Meet Robert Hill: Artist, performer, and history’s first sexy fursuiter.
by Patch O'Furr
Come my pelted pals, gather around… and look back to the distant, dusty past Before Furry Cons. A time when seeing a sexy “fursuit crush” in public was as unimaginable as looking at them on a phone in your pocket. (A phone with the brightness dialed all the way down, of course.)
It was the 1980’s, when apparently everything was written by eye-blasting lasers with no dial-down button, so wear your raddest shades:
Let’s meet a pioneer. It’s not a label anyone chooses, but what else do you call the first fursuiter at the first furry convention? (ConFurence 0… actually a test before the first one). And they weren’t just a generic cute thing you could see at Disneyland, but a *look away kids!* pleather-clad dominatrix deer. Schwing!
Astonishing vintage VHS footage of this Bigfoot-like creature was unearthed by Changa Lion, archivist for the Prancing Skiltaire (the furry house run by the founders of ConFurence in Southern California.) When Changa posted Hilda’s 1989 con video to Youtube, it went viral outside of fandom (with over 75,000 views to date). Then he found an even earlier one that few have seen until now.
- Gizmodo: This Dominatrix Deer Dancing at an ’80s Furry Convention Is What the Internet Is All About
- Daily Dot: Here’s some amazing raw footage from the world’s first furry convention
In a way, these are like the Declaration of Sex-Positive Furry Independence. (Obligatory disclaimer for subscribers to the squeaky-clean side of fandom: that’s just one kind of furry, not all of them.)
Hilda the Bambioid leapt forth as a very adult fawn, fully-born from the mind of a creator, like none seen before. (OK, it was a fan tribute to artist Jerry Collins, but still.) Who would dare be a sexy furry in 1988? It was a Maculate Conception for a new breed of costuming, with the face of a cute cartoon, and the legs of your most guilty fantasy. (Of course a deer fursona comes with amazing legs!)
With wiggly, jiggly tail-shaking moves, Hilda danced onto a new frontier of fandom, blazing a path to Furry Trash Mountain and it’s eye-popping 1990’s peaks, like Silfur Bunny’s show at Anthrocon 1997. (I hope this stays classic for the 2020’s. Keep Furry Weird!)
Hufff… I want cottonballs on my face:
There may have been others besides Hilda – but not many. I’m unaware of any earlier ones documented and specifically furry (not theme park mascot-style or sci-fi con cosplay). Shawn Keller is credited as one of the first fursuiters in this history vid from Culturally F’d, but in the 1990’s. This article cites Hilda and quotes a lot from me and Fred Patten (“furry’s favorite historian”) about fursuit history and industry:
At the time, most fur-meet activity involved stuff like quietly sharing sketchbooks around a table, or passing around comics. Costuming was not the photogenic face of fandom then. Fred Patten has greymuzzle criticism about how fandom has changed from a quiet mouse into the roaring party monster it is today, with fursuits on top (I’m OK with being on bottom.) But I see the rise of costuming as simply the maturation of the skills, resources, and opportunities of the industrious makers who can make your animal self as huggable and tactile as the word “furry” itself.
In the 1980’s, you had to just Figure It Out and Do It Yourself. None of it was made-to-order and nobody could do it as a fan-to-fan career. They just didn’t have access to the fur, plans, methods, info channels and inspirations that we do now. Cottage industry develops with scale, so now fandom has grown enough to do what people wanted then. The appearance of domination is just because costuming is a live, visual media; I don’t see it as takeover, because art and writing are healthier than ever too. Don’t hate what Hilda helped start when she dared to kick a hoof through that door.
Here’s a classic photo at the crossroads of fandom old and new:
Hilda was, as the headline says, the self-made art of Robert Hill. He was a cartoonist and a professional Disney character costumer who came in at the ground floor of the 1970’s fandom. But wait, this isn’t just ancient history – he’s around right now, and although perhaps reputed to be a bit reclusive or hard to get an interview with, I got one for you!
That comes in part 2. While you’re waiting, browse his (very adult, fetishy, and hot) Fur Affinity gallery, or his Wiki that mentions some of his successes in getting media notice. Some was for costuming, and some for art (like in the badly intentioned, but well exposed) MTV Sex2K documentary “Plushies and Furries.” This furry doesn’t just follow others as a simple fan!
Here’s a 2016 Fur Affinity gallery post from him that hints about what to expect in Part 2.
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