John Townsley

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Name: John Townsley
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Occupation: pro con promotor and organizer
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John Townsley was a Star Trek fan who channeled much of his energies into fan activities and profit.

Townsley was the author of the 1980 semi-pro book Who's Who in Star Trek.

He was also business partners with Al Schuster and together they created and ran Tristar Industries. The two men were co-chairs of many of the Schuster Star Trek Conventions. Fans alternated referring to these big pro cons as both "Schuster cons" and "Townsley cons."

There is much discussion about the "Townsley Cons," most of it negative in Right of Statement #3/4 (1979). Fans wrote that these big cons were boring, badly run, focused on big-name stars who didn't show, and were ultimately over-priced: "A pox on Mr. Townsley and his conventions."

Some Fan Comments

1979

The organizer of the fan-con August Party, Rich Kolker, wrote in that con's 1979 program book:
This time is a crossroads for more than a bunch of people who put on a convention in Washington, DC, The new film is fast approaching and what shape fandom takes in the next few years will be decided soon. The question is, will these "film fen" be made welcome, as we all have been over the years, or will they be locked out as Star Wars fandom has been since the release of that film? Are they going to know what a fan convention, and fanac is, or just John Townsley's monstrosities and the plethora of professional purchases, much of it junk? I don't kid myself. Star Trek is big business and so long as there's money to be made the professionals will be there.

1981

A fan in early 1981 expressed unhappiness with the big Star Trek cons of the time, and with those who produced them:

Are you as totally fed up with the irresponsible behavior of J. Townsley as I am? I'm referring, of course, to the recent Philadelphia convention fiasco. [Referring to schedule changes with no notification]... in both cases, I suffered considerable financial setback and an even greater degree of mental anguish. I am (to put it bluntly) sick of getting screwed by this turkey, and I want to shoot him down! True, he is the only person who handles pro cons, but his cons are little better than nothing. And surely there must be some way we could stage our own larger-than-fan cons.

Townsley's advertising efforts are so pathetic. I would be surprised if we couldn't do better via the grapevine. Perhaps we have legal recourse?... Or perhaps we could stage a boycott in hopes of getting Townsley to improve? I am as anxious as the next fan to get together with friends, especially since I don't live on the east coast where gatherings are common... but I do think we owe it to ourselves to consider alternatives... [1]

2008

In the Beginning, there was Al Schuster, and the Committee. And the two would be split, and briefly each would offer up a different event, before Schuster would reign alone as the King of New York. His Heir Apparent was a man named John Townsley, who inherited the multitudes which Schuster and the Committee had grown.

Conventions in the Schuster era were notable only for the masses of pilgrims who came willingly to each one. Al Schuster was a promoter, an entrepreneur who staged "shows" much like today's Creation Cons. There was no "programming" to speak of, nothing past 5PM except Costume Call, no panels, no use of fannish talent. There were only the actor guests, but for those of us who had never had an opportunity to get up close and personal with any of our beloved Trek idols, that was enough. And we knew no different kind of convention experience.

New York wasn't the only venue for Schuster. He staged smaller cons in Washington, DC, in Philadelphia... and in other cities farther removed from me. At these "smaller" cons, the guest list would be shorter and the con would last only two days. And the reign of Schuster was only for a few years, although it seemed longer at the time. But it was John Townsley who put on the Show of All Shows – Bi-Centennial Ten – which was in 1976, only three years after Schuster started with the Committee in 1973.[2]

References

  1. from a personal statement in Universal Translator #7, an opinion that came from a Creation Entertainment member who used take a table and sell Star Trek goods, and memorabilia, who decided to go on his own and become a competitor of John Townsley's Star Trek Conventions
  2. from Reminisce With Me/The Big New York Cons, Part II