Last year, I learned that a colleague who serves on a Commission with me happened to own Steel City Con! It was a delightful bit of news. I’ve always been curious about the Con world. Knowing the owner gave me a reason to pay closer attention.
My favorite Con moment media was the 2014 To Be Takei Documentary, featuring husband Brad managing the situation – he had on a fanny pack! But I also saw the lines and thought that it would never be accessible to someone like me, living with social anxiety. I asked Denise to do a Q&A so I could better understand the experience.
Steel City Con is held three times each year. The upcoming Con is early December and I am personally excited about Pittsburgh native Ming-Na Wen as well as Pam Grier. My nephews have agreed to go with me to see their favorites. I’ll let you know about the lines.
Your Name: Denise DeSimone
Your Pronouns: She, Hers
How do you describe your identity? I identify as an LGBTQ mom that is doing her best to raise three descent human beings.
Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and the impact they had on your life. The first LGBTQ person I met was my best friend on the basketball team in high school. I am not sure it was an impact but more like an awakening. I thought I was the only gay person in Uniontown.
What is your favorite thing about Pittsburgh? My favorite thing about Pittsburgh is that the people are really genuine.
What is your professional background? Well, I left college thinking I would write children’s books. But my career has been starting and selling businesses.
And what led you to buy Steel City Con? How did you make that pivot? Steel City Con was not really a pivot but an addition to my business portfolio. My middle son has had a lot of health issues and has grown up watching a lot of television. I thought that this would be something exciting for him and something that we could do together.
I’ve never been to a Con and probably like most people just know about them from tv and movies.What is the biggest misconception people have? I had not been to a Con before I bought it either. I think the biggest misconception is that there are a lot of crazy people that attend. In reality, it is far from the truth. It really is a big family of people with similar interests.
Is there something unique about the Con fandom experience that fits well with Pittsburgh’s culture in general? Specifically, we forge deeply personal relationships to our local celebrities and personalities. It is a town where you can approach them if you run into them at the store or at an event. I think the Pittsburgh culture is perfect. People respect the privacy of celebrities and appreciate any time that the celebrities have for them.
How do you decide whom to invite? Over the past few years my business partner and I have developed a “recipe” that we think fits our show well.
What can we expect from the upcoming Steel City-Con? We are fortunate enough to get the Christmas story reunion as well as the Scream reunion. There are few cons that have been able to achieve that.
Do you notice differences when the celebrities and artists have ties to Pittsburgh like Ming-Na Wen who will be there in December? No really. Most celebrities are surprised at the quality of the city and are glad they made the trip.
I envision you walking around the Con, shaking hands and rubbing elbows with the celebrities behind the scenes. I suspect your hours during the Con are quite different than my imagination. Tell us about your own tasks, activities, etc. I clock roughly 80,000 steps in 3 days. The con is a very logistical event, so all the pieces have to work together seamlessly in order to pull it off. From celebrity logistics, to ticketing, to security, everyone has to be on the same page.
The recent strikes by Hollywood writers and actors has demonstrated to me that fans connect with the creators, not the financiers. What impact have the strikes had on Steel City Con? The strike has been great for us. We had many celebrities reach out to us to attend.
One step further, a big point of contention during the strike was the creators ownership of their image and content. It gave me new insight into the fairness of celebrities and artists charging for their photos and signatures as well as the potential that many of them rely on Cons for income. What are your thoughts? They do rely on cons for income, and we were careful not to infringe on the strike and SAG guidelines for their appearance. Most celebrities could not talk about any current or future work, but they were cleared to talk about past work.
For someone like me with social anxiety, standing in a long line for anything is a nightmare. How would someone like me get the most out of the experience? We handle a lot of people with many different concerns or issues. We have over 100 people working the show and we tell anyone with special circumstances to just track down someone and we do our best to accommodate.
Are Cons LGBTQ friendly and affirming? They have to be for several reasons. One, I am one of the owners and would not allow it any other way. But two, this is a very creative space and we are very adamant that we do not tolerate anything but acceptance, respect, and compassion.
Do you think there will be a Blogger Con one day? Haha. Maybe but not one of mine! With us doing 3 shows a year, I can’t imagine a 4th.
Please share the details about the upcoming Steel City Con including the social links.
Do you have any plans for future years that you can preview for us? Top Secret.
Thank you, Denise.
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