On The Occasion of Your Anniversary

Commemorative covers with Iguanacon cancellations sold at the 1978 Worldcon.

By Steve Davidson: Where was I in 1978, the year that File 770 (the fanzine, not the room) was born?

I was in college in northern New Jersey.  Which made it very easy for me to continue my engagement with fandom, as I could hop onto the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad at College Station after a short walk from campus, could usually avoid paying the fare by figuring out which car the conductor was in and walking ahead of him down the length of the train (or get off and back on at a later station so as to circle back around behind the conductor. Hey, you go to college for a well-rounded education, right?), switch to the PATH in Hoboken and then switch to one of several different subway lines depending upon destination…usually either the somewhat Slan shack occupied by Mesrs. Farber, Shiffman, I think a guy named Patrick (for a while), and Suzle & Jerry and a host of other transients, or off to the HQ of Algol/Starship and a meeting of the Futurians or Lunarians or Fanoclasts or some other fannish name that escapes me right now, and engage in an afternoon and evening basking in the warm glow that was Fannish Society;  discussing the latest works, catching a movie premiere (and being interviewed by WBAI), eating Chinese food at the legendary Wo Hops(?), talking stenciling techniques, the latest fannish gossip, plans for new fanzines, helping move people in and out of temporary domiciles, planning trips to conventions.

I’d just come off a very heady two-year odyssey.  In early 1976 I’d learned that the 1977 Worldcon was being chaired and managed in my home town (from a classified ad in Amazing Stories) and had gone from playing the role of girl Friday at the chairman’s house to managing the 1977 Hugo Awards Banquet.  Along the way I’d worked on other conventions (mostly gophering, occasionally working registration and security), but this was different.  By the time Suncon rolled around, I’d become enough of an insider to be given an orange felt hat for the “Meet the Pros (and staff)” party (that was how you told the Pros (and staff) apart from the other attendees), had met and become friends with numerous professionals, was receiving encouragement and advice from some of the best fanzine writers and editors in the business and had already been asked to work on other Worldcons, notably Iguanacon the following year and the Seattle in ’81 bid (a fact I’d forgotten until re-reading the first issue of File 770 which you can read here – (http://fanac.org/fanzines/File770/File77001-02.html), as well as heading security for Balticon ’78.

My fanzine efforts were also bearing fruit. In early ’77 I’d applied to my university for what they called a “Leadership Grant” in order to continue publishing Contact: SF A Journal of Speculative Literature with Joseph Zitt, my fannish buddy, and we decided to use the funds to “go pro”. Or semi-professional actually. With the offer of pay came access and we were able to round up a good set of contributors Laurence Jannifer, Ginjer Buchanan, Robert Foster, some wonderful artwork and land interviews with leading authors in the field.

We were to present the issue at Iguanacon, with the intention of planting our feet firmly in the sercon pool of fanzines (“serious and constructive”).

Since we were basically living among fans (the last great generation of paper fanzine fans), our efforts did not go unnoticed.  It wasn’t usual for a “fanzine” to land serious grant money.  That alone was newsworthy.

This was a time of The Alien Critic (SF Review), Locus (seemingly the perpetual Best Fanzine winner), Algol, Fanthology ’76, Granfalloon, Drift

It was also the occasion of a new newszine out of California, something called File 770.

Of course, everyone at the time knew that Locus was the king of newszines and that it had two erstwhile contenders nipping at its heels – Andrew Porter’s Algol and Richard Geis’s SF Review.  At the time, it was considered that this was a crowded and sometimes contentious field (sometimes?) and, if I remember correctly, it was also considered near folly to try and break into those ranks.

But File 770 had, enough so that I heard about it from other local fans and someone made a strong suggestion that I ought to send information about Contact to File 770 during the run up to Iguanacon.  It was also suggested to me that I hook up with Mike Glyer at Iggy, the both of us somewhat representing a new wave in fanzine publishing.

Iggy arrived in Phoenix and so did I.  Contact: SF did not.  The entire run of the magazine (less a few copies thank goodness) had been lost by American Airlines.  But I did have copies of the cover.

I don’t remember who arranged the introductions, though vague memories suggest it might have been Jerry Kaufman and Suzle Tompkins (of Spanish Inquisition fame).  If I remember correctly though it has been 40 years, I was introduced to Mike Glyer and File 770 in the lobby of the main hotel, somewhere between the front desk and the restaurant.  I’m sure we both made noises about having heard of the other and appreciating each other’s efforts and then Mike offered me the latest copy of his zine in exchange for a copy of my zine (one of the expressions of “available for the usual”) and all I could show him was what the cover of mine looked like.

I’m sure we talked about a few other things, but since I was working security at the con, I soon had to dash off to take care of business – collecting a six-gun at the entrance to the hotel, protecting both Gahan Wilson and Harlan Ellison from rabid fan attention,  corralling fruit bats in the restaurant, caravaning to the local supermarkets to purchase every last package of Lime Jello and walking my feet bloody in the process.

But those are stories for another time.

Congratulations Mike!

8 thoughts on “On The Occasion of Your Anniversary

  1. ok. guess I’m gonna have to be the first person to comment on my own post.

    In those days I wore an “aussie digger’s hat”, so when the fruit bat finally came to rest clinging to the carpeted wall of the restaurant, I was able to stand on a table, put my hat over the poor scared thing and then slide a menu between the wall and the bat.

    I didn’t want to release it in the sunshine (and boy, was it sun shiny in Phoenix!), but had no choice, so did the best I could by putting it on a tree outside the hotel, in as much shade as could be found.

    The six gun (revolver) was handed to me by an attendee who walked in off the street, ten gallon hat and all, wearing the gun on his hip. Firearms not being allowed, I informed him he’d have to “leave it somewhere” before he entered the convention. His solution to “somewhere” was into my hands as he disappeared into the lobby crowd.
    I delivered it to the security office, where our dispatcher sat on it (under a cushion) all day until it was retrieved by its owner.

    I was assigned to “guard” Gahan Wilson (artist GoH and a guy who lives his macabre humor each and every day) while he did sketches for people waiting in line. They’d suggest a theme and Gahan would draw it out. At the end of the performance, he told me that I’d done such a fine job that I deserved my own sketch. So I got one…unfortunately lost during one move or another since. It was “Mt. Rushmore during an Earthquake”.

    I was assigned (following my obviously sterling performance) to do the same for Harlan during his signing session. I spent nearly two hours standing next to him sharing quips and observations of the other fans, the convention and other subjects which, had it been recorded, could probably be titled “two short jewish guys laugh about life”. A heady experience for me.

    My feet? Foolishly, the only shoes I’d brought with me were my cherished Fry boots and, owing to timing and other constraints, on the third day of the con, I had no clean socks to wear. So I went sockless. For a marathon 48 hour security shift. (Back in those days it was not uncommon to do 72 hours at a stretch, hence the relatively new instructions to fans about remembering to shower, eat and rest). Of course I could feel the blisters forming – running was hell – but I simply remembered John Wayne’s performance in The Longest Day (he breaks his ankle parachuting into Normandy and has them lace his boot up tight so he can hobble around) and metaphorically laced my boot up tight and soldiered on. When people asked me about it, I simply told them that at this point, I’d just take the boots off when the con had ended. No, not a single person suggested going to the store and purchasing some socks and I obviously did not think of it myself. I think we all get a bit myopic when at a con.

    Oh, the lime jello? Well, that story goes back to 1974 when Joe Haldeman ended up with a bathtub full of green jello and femmefans. Someone decided that since Joe was at Iggy, (and they knew how to get into his hotel room), four years were sufficient time to do a re-do. I didn’t get to see the denouement (security), but I did get to laugh when the checkout girl in the supermarket asked “why do you guys need so much lime jello?”

    Here’s the history on that http://fancyclopedia.org/lime-jello

    and here’s a link to the movie FAANS that featured lime jello and a certain hotel room number http://fancyclopedia.org/faans

  2. I’m surprised there were places to purchase lime jello; that part of Phoenix in 1978 was depressed/sleazy at best, such that I wouldn’t have expected many services in reach. When I went back there in 2004 a balcony near the Hyatt had a lewdly-dressed mannequin in remembrance of what the area had been like.

    So somebody did do something about the bat! The way it has been described in con-ops manuals (partly as a demo of radio procedures) concludes that the bat was the hotel’s problem rather than the con’s because it didn’t have a badge.

    So you were the banquet manager at Suncon; how true are the facts behind the Fannish Inquisition story it spawned?

  3. could you point me to that bat story?

    I remember I was actually eating in the cafe at the time and some people started doing the “it’s going to get in my hair” dance. I know I radioed in the incident and told “ops” (wasn’t called ops back then) that I would handle it.

    I asked everyone to calm down…if they stopped moving, the bat would calm down and eventually come to rest somewhere. Which of course it did (there now no longer being 20 some odd “threats” in its environment).

    And then did what I described above. Don’t remember calling it in, but Iggie was pretty strict on radio protocol, so I know I must have cleared the incident.

    What, pray tell, is the FI story the banquet spawned? (I’ll come clean if I need to…)

  4. Chip, we had to take a, what, 30 minute plus trip down the hiway, don’t remember which one, in two fannish clown cars (packed to overflowing in other words) in order to find a well stocked super market.

  5. @steve davidson: I can’t tell you more about the Ops story than the summary; I’ve heard those bits repeatedly, but I was never an Ops geek and so haven’t remembered (heard?) details. NB: the Ops story may have involved a different incident.

    re the banquet: word was that people had to hand in their tickets at the door, but the waitrons wouldn’t serve without getting the tickets from the seated eaters. (Sensible in general to make sure plates went to the correct people; possibly local classism to make sure that the waitrons weren’t picking up extra plates.) At an FI no more than 2 years later, the Seattle rep was asked what they’d do in this situation, and after repeated insistence that it couldn’t happen (and pushback from the moderator) said they would punch out the banquet manager. This phrase still shows up occasionally among SMOFs as synecdoche for incomprehensible stupidity — especially after one of the Seattle executives revealed that this situation had been discussed with the rep.

  6. OK. well.

    Here’s the whole story as best as I can remember it.

    We opted, in committee, to offer attendees the opportunity to select their seating. Ten people per table.

    Later, when questions came up at the convention, we made the decision to allow attendees to change their seating assignments, right up to pretty much the last minute.

    What we should have done was insist that only complete tables lists be submitted and that once submitted no official changes be made. Those unable to provide a full table of guests would be assigned to “open” tables on a first come, first assigned basis.

    So if the Nivens wanted to sit with the Busbys and the de Camps and the Gunns and the Pournelles, they’d fill out a table ticket, done. If later someone wasn’t going to show, oh well, two empty seats. (And if they wanted to swap tables later, they didn’t have to involve anyone, just get up and move.)

    But of course that’s not what we did. So there were many days of having to switch the table assignments, and I mean chains and chains of changes. These two now want to be at table 5 with those folks, displacing couple F who now want to be at table 13, but that’s ok because couple H from table 9 are going to change and sit at table 5, which means that we can slot these other people into their space…..

    An absolute nightmare, compounded by the fact that there were at least two of us, if not three or more, who were taking notes, updating the diagram and not always passing complete information on to the next shift.

    Comes the evening of the banguet. We’d explained and understood that once through the door, everyone in the room was a banquet guest. So we checked tickets at the door.

    However, I’m 99% sure that we let them keep their tickets after checking their table assignment, and here’s why I’m almost completely sure.

    1. the tickets were wonderful pieces of fan art by Stu Schiffman; orange card with illustrations on both front and back (a turkey saying “Hugos There?” on the front, a Suncon logo and spaces for entering name and table on the back) and, as a collector of SF ephemera, I know I would have wanted to keep mine.

    2. Later, when the real problem with the banquet arose, attendees had to provide their tickets, again, in order to sort out a seating kerfuffle.

    Here’s what happened that is very clear in my memory.

    I’d been fortunate in having Eliot Shorter deciding at some point to become my mentor. I’m pretty sure Don Lundry asked him to keep an eye on things as I was fairly inexperienced, but whatever the reasons, I was fortunate that Elliot was around when I was confronted with 14 or so people informing me A: an “entire group was already sitting at their assigned table, and they had the same table assignment and B: “there is no table for our number”.


    So I had a group of 14 anxious fans wondering if they were ever going to get what they paid for, a hall crowded with tables and my entire future as a fan about to go off a cliff.

    Elliot laid a hand on my shoulder (from out of nowhere) and said “Stop. Count to ten. No – shut up and count to ten. Ok. NOW go fix the problem.”

    I found the banquet manager, had him set up two more tables and everyone was seated.

    Now, as for “punching him out”. I do vaguely recall some issue over guests being served, but I know they all still had their tickets, so failure to produce them couldn’t have been the issue. I think that may have been confused with an issue over serving special meals (kosher, vegetarian) as I recall, from the mists of time, the statement “she ordered a vegetarian meal and they’re out of vegetarian meals”. The solution was to put together another vegetarian meal.

    The more I think about it, the more the hind brain tells me that there was an issue in “collecting” the tickets from the guests when served, not that they couldn’t be collected because they already had been.

    I think I told the hotel banquet manager that there was no need, these were commemorative tickets, meant to be retained, and everyone who was seated had paid for a meal. (I also remember agreeing to commit the convention to paying for any additional meals over what we had contracted for if that worked out to be the case.)

    Staff at the hotel were pretty accommodating at that convention. It was the first “take-over” remotely managed Worldcon and there were a lot of issues that needed to be handled at the last minute. Pretty much anything we asked the hotel for, we got.

    In addition to the banquet issues: the hall that had been scheduled for the art show turned out to be leaking water from the ceiling and smelled of mildew long unaddressed.

    I hit the hotel several days earlier with the Chairman and a handful of other concom members. Don (chair) and I gave ourselves the task of pre-checking the facilities and when we walked into the art show hall (the doors had been closed for who knows how long?) we almost fell over from the smell. No way was any self-respecting artist going to risk their paintings in a room like that.

    Because we had to move the art show (and a few other things around) we ended up with no huckster’s room. That led to using a couple floors of the parking garage…which looked like a parking garage. Hotel staff agreed to paint the floor (that gray concrete sealer paint). One of the best moments of that con was when Don, I and Michael Walsh, manager of the huckster’s room, walked down to check out the paint job, discovered that there were still numerous blisters concealing undried paint, stood around trying to come up with a solution and in one of those moments of shared epiphany, we turned to each other and simultaneously shouted “FANS!”. (The hotel set up numerous standing industrial fans to help dry things out.) There were still some undried spots when the con opened, but we cleverly concealed them by putting tables over them.

    I hope that sheds some light.

    I just read this http://docplayer.net/61545346-Amessagefromthechair.html, which kinda sheds some more light.

  7. Sorry. I forgot one thing.

    The “lesson” that should have come down from all of this is “NO ASSIGNED SEATING AT HUGO BANQUETS”.

    I assisted Eva Whitley with her 1983 Constellation banquet – the crab hammer banquet – which was the last one ever held. I think nearly shaking the hotel to its foundations tops the ticket issue at Suncon.

  8. Steve — that’s interesting detail on how it was solved for real, but the long-remembered part was the utter failure of the inquisitee to understand that there was a solution even to the simplified version. Also, the Connie banquet was not the last ever held, unless you require dinners and exclude instances outside the US (which I do not advise); I went to the Aussiecon Two banquet (pavlova instead of hairy icecream for dessert–yum!) which was specifically followed by the Hugos, and I’m pretty sure there were non-Hugo banquets in Brighton (1987) and The Hague (1990). There was definitely a brunch (with many memories instead of Hugo awards to follow) at Noreascon Three (1989). (A nit: the banquet was held on the bottom level of the convention center, not in the hotel; it was unlikely to have been shaken, since it had previously hosted a bowling alley, but the raw noise certainly precluded future crab feasts.)

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