Star Trek, U.N.C.L.E., Lansing and MI-08

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Title: Star Trek, U.N.C.L.E., Lansing and MI-08
Creator: JamieG from Md
Date(s): October 30, 2012
Medium: online
Fandom: Star Trek, conventions, Man from U.N.C.L.E.
External Links: online here; WebCite
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Star Trek, U.N.C.L.E., Lansing and MI-08 is an essay by JamieG from Md.

While it veers off onto a political topic at the end, the vast majority of the article is about fandom and conventions.

Topics Discussed


I went to one of the conventions and met some of the people that put on Shore Leave. Through that group I met a group of women who called themselves The Contact Group, named after a fanzine that two of them published. The Contact Group was a group of women who were drawn together by their love for Kirk and Spock (and sometimes McCoy) and their general love of Star Trek. The group got together every Saturday night at the house of one of the women who lived in east Baltimore. I was invited to join them and despite the fact that I was not very experienced as a driver and had never driven through the Harbor Tunnel before, I got together with the group for pretty much every Saturday night for the next eight years.

What did we talk about? For the first few months, I mostly listened. These people had been involved in Star Trek fandom for about ten years before I had. They had attended the really big conventions in New York and heard all of the cast members in person, even William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy at the same convention. They’d had room parties, they’d written stories, they’d met and partied with actors and people who had worked on the show, and with the writers who’d written the Star Trek books. Some of them had even participated in the great letter writing campaigns that kept Star Trek on the air when the network was ready to cancel the show!

They spoke of that time, the 1970s, as being the Golden Age of Fandom, but I was just as excited to be a part of the 1980s, the Silver Age of fandom where we were putting on conventions and writing and publishing stories and artwork, and eagerly anticipating the next Trek movie – Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home. It was the happiest time of my life.

We didn’t talk about Star Trek every minute we were together. We talked about ordinary things, but since we had the common bond, Star Trek wove through our discussions and interests. Sometimes the humor was just plain silly. I remember a night when someone brought up the subject of shoes in Star Trek where we went through the titles of each episode and substituted the word “shoes.” E.g., "Where No Man Has Gone Before" became “Where no shoe has gone before” and “City on the Edge of Forever” became “Shoe on the Edge of Forever.” “The Gamesters of Triskelion” became “The Shoes of Triskelion.” It was hilarious, but only if you were a Star Trek fan.

Marion helped to run Shore Leave and had started the Clippercon convention. She no longer came every Saturday night; even though she still worked on the conventions, her interests had drifted from Star Trek and when I met her she was currently interested in fairly recent British scifi show called Blakes 7, sort of like Star Trek set in a dark, evil universe, and I had no interest in it. Marion was fun, she had an easy laugh and seemed to like and be liked by pretty much everybody, including a lot of the guest stars. After a few years she felt the need for a change and moved to Los Angeles, where she hung out with LA fans and some of the actors she’d met at the conventions. Alas, my passion for Star Trek faded. Like my friends who had been in fandom before me, my interest turned elsewhere. At one convention, I picked up a fanzine with characters that had been a part of my past – Napoleon and Illya, and the fascination I’d felt for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s was once again sparked. I found other fans who lent me videotapes (grainy tapes from CBN).

Sometimes I called Marion in California and talked about my new interest, and I guess my love for MFU fandom was contagious, because she became a fan too. When she moved back to Maryland, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone all the time and roomed together at Shore Leave.

As I’ve mentioned before, Baltimore was a hotbed of Star Trek fandom. Shore Leave drew Star Trek fans from all over the U.S., some from Europe, even New Zealand. Over the years Shore Leave had incorporated guest stars from other scifi shows, but it was still basically a Star Trek convention.

As Baltimore was the Mecca for Star Trek fandom, Lansing, Michigan was the Mecca for general media fandom because of The MediaWest Convention. For my friend who adored Starsky and Hutch, it was a meeting place for that group. And it would be the place I would get to meet Man from U.N.C.L.E. fans who lived in other parts of the United States and Canada.

My early years at Shore Leave had been the most fun I’d had up to that point; Media West rivaled those times, with the added bonus of having a best friend who was as enthused about my show as I was. The convention lasted five days, with about 900 fans of a variety of shows: Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dr. Who, Star Wars, Stargate, Starsky and Hutch... even Walker, Texas Ranger. And of course Star Trek fandom which never died.

Regular programming included discussion panels, continuous videos, art shows and an art auction. The dealers' room offered books, memorabilia, and fanzines -- amateur publications written by fans.

The convention hotel, Holiday Inn South, was taken over by fans during the entire weekend. The convention lasted five days. It was a continuous party, being so much fun that I resented that I had to spend some of the time sleeping. There is nothing that is more fun than watching an episode of your favorite show with 30 fan friends giving commentary that revealed insights you never thought of before about your favorite characters.