These days, seeing a group of people dressed up as anthropomorphic animals dancing to top 40 hits in a Holiday Inn conference room isn’t uncommon, but before furries had the internet to bring their affections for synthetic fuzz together, meeting up with fellow fur fans was a lot harder. That is, until 1989’s ConFurence Zero, the first ever furry con in the world, and there’s video.
It might seem like a relatively new thing, but furry fandom has been around for a long time. Back in the mid-80s, Mark Merlino and Rod O’Riley, two men who are largely credited with taking furries to the mainstream, began to notice that science fiction conventions in the Bay Area of California had a relatively large number of people roaming around in giant cartoon animal costumes. Realizing that these people didn’t have a gathering place of their own, they began throwing “furry parties” in hotels booked near the conferences. After several successful parties, the two decided to make it official, and launched ConFurence.
On January 21, 1989, sixty-five fur-fans congregated at the Holiday Inn Bristol Plaza, in Costa Mesa, California for the world’s first furry conference. Just two anthropomorphic animals were in attendence: a “Bambioid” named Hilda played by Bob Hill and a Bobcat. The following footage is thought to be the only surviving video of the event, and consists of about fifteen minutes of Hilda dancing seductively to Warren Zevon’s “Leave My Monkey Alone”. It’s.. a little weird, to be honest, but who am I to judge?
ConFurence Zero, as it became known, might have been a small affair, but it drummed up enough interest that the first “full-fledged” furry convention the following year had double the attendance, and from then on, furries were on their way to the international spotlight. ConFurence ran for fifteen years, ending in 2003, an event that gained particular notoriety when The Man Show crashed the party attempting to interview fur-suited attendees. The footage never aired.
Today, there’s no shortage of furry conventions around the world, the largest of which is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Anthrocon, which drew a mind boggling 6,389 attendees in 2015. But no matter how big furry gatherings get, how detailed the fur-suits become, or how far the fandom spreads, the rare footage from ConFurence Zero is here to remind everyone that it all started with a man named Bob sexy-dancing in a pleather Bambi costume at a Holiday Inn in 1989.