Saturday 23rd MayROBINSON:
The following morning the Welsh contingent was at full strength - they slept the night before - all that is except Dave Barker, who will probably never get over this Con. Bill and Fred Price had got in the morning before. I got in during the evening, and Dave arrived at the Ghod awful hour of 4.30 a.m. Arthur Hillman also turned up at the Con. making five of us. We all arrived bright and early at the Bonnington and were a little surprised to find that the Con was being held in the Temple Room - such huckstering!
Firstly we found that everyone was wearing a badge with their name on it, this is an excellent idea imported from the U.S. With Cons getting so well attended these days it saves a lot of time and makes for easy friendships. A good 90% of the fans present were also wearing a second badge sporting slogans to the effect that "I like Bea Mahaffey" and "I like Rita Krohne". WAW`s referred to Pogo; I'm told that there were quite a few odd remarks on some of these badges altho I didn't see any.
When we went to set up our stall we found that there was no table reserved for us so we promptly appropriated Jim Rattigan's, who, when he came in, took over one reserved for a publishing firm who didn't turn up. Bill put out the artwork and I the photos and mags. I'd made a special point of bringing with me some drawing pins, as had most fans, only to discover a plaster wall that required Scotch tape to stick anything to it - and the supply that was available was inadequate to say the least! However, we spread the display over the table. I'm glad to say that Bill's artwork caused quite a lot of comment and the stall was continually patronised.
I set up both cameras ready and made a few trial shots to get the feel of things. A lovely hotel from the photographer's point of view, the Bonnington, plenty of light is reflected from the walls and ceiling - important in flash work, especially in a large hall.
The Convention was due to start at 11am, and we took care and a taxi to arrive shortly afterwards so that in the event of its actually starting on time we should be on hand to carry out those who had fainted from the shock. But all was well ---at 11.30 Ron Buckmaster was still asking everyone if they had seen the microphone. Evidently someone, probably a Northerner, had taken the mike out of the Convention already. Someone suggested he should call for its return over the PA system. While the Committee were mulling over this we all milled around to the strain of Stan Kenton records.
At 11.43 precisely Chairman Fred Brown apologised for the delay. He offered no explanation, and nobody expected one. He also announced the last minute cancellation of the showing of 'Destination Moon, due to the London County Council's unexpected objection to the showing of inflammable 35mm film in unlicensed theatres. Eviidently the Government had sneaked through the Cinematograph Act of 1909 without informing the Convention Committee.
He also read a postcard from Peter Hamilton regretting that he might not be able to be present. Since Peter was actually standing just under the Chairman's nose, it looked as if he had delivered the postcard himself to save postage. Fred also announced the cancellation of the Junior Fanatics play, adding rather tactlessly that something better would be substituted.
This, incidentally, was the first Convention I've been at where there was a special item listed in the official programme as "announcements of unavoidable changes". A wise precaution, and one which I hope portends a new era of more realistic programme booklets. Perhaps we shall one day have a really accurate printed programme scheduling such normal features of the average Convention as 'unavoidable delay', 'breakdown of PA system', 'confusion', 'collapse of Chairman' 'utter chaos' and 'Committee blind drunk'.
After all this excitement we adjourned for a nice restful lunch interval, during which we watched James and Chuck trying to trap one another in a wildly revolving door, James and Chuck having a running gunfight with waterpistols in Southhampton Row, and a film company shooting a crime melodrama in a side street. James and Chuck were much the best, we thought. Then back to the Bonnington for the introduction of notables.
After a mill around to meet people and some char we came back to the hall in the early afternoon as Fred Brown and Ted Carnell were getting everybody together for the opening of the official proceedings. Carnell opened by saying that bearing in mind that Korshak couldn't see beyond the front row at the Chicon, and not wanting to miss anybody, he would. point out a few London fans and the provincial actifen who could then in turn introduce people from their own areas. Unfortunately Ted has not studied a map of Britain for a long time as this sort of petered out after L'pool and Manchester were introduced.
The London Chairman was much gentler than Korshak, Bea and I agreed; all he threatened to do was 'run over us quickly', and he hadn't even got a bicycle on his nose to do it with. There was warm applause for Bea, and also for Chuck Harris attending his first convention.
Finally there was Arthur C. Clarke, the 'C' in whose name stood of course for 'corn', the same corn we had stood for so long. Arthur was one of those people who know everything, including the fact that they know everything; though even Arthur had his moments of self doubt and could be sometimes heard saying to himself "I wonder if I'm really as good as I know I am." Of course we all knew his books--'The Exploitation of Space', 'The Yen Who Sold the Moon' and so on. He had recently found some excuse to go to America again and was now underwater fishing in Florida. After his experience of editors and agents he should be quite capable of dealing with sharks. In fact Temple was sorry for the sharks.
The main defect of Temple as a Convention speaker, in fact come to think of it the only defect, is that he doesn't like speaking (extraordinary in one who does it so well) and insists on being put on early, with the result that everything else is something of an anticlimax. However Tubb kept the standard high, cynically advancing the theory that the reason for the bookshops being loaded with sf was that nobody would buy the stuff, and disposing competently of an inane interruption about flying saucers from a character called Burgess' who resembles nothing so much as Hal Shapiro's conception of Ken Beale. (Other parallels which occurred to Bea and me were Bill Temple=Robert Bloch, Peter Phillips=GOSmith, and Dave Cohen=Henry Burwell. America doesn't seem to have any equivalent to Norman Wansborough.)
Bill Temple was really on top of his form - crack followed crack without pause making his speech so good that everything else that followed that day seemed pretty dull... It could not be long before Bill made reference to the one and only Arthur Clarke. Mentioning Arthur's recent succession of book sales Bill mentioned that a fortune had been made from "The Exploitation of Space." Arthur we understand is now being referred to as Ego Head and Heinlein had called him 'The Man Who Sold The Moon.' Arthur was at present photographing sharks underwater, rumors wore that he was being investigated by Senator McCarthy for 'submersive activities'. Bill sat down to a very well earned round of applause. Other speeches in this item were by Ted Tubb, John Brunner, John Christopher and Vince Clarke - appearing in the guise of a huckster for the first time.
Frank Arnold sounded very pessimistic; he said that from what little Stf he had read over the past few years, he gathered the impression that the stories were the same, the plots in fact had all been done before - I for one disagree.
Other pros who spoke were John Brunner ( "I predict a rosy future future for sf - I have some more stories in my drawer'), Vince Clarke ("as half author of two books") C.S. Youd ("No time to read sf "), and Frank Edward Arnold ("Haven't read anything new for 12 years"). Apparently nobody in the London Circle reads anything but their own stories. Carnell then invited questions and inevitably Spillane was brought up, as indeed he must be by anyone with a sensitive stomach. Frank Milnes too took his opportunity and rose up from the body of the Hall to flog a copy of "Sex and Sadism" to Carnell, who had been talking about it for ten minutes without having read it. Someone in the audience who had heard of semantics asked for a clear definition of 'bad'--- a subject which might have kept everyone talking until well into the Supermancon had not George Hay got up and disclosed that different people had different ideas as to what good and bad were. Youd said It Wasn't As Simple As That. It was a difficult point, but he knew what it was when he saw it. Helen Winnick said coyly that she hadn't read the Spillane story in question because none of her men friends would lend it to her. An unidentified voice from the audience, who sounded like Havelock Ellis, said that all forms of literature were substitute activities for sex. However science fiction being more constructive was, he stated astonishingly more likely to produce an orgasm. Goaded by the Mystery Voice, Youd said sarcastically that it must get a different thrill out of sf than he did, and for no apparent reason then went recklessly on record with the opinion that Bester's "The Demolished Man" was "just Spillane on a lower level". Fred Brown said he thought thought the Spillane story in Fantastic was 'jolly good' and he'd pay 35¢ for it any day, adding equally gratuitously that he wouldn't give tuppence for a Youd story. Someone in the audience whom we only knew as Sidgwick and Jackson then said something inaudible in a refined accent and Carnell asked him to speak up. Sidgwick and Jackson, in a near shout then announced that their sex life was satisfactory (I almost left the Convention Hall to send a cablegram to Francis Towner Laney) and resented the charge that sf was a substitute activity. George Hay, obviously determined to go one better than anybody, declared that sex itself was a substitute activity. So, he added sweepingly, was science. Proceeding into even higher realms of thought he said profoundly that it was a matter of opinion what was essential and what was not essential. The human being selects his effective field. He wondered if he had made his point clear.
With the next item Ted Carnell really started something. Mentioning the recent article in Authentic where John Christopher made very harsh criticism of sex and Stf, and the Symposium on Sex and Sadism in recent Stf that the L'pool group were selling at the Con. he gave the mike to John Christopher to voice second thoughts; he was followed by a succession of speakers. Fred Brown, far from condemning Howard Browne for publishing the Spillane story said he liked it --this was the first time I ever saw hardened fans look shocked. A well known scientist who is also a reader of Stf spoke from the audience and made several good points and coined the word 'pseudopornographic' for fiction that was naughty 'in inverted commas' (perveted commas, maybe?). This discussion got quite lively but was eventually wound up by Ted Carnell who found he had to apologise as someone had brought along a daughter of tender years. I don't know how old she was but after some of the remarks made I don't doubt that she had tender ears.
Obviously perturbed lest the Convention spend the next few days worrying itself into a nervous breakdown over what sex could be a substitute for, Carnell hastily closed the discussion and made a belated introduction of another visitor from America, a Mrs.Solibakke of Seattle, Wash. (In fairness to Mr. Hay, though, I think I should say that in my opinion he was actually working towards a very sound theory first propounded by another Deep Thinker, name of me, when in last year's conreport I accused Ken Bulmer of sublimating his fan instincts with a woman.) Mrs. Sollieback from Seattle was, Carnell revealed, a member of N3F. Suitably impressed we applauded warmly. However I am sorry to say that Mrs. Solibakke seems to have detected a note of insincerity in our tribute, for in a letter published since in GMCarr's Gemtones she reports that "the N3F is not popular among the fans here." Presumably we should have bowed our heads and stood in silent tribute to the noble organisation, fixing the British representative over its grave.
Carnell then made the first public mention of the Fund that had been started by an American fan group to bring a certain English fan to the Philcan. The fan in question had been unable to go after all and Don Ford and the Cincinnati group had generously thrown the offer open to any other British fan we chose who could risk having to pay most of the cost himself. Carnell didn't disclose the English fan's name but I see no harm in saying it was Norman Ashfield, who hasn't been active in fandom for quite a while but who has evidently kept up his correspondence with his friend, Don Ford.
An announcement was then made that the idea had been broached by many American fans to bring over a British fan for the Philcon in September. A raffle of original cover paintings had been organised to raise the cash. These tickets were available over here and were to be sold during the Con at 6d a time (I believe they went quite rapidly).
One of these was for the cover of NEW WORLDS #12. It was won by Vince Clarke and is currently hanging on a wall on my stairs. A provenance on the back reads: "Raffled in aid of the Junior Fanatics Society on May 23rd 1953 by kind permission of Bob Clothier, Ted Carnell & Tony Cooper"
The idea was suggested from the platform that British fans should get together to see if we could choose someone to go. We did this on Sunday...
Fred is alluding to a meeting of prominent fans at some point the following day during which they discussed how to make best use of the Cincinnati group's generous offer.
...but the big stumbling block is the fact that the fan in question is going to have to raise his own fare initially which means well over £100, altho it is quite possible that he will be reimbursed later; also the trip would occupy 3-4 weeks, The two items have ruled out everyone eligible so far. Trouble is most British fans are working class people or students and both time and money are too short to consider it. Being one of those approached I could only say the same as the rest - "I'd love to but...." However it's a bit too much of a rush to organise anything this year so we decided to start a Transatlantic Fund to take British fans to the States and bring U.S, fans over here to a future Con in this country. Now as a faned I'm going to ask you a favour. I want every one of my readers in the U.K. to write down on a postcard the names of four British fans whom he would nominate to attend a convention in the U,S, as a British representative. Put these in order of preference and send the postcard to 'Walter Willis at 170 Upper Newtownards Rd. Belfast, N.Ireland. The idea being that from the result of this we can find the most popular choices and they can be approached to see if they can manage it. By September 1954 we should be in a position to help quite considerably from a financial angle. But don't delay - do it now, all we.ask is that the fans you choose should be fairly well known. NO, don't read any further, write that postcard now!!
After this came the play by the Junior Fanatics, the Committee evidently having been unable to get something better after all. The production suffered somewhat from under-rehearsal, the hero living in Lancaster and the heroine in Bournemouth and neither having very strong voices, and it rather lacked the polish and brilliance we have all come to associate with Seventh Fandom. There were also some slight difficulties at first due to them having forgotten their own lines, but with a fine spirit of co-operation they soon overcame this by reading each other's.
The heroine was a new fan called Shirley Marriott who looks like a brunette BRE of Lee Hoffman. She has the same first name too, but I'm afraid I never found how much further the resemblance went; these younger fans keep very much together and don't mix with us old has-BNFs.
Junior Fanatic Ken Potter protested this characterisation in his letter
in HYPHEN #5 (Nov' 53):
'These younger fans keep very much together and don't mix with us old
Walter Willis! We spent a good 70% of the Convention
flaunting ourselves before 6th fandom. Dave and I spent an entire
afternoon trying to slip your Confederate cap beneath our jackets. I even
condescended to ask your opinion on my theory that stars are the fairies'
daisychains and (NB) you grinned sheepishly. If liaison did not take
place between the Young Blood and the anemic, it was your fault."
The Confederate cap in question, btw, was given to Willis by Lee Hoffman at
CHICON during his US trip the previous year.
'These younger fans keep very much together and don't mix with us old has-BNFs.'
Walter Willis! We spent a good 70% of the Convention flaunting ourselves before 6th fandom. Dave and I spent an entire afternoon trying to slip your Confederate cap beneath our jackets. I even condescended to ask your opinion on my theory that stars are the fairies' daisychains and (NB) you grinned sheepishly. If liaison did not take place between the Young Blood and the anemic, it was your fault."
The Confederate cap in question, btw, was given to Willis by Lee Hoffman at CHICON during his US trip the previous year.
Dave Cohen followed with an address on what was wrong with the London Circle and was so convincing that Chuck Harris changed his London Circle badge to a Belfast one before he had even finished. One of Cohen's accusations was that the Londoners didn't support the last Mancon and in his speech of rebuttal Brown promptly put his foot in it right up to the neck by saying he didn't know about the Mancon. Since the last London Convention had been virtually knee-deep in Mancon propaganda, this was an unfortunate defence. Bentcliffe asked with deceptive politeness whether Brown hadn't seen the notices. Brown pulled the ground in on top of him by saying, too craftily, that he hadn't been up to the White Horse much during that period. Bentcliffe patiently pointed out that the notices in question had been in the Convention Hall and that Northern speakers there had publicly asked for support and been given to understand they would get it. Angry murmurings from Northerners in the audience confirmed this. At this point Bert Campbell came in and poured oil on the burning waters. He apologised for being late, he said disarmingly, but he had been up until four in the morning discussing sex with some visitors from the United States. The Northerners, he went on, couldn't expect celebrities to come to their Convention ("Well, I'm a celebrity, aren't I?") unless they made it attractive and publicised it properly. He further endeared himself to Northern fandom by pointing out how well the Londoners publicised their conventions. (I remembered the time Alan Hunter wrote to me in Belfast four days before the '52 Con to ask did I know whether it was still on and did I know where it was.) You couldn't go wrong, said Campbell blithely, if you followed the London Circle, They didn't just stick something on the wall in the hope someone would notice it. Fred Brown rubbed salt into the wounds by saying that the London Circle didn't have to pay anything at all for their publicity. (One wondered whether this meant the Mancon Committee could also expect free advertising in New Worlds, Science Fantasy and Authentic.) As illustrations of their ingenuity he instanced the fact that they wrote to Eagle Comics (apparently without result) and designed a poster for a showing of "War Of The Worlds" (which was not accepted). One felt his examples could have been better chosen.
This fractious complaint of Dave's was no doubt well intentioned, and too, was justly called for; but was most ill- advised and led only to much wrangling and bitter feeling. The, Londoners believe of course that Dave is the spokesman for all the North - (just as McCain in under the impression that Willis speaks for all Britain.) It was after this, and Campbell's evasive reply at length, that the rift was felt, which thereafter grew wider as the con progressed.
The arguments then flew back and forth but heated tho they became,the participants were no nearer to a solution at the end than at the start. Personally I think that the only solution will be to keep the annual "Big" Con at London as I'm convinced that not 10% of Southern fandom would ever go north to this type of Con while a very much larger proportion of Northern fans would come South. The emphasis of this Con should be, as it has been in the past, upon the pro' side of the business, the editors and authors bearing the brunt of the organising and entertaining. Then hold an annual FANCON in Manchester or Liverpool, where the whole programme should be mapped out for, by, and about fandom. This system seems to work out O.K. in the States with a World Con that,is primarily Pro' and a fan organised Midwest Con at Indian Lake -- how about it Northerners? I realise that there are arguments against this but fans are primarily fans, and if the programme is sufficiently attractive THEY WILL TURN UP!
The tension built up by the last item was then swiftly dispersed and forgotten in the laughter that was raised by 'Whiskers', written by WAW. This was Walt at his best. It was presented as a broadcast over the P.A. system and told the story of catastrophe. The awful story of Bert Campbell - his research into drugs - how he spent years searching for a drug to cure leprosy, then at last - success, his drug was found to be a perfect cure - for tubercolosis. Then, after even deeper research into T,B, he found a cure for leprosy. His fame spread far and wide and through the years discovery followed discovery until at last a stockpile of drugs was built up, waiting for someone to discover what they would cure. Changing his field of research he developed a furniture polish that proved to be an ideal sandwich spread. Then at last his greatest discovery - the instantaneous hair remover. He decided to sacrifice his beard to be the first to try it out. No doubt you've guessed by now that it instantaneously caused the beard to grow in length as the square of it's root. But I'm sure the complete script is sure to be published somewhere so I won't tell you more. Congratulations are due to all who took part in the sketch and made it such a success although the Hair-o was Bert Campbell.
One of the best items in the programme was Whiskers, script by Walt Willis (unpaid ad), which concerned the growth of Bert Campbell's beard. It was enacted as a factual news broadcast, the theme being that Campbell - a well-known scientist who does not know what he has invented until rigorous tests are applied to the product - is asked to invent a depilatory. Campbell tests the goo on his beard which proceeds to grow at a constantly increasing rate. Despite the efforts of hastily conscripted gardeners, of flame--throwers, and even paddle steamers fitted with knives, the beard grows and grows, reaches Woolwich Arsenal, flows into the Thames and. out into the Channel. The world is saved when Campbell invents a hair-restorer.
During the tea interval which followed copies were handed out of the Harris/Slater 'Looniecon' oneshot, a supremely fannish production. I seem to have spent the rest of the Convention explaining regretfully that I had nothing whatsoever to do with it and that it came as a complete surprise to me.
I didn't hurry my flock back from the tea interval.... I'd noticed something called Whiskers in the program and I didn't want to be in at the death. This was a Thing I'd started while recovering from pneumonia, been too weak to finish, and had passed on to the London Circle to show that at least I'd tried. When I realised they were going to put it on just as it was, my only consolation was that people never listen to plays done over the PA system, when there are no actors visible to receive either applause or tomatoes. But when we did arrive, about half way through, I was astonished to find that they were not only listening, but laughing in some of the right places. I stood savouring this entirely new form of egoboo and realising I'd overlooked two things: the fact that audience reaction time is slower than that of readers, so that poor jokes go over well, and the fact that there are scme very talented actors in the London Circle. The piece was done superbly well, especially by Bill Temple as Winston Churchill and by Bert Campbell as Bert Campbell, this last a particularly fine piece of type casting.
After this there were various quizzes, discussions and games. Audience participation was so poor as to be tantamount to a civil disobedience campaign, as it was all through the Convention. I think the reason was mainly that the weather was too hot for any form of exertion except jumping to conclusions; the principle ones seem to have been that the Convention was dull and the audience morons, and I don't think either was correct. Unfortunately I can't prove it, because it was apparently too hot for taking notes. It's a pity, because from the few I have it seems that quite an interesting variety of subjects was discussed. Bert Campbell said his own stories were years ahead of their time. Carnell said, "Poor fellow. He lives in a world of his own." Ted Tubb lectured on atom bomb protection, advising either brown paper or a very deep hole in the ground. Bert Campbell said that authors were parasites. Youd said he had sold Carnell three stories that had previously been rejected from New Worlds. Someone said they knew a girl with three heads and a calf with wings. Campbell said old fans were jealous of new ones. Ted Tubb said anteaters wouldn't be accepted in the French Foreign Legion. (I don't know quite how anteaters got into this discussion about how to retire from fandom; maybe someone suggested the best way was to tapir off.) Ted Tubb also presided gloriously at the auction but I didn't take any notes of this either, having come to an agreement with Vince Clarke to let him immortalise Ted this year.
Coming back to the Bonnington, the editors and authors were answering questions submitted by the audience. I got there in the middle of a discussion on mutation in which fruit flies figured prominently, although I seem to remember reference to something with five heads -- but he wasn't present so it couldn't have been a fan. Then came an interesting question on whether a fan was liable to be reincarnated as an ant-eater - raspberries to whoever sent this question to John Christopher to answer.
The auction followed and most people agreed that even with Ted Tubb batting it never really achieved the heights of the previous year. Too much crud was being - not sold *thrown* away. It's a reflection on Anglo-Fandom that they've chosen to gather together as much pure junk as possible to give to the committee to sell; heck, if everybody present had given one book or mag that was worth reading the auction would have been really worth attending. As it was it became rather ludicrous, bouquets to Ted for trying so hard. One novel event during the auction came about when Ted offered any item on the stall to the first person to come up and sing something. The only person with enough nerve was the little girl I mentioned earlier - if I offer any more bouquets to Ted people will believe he's dead.
The Auction. These in former years have been regarded as the high spots of the programme this year they were an unmitigated flop. This was due to the lack of interesting material; which again was due in part to the poor response by fans to requests for donations. The vast bulk (literal) of the material consisted of BREs, which nobody wanted and if bid for, were returned once again to the auctioneer. Ultimately they were given away -- and even then rejected, until some stout scout ((a Junior Fanatic?)) in the gathering announced that they would accept all unwanted BREs for shipping to Australian fans. This was a happy solution and mags flew from all parts of the hall. At a rough count near the end, he found he had over 70 magazines.
Ted Tubb who usually officiates at this function, and was scheduled to do so, was replaced by Fred Brown very early in the proceedings, and one or two others who gave Fred a much needed rest. For a short time it seemed that the situation might be saved by the help of Ken Slater who struggled valiantly to inject some enthusiasm into a disgruntled audience. But even his optimism and drive waned when he realised that you,can't give away a sack of nutty slack to someone who wants coal.
We thought that the the BREs in such quantity was merely to get them out of the way before gettinng to the meatier and more worthtwhile stuff. But hours went by and still nothing of import turned up. The only items of slightly more interest were some recent ASFs, GSFs, and some hardcover books. These were presented as BIG THINGS - eg.when coming to a batch of three ASFs containing the serial 'Gunner Cade', Auctioneer Brown announced in hushed tone: "And now, - a collector's Item" Last years' mags - Collectors'items! Other 'Big Things' were hard cover books kindly donated to the Convention Fund by Graysons and other publishers. Also a big plaster model from Graysons of a Green Bem, but this was the very last thing to be auctioned and everybody had given up in disgust and left the circle of bidders.
The first night ended in a general scrimmage for half-crowns' worths of BREs, For 2/6 you helped yourself to an armful of the stuff from a table piled high with them.
Near the end of the proceedings on the second night, Fred Brown auctioned an unspecified colour painting of a spaceship, which might have been a Russian Icon or an old boot as far as the auctioneer was concerned. There was some half-hearted bidding and someone asked "Who's it by?" reasonably enough. Tony Thorne who was holding the illo up for people to see what it was they were bidding for (surprising the number. of fan auctioneers who don't do this) scanned it for a signature, as the bidding went on. Up to about 2/6d. Then just as it was actually knocked down for this - as it turned out - ridiculous figure, Tony was heard to say "Rogers" in much in the same tone as he might have said "Now is the time ". Somebody in the row immediately recalled the source and said it was the original for the cover painting of one of the ASFs of the early forties. Department for Lost Chances...
On the day after the convention, John was going round the now empty and very much littered hall, collecting the last few items from the Space Diversions display table, when he thought he would have a look on the stage, where the auction had taken place the night before. There was a load of rubbish left behind in boxes, and papers of all descriptions all over the place. He rummaged casually in a box of papers and junk and came across two scraper board illos. They were rather grubby, but nothing that a rubber would not erase. They bore a legend each. One "Tower of Darkness', the other 'Stability'. He cackled gleefully knowing they were from 1946 ASFs illustrating stories by Bertram Chandler.
These two episodes are mentioned because we think it shows how apathetically the auction was handled -- not knowing or seeming to care what the items there, and throwing away original promag illos. The three items here noted should have brought, in half a minute what it took an hour to raise through the selling of BRE Amazings and Fantastic Adventures.
The dancing which was scheduled for 10.50 to 11.00 on the first night was conveniently forgotten, as most people had drifted off in boredom long before.
We'd been invited to a party in the Liverpool suite that evening but when I went up there I found it still empty, so we accepted an invitation from Bert Campbell, On the way Burgess appeared and tagged along, with evidently no intention whatever of crawling back into the woodwork. Campbell looked helplessly at me and I had an extraordinarily vivid sensation of deja vu, of having been in this exact situation before. As of course I had, and the heat and the long carpeted hotel corridors brought Chicago back even more vividly. It was that tightrope again. The inherent tendency of American-style conventions, as this one now was, is for everyone to gravitate in one enormous loud and drunken party, which no one really enjoys. The secret of enjoying oneself, on the other hand, is to gather together a few congenial friends and hide. Between the two alternatives stretches the tightrope, one false step on which means either frustration or the hurting of other people's feelings. I learned a lot about the tightrope at the Chicon and Bea is probably the foremost expert at it----notice how she has walked gracefully through British fandom, leaving them all at each others' throats for 'monopolising' her and not one of them blaming her----but Bert hadn't been to the Philcon yet. He couldn't think of anything but to open the door and usher everyone in.
CHUCK HARRIS (in HYPHEN #5):
Burgess..... is, I think, part of my fate. He is also a serious constructive fan, and wears a cloth cap to show that he belongs to the proletariat. He reads Good Books and political autobiographies in the intervals between prozines, and he sold me a SLANT 1 at the Boncon. Burgess is even lower than a professional bookseller. Trusting fool that I am, I believed him when he said it was a Mint Copy. I paid him 9d,--- the full cover price --- and didn't bother to examine the magazine. After all the excitement had died down, and Bea had fled to France, I look through the mag before filing it away in my collection. There, halfway down Page 5, was the biggest, dirtiest, damn thumbprint I've yet seen. BURGESS, YOU TOLD ME THAT WAS A MINT COPY!
That's not the only reason you're on the list, though. You remember when we held the first BRE type smokefilled room in 146, (and nyaaaaaaah to the Northern Rustics who boast that their room was smokier than ours)? It was a nice sociable little crowd, and everyone was on their best behavior because Bea, Rita Krohne, and Jesse Floyd were there, and we all wanted to give them a good impression of Anglofandom. Burgess, why couldn't you make whoopee quietly with that thimblefull of sherry and water that you were sipping? Haven't you any decent fundamental instincts? Whatever possessed you to start talking about science-fiction of all things, when everyone else was happily telling dirty jokes or quietly discussing sex?
The party was being held in Rita Krohne's room, since someone was having hysterics in Bert's. There was no space here for anything like that----there wasn't enough room to swing a cat, never mind a cataleptic. The room was so small I wondered we didn't have to pay a penny to get in. I counted 26 people in it, and that was only the top layer. I arranged a code knock with James and left the Black Hole of Calcutta to reconnoitre the Liverpool suite again. On the way up I ran into Ken Slater, whom I'd met for the first time a few hours ago. We went, to his room, opened a bottle of whisky, and discussed the Transatlantic Fan Fund. Then we went up to the Liverpool suite. I'd only been there a few minutes when James and Madeleine arrived with the news that they'd all just been thrown out of Rita's room.
As the evening drew on plans were being made in every corner for smoke-filled rooms. The biggest seemed to be organised by the Liverpool group and most of the actifen had been invited. Finally the Con proper broke up -in fact it just disintegrated fan by fan. Not being able to remember which room the party was being held I made my way upstairs with ears attuned ready to catch fannish remarks to lead me to the room. Eventually I located the noise, and having practically forced the door, I found myself jammed into a small hotel room about 15 x 10 occupied by over 20 fen not counting the furniture. The fact that I'd gotten into the wrong party didn't worry me much as I soon found a whisky-bottle, and, failing to locate a glass, I discovered a weird looking piece of pottery that I assume was a flower vase; (at least I hope it was a flower vase), anyway, the whisky tasted good.
Just about every leading fan apart from the Liverpool and Manchester groups was in the room somewhere and about a dozen different conversations were being carried on simultaniously. This was not too last unfortunately, as an official knock sounded on the door and a voice announced "Night Porter -- will you please go to your rooms." I wonder what he would have said had he seen how many were inside; he'd probably, have thought it was an orgy.
We decided to adjourn for Chow; someone suggested a Chinese restaurant, so we silently sallied forth and dived for the transport, which consisted of Bert Campbell' s bike and Ted Tubb's car. We were treated to the interesting spectacle of Bill Harding with grey Homburg, beard, and tightly rolled umbrella, riding pillion on the bike - with Bert and his beard up front it was a sight worth seeing. Bill tells me incidentally, that if nothing else, he's learned to roll an umbrella in Britain and I'll grant him that, he rolls a mean umbrella, - over here he needs it. The rest of us piled, very literally into the car. I don't know how he managed it but Jesse Floyd had Rita Krohne on his lap - I got Chuck Harris on my stomach - I can assure you of one thing, Chuck will never be a spaceman - he's too damned heavy.
Much to my relief we eventually arrived so I managed to breathe again. The Chinese place was closed so we found an Indian Cafe where, I had my first taste of curried meat and rice.
I enjoyed it a lot, moreso because of the company though.
The rest of Bert's party had gone along to Soho to get something to eat. We decided to wait until they came back, but in ten minutes or so the same porter came along and threw us out of the Liverpool suite. Madeleine and James and I felt there was no future in this and went home to Rainham with Chuck, where we got to bed about three.
Around 12:15 we began to get black looks from the staff who were waiting to go home. The decision was then made to go down to Ron Buckmaster's place in Woolwich and we piled in again....
(Except for Chuck Harris who, from the Willis paragraph above, appears to have returned to the Bonnington at this point.)
This time I made sure I'd breathe by riding on Bert Campbell's bike. Along the`way we picked up Ron°s car driven by his wife Daphne and we then proceeded across London in convoy. Believe me we drew plenty of startled gazes from the population - and the police. Man, that was a long trip, if we°d gone much further I'm sure we'd have fallen off the edge of the world; however, we eventually arrived at Woolwich Barracks Married Quarters amidst sundry cracks about never getting out, again. Once there, out came the bottles and on went the conversation; after a while the cat got up and left wearing a look of amazement - I shouldn't have been surprised had it shaken it's head sadly.
Bert Campbell really came into his own from this time onwards as he planted himself in the fireplace and acted as keeper of the bottles. Quite early in the night someone spoke that now sacred phrase, "Let's all Hum." Hmmm? The conversation veered about a while; until Bert suggested a test of mental powers. We decided to levitate a cardboard box - the one that the booze had been carried in -- this cheating as it was already pretty high, after great concentration and inspired by that great slogan which became a by-word of the night, "Ya gotta believe!" we finally gave the box uplift. This, logically, was followed by a seance, which if nothing else, provided a good excuse to hold hands in the dark. As I was sitting next to Bea you all have my permission to turn green with envy.
Someone suggested that Bert looked like Toulouse Lautrec so he walked around on his knees for a while.
A great deal more happened but I have to admit that I can't remember a lot of it.
About a dozen or so London and other BNFs had been invited to share some liquor in one of the Liverpool Group's rooms being our excuse for a really good informal. Four of these guests left after ten or fifteen minutes, when we were visited by a porter and. gently requested to keep the noise down as there had been a complaint. We never learned from whom; but the hotel was being, used at the same time for "The Queen's Army School Mistresses Reunion".
After White, Willis and wife had gone and the third bottle of whiskey, we had another visit from the hall porter whom we persuaded to swallow a glass of Scotch. We decided to move to a room nearer the end of the corridor to be further away from the sleeping populace of the rest of the hotel. Here, we found our numbers reduced to nine. Bill Temple had also left. There was, Frank Milness, Jim Mooney and John and Norm, your editors, From Liverpool; Eric Bentcliffe, Eric Jones, Terry Jeeves From Manchester, Norm (the tub) Weedall ((who resides in Liverpool but only attends meetings in Manchester ... ) ), and last but certainly not least, Ken Slater. Frank and Terry were happily composing a story commencing, "The shleek red splace thip thrieked thilently thru the atmosphere." Somebody found they were sitting on the crisps. Everybody was happy and then another complaint. After some furious whispering and a promise to keep our voices low he left and then Norman S and Frank M. had the bright idea of using the roof. A Roofcon! The idea was wildly popular and with bottles and glasses safely in our pockets we crept as silently as we could up the fire escape -- roofwards!
Here we found that some of our number was missing and we latter learnt that Ken, Frank and Terry were having words with the staff in the hall. The last was persuaded to leave the hotel quietly and we saw no more of him that night.
An hotel roof is the ideal site for a future convention we founds ready-made disposal chutes in the shape of chimney pots are invaluable. During this session notes of movements and "where to find us" were inserted under Bea Mahaffey's door. Next morning she informed us that they will provide Shaver with material for at least a dozen novels.
Frank eventually mounted to the roof and told us we would have to drop the curtains on the party ((we must have been up there for fully an hour but to our accelerated time sense it seemed about ten minutes.)) So with reluctance we left the starlit upperworld and descended to the hall where we made a last stand for freedom. But the staff was made of sterner stuff and stood stolidly behind his desk, refusing to comment on the convention, our activities and as to where we could carry on a quiet(?) drink as long as we liked, Unwillingly, we separated and went our respective ways to abodes of sleep.
Around 3am someone came rolling along the corridor chanting "Bea, Bea, glorious Bea!" and commenced knocking on the door of the next room. After some time the occupant must have opened the door to see what all the fuss was about. "Are you Bea?" asked the reveller, "No!" came the irate reply, "Are y'sure y'not Bea?°" persisted the intruder, "Hell, no. My name's Hoskins." "Oh yeah?" came the peeved rejoinder, "then why did. y'open the door when I knocked?"