So you want to have a "Star Trek" convention

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Title: So you want to have a "Star Trek" convention
Creator: Joan Winston
Date(s): January 1977
Medium: print magazine
Fandom: Star Trek
Topic:
External Links: archived here
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Contents

So you want to have a "Star Trek" convention is an essay written by Star Trek fan Joan Winston and published in Starlog magazine issue #3 in 1977. The essay details the history of the New York Star Trek Lives! fan conventions that helped make Star Trek into a lasting success.

Because the essay is a first person account, written shortly after the final Star Trek Lives! convention took place, it offers a rare insight into the history of the conventions.

This was likely expanded in the pro book, The Making of the Trek Conventions: Or, How to Throw a Party for 12,000 of Your Most Intimate Friends.

Excerpts

Excerpts from the essay are included below. The entire essay can be read at the Internet Archive here.

"If this idea is living seriously in your head, go directly to the nearest Community Home For the Bewildered. You will be greeted with open arms. And chances are you'll spot several people sitting on the lawn who were involved in the planning and production of previous "Star Trek" cons."
"The idea began with Elyse Rosenstein and Devra Langsam. Just a little get-together of close friends and fans — maybe three or four hundred people.

HAH!

Elyse called up what was to become the infamous "Committee," and the first meeting was held at my apartment. We elected a Chairman, and everybody picked something he/she/it would like to do at the con. It doesn't always work that way; sometimes people have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.

We started our planning about seven months prior to the January 1972 date. For the following cons we gave ourselves two weeks to recover from the previous one (most times that was not enough) and dived right into meetings and decisions for the next. That gave us eleven and a half months for all those monthly, then bi-weekly, then weekly meetings. This, of course, did not count all the meetings in our Chairman's print shop when, after a session of addressing, pasting, folding, and zip coding progress reports, you could see the sun rise over the printing presses."
"The Committee usually works a 25-hour day. The extra hour is for worrying. Worrying about the projectors breaking down — including the three back-up ones (our 1972 con). And the only working one chewing up the films with great appetite. Somebody tripping and almost falling through the movie screen (1975). Forgetting to pick up one of the guests at the airport. One of the fans having an epileptic fit in the film room during the Blooper Reel (1976). Registration turning pale and screaming for a chair upon asking an extremely pregnant woman when she was due and getting "Yesterday" for an answer!"
"The 1972 con was a roaring success. We cleared something like ninety-odd dollars each after all the expenses were paid. That was great, because most cons lost money or just managed to break even. This was before certain people decided they could make a fortune putting on Star Trek conventions. Of all the cons we gave, I think this first was my favorite. Next is the 1976 one with the others falling into a kind of middle ground. Perhaps because both the first and the last con were loaded with Love with a capital "L." In 1972, we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into, and in 1976, we knew it was the last one and we could relax at the end of a long hard road. "
"[For the 1973 convention] "This time we'd be smarter. We'd really plan ahead. We chose a larger hotel, our beloved Commodore, and made arrangements for a six-to-eight-thousand-fan con. We got two of the stars of the show to come, and that was the first con that James Doohan and George Takei attended. Over 7,000 attended that con of 1973 and they got more than they or we bargained for: the legendary "Mr. Spock" made an appearance. He happened to be in town and asked if he could come over and meet the fans. Well, would you have said no? "
"The 1974 con was much too crowded, and everyone was hassled to some degree. We had between 10,000 to 14,000 attendees, including dealers. The exact total isn't known, as that was the year when the Chairman and the Committee parted company. The person who ran registration went with him, and so did the records.
[The 1974 con] was also our first experience with the New York City Fire Marshalls. A parent got hysterical when she glommed the crowds (we had over 4,000 on line at one point) and pictured her child being trampled under foot. She called the police who, in turn, called the Fire Marshalls. Just a note: her son was found sometime later, quietly munching a Mounds bar and reading the Monster Times. I understand his reaction, when told what his mother had done, was, 'Aw, she didn't! " Oh, boy, did she ever!"
"1975 saw us with a new Chairperson, Devra Langsam, and a return to the Commodore. The guest roster was a goodie with a lot of people making return visits like the Roddenberrys, David Gerrold, George Takei, Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement, and a special guest (blare of trumpets, please!) William Shatner. This was a crowded con, too. Crowded when it shouldn't have been, because we discovered that there were counterfeit tickets being sold by some unscrupulous kids in cahoots with an equally dishonest printer. So we closed registration with a count of 6,800 when it was clear to all that there were at least 8,000 people in attendance."
"The 1976 con was almost the end of more than our five year mission. Since Lincoln's birthday fell on the Thursday just prior to the con, it was decided, in a moment of midwinter madness, to make it a five day convention. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and the never-to-be- forgotten Monday. Oy.

We also decided that the entire membership would be in advance. That meant no tickets would be sold during the convention. This was the first time something like this was tried. It was successful despite the fact that there were two other conventions in New York City just weeks prior to ours.

The [convention] at the Hilton Hotel received an enormous amount of press coverage, much of it unfavorable because of over-crowding. Because of this, the Attorney General's office started to investigate our convention. When they found out that we had advertised from the beginning that our con was to be limited to only 6,000, the investigation was dropped.

The press came to our con and almost all of them commented on the difference in atmosphere. "You can almost feel the good vibes from wall to wall."