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Name: ZebraCon
Dates: 1979- 2007
Frequency: odd numbered years
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Type: gen/slash convention, fan con
Focus: Starsky & Hutch, The Professionals
Founder: Karen B & Paulie, J. Clissold
Founding Date:
URL: Zebracon LJ[1] & Zebracon Website via the Wayback Machine

Subpages for ZebraCon:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.


fan-made button referring to the fandom-mundane divide. It proudly proclaims the wearer is a Perverted, Lesbian, Terrorist, Witches from Hell. It was most likely worn by one of the Media Cannibals at Z-con in the mid 1990s.
1979 fan badge
cover of 1979 convention program

"Starsk, we have reports of a crowd gathering in Melrose Park... could be a big case... some sort of cult."

"S'fine with me, buddy, as long as they don't put any rattlesnakes in the fridge."

ZebraCon, also known as Zcon, was a mixed gen and slash convention held in Chicago, Illinois in the fall.

It initially catered to Starsky & Hutch fandom (Zebra 3 was their car's call sign). While in 1986, the con organizers branched out to include The Professionals and other 'partnership' cop/spy/science fiction shows, it never left behind its love for Starsky & Hutch.

The first convention was held in 1979 and was held annually but then switched to a 2 year cycle in 1982. (ex: 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003).[2]

While the convention struggled to attract members in its early years, [3] by the mid 1990s membership was capped at 300 people and there usually was a waiting list.

The last ZebraCon was held in 2007.

Regarding the Content Change

Two rather disturbing rumours have surfaced recently regarding Zebra Con, and I'd like to take this opportunity to squash them. At MediaWestCon last weekend, I was told that several people were not planning to attend because Zebra Con has "become an all '/' con -- not true! There is no official attitude towards "/", and the con is not slanted... one way or another. Of course"/"is a part o fit--it's a part of fandom. An important part. There will be erotic art work in the Art Show - - in a special section - - and it will no doubt be mentioned during some of the panels. It is a fact that the majority of fans --either SH or PROs -- are at least tolerant of "/", and that tolerance is certainly reflected at Zebra Con. And of course it's no secret that both Jean and I are "/" fans. But as for the con being a "/" con -- no way. The other rumour is that Zebra Con is becoming a PROFESSIONALS con. Honestly, how do these things get started? As I said in my last letter, fandom changes, and so must the con if it's going to survive. It cannot survive as solely a STARSKY & HUTCH convention. There just aren't enough people who are only interested in SH to the exclusion of everything else -- and yes, that includes the committee. We are becoming more of a genre convention -- cops/spys/detectives. But SH will always be a very important part of ZCon. I'd say this year's con is shaping up to be about half and half SH and PROs, with a lot of overlap, and plenty of interest in shows like MV, S&S, and UNCLE as well. [4]

Years later, fans point to ZCon's ability to "change with the times" as one of the reasons for its longevity and appeal:

"ZCon carried on as long as it by being inclusive - going from SH only, to SH/Pros to All Cops and Secret Agents Welcome, and by being a great party."[5]

The Mundane Gulf

To the outside world, slash themed fan-run conventions were often misunderstood and many fans would keep their 'fannish' lives and 'real' lives separate. For example, the year after the final Zebracon it was highlighted in an unflattering article titled: PathetiCon: 8 Geek Conventions God Never Intended. [6]

Even during Zebracon, fans had to deal with negative reactions to their interests. Here, one fan relates an incident that took place at an early ZebraCon:
Did you notice the "Terrorist, Lesbian, Witches from Hell?" button some attendees were wearing? I saw them too and asked around. This is what one of the older fans told me: "The buttons are a direct result of Zebracon 1991. One Saturday ballet students and their mothers were having a show/exhibit right outside the ZCon dealer's room. Over the course of the day the mothers decided that we were all lesbians because it was a group of women gathering without men or children. Then they saw some crystals that one of the dealers was selling and decided we were witches. I don't remember were the terrorist bit came from, but in the bathroom that day we could have sworn the mothers were throwing themselves between us and their children. At the time, we all thought it was hysterically funny and the next ZebraCon saw the birth of the buttons. [7]

Another fan remembers:

In 1990, the con ended up sharing a hotel with a large group of teenage drill-team and dance clubs, obviously involved in some sort of competition. The mothers became very suspicious of us, and we soon found ourselves labeled as 'Lesbian Terrorist Witches,' simply from the conversations they picked up in hallways and dining rooms. After all, a group of 300 hundred women (and two men) constantly talking about either guns, kidnapping, and murder or witchcraft and pagan philosophy, is hard for most people to classify. [8]

Some Programming Notes

As a fan run and volunteer based convention, all programming and events were run by fans for fans. In addition to hour long panels which ran Friday-Sunday, there was an evening mixer with formal dress and the group singing of Bette Midler's song "The Rose". [9] This song was an unofficial anthem for the Starsky & Hutch fandom, and had its roots as one of the earliest song vids.

See: The Rose.

There was also a nighttime art auction where fan artists could sell their art. Some of the funds raised during the auction went to charity (see below for more info).

There also was a video contest where fan made songvids were shown and awards were given. Additional awards given at Zebracon included The Huggy Awards (see below) and, starting in 2003, the Paula Wilshe Award.[10] Art Show Awards were given and Costume and Fiction Contests were also held. For a complete list of winners of all awards see the years at the bottom of the Huggies section.

There was also a dealer's room in which fanzines, clothing and videos were sold. Elaborate 'Room Parties' were held each focusing on a different TV show, with door prizes and themes (ex. The Due South room party offered Canadian and Chicago food).[11] These became so popular that the convention began to furnish a large suite for members to reserve.

In some years, fan wrote and produced stage plays that (gently) mocked themselves and their favorite shows. They often riffed off of well known fanzines: Ex: 'Distant Snores' was based on the Starsky & Hutch zine Distant Shores. Some of these plays have been collected into a fanzine: Play by Playbook: Collected ZebraCon Plays.

The last play was performed at Zcon 18 which, according to one attendee was: {{Quotation| ...one hell of a party. Nearly everyone was dressed to the nines in black and white with glit and sparkles. There was a champagne toast to Zebracon, and an hysterical Baaad Zebracon Theater play that included Starsky and Hutch, Bodie and Doyle, Blair and Jim, Fraser and his two Rays plus Huggy, Booth and Bones (played by me!) [12] The play was slightly rewritten for Sharecon 2008 and is described by Dawn:
Starsky...and Hutch...were undercover in a bar where the Bay City Avenger was trying to turn all liberals and gays into conservatives. There was much mugging and goofy double-entendres but eventually (gasp) it was revealed that Huggy Bear was the culprit. His mustard green soup was found in the bodies of all the victims. He was fed up with being a plot device for thirty years and wanted his revenge. [13]

The Huggy Award

A bit of the bounty! A stack of fanzines bought at Zcon 2007.

ZebraCon created The Huggy Award -- given first only to Starsky & Hutch stories, and then to both Starsky & Hutch and The Professionals stories each convention. Other fandoms were added in later years (Due South, Sentinel, Highlander, SG1). Nomination forms were mailed out with the first convention progress report, but you could nominate and vote without attending the convention.

For more information, see The Huggy Awards.


tote bag given out to attendees at the 15th Anniversary convention, logo features Bodie & Doyle and Starsky & Hutch
As one fan explained in 1994:
One enduring relationship between a fandom and a charity is between ZebraCon and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. ZebraCon is a convention focusing on the 1970s cop show Starsky and Hutch. Series star Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) now enjoys a successful directing career. Because his work is now behind the camera, many people remain unaware of the personal tragedy he and his family have suffered... As the Starsky and Hutch fandom became smaller, ZebraCon became a biannual convention and expanded to include other "buddy" shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the British spy serial The Professionals. But the original convention charity has never been forgotten. Fund-raising for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation remains a major focus not only of the convention, but of many fandom pursuits. Proceeds from a second printing of The Professionals fanzine House of Cards go to the Foundation. Items donated for auction at this past ZebraCon included Starsky and Hutch action figures, posters, books, magazines, games, and the record album recorded by David Soul (Hutch from the series). Media artist Suzanne Lovett donated a commission piece that sold for over $200. [14]

The convention would also support other charities: for Zcon 13 (1997), the convention raised $2000 for Pet Rescue, a no kill shelter located in Bloomindale Illiniois. [15] At ZCon 16 (2003), the charity was The Nature Conservancy.

The Panels

Panels were suggested by fans and selected by the convention and then staffed by volunteers. Fans led the discussions, often moderating the topics. Other panels were loose 'free form" casual discussions.

A sample panel schedule from Zebracon 16 (2003):




Convention Reports

Given the intense interest in the Zcon and the fact that, in its middle years, the convention would often sell out, there was a keen interest in convention reports. There are numerous con reports from the 1980s in the letterzines S and H and Between Friends.

A few reports, including one from 1979, are being collected here.

The Vid Show

The Zebracon vid show offered vidders a place to showcase their songvids before a live fan audience. Vids were also given awards (see Huggies section for winners). Vids were originally shown on VCRs and watched on TV with a transition to larger screens and DVDs in the later years.

Playlists and vid show reviews from the 1990s and 2000s are being collected here.

ZebraCon: The Movie

While there actually was never a feature film made about ZebraCon, in the early years fans videotaped parts of the convention and offered the tapes to fellow fans.

From an ad in a letterzine:
Video tapes of ZEBRA CON III. We have approx. seven hours of the con on VHS tape. These look like amateur home movies. We love them and wouldn't part with a single minute. If you would like to share in our home movies, we'd be glad to copy the tape for you. Included in our selection are the play and the banquet from Saturday night; Marian's writer's workshop; the "S&H vs Fan Lit" panel with Marian, Paula, and Jan; the character development panel with Marian, Connie, and Jean; the S/H panel with Melanie, Amy, Pam, and Kendra. It will take two tapes at SLP (6 hour mode) to copy everything. More tape space if you wish it at other speeds. We recommend the SP (two hour mode) because the quality is poor, but this is expensive. Either send a tape and postage or $17.00, which Includes a new tape and first class postage, for each tape, and let us know what you want. If there is an Interest from the Beta [tape] contingent, we'll see about making arrangements for cloning your tapes. [16]
And in the last issue of S&H:
Z-CON 4 ON VIDEOTAPE! Yes, now you can relive each thrilling moment in the privacy of your own home! Be the first on your block to own one...and remember we got both ways! VHS & Beta (don't get excited.) We have 8 hours of the conventions on tape, in the Beta II format. The tapes are arranged thus: TAPE 1 (3 hrs): Hotel shots, dealers room & art show, writers workshop, editors workshop, reviewing panel, Friday evening party, artists workshop (partial). TAPE 2 (3 hrs): Publishers workshop, turning pro panel, S/H panel. TAPE 3 (2 hrs: Banquet, Award Ceremony, Art Auction. All the panels are complete except for the Artist Workshop. Tape 3 contains all of the entertainment and awards and approx. 60% of the auction. The quality of Tape 3 is not quite as high as the other two, because the lighting in the Copper Door was so bad, but it is completely acceptable. HOW TO BUY: You may order one tape, two, or all three. Please do no ask us to do custom run tapes, and take a bit from each one, or combine them in any may. PLAN I: You buy your own tapes and send them to us. Cost will be $5 per tape (VHS or Beta) to cover postage and handling. PLAN 2: We buy the tapes. Based on current prices for Beta tapes the price would be $16 for Tape I, $16 for Tape 2, and $12 for Tape 3. If you want all three tapes, we have a special price of $40. For VHS, the cost will be $16 per tape. VHS tapes will be run at the 4-hour speed....Please allow 3-4 weeks for delivery! We will be keeping these tapes so if you can't afford to order right away, don't worry. They will still be available. [17]

ZebraCon 1/1979

Zebracon 1 was held in July 1979 and had 49-60 attendees.

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 2/1980

ZebraCon 2 was held November 14, 15, 16, 1980. That year they had 92 attending members and 34 supporting members. Attending membership was $15 plus three SASE. There was a "dealer's room, art show, auction, costume party, panels, videotapes and more!" [18]

The convention raised $475 for charity.

ZebraCon 3/1981

Zebracon 3 was held in November 1981 and had 71 attending members and 33 supporting members and raised $350 for the charity.

ZebraCon 4/1982

The convention took a few years to reach its full growth. Zebracon 4 was held on October 15-17, 1982 and had 69 people in attendance (including staff) and 34 supporting members. The most popular panel was a slash Starsky & Hutch panel and the convention raised an additional $125 for Tabby's Fan Fund and $500 for charity.[19]

Following the 1982 convention, one fan suggested that Z-Con consider setting up a Fanzine Library:
It 's been frustrating not to be able to afford attending a con and purchasing zines this year. I sure wish we had a library of zines available for loan throughout fandom for those of us hard hit by Reaganonimics. If the logistics of a mail order library are impossible to imagine, at least maintaining an archive that would be available at Cons for those of us who couldn't get certain zines over the years could be nice. At some of the ST cons I've attended in past years, I spent some very pleasant hours in the 'library' with out of print zines. Perhaps such a library could be financed through fan-reader and author contributions, maintained by the committee that runs Z-Con, the (S&H) letterzine, or else a committee elected by the fans through the con or l/zne. [20]

The library was never established, but the idea remained popular among fans.

ZebraCon 5/1984

Zebracon 5 was held on August 10, 11, 12, 1984 in the Chicago area. It was the first year that the convention welcomed fans from other fandoms.

From an ad in the back of Between Friends #3: "ZEBRA CON is pleased to welcome REMINGTON STEELE, HILL STREET BLUES, SIMON & SIMON, MAN FROM UNCLE, and THE PROFESSIONALS this year - potential dealers take note." As a result, membership climbed back up to 93 people, and a total of $450 was raised for charity. The Saturday night play was "Demonstrated To Death," was written by Paula Smith and Jody Nye and was a parody of the controversial zine Decorated for Death. A copy of the parody sold for $115.00 at the charity auction. This play was later printed in Ten-Thirteen #2. There is a con report in Between Friends #5 which mentions there was no video room, the food at the banquet was excellent, and the panels were fabulous.

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 6/1986

Zebracon 6 was held July 4-6, 1986 in the Chicago area.

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 7/1987

Zebracon 7 was held October 10-13, 1987 in the Chicago area. It was billed as the Starsky & Hutch/The Professionals convention.

ZebraCon 8/1988

Zebracon 8 was held October 21-23, 1988 in the Chicago area. Membership was capped at 150 and the convention was sold out by the fall of 1988. A waiting list was set up to handle the overflow.

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 9

ZebraCon 10

Zebracon 10 tshirt showing characters from Starsky & Hutch and The Professionals as zebras. Starsky's stripes match those on his car, the Torino. The artist name is illegible, but may read "Paulie '91"

ZebraCon 11/1993

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 12/1995

The ZCon t-shirt for 1995 depicted various fan favorites as characters from Shakespeare. Starsky was Puck and Hutch Oberon. Doyle was Ariel and Bodie Hamlet. Illya and Napoleon appeared also, as Duncan and Petruchio. They were based on Suzan Lovett's interpretations.

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 13/1997

In 1997, one attendee advised:
"A friend of mine was just told by [J] (better known as Fanny Adams) who runs the ZCON art show and helps organize the con, that we are Expected to Dress Up for the Saturday evening Costume Party. So bring your lycra..... and the rest of you had better be thinking about costumes. Our group of 9 or so is thrown into a tizzy, because no one can get into their mercenary ball dresses any more."[22]

Additional con reports are here.

ZebraCon 14/1999

  • The convention website is archived here: 1999- Zebracon 14[23]
  • Attending Members - 317
  • Supporting Members (Not counting no-shows) - 53
  • No Shows (What happened people???) - 19
  • Con Committee - 8
  • Dealers - 38
  • Panels - 18
  • Games - 4
  • Pre-Registrations for ZCon 15 - 151
  • Dealers pre-registered for ZC15 - 18
  • Money raised for Charity - $2000
  • Sold: Mugs - 47, Totes - 63 (Source: annual Huggy Award pages)

ZebraCon 15/2001

cover of 2001 program
  • The convention website is archived here: - Zebracon 15[24]
  • 267 attending members
  • 9 con com
  • 7 at-the-doors
  • 69 cancellations (The event took place one month after 9/11 and many attendees were nervous flying. Morgan Dawn remembers that the flight from San Jose to Chicago was so tense that not one single person stood or used the rest room during the entire 4 hour flight.)
  • 26 no-shows
  • 35 dealers
  • a whole lot of songvids shown
  • $3000 raised for the Red Cross
  • 2 frazzled con chairmen and a partridge in a pear tree (Source: annual Huggy Award pages)

A con report is here. This was the last year that the program guide listed the names of the attending and supporting members.

ZebraCon 16/2003

  • Sample art that won awards: 2003 Zebracon 16 - Bluespirit for My Place, Art Show Winner (Miscellaneous category)[25]
  • The convention website is archived here: 2003 - ZebraCon 16[26]
  • Total number of people attending: 291
  • No-shows & last-minute cancellations: 25
  • Number of costumes worn by Karen: 7
  • Number of times ConCom had to answer a question for which the answer could have been found in the Program Book: 476
  • Amount raised in the Charity Auction for the con: $900
  • Amount raised for The Nature Conservancy: $1000
  • Most expensive piece of art at the Art Auction: Suzan Lovett's "Timeless" ($3000)
  • Watching Suzan Lovett's face during the auction: priceless
  • Amount of alcohol consumed by ConCom during the weekend: um...none of your business
  • New entertainment invented by Jean on Sunday night: Hobbit-flinging
  • Number of days until ROTK: 48 (Source: annual Huggy Award pages)

ZebraCon 17/2005

cover 2005 Program Guide
  • The convention website is archived here: 2005 - Zebracon 17[27]
  • A copy of the 2005 Program Guide in pdf form can be found here.
  • Attendees: 272
  • Amount raised in Charity Auction: $2500
  • Amount raised by the raffle: $700
  • Amount to be shared by the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Noah's Wish
  • Number pre-registered for ZCon 18: 135
  • Number of outfits Karen wore: Only 11! (Source: annual Huggy Award pages)

A con report is here.

ZebraCon 18/2007

A con report is here.


  1. Zebracon LJ WebCite
  2. In S&H letterzine #35, the convention organizer announced that due to fact that membership to Zebra-Con 4 was "so pathetically low there will be no con next year." The organizers also felt they needed a break and said they were tentatively planning Z-Con 5 for June, 1984 "depending on the response."
  3. In issue #27 of the S&H letterzine the convention organizers expressed their frustration over attendance numbers: "I'm very, very, very disappointed in the turn out this year, and by what I interpret as a general lack of interest and support from fandom. Last year 92 people attended Z-Con. As of today— Oct. 18 — we haven't even reached 80....Why haven't more of you become supporting members? Last year there were almost thirty. This year I have fourteen.... This is the last Zebra Con [we] will do. The last one in Kazoo [Michican], as well. Right now the future of Z-Con is very much in doubt. I'm willing to keep on running it—in Chicago, and slightly earlier in the year—for as long as the fans want it. But I'm not going to do it for just a few people. It isn't worth it. Do you want a Zebra Con IV? Okay—show me you support this one, and there'll be another."
  4. from The Who Do We Trust Times #3
  5. Migratory slash fandom thread in fail-fandomanon dated March 18, 2012.
  6. PathetiCon: 8 Geek Conventions God Never Intended dated Jun 19, 2008; reference link
  7. ~ from Morgan Dawn's personal notes (1995), accessed Jan 12, 2011.
  8. On Jan 28, 1993, Rachel Sabotini also posted about this incident the Virgule-L mailing list. It is posted here with permission.
  9. "As always, everyone in the room sang ‘The Rose’ at the end of the party. It was beautiful and sad at the same time. ~ recycledmedia, ZCon report - longish, dated October 26, 2005
  10. Paula Wilshe Award Announcement on The Starsky Hutch Livejournal Community.
  11. the other sandy's Zcon reports tagged on her Livejournal; WebCite.
  12. Dawn Rice Zcon 18 post to the Loveofmeandthee mailing list dated Sept 17, 2007, quoted with permission.
  13. from her August 26, 2008 post to the Loveofmeandthee mailing list, quoted with permission
  14. "It is better to give: A look at fandoms and their relationships with charities," by Karen Ann Yost, Strange New Worlds (1994); reference link.
  15. ZCon 13 Website; reference link.
  16. from S&H letterzine #30
  17. from S&H #38
  18. from an ad in Casa Cabrillo
  19. ~from S&H, issue #37.
  20. S&H issue #38 (January 1983)
  21. reference link.
  22. Post to the CI5 mailing list dated April 25, 1997, quoted anonymously with permission.
  23. reference link.
  24. 2001 reference link.
  25. reference link.
  26. reference link.
  27. reference link.
  28. reference link.
  29. reference link.
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