By George R.R. Martin: Tammy Coxen’s history of the Hugo Losers Party was informative, even to me. I was at almost all of those conventions, and a good many of those parties, but the precise details of when the next year’s Worldcon took over have been lost in the mists of time.
Here are a few additional details that you may find of interest… things I do remember…
We say that the 1976 party was held in my hotel room at KC, and that’s certainly how it started… but there was more to it than that. Purely by happenstance, my room — an ordinary double in the Muehlebach Towers — was at the end of a corridor, on the same floor as the hotel pool. Capacity was an issue even then, but when the crowd overfilled the room, the party simply spilled out into the hallway, and then out onto the pool deck. Hotels did not seem to mind hall parties in those days. People sat on the floor with their backs against the walls and passersby stepped over them. And when Joe Haldeman showed up, having won the Hugo for FOREVER WAR, the fans picked him up and threw him in the pool. Today’s winners get off easy with their funny hats.
I don’t even recall when and how we came to throw a second party, at Suncon (1977). Certainly I had no intention of doing so; the 1976 party had been so unique I figured it was a one-time thing. But so many people asked me whether there would be a second party that I decided to see if we could do one. My room that year was nothing special, however, no pool deck conveniently to hand, so I did not know where we could hold it. I believe it was Ace Books who came to the rescue by lending us their suite. I think Jim Baen was the editor there then, but I may be getting the years mixed up. But it was definitely Ace that hosted the 1977 party. They provided some of the booze too, but once again Gardner and I also scrounged from other parties.
In 1978, in Phoenix… again, I may be mixing up the years… but Jim Frenkel was starting Bluejay Books around then, and came to me to ask for the right to host the party to publicize the line. So the Phoenix bash doubled as a Bluejay Launch Party. (If I have the right year).
The 1979 Worldcon was in the UK and I did not have the money to attend. So far as I know there was no Hugo Losers Party that year.
But we resumed in 1980, at Noreascon II in Boston. Ahhh, yes. That year I had the bad taste to win not one, but TWO Hugo Awards, so Gardner got me good when I dared showed my face at the party with the rockets in hand. I think it was at that party that he sprayed my head with whipped cream and even had a maraschino cherry to pop on top. And, of course, he formally threw me out of the Hugo Losers club with appropriate ceremony. Needless to say, I have a lot of good memories of that night. I don’t recall where we found the suite for the party, though. We may have begged for the use of the SFWA Suite, or maybe that was a later year.
At Denver in 1981 I lost in novella with “Nightflyers” and was readmitted to the ranks of Losers. No publisher stepped forward to let us use a suite that year, so I begged and pleaded and convinced Rusty Hevelin to let me use the suite the con had given him as Fan GOH. It was a big lavish suite, but even so, at one point the crush became so thick that Rusty stood on a table and shouted for quiet and said, “If you are not a Hugo Loser, or do not even KNOW a Hugo Loser, please leave.” I don’t recall if anyone did. This was decades before the Alfies, to be sure, but I did make a presentation of sorts at that party. Howard Waldrop had just lost for “The Ugly Chickens” (which had won the Nebula earlier that year), so I presented him with a fake F&SF cover for a non-existent special “Howard Waldrop Issue” that I’d had painted by Jim Odbert. I also remember the rented red dinner jacket I wore that night. Parris said I looked like the waiter at an Italian restaurant.
After that things get very fuzzy. We threw parties in the next few years, but the details escape me. L.A.con II in 1984 may have been the last one I helped run. The 1985 con was Aussiecon II, and I did not have the money to get to Australia. I don’t know if someone else threw a Losers Party there or not. But I was definitely out of it by Atlanta in 1986.
After other hands took it over, the name Hugo Losers Party continued for a bit, but eventually they jettisoned even that. At one party in the late 90s or early 00s I was reprimanded for calling it by the original name. “The nominees do not appreciate being called losers,” I was told with a sniff. “How would you like being called a loser?” I just laughed. “I’m one of the original losers,” I replied. A lot of folks still used the Hugo Losers name colloquially thereafter, but from that point the official name was always something like “The Post Hugo Nominees Reception.” At one such, during a year when he was not a nominee, Gardner Dozois was even turned away. He was not on the list. (He laughed about it. A somewhat rueful, resigned laugh, but a laugh nonetheless).
Returning to the present… it might interest your readers to know that the Guinness Storehouse was our second choice for a venue. I wanted Dublin Castle. Alas, though they do rent the castle for parties, they have a firm policy that all events must end at 11:00 pm. That would not have worked for us, for obvious reasons.