THE GOOD DAYS DRAW NIGH
by Bob Tucker
Jackie Franke was the harbinger.
One bright day in June she handed me a check for $2300-plus, and my cry of triumph shook the hallowed halls of the Midwestcon hotel. Fans paused in their eternal partying to watch the chandeliers sway, while apprehensive bellboys ran to open the windows to prevent their shattering. Lou Tabakow sent word that the rowdyism had to stop or he'd cancel the convention. It was really Jackie's triumph. By dint of much hard work, by wheeling and dealing and wheedling and threatening, by collections and sales and auctions, she had raised that vast sum to deport me --- and now she had a word of advice: "Don't skimp on anything, Tucker. Live high on the hog and if you run out of money, stay there!" Her manner hinted that my staying there might be a Good Thing. My heart filled with love for my fellow man, I packed my clothes in a paper bag and set off.
Anne Passovoy initiated the good days.
She appeared out of the crowds at Chicago's Union Station as a cool blonde angel, finding Rusty Hevelin and myself just before we went thru the gates to board Amtrack's "Southwest Limited" for Los Angeles. We had spent the afternoon knocking about Chicago's Loop getting Rusty's visa from the Australian consul (no last minute stuff for my dear old dad!), dining in gourmet restaurants (a five-course dinner for $1.95 with bread, water, and napkin being three of the courses), and finally sitting in Amtrack's plush new lounge swilling free coffee and scanning the crowds for fine fannish faces. The best we could muster were a couple who read mystery stories, and a girl who admitted (in a burst of surprise when she learned my identity) that she'd once read a real Wilson Tucker "sci-fi" novel. Thus cheered and fortified we marched thru the gates and were kissed-off (the nice way) by Anne. Australia beckoned on the far horizon, and the good days were begun.
Amtrack, because it is Amtrack, screwed-up our reservations by placing us in different cars, but a kindly conductor took pity and found us two seats together just behind the bar car. (That man had to be an esper.) Carrying on a fine old tradition started last spring at Iowa City, I noised it about the train that Rusty was my father -- with gratifying results. People looked after him whilst I was drinking my way across the Western states; nubile maidens made his acquaintance and ran their fingers thru his luxuriant beard; and later, when he left the train at Pomona. California to meet his sister, kindly old ladies across the aisle inquired after his absence. The westward trip was tranquil. At Boondoggle, Illinois a pack of fifty boy scouts climbed aboard to terrorize the passengers; at West Cupcake. Kansas a drunken porter fell off the train; and at Shotgun, Arizona a young man enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the dining car while his distraught father ran alongside the tracks yelling at him to get off.
The scouts were enroute to their camp in the Rocky Mountains and busily enjoyed themselves during the night, romping the aisles and crowding the bar car, until one of their number brought down the wrath of a conductor, a scout master. and a sweet old lady who was changing clothes in the ladies' room. The inquisitive boy had invaded the powder room to watch her disrobe. One of the car porters spent most of the night in the bar with the rest of us big sports, telling stories, swapping jokes with the scouts, and imbibing freely. When the train stopped at some night-shrouded station in Kansas he threw open the doors, bent down to place a foot stool on the platform, and tumbled out with it. Kindly passengers tossed him back on board and we chugged on into the dawn, and the Arizona watering hole. Several of us watched in puzzlement as a man ran alongside the tracks waving his arms and shouting unheard words at our faces in the windows. After a while. conductors and porters scrambled thru the cars searching for spies or contrabrand or something. The something turned out to be the young man in the dining car: he didn't know he had reached his hometown, and chewed his oatmeal with gusto while his father went raving mad outside.
Los Angeles was a time machine.
The clock was turned back: 1 had last visited the smoggy city 30 years ago, when 1 attended the first Pacificon and then stayed several months to work in a movie studio (as an electrician, not a cowboy star.) I toured Disneyland and renewed acquaintances with an old Illinois contemporary named Lincoln, searched in vain for a street called Bixelstrasse and the old LassFass clubrooms, cringed and cowered from crazy California drivers, caught a fleeting glimpse of the now-shrunken studio, sat on hillside-terrace patios and spat down on those lower-pecking-order patios below, watched the long ships circling in their holding patterns beyond a mountain, and wined and dined and partied with the playboys and playgirls of the western world.
The warmly-remembered faces of yesteryear were everywhere:
The pre-flight parties never ended. Mari Beth and Susan Colvin hosted what seemed to be a never-ending open house, and their patio was filled with the likes of Charley and Abby Lu Fuller, Jim Merriam. Walt Liebscher. Frank Robinson, Rusty Hevelin (who caught a train in Pomona and caught up to me), and an obscure Canadian fan named Mike Glicksohn (who flew in from Toronto in search of a drink.) I have the hazy impression that six other fans were present on that cozy patio, and now I can look forward to receiving six angry poctsards denouncing me for not remembering names. And yet another party was held at the Marriott Hotel on Friday night before the flight. The bash was sponsored by Craig Miller, Dave Locke, Len and June Moffatt, and a bidding group called "Pacificon 3" which hopes to win the worldcon in 1978. A goodly crowd was on hand including the 60 Canadians and Americans who would be flying out the next day, representatives from the Bellflower travel agency and Air New Zealand airlines, and a horde of fans, friends, and likable strangers. Because of a slight miscalculation on my part earlier in the day, I wasn't too aware of what was happening, but I awoke the next morning with my airline tickets and a flight bag tucked under my pillow so it must have been a successful party. Do not believe anything Grace Lundry may say about my behavior.
My virginity was lost on a DC-10, on Saturday August 9th.
A few weeks prior to the flight I'd watched a TV documentary about the DC-10 aircraft, and the monotonous regularity of their crashes. The film showed graphic scenes of destruction scattered over mountain and farm, accompanied by grave statements concerning the weaknesses of the craft -- and there before me on the tarmac was the object scheduled to carry me aloft on my first flight: a shiny DC-10. (Was I the indispensable fan? Could fandom possibly survive without me?) (Yes, it could.) Pressing forward resolutely I climbed the stairs with chin thrust out and a determined glint in my eye, while behind me sixty fun-loving fans erupted from the terminal in full cry. Halfway up the steps I paused to stare with wonder at a gigantic jet engine, an engineering marvel so near I could reach out and touch it. That engine was a huge and awesome thing and I gaped with amazement. Mike Glicksohn and Sheryl Birkhead, climbing just behind me, mistook my hesitation for fright and called out cheery words of encouragement. (There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Sheryl bit off a mighty oath, while Mike assisted me thru the cabin door with a well-placed thumb.) And we were off into the wild blue, with Australia just beyond the horizon. Pretty stewardesses on the aircraft allayed my fears and banished all misgivings by showing the passengers how to don oxygen masks, fasten life preservers, and walk to the nearest door to jump into life rafts in the event we crashed at sea. We were assured there were enough life rafts for all -- no crowding.
One ordinary day. with orange juice and stencils.
Air New Zealand believes in one principle: orange juice cures every known ailment of man and beast. Gallons upon gallons of the fiery liquid were poured down our gullets, the first gallon being offered scarcely five minutes off the ground. We sloshed in juice and soon adopted the habit of raising hands in the old familiar gesture and crying "Smooth!" at each new offering. Passengers and crew alike stared in consternation at the strange American ritual, but there is evidence that some of them later joined in -- I heard strange new voices taking up the chant, and once there was a muffled cry from the pilot's cabin. a half-familiar cry of pleasure. Somewhere between Los Angeles and Honolulu, Alan Frisbee produced a typewriter and stencils and began production of the first airborne one-shot, a zine called Aussiecon Flyer #8. Contributors were Ben Yalow. Joan Serrano, Jim Landau, Ned Brooks, Don (Denver) Thompson, Elver Gray, and Frisbee. One line from the contents deserves reprinting here: "We'll only be on the ground for about an hour (in Honolulu) which doesn't give us much time to explore the islands." And a rumor began circulating about the plane, telling that seven inches of snow awaited our arrival in Sydney. The foresighted fans among us looked to their fur hats and high boots.
Susan Wood and I went walking outside the Honolulu terminal, and did indeed find there was precious little time to explore the islands. We saw a section of freeway and a huge green sign above that freeway, and so much for Hawaii. It must be nice in winter. A fan met us at the airport. Someone had written ahead, and Erie Fennel dashed up to meet those he'd known thirty years ago. If you didn't know him as a fan you may be familiar with his fiction in Planet Stories, beginning in 1947.
A new crew took over the aircraft at Honolulu, among them a curvilinear stewardess called "Masher" McCarthy by the chief steward. And the routine began again: more gallons of orange juice, and another lecture on oxygen masks, life preservers, and how to dash for the door and jump into the life rafts in the event we crashed at sea. There were enough rafts for all -- no crowding. The "Masher" asked me for one of my appointment cards, while Don Lundry hid behind his seat and feigned a leering innocence. Meals in flight came often -- seemingly every five or six hours -- and as always were proceeded by yet more orange juice. Fans read or slept or watched movies but I was content to watch "the Masher."
Auckland was in the icy grip of winter.
The New Zealand natives (white-skinned type) were a hearty lot and went about their jobs wearing light clothing, but the 60 fun-loving Canadians and Americans -- who had just touched down on their first foreign soil for another refueling stop -- were quaking in their boots. Or sandals. All hands searched for heat in the chilly terminal, the meanwhile casting apprehensive glances at the glacier just beyond the doors. Heaters were finally discovered: tiny glowing things tucked here and there into the ceiling, cunningdevices that gave off a cheery glow but no discernable heat. Some fans huddled together for warmth and dreamed of the Honolulu blush so recently behind us, while others bravely set off for the souvenir shops to buy poctsards and funny foreign stamps. The wisest amongst us headed straight for the bar to warm the inner man: his name is Mike Glicksohn and we followed like eager sheep. The rumor of seven inches of snow in Sydney jumped to nine inches.
Returning to the plane, our convivial party picked up a newcomer: a tiny, crying Philippino woman loaded down with luggage. She was crying because she'd spent a year in New Zealand as an exchange teacher (or perhaps only a student) but now she was being sent home because the year had expired. Gallantly coming to her rescue, we dried her tears, toted her luggage, and escorted her thru Customs to the aircraft. When all hands were safely aboard, Glicksohn pointed out we were now unwitting criminals:: the opium had been in one of the straw suitcases we carried. (But all is not lost; I have the woman's signature on a picture poctsard that Sheryl gave me. The police will need only a Tagalog translator.)
And again the DC-10 leaped into the sky, on the last airborne leg of our journey. Again the gallons of orange juice, again the lecture about oxygen masks, life preservers, and how to jump with dignity and aplomb into the rafts that would automatically inflate just outside the doors if we crashed into the sea. There were enough rafts for all--- no crowding, please. By this time, some of the more morbid fans had memorized the lecture and amused themselves by re- citing it aloud. I kept my toes crossed.
Next time I may walk.
Sydney was capering, excited Aussiefans at the airport.
But first, the demoralized Customs Inspectors: they stared at the sixty barbarians pouring off the plane and threw up their hands in dismay, fearful of losing their lunches in a like manner. A new exit was opened and the invaders were hustled thru it without baggage inspection, while the common tourists waited in long lines and watched with envy or anger. We could have smuggled in a ton or two of stencils and mimeo ink. Outside in the bright winter sunshine a welcoming party surrounded us: Robin Johnson, Shayne McCormack, Al Fitzpatrick, Erie Lindsay, Richard Faulder, Keith Curtis, and a wandering kangaroo. Two buses and Shayne's car took the group downtown, but the bus drivers didn't get lost. Fitzpatrick and Curtis were so excited we had to shanghai them, else they would have ran along behind the buses or hitchhiked into town.
The newer suburbs of Sydney bespoke a clay country, with acres of brick houses all having red-tiled roofs; but the older suburbs, particularly colonial Paddington, had graceful terraced houses with iron-laced porches and balconies suggestive of New Orleans. Our Stateside travel agent, a most cunning fellow, had lodged us in the Hyatt Kingsgate hotel, an American-type hostelry located in a part of town known as Kings Cross. Which was also the local red light district, teeming with porno shops and filthy films. Those of us who walked down Darlinghurst Road to view the El Alamein Memorial Fountain passed several hotels where bold ladies looked us in the eye and hinted at a thousand-and-one delights upstairs -- but being clean livers all, we averted our faces and marched on.
Sydney was a potpourri of divertissments.
Sydney was pub crawling and finding a dark zesty native beer, next to an eatery called The Tucker Box; it was endless book store safaris which necessitated the purchase of another suitcase, or of mailing huge bundles home; it was inspecting the new opera house on the waterfront, and realizing the structure would never leave the harbor under its own sail; it was standing in Hyde Park on a rainy afternoon, listening to a band concert by a hundred school children in competition; it was discovering that park filled with thousands of flowers in bloom, in midwinter; it was searching William Street for suitable boomerangs, for knocking off obnoxious fans; it was a mob of fans crowding a Darlinghurst restaurant for supper, only to see the waitress quit and go home because of Ken Ozanne's penchant for milkshakes; it was sending Sheryl across the street "one more time" to buy funny stamps at the postoffice; it was eating breakfast in the hotel and watching a group of Japanese tourists break raw eggs over their breakfasts; it was watching the reactions of customers in a small coffeeshop, when they were told that Glicksohn was a visiting Apache Indian from Arizona; it was a refrigerator in every hotel room, and the goodies we stored in them.
Sydney taxicabs are marvelous: five or six fans would hop in, cruise a mile or so, and be charged a dollar plus a few cents. I'm waiting for Aussiefans to discover American cabs and their costs. Sydney is a city where a visiting Yankee may walk about at night, and fear only a wandering kangaroo emerging from an alley.
One day I joined Sheryl, Glicksohn, Jackie Simpson. Don Thompson. Keith Curtis, and Rusty to visit the Taronga Zoological Park. Lunched first with Peter McKay and freaked the gaping bureaucrats in his government office (if you want to dig a gold mine, you must first buy a permit from Peter) then steamed away on a creaky ferry. An abandoned fort called "Pinchgut" squats in the middle of the bay while several rusting warships are anchored at the far end of it. (And despite what Willy said to Modesty Blaise in the daily comic strip, the Japanese did not occupy Port Moresby during World War 2. That strip writer is a neo-fan. A bus meets the ferry and hauls tourists to the crest of a great hill, but it won't haul them down again; the tourists merely walk, run, or roll downhill thru the zoo to reach the ferry again. It was a splendid afternoon, what with a huge gorilla who looked like a fan we knew, herds of wandering kangaroos, black panthers who looked at the ladies and licked their chops, a zebra who broke wind whenever fans drew near (astute critic, he) and a platypus, a wombat, and a Tasmanian devil. This last-named crittur reminded me of Bob Bloch.
And to Melbourne, on the night train.
The distance between the two cities is perhaps 600 miles, and thirty or forty fun-loving fans caught the night train to commence the convention in the bar car -- as may be expected. I heard a rumor that yet another one-shot was stencilled on the train, but I never saw a copy if that rumor was true. The best Australian trains are delightful experiences, and somebody should tell Amtrack how those foreigners run a railroad. Each sleeping car has its own conductor who also acts as porter and father-confessor. The conductor takes the tickets, assigns the breakfast call by doling out time cards and, when you awake the next morning. brings coffee and newspapers to your bedroom. (Are you reading this, Amtrack?) Each bedroom has its toilet and a shower enclosed in a seperate cubby.
I'd bought an Australian Railpass before leaving the States, a pass valid on anything that moved on rails except the trams -- but I soon learned the Aussie Tourist Board had neglected to tell their railroad people about the pass. It was always accepted in the end, but not without question. A lady subway guard studied it, smelled it, shrugged her massive shoulders and said "Why not? Hop aboard." Some trainmen merely waved me on, not caring whether I was carrying a pass or a gold brick, while others studied it with curiosity, or tried to punch it full of holes or take it from me in the belief it was a trip ticket. One stopped me and questioned me closely as to where I had gotten it. I had a pleasant chat with the conductor of the Melbourne night train. He listened with obvious fascination while I explained to him what an Australian Railpass was.
We passed thru Seymour, Victoria the next morning. Rusty and I gripped the breakfast table and waited for the wreck, but it did not come. Marveling at my luck, elated at having broken the Seymour jinx, I talked about the incident at a press conference later and found my story published first in the Melbourne SUN, and a week later in a news magazine called THE BULLETIN. Neither journal reported what I really said, but instead published imaginary quotes.
One thing disturbed him, though. Last May he was in his first train smash at Seymour, Indiana. Twenty people up front were injured. His carriage was tilted at 45 degrees and he had to crawl out through a window.
"Can you imagine?" he said. "We are going along happily her in the train yesterday morning, I looked out the window and saw a sign: Seymour, 16km. I was terrified!"
I guess that reporter was a prudent man. What I'd really said was, if that goddam train had jumped the tracks in Seymour, Victoria, I'd sue the goddam Penn-Central for long-distance hex. But it didn't, and we zipped into Melbourne station that morning to be met by yet another welcomming committee of Aussie fans.
Australian currency appears to be the hardest currency in the world. In Los Angeles it cost about $129 to buy a hundred Aussie dollars, while in Melbourne the cost was three or four dollars more at the hotel cashier's desk. The ratio fluctuated near the end of our visit when some government (New Zealand?) devalued its dollar; the New Zealand dollar wasn't quite so expensive, but all visitors took a significant loss when converting their hollow American dollars to Australian or New Zealand currency. Not until we started back up the line and re-converted to American dollars did we regain some of the losses. But by that time we were broke.
Melbourne was the travelers delight.
The Southern Cross hotel was a slick, shiny American-type ediface like its counterpart in Sydney, and like that first hotel it lacked metal stoppers at the bottoms of wash basins and bathtubs -- all the hotels had old-fashioned rubber stoppers swinging at the end of a chain, and if your stopper was missing that was your tough luck, Jack. But I didn't mind. really; I just stopped taking baths until I returned to the States some weeks later. After a few days I found that I could have any seat I wanted on bus, train or tram. The Southern Cross is also memorable for one other characteristic: its windows aren't all that reliable. I flung one open, one stuffy night, and the damned thing fell out in my hand -- frame, glass, fly specks and all, to crash on a rooftop five stories below. Fans and natives alike came running to learn the cause of the crash. The startled switchboard operator said: "You did what? The window did what?" but the understanding manager said only "Oh, I hope you didn't hold on to it when it fell." I think he meant he was thankful I didn't follow it down. So much for hotel appointments.
The convention was a gasser. Translation: top-notch.
The committee reported 606 signed in, and any number between 200 and 500 could be found in the hall at any given time--an old-fashioned convention like we used to have before giantism set in to cause certain decays. Bookshops around the country had been alerted to the event, and they as well as newsstands displayed big posters advertising several science fiction titles. Ursula Le Guin's picture was everywhere, along with posters and copies of her new books. The widespread publicity resulted in a phenomenon: half the people in the hall were readers and neo-fans, newcomers who'd never before attended a fan convention and didn't quite know how to behave. Several first-day speakers complained of a cold audience, an unresponsive audience, as those newcomers sat on their hands and waited to be told what to do. They listened to a panel of fans and pros tell them "How to Really Enjoy Yourself at This Convention" but still they sat on their hands. They gave Ursula Le Guin a standing ovation at the conclusion of her speech, perhaps because they were familiar with her books, and then sank back into polite silence. I had the impression they were used to PTA or Kiwanis conventions and in a short while they would pick up their umbrellas and go home.
The second day saw a marked change, caused in part by the room parties the first night, and in part by hardened Aussie, Canadian, and American fans grabbing the ball and running hell for leather. The object was to enliven the proceedings. Those room parties were the usual staid events we throw-everywhere, with booze flowing in the corridors and bodies left over the next day. But the newcomers were fantisted. They were delighted with the spectacle of Minneapolis cadging votes for the 1973 worldcon, charmed by the Orlando popcorn-and-lemonade bid, and found themselves out of state when the Beam bottle went around the circle to cries of "Smoooth!" The parties dispelled the chill, and certain program events the next day broke the ice forevermore. The fun began in the morning with a panel solemnly discussing "The Role of Sheep in Science Fiction," and continued at noon when Susan Wood interviewed me on fandom. We had made sinister plans in advance. plans calculated to jerk them off their hands, and Susan fed me straight lines designed to bring out the worst. Together we ranged over the history and legends of fandom, telling hoary old convention tales, fan and pro stories of disrepute. explaining the Tucker Hotel and the campaign to mail me bricks -- and how I finally used those bricks to build a cat house for my kids' pet animals, and then wound up in a blaze of glory or shame when Susan said: "Tucker, what is the Rosebud Story?" I told them, all three or four hundred of them, with gestures. We closed off the interview by pouring out the water in our glasses, filling same with liquids of our choice. and toasting each other with joyous cries of "Smoooth!" Happily, there were no more cold houses.
Book and magazine prices Down Under are ridiculously high, as Aussie fanzines have previously reported. It was common to find five-dollar American books selling for nine or ten dollars, and the inflated prices may have contributed to the inflationary auction. A 1927 Amazing Stories Annual went for $50, with single copies of Astounding fetching $5 to $11 each. Some paperbacks went up to $7, and a first edition of Wells' "The War in the Air" sold at $30. The top price paid for a book was a startling $360 for a fine copy of "The Ship That Sailed to Mars." A copy of Arkham's "The Outsider and Others" sold for $250, and a small brochure on "The Nekronicom" fetched $25. Bloch's "Eighth Stage of Fandom" sold at $22. Fanzines also reflected easy money or desperate collectors. A copy of the first issue of Bradbury's Futuria Fantasia was sold for $100. An April 1944 issue of Ackerman's Voice of the Imagi-Nation went for $10, and a complete set of the Australian Science Fiction Review closed at $41. To balance the perspective, some fanzines sold for 20¢ and some used paperbacks went for $1, but the overall tone was bid the top dollar and devil take the hindermost. This worked to the committee's advantage: they expected to close the convention deep in the red because the hotel gave them nothing free -- all the auditoriums, suites and meeting rooms had to be paid for.
Press coverage was extensive. Magazine writer Charles Jensen taped interviews for later publication. At a press party chaired by Robin Johnson, book, magazine, and newspaper people generated space in the daily papers and at least one weekly newsmagazine. Radio reporters Jan Sharpe and Tony Barrell roamed the hotel day, and night taping interviews for later broadcast, and then joined our room parties. In the following weeks Eric Lindsay, Ben Bova, Bruce Gillespie. John Foyster, Susan Wood, Peter Nichols, John Bangsund, Ursula Le Guin, Forry Ackerman, Bob Silverberg, George Turner, Jeff Harris, Ron Graham, and myself could be heard on the Aussie networks. A TV crew set up shop in a corridor prior to opening day and taped several people, some of whom were seen on the six o'clock news that evening. (And thereafter, one of the bellboys mistook me for an elder god because held seen my handsome face on the telly. When I finally left the hotel, he cordially invited me back next year.)
A battery of six slide projectors were mounted at the rear of the hall, casting images on a cinemascope-sized screen behind the podium. An electronic music system worked in sync with those images, and each major segment of the program was introduced by a well-edited slide show -- seemingly hundreds of slides chosen to augment the next speaker, panel, or subject. The presentation was stunning. And in addition to all this, almost the entire program was video-taped for later viewing by the members of the Magic Puddin' Club of Melbourne.
At the press party mentioned above I told the Seymour crash story to a SUN reporter named Keith Dunstan. It was no surprise to find the story in the next day's paper, but it was surprising to find it reprinted later in the newsweekly under a strange new by line: "Batman" of Melbourne.
The con rolled along thru four fun-filled days and you know what kind of nights, with audiences now thoroughly warmed and hanging loose. Readers and neo-fans were discovering they lived in the same city with others. and dozens of addresses and phone numbers appeared on bulletin boards asking for mutual contact. At dinner one evening I introduced two people from Perth to two others from Perth, and all hands were startled to learn that I knew more about them than they knew of each other. They probably formed a new club on the spot. My turn came at the Hugo banquet Saturday night. To my utter amazement, I found myself seated next to four people who were Illinois neighbors: Charles and Charles Wooley. father and son from Peoria (80 miles away), and Mike Mills and his wife from Chicago (230 miles away). The Wooleys had flown in from the States to attend the con, while the Mills were touring the Orient on their honeymoon and just happened to stop by Melbourne at the right time. 'Tis a pity some Aussiefan didn't introduce us. All told, about 70 Americans and Canadians attended Aussiecon, with ten of that number coming on seperate flights or just wandering by like kangaroos.
A great bullsession took place in Lindsay and Curtis's room one evening, a session at which Ben Bova sat on the floor and held his audience spellbound with song and story. When the party broke up about four a.m. we suddenly missed Keith Curtis. Believing he'd found a better party or better company we toddled off to bed, only to learn next day that Keith had fallen asleep in the bathtub.
At Aussiecon I distributed my remaining supply of appointment cards, thirty or forty in all. Big Hearted Howard back in Detroit had printed a couple of hundred cards for me and they had been distributed at local cons all summer long, but now the supply was exhausted. Suddenly, Aussie ladies began handing me cards in return, dozens of them all carrying the same message, and I realized that I was the victim of a dastardly plot. Ellen Sheerin was the instigator. She and Lindsay and Curtis ran off thousands (I suppose) on a photo-copier and placed them in all available female hands.
The con was closed in a novel manner with an idea stolen from Ken Keller. Robin Johnson sat on the podium making his closing remarks, flanked by Rusty and myself. A nearly-empty bottle of Beam's Choice rested on the table before us, and Keller's spirit made me do it. I asked the audience to stand, have a symbolic drink and do the ritual with me. The bottle was passed to Robin, who surprised me by sipping at it, and then to Rusty who absolutely croggled me by doing likewise. I killed the bottle as was fitting and proper and then turned back to the waiting audience. For the first time in worldcon history five hundred hands swept thru the air and five hundred fannish throats roared "Smoooth!"