The program book said: “Want to hear about the best disasters in the fandom world?” Indeed, some of the fiascos, or merely weird stories, mentioned in this panel, were real pearls.
Panelists: Janice Gelb, Patty Wells, Stephen Boucher, Brad Denton, Lynn Ward
Some of the panelists started accumulating material for this panel since the very beginning of their involvement with fandom. Janice Gelb was drafted into working an art show at a convention because she packed a short, low-cut dress. Patty Wells was told that her background as a medical professional working in a psychiatric ward made her eminently qualified to run conventions. That’s not to say she did not get creeped out by things she saw at cons. A certain con in the Pacific Northwest had mock slave auctions, where (if I understood correctly) teenage girls were “auctioned off”.
Stephen Boucher and Janice Gelb
Some of their disasters were of the mundane kind, due to people miscommunicating, or somebody not doing their job and hiding that from the con committee know until the last minute; but there were a couple of pearls.
Brad Denton‘s story wasn’t a disaster, merely a bit bizarre, albeit in a sweet kind of way. At a convention in Kansas City all the female fans would swoon when they saw Brad. They would go “ooooh, Brad!” and pretend to faint, or drape themselves over him. Curiously, Brad’s wife didn’t seem to mind. Before long, all women at the con — and some men! — were wearing buttons that said “oooh, Brad!” Later he found out his wife had conspired with female fans to get them to swoon when they see him. There were actually only 10 of the “oooh, Brad!” buttons, and when people saw Brad coming, they would toss buttons to those who would cross his path.
By the way, Brad brought some barbeque and beer to the panel, for everyone to share! Yay!
There was a panel listed in the program as Living Room Lighting. A lot of people wondered what this panel was going to be about. Was it about futuristic living room furniture and lighting? It turned out, the name should have been Living Room Lightning: tesla coil demonstration.
Janice Gelb. There was a convention called ConDigeo, that was supposed to be called Con San Diego, but they spelled their own name wrong. At ConDigeo, two writers were having a serious, involved discussion at the bar: is it better to have your name misspelled in the program 3 different ways, or to have it consistently misspelled the same way throughout, so that the fans won’t know who you are? They debated which way drove away more fans.
Stephen Boucher and Janice Gelb
Stephen Boucher mentioned a convention (whose name I didn’t catch) that gives out some kind of awards, and one year they neglected to make the awards. So they hastily made substitutes out of stuffed toy toads attached to a little pedestal with a little plaque.
Janice Gelb, Patty Wells, and Lynn Ward behind the barbeque leftovers on the table
The worst con hotel disaster was Disclave. In other to make the hotel room block, the con committee teamed up with the local S&M group that was also having their convention in the same hotel at the same time. Apparently their public visibility was a lot higher than that of the science fiction convention, because people who were taking cabs to the hotel, were asked by cab drivers: oh, you’re going to the S&M convention? Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning everyone had to evacuate the hotel because the S&M group decided to liven up their activities by tying people to the sprinklers. It turned out if you pull off a sprinkler head, it activates the whole sprinkler system.
This event inspired many interesting buttons, like “My name is ConDigeo Montoya. You ruined my weekend. Prepare to die!” (What was the connection between this convention and ConDigeo, I don’t know.)