‘Escape From Humdrum’ : Strange Beings Flock to ‘Fantasy Faire’ Fun

Times Staff Writer

The hotel guest stood in the lobby and looked puzzled. He watched a female Darth Vader in a black cape and a space soldier in a red uniform stride by.

Nearby, a young woman adjusted a large, artificial “fire lizard” on the strap of her interplanetary gown.

To those like the puzzled guest at Griswold’s Hotel in Fullerton on Sunday, the scene was an early Halloween. To those in the know, however, it was the final day of the three-day “Fantasy Faire” convention at the hotel.


Other-World Beings

The 15th annual convention was a mixture of science fiction, occult, and personal fantasies. Costumes were optional, but many of the conventioneers chose to dress as they would like to be, literally acting out roles as other-world beings.

The woman in the Darth Vader garb was Janice Manning of Yucaipa. She said: “I’m Lady Vader. The reason I like these conventions is the people I meet. As for my costume, I know it’s fantasy; it’s not the real world. I don’t feel any different inside, but outside I do try to act in character.”

The soldier in red was Lisa Fisher of Los Angeles, who said her character depicted a visitor from another planet. Being at the convention was fun, she said, because it meant “being together with friends. Most of us have been loners at one time or another, and it’s comforting to band together.”

Fisher also said that many of the sci-fi and fantasy fans who attend such conventions are intelligent people who enjoy mental challenges, even in leisure. She said: “It’s been said that the more complex the mind, the more complex the play.”

Some of the activities were complex indeed.

For instance, in discussion panels, conventioneers heard a weighty analysis of animated cartoons and their relation to reality. They also listened to a cerebral discussion of witchcraft as perceived over the ages.

Comments by the panels and audience included observations such as: “As far as the concept of black and white, (George) Lucas’ concept of The Force was not far off,” and “There are scarier things within human beings than there are in the occult. . . . The most terrifying thing can be dealing with your own darkness.”

Not all of the conventioneers engaged in the mental gymnastics at the panel discussions. Scores of the estimated 500 attending spent hours in the “fantasy store,” which sold items ranging from science fiction jewelry to used comic books.

Showed Off Costumes

And some conventioneers walked around the hotel showing off elaborate costumes or fantasy gimmicks.

Brent Turner of Villa Park, an electronics engineer, was the envy of many other conventioneers because of his laser gun. “I made it myself,” he said, as he pulled a trigger and the helium-neon laser tube inside the “gun” gave a glowing red burst of heat and light.

Perhaps summing up the sentiments of others at the fair, Turner said he enjoyed it because “it’s basically a way to escape from the humdrum.”