Zebra Con

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Name: ZebraCon, ZCon, Zebra Con, Zebra-Con
Dates: 1979-2007
Frequency: odd numbered years
Location: the 1980 con was in Kalmazoo, MI, later ones in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Type: gen/slash convention, fan con
Focus: Starsky & Hutch, The Professionals
Founder: Karen B & Paulie, Jean C.
Founding Date:
URL: Zebracon LJ; Zebracon Website via the Wayback Machine

Subpages for Zebra Con:
1979 · 1980 · 1981 · 1982 · 1984 · 1986 · 1987 · 1988 · 1989 · 1991 · 1993 · 1995 · 1997 · 1999 · 2001 · 2003 · 2005 · 2007 · Memories · Vid Show
the 2001 program cover, reminiscent of the Cost of Love art from the early 1980s.
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
a fan's collection of badges

ZebraCon, also known as Zcon, was a mixed gen and slash convention.

Early cons were called "Zebra-Con."

Aside from the second and third cons (which took place in Kalamazoo, Michigan), ZebraCon was held in Chicago, Illinois. All cons were held in the fall, with exception of the first one, which was held in July.

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

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 at first. A couple of years were skipped due to low interest,[1] and then the cons switched to a 2 year cycle.

While the convention struggled to attract members in its early years,[2] by the mid 1990s membership was capped at 300 people and there usually was a waiting list.

The last ZebraCon was held in 2007.

A Seed Was Planted at T'Con

Paulie, one of the con's organizers included this statement in the very first Zebra Con program book:

I went to my first science fiction con, T'Con, on Paul Michael Glaser's birthday in 1978. That's when I got the idea -if people would come together to celebrate writers and actors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror films, why couldn't someone try to put together a con for people who have loved and devotedly watched a TV show about two cops for four years? Starsky & Hutch fandom, although I've been an SF fan since a toddler, hit me like a ton of bricks. From start to finish, I was hooked, T'Con was responsible for me finding my very first S&H fanzine Zebra Three. In speaking to the people involved with the zine I found that there were hundreds of people buying them. I put my fingers to my head, and I said - If lots of people would buy a zine about S&H, wouldn't at least a few come to a con? Well, at least a few of you have. And to those of you who have, or have supported us in other ways, have a marvelous time, enjoy, and remember, it's for our guys in the blue sneakers and the bowling shirts!

Your tired, but thoroughly fulfilled, Fearless Leader, Paulie

Mailing List

This convention had an informational mailing list from 1998-2003 called ZebraCon:

I've begun a mailing list for ZebraCon. This is intended to act as a sort of clearing house for all convention news and questions. I don't intend it to be a high-volume list (though I expect it will expand in the few months before each convention) and while it's unrestricted and unmoderated (it's also rated for 17 and above.) I will not allow it to become a place for a lot of idle chatter. Use this list now to ask pertinent questions or get news. Closer to the con, you can use it to find room-mates, arrange rides and generally do all those con-related things you do. This is a Onelist mailing list.[3]

ZebraCon: Individual Years

See the subpages for details about individual years, including con reports, program book covers, programming information as well as info on the vid shows and fans' memories printed in the last program book.

Subpages for Zebra Con:

1979 · 1980 · 1981 · 1982 · 1984 · 1986 · 1987 · 1988 · 1989 · 1991 · 1993 · 1995 · 1997 · 1999 · 2001 · 2003 · 2005 · 2007 · Memories · Vid Show

Con Skits

The skits were by Paula Smith, or Paula and Jody Lynn Nye, unless otherwise noted.

The First, and the Last

Regarding the Content Change

Many years later, fans pointed 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]

Some comments which provide a look into fan discussion regarding this con's focus and journey:

[A 1986 comment]: 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.[6]

ZebraCon vs. SHareCon

In 1990, some Starsky & Hutch fans began to discuss ZCon's ability to provide the kind of SH-focus con they were looking for.

Some comments:


I sent my money in for Zcon '91 and am told I am #11 on the waiting list. 175 people are already signed up, which is the maximum, and the editor of the S&H l/z gets her money in one year and several months in advance and I'm put on a waiting list. What I wonder is...who are those 175 fans, surely not all S&H fans? So, unless the folks ahead of me die or something, the S&H l/z will not even be represented at Zcon. I am somewhat...uh, disturbed by all of this and wonder if anyone else is on a waiting list? Also, has Zcon changed for you? Or, is it still fun? Why do you go? Surely not for the S&H programming, it gets worse every year. The people? And, if it is the people, why not have our own S&H only con established (like SHareCon) and leave Zcon to the professional con promoters and vendors.[7]


Having attended the last 4 Z-Cons, I can say I've enjoyed myself less at each one. I appreciate all the work Karen and Jean put into the gathering, but S&H seems to have become just a side attraction. Yes, there are S&H panels and the same amount of S&H episodes as Pros shows, but S&H fans are the minority at Z-Con (originally conceived as an S&H-only con) and I've felt less enthusiastic about being there every year. I'm not implying that this is a result of conscious, deliberate intentions on the hosts' parts, but neither is it a figment of my imagination, for the past 2 Z-Cons have found more than a dozen of us grumbling about feeling snubbed and lack of worthy programming and discussing alternate gatherings for S&H fans—which led to the creation of the wonderful SHare Cons. Much as I enjoy participating in panels, the trivia contest, Pat's plays and always relish time spent with fellow S&H fans, I've decided I won't be attending Z-Con in 1991. [April Valentine] made a valid point in a phone call to me in July, that S&H fandom will suffer more at Z-Con if less fans turn out for the gathering, but I think suburban Chicago is too far to go, for too much money, for so little S&H. So the APA won't be represented next year, either. I'd much rather take a train to MD or VA for an all-S&H weekend twice a year. I hope everyone attending the next Z-Con has a marvelous time. I'll be thinking of you all and hope to see a number of you in October for SHare Con.[8]


Okay, it's as much PROFS as SH these days, but I'll still go as often as I can. Because - yes, it has to be the people. It's about my only chance to meet so many fans at one time and in one place. Sure, SHare Con and it's ilk are a great idea, but how many purely SH fans are there? Enough to make a SH-only con a viable proposition? Used to be so but is it still? ZirCon over here in late October, is a mixed Con. The little affairs, like the Mediawest splinter-groups and SHareCon, are fine for local people, but less so for those with large distances to travel. I would say that if we could muster between fifty and a hundred fans, then a solely SH Con would be viable If we can get someone to organise it, of course. I would say that we do need ZCon (or something else like it) -- oh, the fandom can exist without it, but the sheer high of getting together and being able to talk and discuss and laugh and generally o.d. on fandom is something I don't want to have to do without. Over here, with the demise of DobeyCon, we have experienced that kind of lack. I only hope that ZirCon can fulfill a need, and be repeatable.[9]


There are a lot of firsts in my life, but my first Zcon (which was Zcon 2) stands out as a real watershed in my life. It marks my first trip alone, my first plane flight alone, my first S&H adventure, my first meeting of our fen. The experiences connected with that con changed my life. I grew more confident, more outgoing, and more eaqer to be a producer in this fandom. I've taken all this personally, you see, as an arena of self-expression and sharing. That's what it has meant to me. And, most of all, Zcon means S&H...not Trek...not Uncle...not Pros but my one fandom. So, I feel a bit out of it anymore. Last year especially was a downer: my first vendor experience in a corner in the other sales room; no S&H play; and, of course, all that energy given to fundraising for PAF, which was great, and a way to mourn, but it certainly didn't lift my mood any. Everybody gets busier and busier at every Zcon doing their own thing. We're so busy being busy we forget that Zcon is all about women sharing their love of relationship and S&H. I feel like an outsider at my own con. Zcon is too important a meeting place to ignore, but it's not meeting my S&H needs.[10]

Some ZebraCon History in Verse

From the 1982 ZebraCon program book:

[From the program book]:

"How Doth Our Little ZebraCon or, Look Back in Confusion"

It was late one fateful evening In the fall of '78,
When Paulie turned to me and said, "I've got an idea that's great
There's lots of S&H fans and the show, it's not yet gone.
Let's get them all together - we can call it ZEBRA CON."
Well, the video room, it ran all night - we watched with bleary eyes.
And Stephanie D. won 'Zebra Three' much to her great surprise.
And who can forget the water fight - the Hutch team won by cheating!
We laughed and talked and partied till there was no time for eating.
Now this is just a one-shot, in vain we kept insisting;
But the members wouldn't listen and our arms they soon were twisting.
We looked at one another and we sighed...what could we do?
So 15 long months later we presented ZCon 2...in Kalamazoo.
Well the membership, it doubled, and the Art Show was immense.
And the zine awards were 'Huggys' for it made a lot of sense.
The costume competition was a riotous success
For it marked the first appearance of Bound In Leather Press.
Ruth won the prize chinchilla, it was named 'Louise' of course.
And Melanie led us all in song till we were very hoarse.
We had panels, song tapes, episodes, and bloopers going daily—
Shall we do it one more time? You bet! the members shouted gaily.
So ZCon 3 took place in mid-November, '81,
And though we had fewer members, still we had a lot of fun.
The showcase of the banquet was the play "Mirages, Graven" —
By the time the cast took all their bows the audience was ravin'.
We had an S/H panel that got pretty darn obscene.
And Masochist Medals went to editors of the letterzine.
Our Clonemaster was Carol; Huggys all went to GI
Then we bid farewell to Kalamazoo and parted with a sigh.
Well, the Con committee changes, and the fans, they come and go.
And the membership, it fluctuates, from high one year to low;
But the fandom keeps on going - we enjoy it more and more
And soon we'll bring you ZCon 5 in 1984! -- Bo Peep

ZebraCon: Memories

In 2007, some fans submitted their memories of the con to the last program book.

See ZebraCon/Memories.

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.

In the 1980s, many reports were in the letterzines S and H and Between Friends.

Later, some reports were posted online.

See individual year pages for some con reports.

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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.

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 at ZebraCon/Vid Show.

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. [11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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".[14] 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.[15] 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).[16] 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, A Tale of Any Two Guys, was performed at Zcon 18 which, according to one attendee was:

...one hell of a party. Nearly everyone was dressed to the nines in black and white with glitter 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!) [17]

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.[18]

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):





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.[19]

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.[20] At ZCon 16 (2003), the charity was The Nature Conservancy.

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.[21]

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.[22]


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ Con
  4. ^ from a progress report, dated September 8, 1999
  5. ^ Migratory slash fandom thread in fail-fandomanon dated March 18, 2012.
  6. ^ from The Who Do We Trust Times #3 (1986)
  7. ^ from Frienz #10
  8. ^ from Frienz #11
  9. ^ from Frienz #11
  10. ^ from Frienz #11
  11. ^ PathetiCon: 8 Geek Conventions God Never Intended dated Jun 19, 2008; reference link
  12. ^ ~ from Morgan Dawn's personal notes (1995), accessed Jan 12, 2011.
  13. ^ On Jan 28, 1993, Rachel Sabotini also posted about this incident the Virgule-L mailing list. It is posted here with permission.
  14. ^ "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
  15. ^ Paula Wilshe Award Announcement on The Starsky Hutch Livejournal Community.
  16. ^ the other sandy's Zcon reports tagged on her Livejournal: the other sandy's con report, Archived version
  17. ^ Dawn Rice Zcon 18 post to the Loveofmeandthee mailing list dated Sept 17, 2007, quoted with permission.
  18. ^ from her August 26, 2008 post to the Loveofmeandthee mailing list, quoted with permission
  19. ^ "It is better to give: A look at fandoms and their relationships with charities," by Karen Ann Yost, Strange New Worlds (1994); reference link.
  20. ^ ZCon 13 Website; reference link.
  21. ^ from S&H letterzine #30
  22. ^ from S&H #38