Schuster Star Trek Conventions/1977 (September) New York City Schuster Star Trek Convention

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The Star Trek America convention was held September 2-5, 1977 at the New York Hilton. It may be the first of the Schuster cons to have the title "Star Trek America."

Admission was $12 for a day pass or $20 for the full three-day weekend.

It is sometimes referred to as "AmeriCon."

Guests of Honor

James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Bruce Hyde, Mark Lenard, Jesco von Puttkamer, Susan Sackett.

Leonard Nimoy was a surprise, unscheduled guest.

Tidbits and Anecdotes

A fan produced comic titled Star Trek America -- 1977 -- A Retrospective was published in September 1977.

from a photo in Starlog #11, which mentions Nimoy's "less-than-festive remarks" and that this "convention was up to Tri-Star's usual competency."

Leonard Nimoy was not a scheduled guest of honor, but he took the stage, much to the delight of fans. Among other things, he read a speech addressing the turmoil regarding negotiations and the proposed new Star Trek television series and the first Star Trek feature film. See Leonard Nimoy Addresses the Star Trek America Convention (1977).

Flyers, Badges, Program Books

cites the dates September 2-5, 1977

Programming

Links to Photos

Meta/Articles

A scrapbook put together by a fan in the 1970s contains a newspaper article about the convention which can be read here.[1]

Con Reports

Star Trek America, held at the Statler Hilton in New York City, was my first convention and, like all cons, I've been told, it was the happiest place for a Star Trek fan to be. Four days of total Star Trek is a great experience for anyone. George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig were among the guests. Each of them had several talk sessions. I, of course, attended all of George Takei's.

The committee gave George a T-shirt that said Sulu, Swordsman. This brought up a subject that George said happens at every New York con. It seems that they give him a T-shirt every year.

Also, every year the people at the N.Y. cons mention the fact that George sings in the shower. He, of course, sang a few bars from Evergreen, and later he sang a lullaby that he remembered from his childhood.

On Sunday they raffled off George! That's right, there was a contest 
to win some time (about an hour) with George Takei. My friend and I bought 
$5.00 worth of raffle tickets, and we couldn't believe it when we were among
 the winners! We had a little party up in his hotel room. We talked about
everything under the sun. George Takei is the nicest person I ever met.
I really enjoyed it!

Later on that day there was a panel discussion with the crew of the Enterprise (Sulu, Scotty, Uhura, and Chekov). Nichelle brought the house down with her imitation of George's laugh! However, with every crack she had for George, he came up with a better one on her! Lastly, George told us that Mr. Sulu will be promoted in the new series!! Unfortunately, he did not reveal his new rank to us. [2]

Hooray! We were going to Americon and for once, instead of staying with my grandmother we were going to have our own room. My mother, ever generous (and cheap) soul that she is, had agreed to let people have sleeping space on our floor in return for a small portion of the room rent.

Friday: My mother, Anthony and I descended upon the unsuspecting Statler-Hilton hotel. We were driven there by my father, whose main intention was to have as little to do with the Convention as possible. We arrived there, only to discover Mother had forgotten her guitar -- that's right, the one with which she was supposed to perform that night at Dis-Co-Trek. So, after getting our luggage into the hotel. Father (resigned to the inevitable) sped off back to New Jersey, responding to Mother's weak smile with a dirty look. We then stood on line for what seemed like an hour (it was). As we waited to register at the hotel, we said hello to people we recognized from other Cons, took shifts to keep our place in the line, got our tickets for the Con, end finally got our room — #700, very handy for the elevators. After getting the luggage into the room. Mother went off in search of cheese (more about that later), Anthony went out to case the dealers' room, and I was left to wait for other floor-sleepers. Eventually, Joan Mercer and Mike Thompsom arrived, with Mike's friend, Curtis, and some evil-looking electronic gadgets with which they intended to create a costume. Once we were all assembled, we went downstairs to do Con-type things, like seeing the stars talk. I was appalled to notice how small an audience there was for James Doohan.

The fashion show spotlighted a number of shapely women decked out in what they assumed would be the clothes of the future. The whole thing boiled down to a lot of glittering, twinkling, and wolf-whistles. Next on the agenda was Dis-Co-Trek, in which my mother was to be a performer (my father having come to the rescue with the guitar). Mother was, as usual, a smash, and I went through the rest of the con being told what a fantastic voice my mother had. Such is the price of being the daughter of Talent.

Remember the cheese? Well, my mother, having attended many other peoples' parties at assorted Cons, decided it was time to throw one of her own. Never being one to do things by halves, she decided to make it a wine-and-cheese party. Almost immediately following Dis-CO-Trek people started flowing into our tiny room. The party was a success -- even my grandparents dropped in, and were slightly bemused by the general ambiance of the whole thing. A high point was the singing of "Our Con" by the author, T.J. Burnside. My mother indulged in the wine part of the party. By the end of the evening she was pretty smashed (I'd say more, but she IS my mother.) Anthony and Joan had taken refuge outside in the hall in an attempt to escape the smoke-filled, unventilated room. At around 3 AM, people started filtering out.

By the time they were all gone one thing was apparent -- we still had a LOT of cheese left! It would stay with us for the rest of the Convention.

Saturday: Most of us dispersed around the Con. Mike Thompson was still manipulating his strange gadgets in the room; Anthony and I were in the process of blowing all our money in the dealers' room; my mother was holding forth on a panel about Star Trek music. I got myself set up in the balcony and listened to the stars until around 4:30, when I went up to the room to recheck my finances. Faced with the choice of eating cheese or spending some more of my rapidly-diminishing money I decided to go to Burger King. I was, therefore, NOT in the hotel when Leonard Nimoy made a surprise visit.

Arriving back at the hotel, I noticed a large number of people, who, it turned out, were there for their annual convention , the Pan-Icarian Society. This was the night of the Federation Ball -- the only time when the Con members bore some resemblance to the rest of the human race. While my mother and father were dancing the night away, I was attending the Monty Python party, which went on till 5 AM Sunday morning.

When I got back to the room I noticed that the number of people on the floor had increased. Neither Mother nor I had any idea who they were; they simply came to crash for the night.

[...]

[Anthony] wanted to be Obi-Wan Kenobi (of Star Wars). Having no material of his own, he improvised with with nearest cloth available: the hotel sheets. He solved the problem of their color by dying them brown in the bathtub. Joan assisted him with the fitting, so that he had. his shirt off when a maid knocked on the door to change the bedding. To keep her out, Chris (bare chest and all) poked his head out and said,"You can't come in, we're on our honeymoon!"

By the time Anthony and I had finished going into hysterics over the film, the Obi-Wan costume was almost completed, and it was time for me to put on my own costume. This was one of my original ideas: I was Kiawa, the Klingon goddess of Lust. Mother had gotten Amy Harlib to give me a Klingon make-up. Mother had come into the room with bags of Burger King. When we started complaining, Mother threw one of her famous fits. Taking my costume, I beat a hasty retreat to Amy's room. Amy never did get around to doing my make-up — she was busy trying to cover up her own eyebrows -- but she had one of her friends do it for me. Then I noticed a major deficiency in my costume — the top wouldn't stay up! I held it up as best I could, and made my way down to the small Terrace Ballroom. The Greeks were using the Grand Ballroom, so we had to make do with a smaller one. This was the last year I could qualify for Mini-Trek. I went on, and made an absolute fool of myself by hunching over to keep my top up. I still displayed enough to hear someone mutter:" Doesn't she know this is Mini-Trek? Even as I slunk off stage, I knew I had lost again. I shrugged my shoulders (carefully) and sat back to watch the other costumes.

Some of them were spectacular, especially one that represented one of the Cantina patrons from Star Wars. As soon as I saw it I knew it was a winner. In Mini-Trek the winners were two children who went as Bele and Loki. Angelique Trouvere's much-awaited appearance was up to expectations: she put on her clothes, instead of the opposite. The big laugh-getter was my mother, in a costume that was supposed to be a Fanzine. She went onstage, opened it to show a nude Spock center-fold, and uttered one of her famous puns: 'My friends told me to get a Grip on myself, so I did!"

After it was all over, I went through a mad panic. I had left my clothes in Amy's room, and Amywas at a Kraith Affirmation! I shivered nervously until she got out. Once I was back in my clothes, I sped off to another Monty Python party. While we were moving around the hotel, word got back to me that my mother was having a "hissy-fit". I came back to face the wrath of Roberta Rogow, promised her I would quiet down, and went back to the party. Hanging over me and Anthony though the entire Con was the knowledge that Tuesday we had to go back to school.

[...]

General comments; A new S-F movie had opened earlier that year. Banners saying "May the Force be with you" and "Let the Wookie Win" abounded in the dealers' room. Star Wars had come to the Con.

By the last night the number in our room had increased to the point where there was actually someone sleeping in the bathtub. This, plus the still-remaining cheese, made the room rather gamey. We had to leave an ample tip for the chambermaid for what we had done to the place: dyed sheets, a hole in the carpet, and a glowing sink (the result of an experiment with a Cyalume light stick).

While waving goodbye to some Monty Python friends I had made, and watching the rain come down in sheets, my main though was: I can't wait for the next Convention. [3]

It was in New York City, in September 1977, at Townsley's Star Trek AmeriCon, that we saw and heard Leonard Nimoy proclaim, "I am here because my heart is broken. . ."

This is one of those pivotal stories, one of those moments in fandom history that you may always ask, "Where were you when Nimoy showed up at AmeriCon? What were you doing?"

Background: Paramount had been playing games with the revival of Star Trek for several years. They were going to make a feature film. No, they were going to make another TV series. Nope! Back to making a movie, and all of the cast will be in it. Well, maybe not all the cast. Everyone but Shatner and Nimoy. No – we'll do another TV series, but with an all new cast. And on and on and on it went. One popular joke at the time was Bill Shatner's apparent repeated avow that, "I have signed a contract!" There were rumors and scuttlebutt all over the place. But in the months preceding September 1977, one prevalent version took the lead. There was going to be a feature film, and every actor had signed a contract – except Leonard Nimoy. It was further reported that the guilt lay not with Paramount or with Gene Roddenberry, but with Nimoy himself, who, it was said, had refused to sign a contract and wanted no part of the project.

So all of this was swirling around when we went up to New York for AmeriCon. Add to the mix the fact that Leonard was currently appearing on Broadway in "Equus" and the rumors were riff that he would put in a surprise appearance at the con. A group of us had actually gone to see him in his show on Friday evening.

On Saturday afternoon, I think it was around 4 or 5 o'clock, my friends and I had closed up our table and retired to our hotel rooms to just relax and chill out before getting dressed to go out to dinner (I think it was one of our visits to Mama Leone's). We'd all taken off our shoes and propped up our feet and I remember that Bev was counting the money we had taken in that day; she had emptied out the cash box we used at the table. I think I was dozing off for a quick forty winks. There were several other people in our room visiting with us. The phone on the desk rang. It was Martha, from her room in the hotel. A fellow Nimoy fan friend of hers had just called. They had just made an announcement in the main ballroom that Leonard Nimoy would be taking the stage in five minutes.

You never saw such pandemonium in your life as we scrambled for footwear, scooped up the money and stowed it away, falling over each other to get out the door and down the hall to the notoriously slow moving elevators that would take us down to the ballroom. Yet even in our haste, we were being circumspect. What we did not need or want was this wild throng to descend as one on the ballroom. Remember, there were upwards of 15,000 fans at the convention! The ballroom could hold only. . .what? Five thousand at most! So as the elevator doors closed behind us, we surreptitiously glanced at the faces around us, wondering if they knew what we knew. And they, in turn were eyeballing us!

We strolled slowly toward the ballroom, then picked up our pace as we detected others rushing forward. We got into the ballroom, stood in the back as the room continued to fill. I recall seeing Lee J. wheeling Carolyn Venino in her wheelchair, going all the way down to the front where the handicapped were seated. I gave Carolyn a thumbs-up as she passed. The late Mark Lenard (who played Spock's father, Sarek, and who was a frequent convention guest) was on stage and the security force was once again guarding the stage area. In just a few moments after we got there, Nimoy came out from the wings, and amid a roar of applause and the glare of hundreds of flashbulbs, he briefly embraced Mark Lenard, then went to the podium and spoke into the mike.

"I am here because my heart is broken," he began, and a sudden hush fell over the huge assembly. He went on to say that he had been receiving hate mail, threats and accusations from the fans that he found inexplicable. One letter had referred to him as "you Benedict Vulcan." Having always enjoyed a pleasing and satisfactory relationship with his fans and with the fans of Star Trek, he was hurt by this turnaround. He understood that the cause was the rumor about his not wanting to participate in a new film. This, he said, was not the case. As far as he knew, there was no script yet, and no one had ever approached him about being in a film. "If Gene Roddenberry wants me to be in this film, let him come to me and ask." It was not, he declared, the custom for an actor to approach a studio or a producer. The studio or the producer approached the actor. And he had not been approached. Yet meanwhile, the fans were blaming him. He had come to the convention to set the record straight and to elicit the support of the fans.

Well, he had lit the fire and we would carry the torch! That night, while we were throwing the biggest Contact room party yet, with people spilling out into the hall, Carol F. buttonholed Gene Roddenberry's aide, Susan Sackett, who was also a guest at the convention. Susan had been allegedly avoiding Carol since Nimoy had spoken, but late that night the questions were finally put to her and the answers were obvious by her avoidance of the answers. What Nimoy had said was correct: It was Roddenberry and/or Paramount that was holding out.

Within days of our arrival at home, a flyer was ready to be mailed out with every zine order, with stacks sent to every zine ed and otherwise active fan that we knew. The headline on the flyer was the first line that Nimoy had spoken: "I am here because my heart is broken. . ." The flyer went on to urge the recipient to write to Gene Roddenberry and to Paramount Studios. Tell them that we would not accept a film version of Star Trek without Leonard Nimoy, without Spock. Jump on the band wagon. One. More. Time. We were getting good at this now!

The end result of it all was that there was no movie deal in the works, not to any imminent accomplishment, and it would be more than two years before the dream was realized. In the meantime, we continued going up the New Jersey turnpike twice a year, continued putting up with the inadequacies of the Statler Hilton, with a professional "show" of a convention that was all there was, but we joyously enjoyed every minute of it. We started taking in Broadway shows, and some not so close to Broadway. [4]

References

  1. ^ WayBack Machine link.
  2. ^ from At the Helm #12/13
  3. ^ from "Four Days in a Monkey House, or, What I Did at Americon" by Miriam Rogow in Grip #1
  4. ^ from Nancy Kippax, Reminisce With Me/The Big New York Cons, Part II, 2008