
You take the train up to New Haven, stay in an Airbnb near Yale, take the train up to Hartford, walk over to the Convention Center, and prepare to shake off the nerves that have gathered as you wait to meet your adolescence.
In a purple shirt indicative of the series, purple striped blazer reminiscent of style icon Brenda Walsh, denim jeans, black boots, and your favourite made-in-Ireland thrifted hat.
You are, however, stuck in the queue/line, with little time to make your scheduled photo op with Jason.
One of the individuals working 90s Con inquires whether anyone has a photo op before 11. Jason is scheduled for 10:30. You tell yourself if you ever attend 90s Con or any con again, you will schedule a later session, but what is life if not to learn? You are permitted to go and get your badge, which you waited in Will Call for with your emailed QR code since you learnt about 90s Con too late to get tickets mailed to you. Thanks to comments you read on social media, you have all of your QR codes printed, which will come in handy, as the Internet connection once inside will be shoddy at best.
Now comes the waiting.
Anticipation creeps in, nerves and excitement combining, but it is not until you approach the curtain and see Jason Priestley on the other side that you start inwardly freaking out. A photo op, you read in the directions, is not a meet-and-greet. It is a quick snap of a photo, sans conversation.
But Jason Priestley, being Jason Priestley, asks your name. You somehow manage to answer with your correct name sans any hesitation despite your heart palpitations at the fact that Jason Priestley is really freaking pretty. There’s Hollywood pretty, and then there’s the “real” kind of pretty. Jason, you decide, falls into the latter category. His eyes truly are impossibly blue. His smile truly is triple-dimpled.
And because you knew in advance that you wouldn’t be able to speak to him, you hand over a card that you wrote everything in as if you had spoken to him and told him what his roles have meant to you.
Then the photo is snapped, you walk out of the curtain, gather your belongings that you put into plastic trays, and think I just met Jason Freaking Priestley, and he knows my name! You overhear a 90s Con attendee say that Jason is quite good with names even a year later, so in the event that you do ever meet Jason again, it will be interesting to see if he does remember your name the way Rebecca Herbst once did.
You have some time before your next photo op, so you decide to wander around and get your bearings. Having never been to a con before, but having been to soap opera fan weekends, you aren’t sure what to expect. There are a plethora of vendors selling all kinds of homemade goods and art. The celebrity floor beckons you, which expressly forbids candid video and photography of any kind. You won’t have any recognizable pictures of Mario Lopez, but you will have the memory of Mario Lopez and the knowledge that Mario Lopez is so pretty, the television does not do him justice. He’ll walk through the crowd later. You’ll try to snap a photo where it’s allowed, but all you will get is the back of his head.
You go down the rows. Over the course of the day, you’ll see orange soda-loving Kel Thompson. (If you know, you know.) Thora Birch, from Halloweentown. James Marsters, Buffy’s masked silver fox. Charmed’s Holly Marie Combs, who at one point simply walks through the crowd with her entourage. Blue’s pal Steve Burns, aka your childhood. Danica McKellar of The Wonder Years. “The first girl I ever had a crush on” you’ll hear behind you, before telling Danica that your mother loves her and adding “you’re so pretty” as if you were a nervous schoolgirl (which, let’s be honest, you basically are.)
Your next photo op is Cher Horowitz herself, Alicia Silverstone, who says a polite Hello in response to your Hi. You’ll swear to yourself that she has barely aged a day since her Clueless role. This will apply to the majority of the Clueless panel, you’ll realize later when Breckin Meyer (Travis,) Elisa Donovan (Amber,) and Stacey Dash (Dionne) take the stage. Paul Rudd (Josh) and Donald Faison (Murray) are, understandably, missing, but the group talks about both of them and the late Brittany Murphy, who means as much to children of the nineties as perhaps the Olsen twins and Lindsay Lohan do. Brittany defined the nineties childhood, giving us such bangers as Uptown Girls and Just Married, or voicing Luann Platter on the animated King of the Hill. You unfortunately miss the rest of the panel due to having to rush off to your next photo op, but of what you did see, you now know Breckin Meyer (also of Rat Race) is hilarious off the page just as much as he is on the page.
The third photo op is Ian Ziering. It’s in his curtain where you first get a glimpse of Jennie Garth (Kelly,) who you’ll officially meet at the end of the day when Jason’s queue has been closed for the third time and Jennie’s is still open. It’s about this time when you receive the text that your sister has given birth and you are officially an aunt to a beautiful baby girl. If this hasn’t already been one of the best days of your life, it has certainly become one then.
Happy to learn Ian also has a nice and friendly personality, you decide to once again hit the celebrity floor before standing in the incredibly long queue for lunch. (If you want to avoid this one, do the smart thing and pack your lunch.) It’s here where you see Shannen Doherty for the first time, one of the two reasons you decided to attend 90s Con.
Shannen’s doing double-duty for Charmed and BH, plus other fans who showed up for Heathers, Our House, Little House, and who knows what else, so her queue is going to stay long every time it’s open.
But that’s okay, because you bought a photo op for her, too.
And suddenly, you’re standing next to the woman who brought Brenda Walsh to life. Meeting Jason was surreal enough, but meeting Shannen just intensifies the surreality. You’ll later get a photo with both of them, the Walsh twins. Shannen will tell you “Nice hat.” You will answer, “Thanks! I love yours!” in a voice that sounds as if you’ve been abducted by aliens and replaced with a cheerleader. You’ll give her a card detailing what her roles mean to you, just as you gave to Jason.
You see other big names of the nineties, many of whom have remained big names. Tori Spelling (Donna.) Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea of Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch. Charisma Carpenter of Buffy. Clare Kramer. Danny Tamberelli. Jason Marsden. Elizabeth Berkley. Olivia D’Abo. Rebecca Gayheart. Rose McGowan. Dorian Gregory. Drew Fuller. Lori Beth Denberg. You may have not watched all the shows they were in, but you knew of them all. You know the She-Wolf Pack and Dave Coulier from Full House and Fuller House are around somewhere, but you’ll never see them and figure they’re occupied with photos.
You have no more photo ops scheduled, so you attend a ‘90s trivia session panel that includes Clare Kramer and Jenna Leigh Green. You then meet Jennie. The event winds down, ending at precisely five o’clock. On your walk back to the train station, you decide to approach the Capitol building you noticed from afar earlier in the day. It’s shockingly stunning, reminiscent of some of the buildings you have seen abroad. You share a hello to people in the park enjoying a beautiful – though chilled and windy – evening. You catch the train back to New Haven, grab a fabulous Italian dinner on the Yale campus, meet your new niece via FaceTime, and go to sleep wondering about the next con you’ll attend, or the next celebrity of great importance to you that you may meet.
David Tennant, apparent 2022 attendee of Philadelphia’s FAN EXPO, could it perhaps be you?
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who helped to put on 90s Con and make this child of the ‘90s be able to meet Brenda Walsh, Brandon Walsh, Steve Sanders, and Cher Horowitz. Child/adolescent April is still over the moon. Adult April is right there with her.
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30/3/2023 01:53:38 am
Fun read (even though I don't know these TV personalities). Glad you had a good time!
1/4/2023 08:19:29 pm
Very well written. As always. Glad you had fun.
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