Veteran masquerade participant and Worldcon regular Toni Lay of the NJ/NY Costumers’ Guild (a.k.a. the Sick Pups) died August 28 after a lengthy hospitalization caused by a series of strokes. Her passing was reported by Susan de Guardiola who said, “Toni was 65 and had been a part of the NYC metro fan community since at least when I met her back in the late 1980s (and probably longer).”
Toni Lay was a Deputy Chatelaine for the Crown Province of Ostgardr in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), Program Director for Costume Con 5, a Historical Masquerade Director for Costume Cons 16 and 22, a Historical Judge for Costume Con 28, and a Presentation Judge at Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon.
She worked as a secretary for the New York City Department of Design and Construction.
Her early fan activity included writing about Star Trek in the 1980s and participating on the 1992 Worldcon (MagicCon) program.
A photo gallery of some of her masquerade appearances is here.
I’m too overwhelmed at the moment, to write more,,, Thoughts gathering….
But Toni’s involvement with fandom began MUCH EARLIER than mentioned here.
She was already well known on the New York convention scene when I met her in January of 1976.
And, it should be known:
She was a beauty!
(Which I think it would make her very happy for me to note, here!)
From all I’ve ever heard in the decades since, the best kind of beauty, never ceased to resonate from her spirit.
Toni Lay was one of the first beautiful women I met.
At a convention, anyway!
Back in that wild wonderful month of my own early convention experiences, January of 1976:
THREE major conventions in Manhattan, within weeks?
Creation started it off that annum with their comic book, fantasy and media festival, held at the old, great, Commodore Hotel.
A GIANT “Star Trek”: convention would cap the month, at the New York Hilton.
(The fifth, and last of, “The Commitee’s” STAR TREK fests would be a few weeks later, at the Commodore.)
But inbetween–the second week of January?–was Al Schuster’s STAR TREK convention, at the Statler Hilton (aka The Hotel Pennsylvania).
I was invited to a party one night for Nichelle Nichols, a fan event, to be sure, in someone’s crowded hotel room.
But there were at least two beautiful women there that night.
Remember that classic mid-1970s look for African-American women? The mid sized Afro, framing a lovely face… Not too much makeup… Slim, but not too…
Toni knocked it out of the park.
With an incredible low-cut black dress that I can still remember, INSTANTLY, nearly forty years later.
Which made it all the more extraordinary when she smiled.
Or gave forth with that remarkable laugh, so filled with joy.
Because then, she just radiated…
Toni was soon the girlfriend of my pal, the late Ray Moran–known to many, as “the gentle giant,” and later, as “Wookie.” Ray, you see, was TALL. And still, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met; too long gone from the scene, for I believe over thirty years, the victim of some kind of aneurism.
But he was another one of the delightful people who was so much a part of our New York convention/fandom circle, once upon a time.
Toni then had a long relationship with ANOTHER pal, Jonathan Gleich–
Of whom it’s sometimes been forgotten that he hosted what may well have been one of the first–if not THE first–STAR TREK radio talk shows in the country… (“The Trekkie Show,” on WHBI-FM, out of Newark, but with their studios in Manhattan, and heard throughout New York. Jon hosted under the monicker, “Jay Gee,” beginning some time around 1974.)
There was this whole nice crowd one could always count on seeing, once upon a time, and Toni was a sparkling part of that.
I had heard through the years that she had a MAJOR involvement with costuming fandom, and I’m certain that her contributions there were immense.
Because Toni was never simply a smiling charmer–
But one of the brightest people you could chat with.
I KNOW there are all sorts of great circles of friends who gather not only in the North East, but elsewhere, united today by their love for science fiction, and all of its sub-genres…
But the folks one first knew, always retain that special patina in memory.
And the only way to recreate those days, even with all their pitfalls, but with oh so many more pleasures, is to recall the laughter.
And, you see, when Toni Lay would smile, everyone around here, would get happy.
How could you not?
She sounds like a wonderful person; I’m sorry that I never got to know her.
[moment of silence]
I posted this on Facebook but I want to note it here too.
Toni was very active in the world of science fiction fandom, and a panel we were on together was directly responsible for my first published story. In fact, I named my first protagonist after her (although the character was a boy, so I called him Tony).
I am going to quote from the afterword I wrote for “TeleAbsence” in my collection “I Remember the Future”:
“The story had its genesis in a panel I was on at the Arisia science fiction convention in January 1994. At the time, I was trying to sell stories to the science fiction magazines and not succeeding. But I had received my first personal rejection letter, a short note from Stanley Schmidt at Analog, which inspired me to keep sending him stories until he bought one.
“I was in graduate school studying physics, and thus had managed to convince the Arisia committee to put me on their science program. So at noon on January 22, 1994, I found myself discussing ‘2001: Image and Reality’ with Hal Clement, Jeff Hecht, Toni Lay, James Turner, and Victoria Warren. The premise of the panel was to make predictions of what the world would really be like in the year 2001, and I believe it was James Turner who triggered the first idea behind my story.
“‘By the year 2001,’ he said, ‘everyone will have an e-mail address.’ He went on to say that everyone would also have free access to the so-called Information Superhighway.
“The other panelists tended to agree, with two exceptions: Toni Lay and me. She pointed out that the ‘free’ information out there was not free—at the very least, you needed to be able to afford a computer, a modem, a telephone line, and an Internet provider. I echoed the sentiment, but James disagreed with us, saying that such things would be cheap by 2001. In the end, convinced of my position, I decided to make my point in a science fiction story.”
I met Toni at the first convention I ever attended (Equicon 1973). The con was so crowded that it was easier to get a seat in the coffee shop if smaller parties combined and shared larger tables, so that’s how my friend Linda Foster and I met Toni and her friend Robin. Toni was from NYC and Robin was from Hawaii; they’d met at the first NY STAR TREK convention and decided to share expenses to go to Equicon.
We all clicked, and stayed in touch (this in the era before the internet and email–we actually wrote _letters_ to each other once a month. I always looked forward to seeing Toni at conventions and catching up on what we each were “into” at the moment, which always had an amazing degree of similarity. She had a great story about hanging her TV antenna out the window of her apartment, hoping to pick up episodes of CAPTAIN HARLOCK, broadcast in French from Montreal.
Her costumes, her vocal inflections, and her offbeat sense of humor were always a highlight of every visit, and I’m sad I won’t be able to spend any more time with her. Godspeed, Toni, and I’ll see you later at the Big Masquerade Party in the sky.
I loved Toni for her love of life, her enjoyment of the moment, her positive attitude. Memories for me – Toni was the MC for us at Costume-Con 18 in Hartford, for the Fantasy and Science Fiction Masquerade. She was so elegant in her shiny robes and golden turban! In later years we served together on many masquerade staffs and enjoyed some mighty fine chats. Toni will be sorely missed.
I first met Toni at LunaCon in 1983, and loved her ever since. There are so many stories that I could tell, like everyone here, but one of my favorites is of the long drive home after a Balticon and just before CC 5. We 4 (including Denice Girardeau & Carl) were punchy from an overdose of con and lack of sleep, and plotting shenanigans for CC. That drive resulted in “The Gospel According to Glitziana.” Denice recited it in solemn tones, and Toni kept adding heart-felt Amens. I will have her in my heart always.
I’m sorry she’s gone. She was a remarkable presence in fandom.
I don’t remember exactly where or when I first met Toni, but it some sometime around 1990 at a CostumeCon or a Balticon. She was one of the most cheerful women I ever encountered, always smiling and joking and teasing in a way that made you just love her. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and that makes me as sad as the news that she succumbed to her illness. I’ll miss her.
I met Toni at Fort Fest one yesr, I don’t remember when. She was so much fun to talk to and also to plot greenrider shenanigans with to have fun at Fort Fest. I believe it was Susan (M’tini at Fort) who brought Toni that first year. I know that Fort Weyr (Fort9 fandom) will sorely miss Q’illan and Toni Lay for she was such a wonderful person, always made me smile when I was chatting with her.
May God be with her family and all her friends at this time! She will be sorely missed by all who knew her!
I met Toni at one of the early Costume Cons – loved her sense of humour, sense of fun and that incredible laugh. Over the years she would always express surprise that they had let me over the US-Canada border, once again. I saw her for the last time at Costume Con 32, here in Toronto where we judged the historical masquerade together.
Love you and will miss you, Toni , God bless.
John Vengrouskie damn.. as a soundgeek
FringeFan in the costuming (cosplay) word having worked with Master Class Animal-X and Angie Trouvere (and if memory serves several others) sound design et al as well as my theatrical sound design chops…. Toni is a remarkable talent in this regimen…. proud ti have been able to meet and work in ANY limited way with her and her ilk…
I first really met Toni back in 2003 when I was the Co-Chair of Costume-Con 21 in Chicago. She took the train from New York to Chicago. I got up really early and drove into Chicago to Union Station to pick her up. Before and after the convention, there were many jokes made about my driving ability. After that, we always looked for each other at conventions, and I always made the offer of picking her up at the train station. I told her about the nearest train station for CC34 in Madison. It is in a small nearby town that is great for antiques. She joked that she would never get to the con.
She was a great friend and I will miss her very much.
I met Toni at either the early Trek cons or at Lunacon; too much time under the bridge to recall exactly. We hung out at the conventions with other mutual friends, but I left the area in the late 1980s. We’d see each other at Worldcon’s after that, and it was as if no time had passed. I am terribly saddened by her passing, and my condolences go out to her family.