On Sunday, June 28th, we drove to the Paine Art Museum in Oshkosh, to see the travelling exhibit, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” (We weren’t able to join the Milwaukee Steampunk Society for the outing on Saturday, so went on our own--.)

This is the exhibit’s second stop in America, having just come from its opening at Biltmore, the palatial home of the famous Commodore Vanderbilt. Curated in conjunction with the show’s production company, it is apparently being shown only in museums such as Biltmore and the Paine, which once were fine homes and provide appropriate settings for the costumes.

In this regard, the Paine Museum is a spectacular success. Construction of the house began in 1925, but it was deliberately designed by the architect to appear to have been constructed and (tastefully) added on to over three centuries of English building styles. As such, the home suits the costumes marvelously, and many are shown in the correct setting: dinner dress in the dining room, travelling clothes in the foyer, formal gowns in the ballroom, and outdoor clothing, such as Lady Mary’s riding habit, Matthew Crawley’s military uniform, and Lady Edith’s bicycling outfit (complete with bicycle) are shown in the specious purpose-built gallery.

The house and its permanent collection of artworks are worth the trip alone, but it was hard to pull ourselves away from the costumes. They are all shown in the open. Most you can get very close to, and many of those that you can’t see the back of have strategically placed mirrors allowing you to see back details. The exhibition includes large color photographs of the costumes as worn, and text identifying the episodes in which they appeared.

The museum gift shop has been totally given over to “Downton Abbey” related merchandise, from tea and wine to jewelry and teddy bears. (There’s no “Carson” bear—yet!) We resisted most of the temptations, but did buy an exhibit catalog, which is very nice.

Of course we dressed Neo-Edwardian, which got us a number of approving comments from visitors and staff. The staff mentioned also that they had very much appreciated the Milwaukee Steampunk Society visit the previous day.

The exhibition remains in Oshkosh through September 20th. The exhibition will be returning to the Midwest later: The Richard H. Dreihaus Museum, Chicago, February-May 2016; The Taft Museum of Art, Cleveland, July-September 2016; and The History Museum, South Bend, Indiana, October 2016-January 2017.
The second North American Discworld Convention was held at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, July 7,8,9,10 and 11. Henry Osier, with whom I've worked a number of major masquerades, was running the "Maskerade" for this convention, and asked me to act as the judges' clerk. I agreed, expecting that this would be an opportunity to at least see Sir Terry Pratchett. Other than that, I wasn't terribly interested in attending a five-day convention devoted solely to Discworld, fun as that is, so made arrangements to attend Saturday only.

I did purchase a couple of "distressed" memberships for myself and Georgie so that we could go the whole day and enjoy the programming, etc., in good conscience, and had a pleasant time. There was a fair amount of programming. We sat in on part of the "Wyrd Sisters" play, and attended the "Victorian Internet" panel at which I learned some interesting things about shutter telegraphs (the original of the Discworld "clacks") and the development of the electric telegraph system in Britain. At midday, we went out on the square in quest of the Farmer's Market, which was, however, very reduced due to the Art Fair on the Square, which we walked through briefly.

Back at the con,we checked out the small dealers space, and heard guest Esther Friesner read a very funny fantasy story (forthcoming in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine), about travelers encountering Norse legends in the wilds of Minnesota.

After that, we got seats for "Talking with Terry," in which Sir Terry and his personal assistant, Rob Wilkins, gave a very frank and affecting talk about what it is like to be one of Britain's most famous authors; the effects of Terry's Alzheimer's disease; the "horrors" of traveling to the USA and dealing with the TSA; and adventures in the rest of the world, including finding rugged bushrangers in remotest Australia who are "your biggest fan."

After checking that the masquerade green room was open and running, we ducked out to get a quick sandwich and then prepped for the masquerade. Judges were Sir Terry; his British agent, Colin Smythe; Esther Friesner; Bernard Pearson, who runs "The Discworld Emporium" and is reputedly the physical original for Archancellor Ridcully; and fan Pam Gower who became the image of Granny Weatherwax.

Discworld Emporium provided very handsome certificates for participants and awards, embellished with Ankh-Morpork stamps from their collection, as well as a pair of lovely trophies for Best in Show and Author's Choice awards. Georgie filled in the names and award titles in her calligraphic hand.

The masquerade rans smoothly with a lot of very nice entries. Considering that all but three of the entries listed themselves as "novices", some were flat-out astonishing. Best in Show was "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Weapons," in which the slim female presenter produced weapon after hidden weapon from her elegant dress, finishing up by causing a full size genuine crossbow to appear from under her skirts. There were some spectacular props: "Twoflower" had a beautiful "iconograph" prop, which not only opened up to show a full diorama of the artist imp inside, but incorporated a fully functional digital camera and color printer AND served as remote control for "The Luggage," which followed him about the stage. Another costume included a fully functional shutter telegraph mechanism. The "Author's Choice" award went to "Gladys the Golem," a very simple costume that was very well presented. Of course, there were a lot of novice errors--not speaking up enough, or too talky entries, but overall the masquerade was of a very high standard. Overall, it ran smoothly and fairly quickly, and we got lots of compliments from the judges about how well it ran. Apparently, Sir Terry mentioned the masquerade in his closing remarks as a high point of the convention.

Since we weren't staying overnight, Georgie and I packed up as quickly as we could and headed home. Henry still owes me a drink for this--I shall collect in good time!

Sixth row: Mongol woman 1, geisha, mongol man, mongol woman 2, sage, ninja.
Fifth row: Old man of the mountain, duel master 1, Monkey junior
Fourth row: Bride with white hair, Dragon Lady, geisha 2, duel master 2, geisha 3
Third row: Palace guard, pokemon kid, Vampire Hunter D
Second row: Kitsune 1, Cheng Ho, Empress Wu, palace guard 2
First row: Bruce Lee, kitsune 2, gaijin child, Monkey King, oni

Photo by David Martin for Lytheria Facebook page.
We had a very good time this Halloween holiday, beginning with the annual Lytheria party Saturday night. We went in costume as we always do, myself in pretty standard Victorian gentleman garb, but with makeup that distinctly divided my face into two halves. Inspired by the “Jekyll and Hyde” musical we saw in the spring, my right side was my “normal” self, while the “sinister” side was markedly darker skinned, hairier, and lined with the marks of dissipation and bad character--. I did some small “schtick” with this, growling out of the left side of my mouth as “Hyde” when approached on the left, and speaking pleasantly as “Jeykll” from the right. People were amused by this and thought the execution clever.

Georgie wore an elegant cream-and-light-gold Regency dress, accessorized with a lady’s gloves, jewels, and a katana. She came as “Lady Catherine DeBurgh,” who, in the parody novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is not only a formidable lady of society, but also a notable slayer of “dreadfuls,” as zombies are known in the book. This outfit got a lot of favorable comment as well, and Mike VandeBunt, who was wearing a zombie-themed t-shirt, obligingly posed for some “action” photos. There were other costumed couples as well, notably Chuck Tritt and Julieann Hunter, as “The Green Hornet and Kato,” and Bob and Judy Seidl in Victorian outfits, crowned by Judy’s very elegant newly decorated hat.

Sunday afternoon was the trick-or-treat production, which this year was “Mythic Asia.” Lee had built the porch set representing the Imperial Palace of China on one side, and a Japanese tea house on the other. I’d decided more than a year ago I wanted to do the “Monkey King” from the Chinese classic “Journey to the West,” and Lee had recruited Georgie to be the “Empress of China”. We both put in quite a bit of work on our costumes, Georgie having made (with sewing help from Teresa Roden) an undergown for the silk robe she would wear, and doing up a black wig with a headdress borrowed from another costume.

Mine was one of the more elaborate make-ups I have done in a long time. I got a “Woochie” brand latex ape face prosthetic and monkey ears off the web—not the best or most expensive available, but they looked good for one use. I spent much of Saturday afternoon making up hairpieces out of crepe hair to go around the edges of the face piece and comb back over my own hair, ending up with a very “Planet of the Apes” look. Applying the makeup on Sunday, I had to start by putting brown color around my eyes and black on my nose so it wouldn’t show through the nostrils in the mask. Then, I glued the face piece and ears on, and then applied the hairpieces I had made, and had Georgie help me trim and comb the hair. A heavy application of spray kept it in place. My costume was a dark red “noble jacket” with gold dragon trim, over black pantaloons and tabi-style construction boots, which also had that “Planet of the Apes” reference. Outfitted with some black gloves, which both hid my hands and kept them warm, and a plastic and rubber “practice” staff for safe sparring, I was pretty well set. Mike Davis had a number of straw “coolie” hats, and I gleefully added one as the perfect topper to the costume.

We also had a number of other Asian characters in attendance: Todd Voros as the Lord Admiral of China Zheng He/Cheng Ho; Lee Schneider and Gary Cone as palace guards; Joleen Stiles as “The Bride with White Hair”; Kelly Lowrey and Laura Thompson-Mason as characters from the “Duel Masters” anime; Jackie Hanchar and Antonia Newmark as kitsune; Jennifer Newmark as “Vampire Hunter D”; Julieann Hunter, Teresa Roden and Sari Stiles as geisha/tea house attendants; Mike Davis as a ninja; and Steve Hanchar as an Oni demon. There were also Mongol Hordesmen Tim Haas, Cynthia Webber, and Leah Fisher roaming about.

As Empress Wu, Georgie was enthroned on the porch and granted ‘audiences’ to the ‘fascinating barbarians’ who were shown in to see her. The Empress granted gifts of candy bars to the visitors and they were shown out through the tea house.
As Monkey King (Sun Wukong), I worked the sidewalk, greeting and directing the trick-or-treaters, and haranguing them about the exploits of Monkey King (“Able to leap 33,000 miles in a single bound!”) between sparring with the Oni.

Everyone attending seemed to have a good time, and we got some overdue recognition from the local press who seems to have discovered every other “Halloween house” in town before finding us (purely by accident) this year. After all, we’ve only been doing this for thirty years--. The short story that ran on Channel 12 Halloween night can be seen here:

Although I'm behind on blog entries (still need to write up "How to Train Your Dragon" and "The Lady with the Veil" at the Art Museum) I wanted to start putting down recollections of CC28 while it is still fresh. The Concom has been working on this for years, since, like WorldCon, the convention moves around and is bid on. Our Chairman, Henry Osier, essentially won the bid single-handed due to tireless campaigning and goodwill built up working on other cons. We had a crack crew assembled, with well known costumers and con-runners from all over signed on. There were, of course, problems, beginning with the untimely death of Greg "Animal" Nowak, who would have been our original Con Ops chair, down to a stroke afflicting the mother of John Ferraro, Animal's replacement, the weekend before the con. Operations in particular seemed to have a curse on it, since pre-con we had to additionally replace the heads of Dealers, Hospitality, Publications, Registration, and our Treasurer, due to moves, GAFIAtions, illnesses, and other issues.

Fortunately, my division, Special Events, had somewhat better luck. The heads of the various events tended to stick for the duration and required little supervision, a handy thing since it fell to me to pick up a second hat for Hotel Liaison, and, at con, to be the major supplies procurer for the Con Suite, both of which kept me quite busy.

The con opened for me Wednesday, going with Henry and Char Haas to make an initial con suite buy and load in gear such as coolers and drink tubs for storage in the headquarters suite.

Thursday, we dealt with minor issues. The major event was a gathering of early arrivers and staff at the Safe House, Milwaukee's spy-themed nightclub, which was a pleasant way to start the con and a lot of fun.

Friday morning we got off to a quick start at least with issues. Setting up Registration went OK until trying to introduce the printer to the computer, which took a lot of fiddling to find we didn't have the right drivers for it. It also appeared that the transfer of data on online registrations to the spreadsheet was less than perfect. However, we cheerfully honored everyone who presented themselves as pre-reg, with no problems. Kudos to Carol Inkpen, Phillip Inkpen, and Jim Inkpen, who handled a lot of this pressure with perfect grace.

Friday panels and events got running OK with the usual tweaks one expects at any convention. Robin Netherton, our featured speaker, was an exceptionally good guest and gave excellent and informative presentations. Georgie and I ducked out to dinner for fish fry at Karl Ratzch's restaurant, which was VERY good. The Friday night Social was well attended and the outfits were fabulous. I (doing "Emilio Largo" from "Thunderball") and "Marshal" Larry Chadderton held up the "Casino Night" theme by dealing blackjack for door prize tickets to a small but enthusiastic group of players. The Social included the costume parade for the Single Pattern Contest, which was a very good masquerade in itself and would have graced most regional SF cons. The winner was "FRUMPS" (Fancy Red Uniform Mounted Police) which translated the women's tail coat pattern into a satin version of the familiar Canadian Mounted Police uniform.

Saturday morning, I was most pleased to see that both the hotel staff and the delivery crew from Karl's Event Rental (which provided the pipe and drape) had set up early and well, tech setup was well underway, and the stage was ready for rehearsals to start. I spent the day orbiting between keeping tabs on the masquerade progress, running out for more consuite supplies, tweaking room setups, and managed to catch some program bits and spend a bit in the dealers room (Steampunk goggles from Blond Swan--). Georgie, I and Henry caught dinner at the Miller Pub in the hotel building, which has a very limited menu, but what there is is good and generously proportioned. Amazingly enough for a "sports bar" you could actually hear to think and talk, and the TV screens aren't as much distraction as decoration (it took me quite a while to make the intellectually appalling realization that the dozen or so screens were showing at least six different channels, all sports related--.)

We had agreed to help out Jennifer Kelly, the SF and F masquerade chair, backstage, and found ourselves attached to Ann Catelli's crew of "ninjas", with Georgie on stage right as part of the "launch" crew, as the majority of entrances were made from that side, and I was on stage left as part of the "catch" crew, since most of the exits went that way. There were a few tense moments, notably during the entry of the "Backstage at Master Payne's Circus of Adventure" group, when "Master Payne" accidentally stepped off the back of the stage while placing the group's banner. However, he was OK, and things swiftly got back underway. The presentations were all of a very high caliber, and none of us envied the judges their task. Moebius Theatre, who also provided the lighting and sound equipment, gave us a very witty and enjoyable half-time show.

We were up and at it early Sunday with another con suite supply run, which caused us to miss the Future Fashion Show, but fortunately there is video on DVD--. I spoke on two panels Sunday afternoon, on one buying vs. making ethics in costuming, which was lively and interesting, and one on basic makeup, with me and Kevin Roche, which was very well received. Georgie and I broke for dinner at "The Chop House", which is the hotel's high-end restaurant, but took advantage of the early-hour light dinner special. Everything was very good, and the waitstaff was very friendly and cooperative in getting us in and out quickly. After dinner, I took food supplies to the Green Room while Georgie changed for the evening, and we got seats for the Historical Masquerade, which was also marvelous to see. All in all, I consider this to be one of the finest cons for costume I've ever experienced, despite the fact there were no really huge groups or devices. Even the hall costumes, and there were many, would have made a spectacular WorldCon masquerade a few years ago. The judges took more than an hour to reach decisions, which gave Georgie plenty of time to write out the award certificates in her calligraphic script. This also gave plenty of time for some on-stage photography and larking about. The appearance of "Waldo" on stage ended up with what seemed like half the audience on stage, and the other half taking pictures. The "Best of Show" costume, which also took first places for Documentation and Presentation, "Forgotten Finery", was an essentially perfect reproduction of an early Twentieth Century Nez Perce woman's festival dress, presented with a quiet dignity that totally suited it. The fact that this costume was honored above a really outstanding crop of more spectacular costumes showed the integrity of the judging process and the Historical Masquerade's commitment to its goals.

This morning, we broke down the Con Suite and consolidated remaining operations to the headquarters suite. I bought the full DVD set. There's a dead dog tonight, but we're home and going to bed early.

Everything I saw seemed to have gone off successfully. The dealers that showed up seemed to have done well. There were some glitches, but no problems occurred that couldn't be fixed. Everyone I interacted with seemed to be having a good time--and I guess that's the definition of a successful con.

Crew and Company of Her Majesties' Airship Albatross: First Row Kneeling: Second Mate Jack Flynn (Henry Osier), Chief Gasfitter's Mate (Gary Cone); Able Airman (Steve Hanchar). Center Row Standing: Sra Julie Ann (Julie Ann Hunter), Fra Pavel (Todd Voros), Captain Vanderdecken (Gregory Rihn), Gyptian Woman (Debbie Schamber); Jordan College Science Specialist (Georgie Schnobrich). Rear Row: Serafina Pekkala (Joleen Stiles), Lee Scoresby (Lee Schneider); Ma Costa (Jennifer Newmark), Iorek Brynisson (Mike Davis); John Faa (Tim Haas).

More pictures can be seen at:

Trick-or-Treat for the City of Milwaukee was held on Sunday afternoon, October 26th, and so, then was the annual Lytheria Trick-or-Treat production. This year, the theme was "The Golden Compass," and Lee Schneider and the other denizens of Lytheria transformed the front porch into the flight deck and salon of the Airship "Albatross," soon to bear the Jordan College Polar Expedition into the Arctic regions.

On the sidewalk, representatives of the Magisterium (Todd Voros and Julie Ann Hunter) cast a suspicious eye over people queueing up to board the vessel, looking for contraband aleitheometers. Meanwhile, the uniformed crew (Henry Osier, Steve Hanchar, and Gary Cone) gave the safety lecture. ("In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, hold your breath until we fix the problem. Please keep sharp objects away from the gasbags!")

Once ushered aboard by the Jordan College Science Specialist (Georgie Schnobrich), prospective crew members got a welcoming harangue from "Captain Vanderdecken" (me): "Welcome aboard the "Albatross." On this expedition to the polar regions, we expect to earn great fame, find great fortune, and endure great likeihood of slow, painful death!"

Once signed on, the new crew drew their chocolate pay from the First Mate "Iorek Byrnisson." Mike Davis popped out from behind a curtain in his custom-made polar bear suit to many gasps--both of delight and dismay--. He was assisted in crowd control by "Ma Costa" (Jennifer Newmark), Therese Roden as another Gyptian woman, Lee Schneider as "Lee Scoresby," and Tim Haas as "John Faa." Debbie Schamber as another Gyptian kept Iorek supplied with candy bars from the ship's stores. Joleen Stiles appeared as Serafina Pekkala, and we had a brief cameo by Antonia Newmark as Lyra Bellaqua.

Weather was bright but blustery, and dire weather forecasts may have held down the number of Trick-or-Treaters, as we gave out something more than 800 candy bars, down almost 200 from last year. On the other hand, we did stop traffic! There was absolute gridlock at the corner of Park and Shepherd for several minutes during the afternoon.

Fun was had by all: I tend to get a bit silly(er) with my spiels sometimes, and after about the second time I had slipped up and referred to the "Albatross" as a "starship", I came up with this:

"These are the voyages of the Airship "Enterprise":
It's five-month mission: To seek out new ice, and new condensation;
To boldly go where no bear has gone before!"

--which prompted Lee Schneider/Scoresby to remark: "I'll have what he's drinking."

Hot chocolate, anyone?
September 10 was Henry Osier’s occasionally annual birthday gathering and shooting party out at the “Lytherian Shooting Range.” Henry had requested we costume for shooting, and we did, me as one of my “Gaslight” characters in top hat and tail coat, and Georgie in period sporting garb as well. Henry and others were garbed as “cowboys”, so we had some fun trading “city slicker” vs. “rube” barbs. We spend most of the time shooting our period and replica guns at the usual array of targets, and refreshed ourselves with a handsomely decorated and delicious cake provided by Georgie, and tasty “Polish Delight” sausages brought by Henry, and had a good time although the light mist eventually thickened in to genuine rain.
One of the attendees has posted an excellent series of photos from all phases of Costume Con at:


to access the photos - in the email box enter this address:

the password is: starwars

Thanks to Mary Alice for all these pix. They look great!
Over Easter Weekend, Georgie Schnobrich and I went down to the Doubletree Hotel at Skokie, Illinois for Costume Con 21. A number of current and former Milwaukee area fans were involved in both bidding and running this unique convention, including Co-Chair Henry Osier, Historical Masquerade Chairman Nancy Mildebrandt, SF and Fantasy Masquerade Chairman Andy Trembly, and Dealer's Room head Kyym Kimpel, and Greg "Animal" Nowak in the Con Suite. I was flattered to have been asked to be Master of Ceremonies for both the major masquerades, and Georgie both acted as my assistant and as the Master of Calligraphy for award certificates.

We got down to the hotel about noon Friday, which left us plenty of time to get settled in, get a pretty good dinner at the "Daily Grill" in the hotel, and change for the evening social, which had a Roaring 20's/Mobster theme. Georgie and I had coordinating pin-stripe suits with white bouttonnieres. There were a lot of other mobsters from other periods represented, including 40's Zoot suiters, 50's refugees from "Guys and Dolls," and 70's "Disco Boys" plus the ubiquitous Star Wars heavies, medieval rogues, and a really spectacular "Blade" outfit. The ConComm laid on a really excellent swing Big Band accompanied by some very talented singers. It was a very good time and went well into the night.

Saturday morning we had time to check out the dealers and catch a couple of panels. The dealer's room was quite small due to limited space. One room was taken up entirely by "Alteryears", who are virtually a general store in themselves, and the other had a corsettier, a dealer in trims, a dealer in beads, La Paloma hats, Poison Pen books, a pattern dealer, and one with a mixture of books, yarns, and other notions.

Technical rehearsals for the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Masquerade "technically" began at noon, but we had a two-hour delay due to problems with the stage setup as provided by the hotel. Once rolling, however, we picked up speed, were actually on time for a few minutes, but lost ground and ended only an hour late--which, given the size of the masquerade, wasn't bad.

We dashed across the street to Panera for a tasty sandwich for dinner, then back to dress for the evening. I wore my "PsiCorps" black Nehru suit, with a silver button bearing the motto "Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp," in place of the badge. (As I said, "The Concom is Mother, the Concom is Father.") Georgie had a very dapper black brocade pantsuit with gold embroidered Chinese motifs.

The SF&F Masquerade had 34 entries, which ranged from the cute to the really spectacular. Winner of Best of Show and several other awards was "The Court of the Crimson King," based on the song of the same title, with a cast of twelve and unquestionably the most magnificent costumes and props. "Night Hunt" was a close runner up, with an etherialy beautiful and poigniant presentation. "Dragon Hunter" consisted of an amazingly engineered Black Dragon with glowing eyes and steaming breath that stood fully twelve feet tall. There were many other beautiful and intricate entries: "The Dragon's Jewel," "Debonair", "The Digital Revolution," "Emperor Cartagia," "Lady of the Nebulae," "The Dream Time," and "Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," were all particularly noteworthy. The judges had a difficult time reaching decisions and the time taken almost ran Moebius Theater (the interval entertainment) out of material.

Tech rehearsals for the Historical Masquerade started next morning at 9:30 to noon, with a wind up session four to five, which actually ended at five-thirty. We still had time to get a good dinner at Ruby of Siam and get changed. This time, I wore my frock coat, ruffled shirt, brocaded vest, top hat and cane. Georgie looked beautiful in her authentic Austrian "tracht", or ethnic costume.

The Historical Masquerade was smaller, with 21 entries, but still the best seen in some years. Top Honors were shared by "The Final Touch," a meticulous reconstruction of a 19th century Danish woman's outfit, and "Dioresque" a "grand golden gown" in homage to Christian Dior. There were many other very beautiful and intricate pieces. "An Evening Out," and "Summer of 1894 in Black and White," were lovely Victorian gowns. "Tempus Fugit" was the most dramatic. And great construction and good humour vied in "Nero Wolf," "Supercalifracilisticexpialidocious," "What if Elizabeth I Went Goth?" "King Henry Tudor-Tankamen," and "Cardoon, A Peasant and her Horse." Words fail to describe all these. If I can find any pictures posted, I'll put up a URL.

The interval entertainment was the first-ever full-scale "Iron Costumer." Kevin Roche put together an incredible spectacle as "Iron Costumer Fantastic" defended her title by taking on two teams of challengers to assemble a costume and accessories featuring the secret ingredients, AOL CD-ROMs and Vinyl Siding.

We also took in the Future Fashion show, with notable entries "Fractal Robe," "Layered Outfit," "Opening Night at the Midnight Ascots," and "The Dragon Queen." The Doll Masquerade and Costume exhibit were well worth looking at, and the sole Video entry, "What's Opera, Doc?" was a pure hoot.

By Monday, we were too tired to do anything but drag ourselves home with heads full of beautiful memories.



August 2017

  1 2345
67 89101112
131415 16171819


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags