A few minutes into the All That panel at 90s Con—a convention devoted to butterfly clips, boy band autograph signings, and, as the name suggests, all things 1990s—it became clear that Amanda Bynes was not coming.
The Nickelodeon break-out star had been scheduled to make her first public outing since the end of her conservatorship, a panel appearance alongside her former co-stars Kel Mitchell, Lori Beth Denberg, and Danny Tamberelli. On Saturday, however, local news outlet CTInsider reported that Bynes had canceled due to illness, citing the convention’s Instagram. Still, the nostalgia lived on: All That star and Saturday Night Live stalwart Kenan Thompson staged a surprise entrance that sent Saturday’s All That crowd into wild applause.
Although Bynes was certainly missed at the panel—Mitchell took a moment as the gathering ended to wish his former co-star a speedy recovery—the crowd’s energy did not falter in her absence.
The timing of Thompson’s surprise drop-in turned out to be fortuitous anyway: On Friday, Paramount+ announced that a Good Burger 2 is on the way. A premiere date has not been set, but Thompson suggested on stage that fans could see the sequel film around “Thanksgiving-ish.” When asked about possible guest stars, Thompson and Mitchell floated the possibility of some familiar faces—like Sinbad and Carmen Electra—and made some fascinating suggestions for new stars, including Harry Styles and Barack Obama.
Bynes’ absence during the panel was felt, but it didn’t seem to sour the experience for any of the attendees. As one 33-year-old put it after the panel, seeing Bynes “would have been cool, but it was really great that Kenan was there.” Another attendee echoed that sentiment, saying it “was a bummer” not to see Bynes but that her absence was “understandable.”
The real ringleaders of the panel, however, were Denberg and Tamberelli, who razzed one another throughout the panel as the cast members gamely answered questions about their All That pasts. Tambrelli looked back red-faced on the time that he, as a 16-year-old, got caught ogling Britney Spears badly enough that a second take was required, while Denberg revealed why those loud librarian sketches were so hard to film. (In addition to all the yelling, apparently throwing things around and fake-bullying adorable kids on set can get exhausting!)
Things even got a little raunchy toward the end, as Denberg pulled a shaver from her bra to shave off Tamberelli’s mustache (which she really hates) before offering to touch up his “downstairs.” After Thompson jokingly asked if there were any children in the room, Denberg shot back, “Everyone who grew up with us is 40!” (Hey! I mean, we know… But hey!)
But 90s Con was not just for the All That fans. The convention appears to have drawn fans from far and wide, and all of the attendees whom The Daily Beast’s Obsessed managed to corner cited different motivations for attending.
Some folks, including a pair of friends dressed up as Carmen Sandiego and …Baby One More Time-era Britney Spears, were there for the boy bands. (Autograph sessions for the weekend included members from both Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.) One pair from Texas, a young woman dressed up as Blue from Blues Clues and a TikToker who apparently occasionally cosplays as Steve from Blues Clues—had come not just for a cosplay contest but also to meet the cast of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Attendees said they’d traveled from states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Texas, some for the day and some for the full weekend. One pair, 32- and 31-year-old best friends, said they’d driven in to share their first convention experience as a birthday celebration. And yes, pretty much everyone The Daily Beast spoke with was in their thirties—although many attendees could be seen with young children in tow.
90s Con is in its second year, and took place once more in the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Although the crowds were sizable—the parking garage was almost full by the time this writer arrived from New York on Saturday morning—the convention was not packed. Crowds were manageable, with more than enough space during the All That panel, at least, to accommodate everyone. The merch floor—a cornerstone of every convention—was chock full of the usual items, plus a few on-theme extras. ($3 pony-bead bracelets, anyone?)
As with most conventions, however, it was the merch people were already wearing that most often caught the eye. Apart from Blue and Steve and Carmen and Britney, one attendee also appeared in full costume as Sonic the Hedgehog. Rugrats T-shirts and jackets were abundant, and many attendees apparently graduated from Sunnydale High.
There were gray-haired women in neon tracksuits, and there were dudes in Ray-Bans and T-shirts emblazoned with the words “As If!” Whether they came for Charmed or Sabrina, for Full House or Beverly Hills, 90210, however, everyone seemed united in one mission—to celebrate some piece of their younger years. Maybe next year, there’ll even be a few dancing lobsters.
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