Reminisce With Me/1976 - A Most Amazing Year!

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The following represents the 2008 fannish memories of Nancy Kippax, which she recorded on LJ in the last months of her life. Permission to archive these memories has been granted to Fanlore by April Valentine.

Apr. 17th, 2008
Probably everyone has heard about the massive letter writing campaign which saved Star Trek and brought in a third season to the cancelled show. It was the first, huge triumph of TV fans to influence what the networks did. By sheer persistence and volumes of mail, it was possible to keep a show alive, or bring it back from near death by the studios. We, the grassroots fen, did have a voice.
I wasn't part of that campaign and only heard of it in retrospect. Yet even today, my hat goes off to those who launched this move and spearheaded that campaign. They were the true pioneers, the ones who "boldly went" where no fan had gone before. But in 1976, we were given an opportunity to participate in another letter writing campaign of a totally different nature.
Someone, I don't know who, developed the notion that Star Trek should be immortalized by the space program in which it had taken such an integral role. A new space shuttle was about to be launched, the second of its series, and the fans wanted it named after our beloved starship, Enterprise!
Early in 1976, we learned of the proposed dedication, and I remember Carol F., our DC mentor, bringing us a typed letter and several photocopied extras for our use. It was polite and to the point, and was addressed to Gerald Ford at the White House! We, in turn, photocopied the original, and dutifully sent out one or two each week. In addition, we placed one in every zine we mailed out, exhorting the receiver to do likewise. I have no idea how many letters were received by the White House, but it was enough so that, in the summer of '76, it was announced that the shuttle would bear the name Enterprise as she traveled into the final frontier. I can recall how thrilled we all were, how jubilant at our success. That summer, we had only newspaper and magazine coverage of the actual ceremony. If there was TV coverage, I don't think that we in Baltimore saw it. But we knew that at the rolling out of this beautiful vessel the band played the Alexander Courage theme music of our show, and that it was attended by the majority of the actors and Gene Roddenberry. Nothing could have made us prouder nor pleased us more!
There were two conventions in New York that year. The first was the traditional Feb Con, as we called it. The second, over Labor Day weekend in September, was organized and run by a new convention promoter, John Townsley, and it was called "Bi-Cen Ten"; the "Bi-Cen for our nation's bi-centennial year, and the "Ten" for the tenth anniversary of Star Trek's premiere.
That Feb Con was the one I slept through. It was so disappointing for me because this was the first big con Bev and I had been to since Contact had come out, and we were looking forward to meeting a lot of the people whom we'd been writing to. But I'd had a cold the week before and a hacking cough, and I was taking OTC medication for it. By the time we got up to New York, I was a sick puppy. When I returned and went to a doctor, I was told I had both bronchitis and the flu! I don't think I've been so sick in my life! Our doctor friend from Texas, who had traveled up for this con, examined me in my hotel bed and told me to just stay there! She couldn't prescribe anything because she wasn't licensed in New York state, but she went out and got me the best OTC she could find. I remember that Bev went to a room party somewhere in the hotel that Saturday night and came back to regale me with stories about how these fans had leaped on her when she walked in, and how excited everyone was about Contact! She met Jacqueline Lichtenburg there, Connie Faddis, artist Alice Jones, and several others whom we considered – who were considered – "BNF", an antiquated acronym for "Big Name Fan." I was so upset that I missed it all! The next day, I think it was, I tried going to the Costume Call, for which we had to stand around outside the room in which it was held for what seemed like forever, before the doors were opened and we piled in to sit on the floor. I think I lasted through half of it before I gave up and went back to my room. That con was our big entre into fandom, and I missed it!
By the time Bi-Cen 10 came around, it was a totally different picture! I was hale and hearty, and we went up to New York with many of our Contact "family". This may have been the first con we bought a Dealer's Table which, believe it or not cost a mere $10! In the early days, we seldom sold Contact from a table, because our supply was never large enough. We sold by mail order, and that seemed to take everything we'd print very fast. Later, we learned to order larger print runs!
By September of that year, I remember Starsky & Hutch was gathering a lot of attention, and the Kirk & Spock people were taking notice of this new buddy cop show that went a step further than any before it. Locally, the Baltimore/Contact contingent had grown and Bev and I were learning to write better and edit with a surer hand.
Our new friend, [April Valentine], had written a lovely 'filk' song. In case you don't know, or haven't heard, a 'filk' originated in science fiction fandom. It was when you took an established tune or melody, and wrote your own lyrics. [April] had taken John Denver's tune, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and written Star Trek lyrics. It was called, "You're My Home, Enterprise." We sang it sometimes at our gatherings and we all loved it. Along with her husband, Rodney, who had a great voice, and Kathy Burns, who also played guitar and sang, [April] formed a group they named 'Omicron Ceti III' – because that was the name of Leila Kalomi's planet in 'This Side of Paradise', and because there were three of them. There was going to be a talent contest at Bi-Cen Ten, and they decided to enter! [April] made them all matching shirts and they went on stage with a level of professionalism which was to stay with them for their entire performing career. Needless to say, they won, and the prize was $25. One of the judges was the late Stanley Adams, who played Cyrano Jones on "The Trouble with Tribbles". He told them that $25 wasn't fair, because it couldn't be split three ways. And then, despite their protests, he took $5 out of his own wallet to make it a dividable $30.00! I think that's a lovely example of how the guests were in those days! (Kathy put that $5 in a frame, and there it sits to this day.)
Back in our hotel room, Bev and I were throwing our first room party, and the jubilant winners were our star guests of honor! [April] and Kathy got out their guitars and we all sang along. Other people began coming in – word had spread that there was a party going on!
If you never had the good fortune to be at one of those early room parties, you missed an experience! The room may have had a king bed or two double beds, but those beds in NY were tiny! In fact, the whole room was tiny, but that never stopped us! We'd jam-pack as many people as possible into the space provided. We'd set out some munchies, some ice from an ice maker if you were lucky enough to find one working, and it was usually BYOC – bring your own can of soda, because you'd have to pay $1.00 or more for one at the hotel! People played guitars and sang, people smoked and we'd open a window (usually overlooking an air shaft or an alley) for fresh air. That was fun in the winter! Every party was different. In later years, we used to bring up a half or whole sheet cake with the cover of our latest issue in icing. Sometimes we'd read things aloud. And the attendees shifted and changed from one con to another.
I've gone on and on and really gotten ahead of myself. Please forgive me, because it all tends to blur together after awhile. Was it at Bi-Cen Ten that Bev threw Bruce Hyde and his fan club out of our room? Maybe I'd better say a few words about the New York conventions in general. But that's another story for another day.