Gambit (convention)

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Convention
Name: Gambit
Dates: February 10-12, 1989
Frequency:
Location: Newark, New Jersey
Type: fan run, with actor guests
Focus: Blake's 7
Organization:
Founder: Jude Wilson & Marsha Quinn
Founding Date:
URL:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover of the program book, art by Karen River
The program contains 40 pages of acknowledgments, programing, maps, rules and panel descriptions, a long editorial by Liz Sharpe, guest of honor bios, and more.

Gambit was a 1989 fan run Blake's 7 convention that also featured actors and writers from the TV show.

By December 1988, membership climbed to over 400 people.

Like most fan conventions, it featured fan run panels, an art show, a charity auction, a dealer's room, a masquerade, a video room, a con suite and panels with the featured guests. The convention also offered a scavenger hunt, a banner design contest and a talent show which they called "The Big Wheel Revue."

Celebrity Guests of Honor

  • Jacqueline Pearce
  • Gareth Thomas
  • Brian Croucher
  • Terry Nation
  • Sheelagh Wells

Panels

Proposed panels from the second progress report:

  • AVON, THIS IS STUPID I (Revolution and Strategy in B7)
  • LAWMAKERS, LAWBREAKERS - LET US FIGHT THEM ALL (Morality in B7)
  • NOW COMES THE HARD PART (How to do a zine)
  • I'M LEAVING -- TO BE SICK (Angst Panel)
  • I'D BE DEAD IN A WEEK (Avon and Servalen)
  • IT'S A PENCIL, TARRANT -- AN ANCIENT WRITING DEVICE (Fan Writing Panel)
  • OOPS - DOPEY ME (5th Season Speculations)
  • THAT MAKES IT ALL WORTHWHILE (Chasing your favorite character)
  • IT MUST BE LOVE - IT HURTS! (The lure of B7)
  • I'VE BEEN DYING TO MEET YOU (Avon's slight problem with the rest of humanity)
  • A THOUSAND YEARS OF LAUNDRY (Everyday life on the LIBERATOR end Xenon)
  • FUNNY MEETING YOU HERE - (Humor in B7--intentional or not)

Big Wheel Revue

Big Wheel Revue flyer, cartoon by Leah Rosenthal, click to read

From the Big Wheel Revue flyer in the first progress report:

"We are auditioning for:

  • Filkers (preferably with instrumental accompaniment, or a chorus group)
  • Skits (comedy or drama...)
  • Stand-up comics
  • Specialty acts (magician,juggler etc.)
  • Puppeteer or ventriloquist
  • Or something new and original... if you have an idea you'd like to try, ask us!

"We are looking for a time limit of 5 minutes per act. Acts of longer length may be considered and may be granted by prior approval only. A performance that run overtime will run the risk of being pulled via blackout or cut off of microphones. Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!

We will be as open-minded about entries as we possibly can. Blake has admonished us about censorship and freedom of expression, so give us a try. Short of coating your body with peanut butter and sliding nude down a bannister, we are willing to consider anything....BUT... NO ACT WILL BE ALLOWED ENTRY WITHOUT A SUBMITTED AUDITION TAPE OR SUBMITTED SCRIPT."

As described in the program guide:

This event is open to all GAMBIT attendees. It will take place Friday night following the

Contributors' Party. Besides a cash bar featuring soda and (for those over 21 years of age) alcoholic beverages, we also hope to feature a super floor show. The response to our cal l for acts has been terrific and you're in for a fun evening! But aside from all the wonderful scheduled acts, we'd like to encourage people from the audience to come up between acts and tell one-liners, bad jokes, sing a

short songs etc. Let's all get into the spirit of Mardis Gras and have fun!

Panel Footage

Videotape footage from the convention can be found as part of the "S. Hereld Collection of Blake's 7 Fanzines and Fan Fiction" located at the University of Iowa fanzine archives. In 1993, Sandy posted the following review of the convention videotape to Lysator. It is quoted in its entirety with permission.
"The Gambit tape (Jan 1989) has Gareth, Jackie P, Brian Croucher, Terry Nation and Sheelagh. They also seemed to get along wonderfully.

Sheelagh and Gareth had fairly recently divorced, but they sat along side each other at the first panel. Sheelagh--I hope I'm spelling this right--pulled a duck out from under the table when Gareth least expected it, leading Jackie to tell her if she remarries that she needs to get over her spelling problems; Jackie was full of double entendres all weekend. They (Sheelagh and Gareth) even told a cute story of how they first met.

Though they were all good, if I had to choose the most interesting of them, it would definitely be Terry. At different times he said: Gareth is known in the industry as a good little die-er... (re Jackie): They don't call her "One Take Jackie" for nothing. (On being asked if it were true that he wouldn't appear at the same con as Chris Boucher): pause, "No, it isn't true, but who would invite him?"

Some interesting answers to audience questions. To Jackie: Why did you spend the time after Star One chasing Avon instead of Blake [Before Jackie can answer] Gareth: Look at Paul's face, and look at mine... Jackie: Thank you Gareth

This con is somewhat of a historical document, since it happened just as the 'Pro-con' controversy in B7 fandom was peaking; Terry read |a letter that Paul had given him to read, and then Gareth asked to speak, and said that fans believed that Paul and he wouldn't appear together, but really it had just been schedules, and that he'd love to 'see the 7 together on one stage' [leading me to wonder just which 7 he was talking about...]

Gareth was also quite entertaining: He pointed out the BBC motto:"Nation shall speak unto Nation" said later: "God is a comedian playing to an audience too frighted to laugh' Does anyone know where this quote comes from?

And they played well together: When Terry was talking about late 2nd season where "Blake was becoming crazed" Gareth made a crazed face, and Brian Croucher said:;; That was during Gareth's vodka phase." [audience laughs, and Gareth makes stricken face] Brian says, "I am the enemy after all..."

I think it was interesting when Terry said that B7 was a semi serial, that they could have a lot of 'one-off' episodes, but that every 3rd or 4th show had to 'progress the series.'....

...All in all, I very much enjoyed the tapes, and recommend them to others. Unfortunately, all of the ones I have are fairly low quality, and I don't think they'll con down one more generation. If other people have sources, post them."[1]

The convention logo has been attributed to both Karen River and Leah Rosenthal. From the 2012 Blake's 7 Merchandise Guide:
"Leah Rosenthal designed and drew the illustration that adorned the t-shirts for the Gambit Convention that was held in Newark, New Jersey, USA between 10-12 February 1989. The t-shirts were light grey with the maroon illustration, and were made of 50% polyester and 50% cotton. The image depicted the early season 2 regular cast (including Servalan and Travis) on playing cards with Vila being the joker. The illustration also appeared on promotional material such as flyers, satin jackets (that were made for the convention committee), and twenty-four mugs, some of which were donated to the local TV station’s pledge drive. This was the New York PBS station that was running Blake’s 7 at the time, and was featured on television during the drive in exchange for publicity mentions of the convention. More of Leah Rosenthal’s work can be found in the Bizarro fanzine."

A Topic Heavy on Many Minds: The Blake's 7 War

The Blake's 7 War had formally erupted in fandom a month or so before this con took place, and was on the minds of many fans.

A fan who was at this con wrote:

On the way out to Gambit, I really didn't know what to expect. Duels to the Death in the Dealer's room? Mass burnings of Paul's book, a la 'Satanic Verses'? (...Ed. - hardly, we sold around 150 copies!) As it turned out, the only public manifestations of the Controversy that I was aware of at Gambit were these: A note slipped into the Gambit program book, stating that the views held by individuals were not representative of the convention or committee as a whole. There was a paragraph in to the pocket program reminding everybody that '...people have come a long way and waited a long lime to enjoy this event. Don't spoil it for them...if you find you can not agree with someone, at least be polite'.

At the opening ceremony, Terry read out a statement from Paul, and then circulated copies of it to anybody who wanted one. He also told us his views 'on-the-record' during the interview we did with him. At the first panel, when asked the usual question of what his ambition was, Terry replied: "To see the rift in B7 fandom healed." - and the audience reaction was unanimous - a huge roar of approval and several minutes of applause.

Similarly, Gareth stood up and said: "There are rumours of a rift between myself and Paul. I can assure you that this isn't true - and that there's nothing I would like better than to have Paul here beside me now!"

Naturally there was much whispering in corners, and huddled and heated arguments, but these were properly kept private. I have a feeling that many of the attendees at the convention were unaware of what had been going on, especially those who are new to fandom. After all, not everybody reads 'Federation Archives'! It would have been a shame to spoil it for them, the 'small-name-fans' who only want to enjoy themselves and the convention. Anyway, despite everything, the Gambit convention was wonderful, and the shadow cast over it by the Controversy served only to make it seem brighter, like the sunshine after a storm. [2]

The convention organizer Liz Sharpe weighed in on the topic in the program book:

A brief comment on the nature of this convention. (What? Another moment of sobriety? So I lied -- sorry, it's an occupational hazard for writers, EmCees, and anyone exposed to lawyers for long periods of time. Ahem. GAMBIT is occurring at a time when a number of new trends are developing in fandom. I think most fan-run B7 conventions will be adapting to these new trends, from now on, as GAMBIT has adapted. But by accident of circumstance, we've found ourselves up there on the front lines. In the past, American B7 fandom has been extremely fortunate, in that many of the show's celebrities have come to our conventions, expressed approval of our activities, and participated personally in a flattering variety of fannish pursuits. It's been a privilege to which we have gladly become accustomed. B7 fans have come to expect to have a bunch of charming and obliging Britons under foot, making the invariable question and answer panels into hilarious pick up variety shows, clowning with us before our own cameras, and hypnotizing us into cheerfully surrendering our life savings at art and charity auctions. And the truly amazing thing about it was, the guests worked themselves into a state of collapse to delight us--for virtually no return except the emotional charge of receiving our unbridled adulation.

But the guests are human. They get tired, and hungry, and they have bills to pay, and professional commitments to pursue. And frankly, whether they're actors, or writers, or makeup experts, they earn their living creatively, not pursuing endless repetitions of the same old thing, (no matter how rewarding it was originally), year after year. Some of the guests are now asking fan-run conventions to adjust the terms on which the guests are invited to appear. Putting on a convention, particularly one involving overseas visitors, has never been easy or cheap. The guests' adjusted requirements, and the relentless increase in travel fares, have combined to make the costs of guest arrangements skyrocket. Together with the longstanding perils of sudden changes in the guests' working schedules, these factors make it more risky and expensive than ever for fans to undertake guest conventions, nowadays. I'm afraid that as a result, there will be fewer of the grand old, multiple-guest, fan-run, not-for-profit" house party" conventions; though they aren't going to vanish completely. They're too much fun! I believe that what B7 fandom will be seeing in the future is a new emphasis on all - fan conventions , where we come to be with each other, enjoy and renew old friendships and begin new ones; smaller, less expensive, and more intimate affairs where we, the fans, provide all our own entertainment. The mental exercise can only be good for our mental muscles. Other media fandoms have along and successful tradition of fan- only cons, and I think it's a history we'll be able to draw on to our own advantage and pleasure. GAMBIT has borrowed from both sorts of conventions. We have brought as many guests here to meet with you as our budget, and the guests' schedules, permitted. (We onl y wish more of them could have come. .....

We know that you, and they, will have a wonderful time getting to know one another (and hang the syntax)! But we're also placing a strong, conscious emphasis on making this YOUR con. You, the at tendees, the fans who make the whole thing possible. Participating in the magic is the only thing more thrilling than having a ringside seat. That's why we've encouraged those of you who enjoy brightening the vistas of mundania for your fellow fans to bring your hall costumes. That's why we're holding the Big Wheel Revue -- to showcase as many talents as we can coax into the limelight where they deserve to be. The Scavnever Hunt, the Caption Contest, Fan Panels, Casino Night we're emphasizing fan programming more than ever -- because bottom line is, the fans ARE the convention. Look who's behind those intricate and original costumes; who's sitting behind those microphones at panels; who's dancing and singing and making you split your sides at their awful jokes. It's not just the guests- - the fans can do it, too! And I firmly believe that our Guests (who work so hard, for so little tangible return) will enjoy the chance to be entertained by US, for a change. Being around warm, smart, creative and benignly wacky people having a good time just being themselves for their own amusement is a reward in its own right. For the ConCom; for our Guests; and for you--the attendees and participants who make it all possible. About the future . . . This Committee will not be doing another convention in its present incarnation. We will retire the name GAMBIT from the B7 convention business, and get back to the other interests we've had to let slip while we devoted ourselves to this project. But don't be depressed. As we all know, there's nothing like popular demand to encourage the return of a popular subject--devising entire new 5th season series la the national pastime of B7 fandom, after all! You, the fans, guests, helpers, supporters of every kind- - it's up to you to bring back another B7 con to this area- - if that's what you truly want. The Wheel goes round and round. . . I understand that an all - fan media convention is already scheduled to take place right here, about this time, a year from now.

And who knows what new marvels the future will bring thereafter?

A Poem

Gareth Thomas read aloud a poem by a fan named Mary G.T. Webber. A fan recalls this: "[Gareth] said it was the best Blake poem he had ever read and then didn't he call the lady out and hug her or something? Lucky girl! No, I wasn't there. I just saw the vid." [3]

"Legacy" is the poem by Mary G.T. Weber

The poem was printed in Panning for Pyrites (1989), then in Powerplay #6 (1996), and then in Rallying Call #16 (1996).

Charities

From the program guide

GAMBIT is a not-for-profit convention, the proceeds of which will go to charity. Our charities are:

God's Love—We Deliver: AIDS is the current fear lurking in the back of everyone's mind these days. There seems to be little hope at present for those afflicted with the deadly disease and it appears to periodically strike the acting profession hard. With the death of Geoffrey Burridge, we thought it appropriate to donate some of the proceeds of GAMBIT to help those afflicted with the deadly disease. This group interacts directly with the patients, going into their hcaties, taking care of the sick, helping them with errands, doctor's visits, etc.

Blake's 7 Tenth Anniversary Charity Appeal: Because GAMBIT is strictly a B7 convention, we also thought it appropriate to select the proceeds from certain items to go directly to Horizon's (England's first and largest Blakes 7 club) appeal .

The "Ronald McDonald House": McDonald's (of the "Golden Arches" fame) has graciously donated not only their name but seed money for the "Ronald McDonald Houses." The structures are hospices built, maintained and staffed by the community to aid children (and their families) undergoing treatment for life- threatening diseases, especially cancer. There are more than 100 of these houses in the US, Europe and Australia, and our donation will be aimed at the Rochester, NY site. They are truly houses that love builds.

WNYC: Channel 31 in New York City is a Public Broadcasting Stat ion, dependent mostly on membership contributions to keep its programming current. They have supported Blakes 7 since the first time it was offered, and because of their foresight and generosity, they have increased B7 fandom tenfold. In addition, they have made a definite commitment to and have obtained exclusive rights for airing in the New York area of a great deal of British programming. WNYC also cares about the fans and has worked with a number of clubs from various programs . We thought

it was time to say, " thank you. "

The charity auction:

In conjunction with the Art Auction there will be a Charity Auction. All items for this auction have

been donated by our attendees and/or guests and the proceeds will be going directly to our charities. At the time this program book went to press# the following people had generously donated items to our Charity Auction: Kathy Pryor, Kathy Coy, Maryanne Wyatt, Renee Groce, Marion McChesne, Bea Quindlen, Jude Wilson, Laura Virgil, Leah Rosenthal, Ann Wortham, Heather Nachman, and the Horizon Club. Thank you one and all .

ITEMS TO BE AUCTIONED FOR THE BLAKES 7 10TH ANNIVERSARY CHARITY APPEAL SPONSORED BY THE HORIZON CLUB:

  1. One of 10 special videotapes being made which will contain excerpts from the famous "Blooper Tape"
  2. a make-up session with Sheelagh Wells# plus other things. The tape will be sent when it is ready.
  3. . One copy of a Special Charity Audio tape with poetry and dramatic readings by the B7 actors. This tape will be sent when it is ready.
  4. . Two copies of "Kill the Dead" by Tanith Lee and signed by Paul Darrow and Michael Keating.
  5. . A signed EdgeCon poster (EdgeCon was a British B7 con held in the spring of 1985).
  6. . Two signed rehearsal scripts of B7 — "Time Squad" and "Rumours of Death."
  7. . BBC Giant Poster of Cally's Moondiscs — in color — and from the set .
  8. . 1979 B7 Annual
  9. . A special Gareth Thomas item ~ details at the Auction Saturday night
  10. . Other items and photos
All Anniversary Appeal items were donated by the Horizon Club.

Other Programming Listed In The Program Guide

"FAN PROGRAMMING/FILKING

The response to our Fan Programming has been terrific! As a result, we have tried to schedule continuous programming while avoiding conflicting with guest programming. This way, hopefully, you can see everything you want to! To find out the names of the Fan Programming panelists and the exact times and locations of each panel, check your pocket program. Fan Programming will be taking place in both the Main Ballrcon and in Conference Room 7. At times when no scheduled events are taking place in Conference Room 7, this room will be available for open programming. Feel free to use it. No sign up is necessary, just check the schedule to make certain you aren't going to conflict with something already scheduled. A number of people have requested that we schedule some time for filking, so we

are happy to provide Conference Room 7 from 7 pm onward on Saturday night for this purpose.


SCAVENGER HUNT You MUST have pre- registered for this event! If you did there should be a list of the items you are to look for along with the name of the team you are oi and specific instructions as to the rules of the playy included in your registration packet. The object of the Scavenger Hunt is to collect as many itens on the list as you can by 1:00 pm Sunday afternoon. The team that has collected the most items will win an award which will be presented at closing ceremonies. Ingenuity in interpreting the "meaning" of each item on the list is encouraged!

MASQUERADE There will be no formal Masquerade at GAMBITy but judges will be roaming the convention grounds incogni to f rcm about 11 am Fr iday morning unt i l Sunday af ternoon at 2 pm on the lookout for costumes to pin an award on! Soy get dressed up and come ready to indulge in the spirit of Mardis Gras! PLEASE NOTE: Your costume does not have to be derived frcm Blakes 7 to win an award; it just has to be creative and, most of all, fun!

CAPTION CONTEST A Caption Contest utilizing various photos will be ongoing in the Con Suite (located in the 1st floor Conference Room) . The winners will be announced at Closing Ceremonies and will get to keep the photo as a prize.

NAME THAT SF TUNE There will be a Name that SF Tune contest held in the Main Ballroom on Sunday morning. Preregistration is not necessary for this event . All you have to do is show up and give it a go!

BANNER CONTEST Many clubs have been working on Banners for our Banner Contest and these will be on display in the Con Suite. There will be a judging at some point over the weekend (check your pocket program) with

the winner being announced at Closing Ceremonies!

The con suite

"ANIMALS HOUSE (CON SUITE) The PRYDONIANS OF PRYNCTON UNEARTHLY CHILDREN and the CYGNUS ALPHANS have worked hard to coordinate the con suite for GAMBIT. The con suite is a place where fen can go to unwind/mingle/play a few game/filk/do dramatic readings of zine stories/whatever. Or just have a rest and get a drink or snack. The Photo Caption Contest will be taking place here, along with the Banner Contest. Drop in and have some fun!"

Gallery

Con Reports

[Snipped: much detail about flying to the United States on the same plane as Gareth Thomas, including how he spilled his drink all over this fan's copy of Avon: A Terrible Aspect, and told her, "You can say that it's been autographed by Paul Darrow and watergraphed by Gareth Thomas!"]

Once the first rush had abated somewhat, I took my trusty camera and went to see what else was going on. There were the usual fan panels, videos and art exhibition, and 'BBC Makeup Department' sessions held by Sheelagh Wells. There was an autograph session, at which I paused to take photos and have a brief chat with the guests. It was super to renew my acquaintance with Terry Nation, and to meet, for the first time, Jacqueline Pearce and Brian Croucher.

At 3 pm, all other activity ceased as everybody piled into the main hall for the Opening Ceremony. The guests were officially introduced, announcements were made, and the first guest panel was held. Those are only the bald facts - I wish I could convey to those who weren't there something of the electrifying atmosphere! Jackie, Brian, Terry, Gareth and Sheelagh were an incredible combination, all playing off each other and the audience, to the extent that the first panel was more like a liar's panel than anything else! There were many jokes and references to Gareth and ducks (!) - something that I never fully understood, and which actually started (I believe) at a previous Scorpio con. When Gareth said that his ambition was to retire and breed ducks, Sheelagh produced a beautiful, life-size white toy duck from under the table! This duck accompanied her everywhere, and attended all subsequent panels! Gareth adopted the catch-phrase from the song 'Don't worry, be happy'. He used it at every possible opportunity, and it became his motto of the convention, until everybody was sick of hearing it!

Later that evening, Diane, Nicola and I met Terry in the hotel bar. He had actually found time out of his incredibly busy schedule to give Horizon an interview, for which we were very grateful and pleased! (sec elsewhere in this N/L.)

$50 each bought Diane and myself into the Contributor's Party. In the spirit of Gambit, it was a Las Vegas evening, complete with Big Wheel, roulette, black-jack and dice. Gambling laws being what they are, the games were played for fun, with a prize for the person who accumutated the most chips (Not me. Nor, to her disgust, Diane!). The party finished at 10 pm, and the hall was re-opened to all for 'The Big Wheel Revue' - sketches, songs and jokes of varying degrees of amusingness. My favourite was 'How many B7 characters docs it take to change a light-bulb?'- very simply done, and very funny! By now it was late and getting later, Diane and I were still somewhat jet-lagged and starting to fall asleep in our chairs. So we retired gracefully - thus missing the highlight of the evening - Gareth doing dramatic readings, and Jackie reading her poetry. Damn!

The next day started with business as usual in the Dealer's room, fan panels and autographs sessions as before. Then at 2 pm. the main hall filled up again for the next guest panel, which once again got off to a hilarious start! The first to arrive was Brian, who entertained the audience by talking about signs of the zodiac-and putting on a'Cygnus Alphans' T-shirt upside down... The guests (and audience) settled down, but before any questions could be asked, suddenly there was a fanfare of Doctor Who music (!) and a massive Chinese-dragon-type K9 made a slow and stately entrance, paraded once around the hall and then exiled, leaving everybody absolutely nonplussed! Once things got back to normal (?!) the panel began, and again it was as hilarious as any liar's panel. Jackie was asked whether she would write a Servalan novel, now that Paul has written an Avon one. She agreed that was a great idea, which prompted Gareth to say that he wants to write one about Blake. "It will be called 'I Have a Dream'!" he said, in a Martin Luther King voice! Brian was asked a question about 'Eastenders: Wot's an Eastender?" he replied, in deepest Cockney! Throughout all the panels, Gareth, Jackie and Brian kept slipping into their Blake parts. When Brian made an unkind remark about Gareth (which made somebody in the audience hiss), he looked around defensively and said: "Well, I am the bloody enemy, aren't I?" - and Jackie shook his hand!

The Auction was held on Saturday night. We missed the beginning, because we were watching an episode of ST-TNG on television! (This is a rare treat for us British - the BBC isn't going to start showing it for another YEAR, and anyway, Di was eating her way through a gigantic 20" pizza!). Like DSV, the auction went on for hours and hours. Unlike DSV, items didn't seem to fetch such outrageous prices. The guests worked extremely hard, auctioning item after item, with plenty of wit and good humour. Brian frequently interrupted the proceedings to auction a lens cap that he'd found, a pack of cards, a pen in the shape of a fish, a hair bow -and the telephone directory from his room! And at one point, I can't remember when or why - he even dropped his trousers... (...Ed. - photos available!)

Over the weekend, during lulls in the Dealer's Room, Diane and I were able to go to a couple of fan panels. One was called "Now comes the hard part...", about how to do a zine. We wanted to see how things were done in America, and whether we could pick up any tips! It was a fun and friendly session. The other was a quiz: 'Name that SF tune', organised by Heather Nachman. We were late arriving (oops) and so missed the British section, and subsequently did disgracefully on all the rest! How embarrassing...

The REAL Liar's Panel was held on Sunday afternoon. Once again, the guests all made dramatic entrances - they surely must have rehearsed them! Silly questions were asked and even sillier replies given - which by definition had to be untrue. For example, Terry was asked what the message was behind B7. "To fill you with warmth and hope for the future!" he replied. Then he was asked where he got his ideas. "I steal them," he said promptly. "You can't say that," Gareth argued, "it's the truth!"

[snipped] [4]

References

  1. Subject: FW: B7 conventions and tapes (long) dated Feb 25, 1993.
  2. comments by [J O] in Horizon Newsletter #22 (June 1989(
  3. from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
  4. con report by [J O] in [[Horizon Newsletter00 #22