Reminisce With Me/Back To The '80s

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The following represents the 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 us by April Valentine.

Jul. 28th, 2008

Getting back to some of the events that went on during the early '80s and up through 1986 or so, perhaps: You know, I've sat here all week wondering exactly what I had left to say, so I'll just expand on some things I've already brought up, various parties, conventions and maniacal happenings.
First of all, the "original" K/S Con, held at "Ginna's Retreat" in Boyds, Maryland. We put on this "mini-con" or "writer's Seminar", as some liked to call it, for six years, from 1980 through 1986. For our final year (which we'd determined it would be), we wanted to go out with a big noise. So very covertly, the committee arranged a surprise for the attendees. Carol F. and S.K. James contracted with a service (I didn't even know they had services like this!) to hire a male stripper to come out and entertain. We provided the gold command shirt, told them we wanted him to appear as Kirk and start off to the Star Trek theme music. He would arrive at a certain time on Saturday evening.
Because of how isolated the house was, and how difficult to find in the dark (and believe me, it got DARK out there at night!), Carol and S. K. J. agreed to meet him up at the main highway and drive him from there to the house. Which they did. Meanwhile, we'd been telling everyone all day that we had a "special game" that we'd be playing that night, which we called "the Pocketbook Game". Normally, all the girls left their purses up in their rooms, but since we knew they'd want to "tip" our dancer, they'd need their money available. So that's why we called it that, told them to be sure and bring their pocketbooks down after dinner. . .
After our stripper arrived and we settled on a place for him to change (which he did between each number) and provided him with the shirt, he was led out into the main room, the sunken living room of the house, where all the ladies were parked on folding chairs, chaise lounges, and other assorted seating. This guy, couldn't have been more than in his early twenties, did present a fine Kirk-like image. He came out in the requisite costume with the taped Alexander Courage theme to start it off and in just a few minutes, everyone realized what was going on! But his first dance was over cut by the poor lad's fear! You could see it in his eyes and in the stilted way he moved.
Imagine it from his point of view: Here he is, led out these dark, deserted roads to a house in the middle of nowhere. Thirty-some women are waiting, crouched, expectant. I think he was sure he was about to be taken by a ritual cult and be murdered and dismembered right on the spot!! It was probably one of the most bizarre gigs he ever played!
Once he saw we were all normal and had good intentions (and began collecting those tips), he loosened up and danced two more sets. Some friends tipped him to play up to Marion, who was lying back in a chaise lounge with her bare feet raised and literally twiddling her thumbs rapidly. Marion was quite chaste in those days, rather prudish, (discovering slash changed that!) and we knew she wouldn't want to draw the attention of the dancer to herself, so it was done for her. Her reactions were priceless! He stood directly in front of her and twiddled his thumbs, too, as he danced.
He actually made a moment or two for everyone there; he was good and he knew what he was doing. He even "rose to the occasion" when he planted a passionate kiss on one of our youngest attendees! Between each number he went back to the guest house and I guess sponged off the sweat he'd raised, and apparently applied baby powder, because each time he came out, he carried the distinct aroma with him. Very nice! In any case, a good time was had by all and our surprise was a big success!
Clippercon also ran for six consecutive years, from February 1984 – February 1989. Each year got bigger and better, as we all settled in to whatever job we were doing. It was a lot of hard work and it was sometimes stressful, but it was always a pleasure to provide the fans with a good con in the midst of dark, dreary winter.
Some of my best memories are from 1986, when we moved the convention from Hunt Valley to the Sheraton – a con that was decidedly not our most successful. The new location was disconcerting to many, who stayed away that year. Snow actually sputtered on Friday but didn't amount to much – about three inches fell. One of our guests got stuck at an airport and was hours late arriving. But for me, it was a lot of fun. Being between temp jobs in the months before the con, I had more time to invest, and I handled a good bit of the publicity. I canvassed local attractions and companies for donations, which we would auction off for charity. I even went with Marion to pick out the Masquerade trophies!
My ClipperCon experiences were also my introduction to meeting and speaking with the actors and guests on a personal basis. I'd always been the one to hang behind whenever my friends went up for autographs. Even though I'd seen all the original cast members at one con or another, I'd never approached them at all. I don't know, it was just never my speed. But at ClipperCon, out of necessity, I did interact with some of them, and I found it to be quite pleasant. I shared a "Death by Chocolate" dessert with George Takei when we took the guests out to dinner one year. I became quite enamored of Bill Campbell and his lovely wife, Teresa. Bill could tell the most marvelous stories about not only his life in the movies, but stories he had heard from those older citizens who lived in the Actor's Home, where he was employed in the PR offices. Bill had once had a pre-arranged "studio" date with Liz Taylor! Bill was as smooth and charming as he could be, but what impressed me is that after meeting you only once, he remembered your name the second time! What a marvelous man and what fond memories I have of his visits.
We had a tradition at ClipperCon, a communal feast on Friday evening. Marion always insisted on calling this the "Friday Night Supper," while most of us felt "Dinner" would be more fitting and elegant. But no, in her folksy, homespun way, Marion decided it was "supper", and so supper it was. As the final year approached, we decided that the committee would put on a skit, or a play, and it was all about the "Last Supper". The show was titled "So Long, Farewell, and Praise Trek", after the title of the final M*A*S*H* episode, and at one point in the show twelve (or is it thirteen?) of us posed in a tableaux of DaVinci's famous painting of the Last Supper, with Marion in the center position. The script for this zany bit of comedy was written and worked on by several of the committee, notably Bev, April Valentine, and myself, but I remember others contributing lines and ideas.
My brief foray into another fandom, "Simon & Simon", was a pleasant change of pace. I remember that at first I felt very guilty at deserting Star Trek, as had so many before me. After awhile, though, it became easier on my conscience and I learned to enjoy the diversity. One thing that stands out clearly from those S&S years was a particular MediaWest convention. It was, I think, the first con I attended without Bev! But "S&S" was very popular in fandom at that time, and I was in the midst of it, getting ready to publish a zine. Quite a few of the people with whom I'd corresponded, some contributors, some pen pals, were there and we met for the first time.
There was a fabulous room party – Media was known for its room parties, advertised in advance, many themed parties. I recall that year, "Remington Steele" was also very popular, and the fans of that show threw a formal party – everyone dressed in evening wear. On a more literary note, the fans of "Georgette Heyer's" regency books held a "high tea" where the fashion was regency clothing. I regret I don't remember who hosted the "Simon & Simon" party, but they did a marvelous job on it. The theme was "Who Killed the Sixties", which was an episode title and also the back story for many of the aired episodes. We were instructed to come dressed in the 1960's fashions. What fun! The hostesses had rented a suite, not just a room, but even the sleeping rooms at the convention hotel were larger than the ones in New York where we held the Contact parties. They had artwork on the walls, the TV was showing taped episodes which prominently featured the '60s, and a variety of munchies and drinks, of course. Everyone sported various styles. I was a hippie – I had on a flowered mumu like dress with a crocheted shawl around my shoulders, sandals, peace signs and flowers drawn on my face and arms with make-up.
But alas, this newest obsession didn't last long, by my standards. I stayed with it for about three years. After that, I slipped into fandom limbo, not actively involved in anything except working on the Baltimore February conventions. Writing Trek was an impossibility for me by then – I blamed it on the movies, of it being a case of Too Much Information – but on reflection, I suspect it was more than just that. They call it "burn out".
The '80s saw a lot of fans falling by the wayside, caught up in one obsession or another, or dropping out of sight altogether. For a time, actually until "ST:TNG" came along in 1987, the ST fandom was in stasis, neither dying completely or noticeably growing. "Next Gen" brought in a fresh surge of new fans, but the new show was frowned upon by many of the Classic Trek people. Without Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, et al, it just weren't Trek!
Another prominent issue of those early '80s was the continuing battle between Star Trek and Star Wars. SW had developed a very active, independent fandom of its own, and was attracting new fans as it rolled along. Some wondered if the two could ever co-exist on neutral territory. In the end, it was largely a case of the SW people doing to the ST people what the ST people had done years earlier to the SF fans. And gradually, two separate and equal fandoms did arrive at an agreeable stalemate.
One primary difference between the two was the ubiquitous slash factor. LucasFilm, who owned the rights to Star Wars, had taken a very dim and very distinct objection to any kind of sexually explicit material using their copyrighted characters. And while some intrepid writers and editors did indeed write and publish slash stories (most notably Han and Luke), these were the exception rather than the rule. While slash was running roughshod over in ST fandom, SW fandom remained relatively pristine, with only occasional forays into the erotic.
That was distinctive because almost all the other fandoms gaining a toehold in the greater fandom pool definitely had slash tendencies. Gen, however, was still active and involvement deviated from group to group. "Remington Steele", for example, and later, "Beauty and the Beast" had primarily gen fandoms. S&S was mixed, despite the overtones of incest. But now new fans entering the Wonderful World of Fandom could have a choice, a veritable banquet from which to choose, be it Gen or Slash. Bored with this one? Pick another! Doesn't have what you're looking for? Grab hold of another brass ring and fly with it. And I'm not sure if any of that was good or bad. I do know that I've never seen the loyalty or the unity that ST engendered in its original body of fans.
Having nattered on long enough, I hope some of these representative incidents and memories will help paint a broader picture of what was happening in those years – in fandom and in my personal story as well. It's strange now, hearing fan friends who came into our lives in 1982 and up or so, say that they missed the best times such as we had in the '70s. It's strange because to me it seems as if they were always around, always part of our "Contact Crowd", and just as dear to us as those who began in the earliest days. That's the thing about fandom – it pulls you in, embraces you, and you're instantly at home with your fellow fen. There's truly nothing else like it. It's by and large a warm, fuzzy home and family you enter. Lives are dramatically altered and relationships realigned. It's instant acceptance by one and all, for one and all, no matter what.
I wouldn't trade my fandom experiences for anything in the world.