Reminisce With Me/The Late '70s Part II

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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.

May 26th, 2008

Being a Star Trek fan, a "Trekkie", added another dimension to my life, as I'm sure it did for many. No longer was my imagination curtailed or relegated to some small corner of my life, tucked away to be brought out only on appropriate occasions. In the short span of five years, it took over my life in ways I could never have imagined. Real life, or "RL" as it's called today, took on the colors of scientific blue and command gold. In the days when adhesive decorations were used on the lenses of eyeglasses, I had a pair of hands reaching toward each other, the symbol of Contact that underscored our philosophy of "We are One, We Reach". The world at large took on a different hue, making communications with anyone more open and accepting. Like most of my generation, we were taught that there were two subjects one never discussed in public – religion and politics. And yet I distinctly remember one such spirited conversation on both that I held with my office buddies, where differing opinions were validated and afterwards, one friend said that she'd never been able to talk about those topics without bias before. And yet all I'd done was maintain the philosophy of IDIC!
Many holidays were spent with my newfound Star Trek friends, the only "family" participation that of my sister and sometimes her family. We all shared our RL troubles and triumphs, unspeakable horrors and delightful moments of success. And in Baltimore, there was a party for each of the latter!
When fandom first entered our lives, the midwinter holidays, Formerly Known As Christmas and New Year's, were still a time for family. For the first several years we held an elaborate Christmas party at Bev's house, on a date that wouldn't compete with the actual family holiday festivities. Very early on, though, we decided to hold the party on New Year's Eve and invite everyone's family or significant other to join in. It was then that a tradition began that is still observed by some of us today. At midnight, when all the bells and whistles went off and Dick Clark viewed the ball dropping to the ground in New York City, we who were gathered at Bev's house went out, coatless, on her steps outside and shouted, at the top of our lungs, "STAR TREK LIVES!!" In Georgia now, I whisper it faithfully, stepping outside by myself and speaking to an alien landscape. But Tradition endures.
The New Year's Eve Extravaganza evolved and changed as time went on, too. We were a smaller, quieter crowd in the beginning. Alcohol was never an active part of our celebration, save for that single glass of champagne at midnight. We busied ourselves getting high on life, high on the energy generated by being a part of fandom. The food was awesome and plentiful. Bev would provide much of it, but everyone brought a dish to share, and the good cooks in the group outweighed the bad or indifferent. I'm not certain of the exact year, but early on we decided to give awards within our own group for various funny moments that had occurred during the previous year. These became what we called "The K-S Awards." It was, again, [April Valentine], Bev and I who instigated this particular form of hilarity, and they were such a hit that they were repeated every year and got more complicated as time went on. At their zenith, the awards were anticipated for twelve months, and it got so complex that the three of us started carrying little notebooks in which to scribble tidbits that would eventually be used for the awards, to cries from others in the group of "Write that down! Write that down!" Some of these silly awards were given for "Most Memorable Moment", "Quote of the Year", "Hostess with the Mostest", "Best Party", and the winners were never who or what you expected! And while the first time we simply gave out small certificates, the award itself became an elaborate and glamorous project. The idea was to keep them unique and attractive while spending the least amount of money on them as possible. Some years we had over 30 awards to bestow! One year we used empty cat food cans. Another, baby food jars. And they always had to have glitter! (Bev would still be vacuuming up glitter in her dining room in February!) We'd comb the craft stores for bargains and inspiration. Between writing the awards and physically making them, Bev, [April Valentine] and I eventually took to calling the week between Christmas and New Year's "Hell Week. Every spare moment during that period was devoted to our humorous task.
Who could ask for a more wonderful ending of the year than a party like that! There was plenty of good food, music provided by OC III and sometimes others, companionship and sharing, reviewing the fun of the year that was ending, warmth, laughter and joy in every corner of the house. Can you tell how much I miss it? Will the holidays ever be so sweet again?
While the New Year's Eve party was the highest point of the year, there were nonetheless other remarkable parties that were held, sometimes on a whim, sometimes planned for months. One such planned party was the occasion of the fictional J. Emily Vance's first birthday. She was born in May 1977, so in May 1978 a grand party was held at the lovely home of Pat Stall. We had a cake which had perplexed the baker when we insisted on putting her full name on the top. We sat it on the table and had little plastic cowboys and Indians ("all the king's horses, and all the king's men") surrounding and scaling it. Nearby on a cake "rack" we placed the Kirk and Spock Mego dolls, belly up. All of the food was themed from the novels – we had "Lewis Legs" (chicken drumsticks) and "Whitney-wiches" (small deli sandwiches) after the two antagonists in "The Rack". We drank the "Spicy Zulth Liquid", a gross appearing drink conjured up from fruit juices and soda. Pat broke our pattern of not having alcohol and provided the ingredients for our "Brent 'n Collins", which literally put [April Valentine] under the table!
In 1978, our young [April Valentine] conceived a child, to the excitement of all of us in the group. In the fall of that year, with her due date months away, we made plans for a unique and special baby shower. It was held at the home of Kathy Burns (Pat's niece and Martha's music partner), and fans were invited from all over. They came from New York and New Jersey, from Pennsylvania and elsewhere to take part in it. Our theme was "Star Child", and the party favors were the ubiquitous little squares of flannel dipped in wax and molded into the shape of a diaper. Except all of our diapers were either gold with a blue bow or blue with a gold bow! [April Valentine] received gifts like a baby undershirt with a Starfleet insignia, a little blue sleeper that had been trimmed in gold braid, a handmade baby blanket in those signature colors, among other, more mundane but necessary items. We all anticipated this birth of our newest little Trekkie with eager pleasure, and finally, on New Year's Day, 1979, our little Star Child was born and dubbed Ian Thomas.
There were other conventions besides the two in New York City, too. Every summer we headed over to the University of Maryland for the annual "August Party" held by students there, headed by Rich Kolker, among others. This was a more laid-back, relaxing convention than many, with no guest star appearances, just a single phone call to Gene Roddenberry to check on the latest developments around the return of Star Trek. Living so close, we didn't stay over, but simply commuted back and forth for the fun. I remember one year, I believe it was 1978, when we spirited a visiting Jackie Lichtenberg away for an evening at Pat's house and more partying. She read the Tarot for several guests, including myself, amazing me with her perceptiveness and accuracy!
We traveled as far as Atlanta, GA to a con held there. I flew – my first ever flight! Bev and Russ and the kids drove, stopping off in North Carolina to visit friends. It was a great convention, marred only by the unrelenting presence of Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbraith. One day, Bev wore a teeshirt with the cover illo from Contact IV, which Sondra almost ripped from her body, saying, "I want that shirt!" We did a panel on the Kirk-Spock relationship with them, as I recall.
In May 1979, Bev and I decided to finally attend one of the midwest conventions that had been held for a number of years at that point. Originally it was S'quester Con, then S'Quester Con Too, then T'Con, or TouCon in 1979. These cons, held under the auspices of the University of Michigan's Star Trek club, and later by Lori Chapek and Gordon Carlton independently, were extremely popular among the writers, artists, and zine editors, most of whom had taken to attending before we journeyed there. But there was no getting around it --- this time, Bev would have to fly. Having never experienced that particular mode of transportation, she was somewhat unnerved by the prospect. But we were all going (5 or 6 of us), and she was not to be left behind. [April Valentine] took 5-month old Ian with her, carting all his supplies and an umbrella stroller to put him in. We all took a flight to Detroit and then were to board a smaller, "puddle-hopper" flight to Lansing, Michigan. This was the airline which those in Lansing had nicknamed "The Puce Goose".
Our flight out of Baltimore was delayed slightly, which made us have to hustle to make our connecting flight. The plane crew, expecting us, had actually delayed a few minutes for us to arrive (and that's something you're not going to find at any airport today!). It was such an old plane and such a small airport, that they were still using planes without the enclosed gangways. To board, you had to walk out on a field and climb steps into the plane. When we got on, we discovered that the plane was almost filled with fen from the east coast! Nearly every "BNF" was already seated and waiting to take off, wondering what the holdup was! What an entrance that was! We couldn't have planned it better!
That was, unfortunately, the same weekend that there was a terrible plane crash in Chicago of a DC-10. Some of us heard the news when we arrived in Lansing. And we all agreed not to tell Bev about it, fearing she'd freak about airplane travel! Well, to a degree, we all felt a little skittish about our return flight. Bev ultimately found out and she didn't freak but endured stoically, as did many of us.
I remember walking out to board the small plane for our first hop to home. Again, all the east coast fen were taking the same initial flight, to separate in Detroit for individual home-specific flights. There we were, lined up like duckpins, bravely facing an airplane that could self-destruct, and we started to sing. Filk songs by OC III and others, ironically, "Amazing Grace", long before "ST II, The Wrath of Khan". Solemnly, we sang the words, "Vulcans have a sense of humor/Sense of humor, Vulcans have. . ." to the tune of "Ode to Joy", a filk written by Leslye L. We held hands and put a smile on our faces. One of the NJ fen, Marguerite, broke out in artificial sobs and clutched at the shoulders of the person in front of her, saying "I don't want to go! I don't want to go!" and we all laughed, tension broken. Although, once boarded, we acknowledged that if this particular plane were to go down, it would take all of east coast fandom at the time along with it. It would be a crippling blow from which Star Trek fandom might never recover! So full of ourselves, we were!
Returning for a moment to the issue of our primitive communication system in those days before the PCs and Macs had invaded our homes and the Internet had taken over so much of our lives, I'm reminded of a small incident on the morning of New Year's Eve 1979. We heard – I'm not sure who heard it where first – that Leonard Nimoy had been slicing a roast in his home and cut a finger deeply and seriously. This wasn't the first or the only news flash that circulated in fandom, but I use it as an example. We were phoned and told about it. We, in turn, phoned local friends and a few long-distance ones. By mid-afternoon, nearly every fan in the country knew about it. The grapevine was vast and powerful! Of course [April Valentine], in labor, didn't know, and we held frantic debates over whether or not she should be told. Would she be angry or hurt when she found out we had kept this from her? Or was it better to let her get through her ordeal first? It sounds silly now, but at the time it was of paramount importance!
As 1979 skidded recklessly to its close, there was big news coming out of Hollywood. It seemed like at long last our dreams of the return of our beloved characters was really going to happen! Our fandom was about to get a massive overhaul!
I think I've touched on most of the highlights of those years. If anyone reading this remembers anything I forgot or have wrong, please, leave a comment and let me know. This journal contains merely the befuddled memories of one fan – me, and I am quite used to being corrected by my peers over the years! If you're simply lurking and reading the entries as they're posted, I'd be pleased if you spoke up and let me know who you are and what your fandom story is. I've already been delighted to find several new and interesting readers with whom I've communicated. After all – we are One, We Reach!