Scott Shaw!’s costume for the 1972 Worldcon – The Turd — was made with 3 jars of peanut butter, a pair of Leggs pantyhose, cornstarch and some cornhusks. It brought him lasting infamy and inspired one of Rotsler’s Rules for Masquerades. And after decades of sharing the story with convention audiences Shaw has now told it to the camera.
I was one of the first fans to see Shaw in costume that day and many times considered sharing my eyewitness account here. But there’s really no second line to a story that begins, “I was there when The Turd came out.” Put another way, I was standing in front of the elevator doors when Shaw arrived and stalked off to the ballroom, leaving chunky drips in his wake.
Comics artist Scott Shaw! was 21 and his story about a monster from the underground sewers called The Turd had been published not long before he arrived at the Los Angeles Worldcon of 1972. He’d been to a Worldcon masquerade before. This time he felt an overwhelming desire to see what people who worked all year on their costumes would think about an entry someone had made in the last five minutes.
They didn’t think kindly of it, was the answer. Shaw laughs as he retells the grim details in his video. Thanks to him, Rotsler’s Rules for Masquerades [PDF file] admonishes fans —
7. Parts of your costume should not be edible or smell. Parts of your costume should not fall off accidentally, brush off against other contestants, or be left lying around on the stage.
Afterwards Shaw took an epic shower. He worried about what the maid would think, but that’s nothing next to other embellishments that end his story. As Shaw tells it, a few weeks after L.A.Con the hotel plumbing exploded, having been clogged with massive amounts of peanut butter. The hotel came back to the convention committee and charged them thousands of dollars for the repairs.
That last part never happened.
For one thing, the con only cleared a couple of thousand dollars altogether and they didn’t spend any of it replumbing the International Hotel. The peanut butter reportedly did clog the bathtub in Shaw’s room, but that’s all.
Still, you have to appreciate the symmetry that Shaw ends his story with a bunch of BS.
[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, David Klaus, Steven H Silver and all the ships at sea for this story, and to Craig Miller for a memory download.]