Star Trek Chicago

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Star Trek Convention
Name: Star Trek Chicago
Dates: August 22-24, 1975
Frequency:
Location: Conrad Hilton Hotel, Chicago,IL
Type: for-profit, Procon
Focus: Star Trek: TOS
Organization:
Founder: Lisa Boyton and the Talos Four Group, assisted by Starfleet Command (Chicago area Star Trek fan club)
Founding Date:
URL:
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Star Trek Chicago was the first Star Trek convention to be held in Chicago and it was chaired by Lisa Boynton.

front cover of the program book
back cover of the convention program book
Toledo newspaper article, Aug 21, 1975

It is NOT the same con as The Chicago Star Trek Convention.

Unlike the Star Trek Lives! cons, it was a for-profit procon and paid its guests to attend, making it more difficult for fan run conventions to compete with.

This con had over 16,000 attendees, and grossed $100,000 for its promoters, Lisa Boyton and the Talos Four Group.

This convention, and the disastrous subsequent one put on by Lisa Boynton the following year in New York, New York Star Trek '76, were hailed by many fans as the end of the era of fan run conventions with actor guests.

From the editors of the zine Star Trek Prospers wrote in 1977: "STRANGE INTEREST? Morgan Powell, Lisa Boynton's associate on the Chicago con, has sold a book on her experience to Bantam called "The Big ST Con." This should raise a few Vulcan eyebrows!" [1] Powell was the con's "information officer" [2]. It is unknown if this book was ever published.

A similar series of cons was Star Trek America.

Guests of Honor

Guests of Honor were: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Arlene Martel, Mark Lenard, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Dr. J. Allen Hynek (professor of astronomy at Northwestern University and director of the Center for UFO Studies), Hal Clement, David Gerrold, and Frank Kelly Freas.

A newsletter mentions that Leonard Nimoy did an ad for this con:
The editors wrote: "Your [sic] not going to believe this but... Leonard Nimoy taped a TV commercial for the Chicago Con, which ran at the end of June locally in Chicago. In July it will be booked around the country so look for it. [3]
In 1975, a Toledo Ohio newspaper ran an article about the upcoming Chicago convention:
"Lisa Boynton was a 26-year-old short order cook in a Columbus drive-in when the Star Ship Enterprise blasted off on its five-year mission to explore 'where no man has gone before.'

"The Star Trek television series was 'phased' from the airwaves three years into its mission, but Lisa and thousands of other Trekkies, as they love to be called, still bemoan the loss of their science-fiction show.

"But Miss Boynton, now 35, a tax consultant and law student, carries her Trekkie fanaticism to its ultimate end: she's assembled virtually the entire Star TrekStar Trek club with members aged six to 60."[4]

Con Staff

CREW LIST

  • LISA BOYNTON: CONVENTION CHAIRPERSON HEAD TREKKIE
  • DOUGLAS NEWITT: HOTEL LIAISON
  • DOREEN KOWALCZEWSKI: REGISTRATION
  • DENA CHESTON: EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
  • ANDY DE CYAN: ART SHOW DIRECTOR, DEALER REGISTRATION
  • RALPH AND VALERIE CARNES: PROGRAM DIRECTOR
  • CLYDE JONES: OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, SECURITY COORDINATOR, ART COORDINATOR, PERSONNEL COORDINATOR, WHEW!
  • TAUNA LE MARBE: PEN AND INK SKETCHES, LAYOUT, T'PAUNA
  • MORGAN POWELL: PRESS REPRESENTATIVE, FILM AND TV LIAISON, LOGISTICS COMMAND, LAUNDRY, AND MORALE

Programming

This con was on the radio. From the program book: "Fans! For your continuing enjoyment, if you don't close down when we do -- WHPK --FM, 88.3 on your FM dial -- will broadcast each evening from 3 A.M. to 10: A.M -- a continuing convention program -- music, interviews, focusing on the convention. Check it out!"

Convention Program Book

The program book contains 44 pages.

There is some fan art, including portraits for the bios of the main guests of honor. These illos are not credited.

On the dedication page: "Star Trek Chicago is dedicated: You! The fans who keep the spirit of the Trek alive! Peace and long life."

The program's welcome:

WELCOME TO THE FIRST STAR TREK CONVENTION TO BE HELD IN CHICAGO! WE'VE PLANNED SOME NEW ACTIVITIES, WE'VE MANAGED TO GET COMMITMENTS FROM THE ENTIRE CREW OF THE BRIDGE OF THE ENTERPRISE TO APPEAR, AND WE'VE LINED UP SOME PANELS AND PERSONAL APPEARANCES WITH NOT ONLY THE STARS OF THE SHOW BUT SOME OF THE TOP SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERS IN THE COUNTRY.

THERE ARE BOOKS, POSTERS, GADGETS, MAGAZINES, FANZINES, BUTTONS, TWO FULL DAYS OF MOVIES, AND EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE (AND SOMETIMES UNIMAGINABLE) THAT HAS COME OUT OF THE EFFORT TO MAKE THE SHOW, THE STARS, AND THE DREAM AVAILABLE TO ALL OF US. AND WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF ENERGY AND NEED TO REFUEL, THERE'S A LIST OF RESTAURANTS, BOTH GALACTIC AND EXTRAGALACTIC, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PROGRAM. IF YOU ARE JUST PLAIN STARRY-EYED ABOUT STAR TREK, THEN JOIN THE CREW FOR A THREE-DAY VOYAGE WHERE NO FAN HAS GONE BEFORE I

HAVE FUN!

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

The Fanzine in Response

A fanzine was published with cartoons illustrating the disastrous convention: The New York and Chicago Strektaculars! is a 27-page zine in comic book about a gofer behind the scenes at two large Strektacular cons. The narration and art are by Phil Foglio, with lyrics by Ann Passovoy and "ritzy lettering" by Doug Rice.

As listed in Menagerie #10: "Phil Foglio reports in cartoons from behind the scenes at two of the biggest disasters Trek cons ever-Chicago 1975 and New York 1976. See even more than you bargained for."

Fan Comments

1975

"Cons are a sore subject of late, what with ol' Lisa Boynton out to take over condom. (Sorry), ((ChicagoCon, organized by Lisa Boynton, reportedly made in excess

of $100,000 profit. Her company, Telos IV Corp., is planning a series of ST cons around the country.)) The Houston group is frantic about the way the actors fees have soared since Chicago, Bjo Trimble is frantic about Lisa's Los Angeles con the week before hers (Equicon)), Al Schuster's and Devra Langsam's groups (organizers of The International ST Con and The ST Con, respectively)) are frantic about [Lisa] moving into New York City in January, and the Boston con hasn't progressed at all since the first meeting with Gail Abend.

I have no objections to four- and five-figure fees for the major stars, or to the rise of agencies like Trekstars Unlimited to protect the ST people from inexperienced concoms but I do think ST Chicago, may have signaled the end of the ST con as we have known it. I can, see the pros taking over the meat cons, the 'fan-run' cons becoming one or no star local Trekkie cons and fan cons like SekWester Con proliferating. Trufen will use the pro and fan-run cons to inform the neos, through zine sales and STW, that there's more to fandom than gaping at the S*T*A*R*S and watching the episodes, but the fan cons will become the most important and influential aspect of ST fandom."[5]

CHICAGO CON: $100,000 FAN RIPOFF? by Janet Smith-Bozartb

In 1975, the now-legendary Star Trek convention " Star Trek Chicago” was held , Janet Smith-Bozarth was one of the thou - sands of fans who attended the con , and she returned with mixed feelings. We encouraged her to try to express them in what amounted to both a convention review and a critique. Because we don't run con reviews as a matter of policy (they tend to be too similar ), we asked her to keep the play-by-play as short as possible and concentrate on her observations . What Janet eventually emerged with is prob- ably the perfect example of a person's feelings when they are having a simultaneously good and bad time . And we thought that that in itself was enough to merit space in the magazine t for the Chicago con reflected Star Trek fandom itself in a small way : good and bad , but always interesting.

"Star Trek Chicago, billed as Chicago’s first Star Trek con — and the biggest ever held! A reunion of the entire cast and many major science fiction writers were expected to draw over 15,000 fans.

And that is exactly what happened at the Conrad Hilton hotel in Chicago the weekend of August 22-24, 1975. Total attendance was over 16,000, making it the largest Star Trek con ever held.

Among the usual events, the con had an art show, which was sparsely attended, as it was hidden away in the basement of the hotel. This is truly unfortunate in that it contained a small but very good showing of artwork and was excellently run by Andy de Cyan and his staff.

There were numerous panel discussions; everything from writing sci-fi (conducted by Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, and Hal Clement) to a UFO discussion by Dr, J, Alan Hynek.

The main attraction was the panel entitled "The World of Star Trek," during which all of the cast of ST spoke from a mockup of the Enterprise bridge. This three~and-a-half-hour discussion allowed each member of the crew of the Enterprise — as well as Mark Lenard (Sarek) and Arlene Martel (T'Pring) — to express their views of Star Trek and answer questions from the 4,000-odd fans in attendance.

Each of the three panels featuring the Star Trek stars started with a group of Klingons capturing the bridge. This same group of Klingons (in authentic-looking costumes) served as the convention security force. And most efficiently, since who would want to cross a Klingon?

Then each star was escorted onto the bridge mockup by two of the Klingons.

First was Mark Lenard, who seemed somewhat out of place when asked questions like: “Why did you marry Spock’s mother?" and "What is Vulcan like?"

Arlene Martel was next, and she seemed to be much more comfortable in the position of being identified as T'Pring.

The banality of the questions asked her and Mark Lenard wasn’t unusual, as most of the questions asked of the actors were along the lines of "What are you doing now?" and “Was Spock really in love?" and “Did Dr. McCoy really like Spock?"

One question that was constantly asked was, “When is the movie going to be out?" The answer was unknown then; and is still not certain. (Roddenberry is working on the second draft,)

One highlight of the Chicago con was the costume ball. There were only forty or so entries, but most of the costumes were original and very well constructed. The winners were two teen-age members of the Klingon Auxiliary Corps. It was strangely appropriate that the second-place winners were a pair of oversize Tribbles,

Star Trek Chicago grossed $100,000 for its promoters, Lisa Boyton and the Tallos Four Group, These people supposedly put on trade shows for a living, but if Star Trek Chicago is any indication of their other shows, they must be pretty poor.

It was a fun con for many, since most of the people there had never been to a Star Trek con before. But to those of us who attend cons regularly. Chicago was a good example of disorganization and poor planning.

During the Saturday-afternoon panel, one irate fan (a convention member) was objecting to the $20 membership fee, David Gerrold and 3,998 other members silenced him by asking where he could see and hear all of the actors and speakers that were at this con for less money.

Granted, the events were numerous, but they overlapped so badly that it was impossible to see even one-quarter of what you wanted to see.

For example, the ever-present gofers were not even briefed on where anything was. Some did not even know what they were supposed to be doing.

If you can believe it, the costume ball, the main panel discussion, the art auction, and the Planet of the Apes movies were all scheduled at the same time!

The dealer's room was the greatest hoax of all. It was in a long corridor with six entrances, and only four security guards. Each night, all of the dealers had to pack up all of their merchandise and move it to their rooms to keep from being ripped off.

On a scale of 1 to 10 convention rating. Star Trek Chicago would rate a 4.5. And a rating this high is only because of the guest list. [6]

1976

Convention reports were published in the clubzine Star Trek Today #7. Due to fading in the original zine, large size screen caps are provided below in lieu of excerpts. Each click will take you to a larger version.

From At the Helm #1/2:
The Windy City's first Star Trek convention was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel on the Weekend of August 24-26, 1975- Organized by Lisa Boynton, who did a fantastic job, the convention boasted an impressive guest list including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, De Forest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan and Nlchelle Nichols, aa well as Mark Lenard, Arlene Martel, David Gerrold and Hal Clement. The highlight of the convention came as the Star Trek cast took their positions on the full-scale mock-up of the Enterprise bridge and felt right at home. Other activities included an art show and auction, films, and a costume ball. Our day usually started early with a brisk jog around Grant Park with George as our leader. Have you ever seen a group of girls jogging in platform shoes at 8 o'clock in the morning? George was the only one comfortable in sneakers, but somehow we managed to keep up with him! I would like to convey my thanks to Lisa, her entire committee and the Klingon 'Diplomatic Corps for a wonderful weekend, and I want to wish them the very best of luck in future conventions. My special thanks also to the 12,000 or more Star Trek fans who attended and also made this convention, as others, pleasantly successful. Keep on Trekking!

1979

"In August 1975, 15,000 Star Trek fans, or Trekkies, attended a three-day convention in Chicago. A Chicago Star Trek Club sponsored the event and charged $20 admission.

The Trekkies looked like everyone else-unless they were dressed like Klingons or Hortas. They ranged in age from 6 to 60. They shared a love for Star Trek, for its actors, and for the concept of exploring a vast universe.

Trekkies love to collect gadgets and tokens of their favorite show. At the Chicago convention, there were enough Star Trek gadgets to satisfy everyone's collecting urge. They offered tee shirts, posters, buttons, and Spock ears. There were huge rooms full of people dressed like Romulans or Tribbles or Hortas or like the ship's crew members. There was a Captain Kirk look-alike contest. The entire convention cost over $100,000. That included the full-size model of the U.S.S. Enterprise which was on display.

The lead actors and actresses came to the convention. Also many of the production crew, astronaut James McDivitt, and UFO expert James Allen Hynek attended.

Walking through the convention, one would hear: "Who are the inhabitants of Elba II?" (Answer: "Inmates at an intergalactic asylum for the criminally insane.") "What is Kevin Riley's middle name, and what is his favorite song?" (Thomas. The song: 'I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen'.") [7]

1980

From a 1980 interview with Leslie Fish in Enterprise Incidents Interview with Leslie Fish:
"I've been involved with ST fandom since August, 1975, when I simultaneously got the address of the Welcommittee (from STAR TREK LIVES) and found out about an ST con being held in my hometown of Chi. Before then, I was a typical Isolated fan — thinking that no­body but me still watched old reruns religiously. (Ho! Ho!) The aforementioned con turned out to be the infamous Lisa Boynton Pro-(as in "for money first") con, but I managed — by singing my way in on the strength of my homemade ST songs — to get in for free, and had a lovely time.

1996

From issue #27 of A Piece of the Action, as reported in Boldly Writing:
This issue contained details about the first professional ST con in Chicago to take place August 22-24 and said admission would be $20 (considered high) and "The convention will be held at the Conrad Hilton, the largest hotel in Chicago. The main program room seats around 4,000 and the film room seats 2500 so there will be no trouble with overcrowding. [8]

2011

In 2011, one attendee put together a brief video slideshow about the convention. It can be seen on Youtube here. In it he describes how fans were treated to back to back Star Trek episodes on the full size set of the USS Enterprise until 3am. Rich Portnoy shot 8mm footage at the end and can be seen on Youtube here.

From comments to Rich Portonoy's Youtube video:

  • "They were selling lollipops at the convention with the engraved image of Spock. Someone in the audience asked Leonard if he posed for the lollipop....To which he replied in a disgruntled voice; "We're not here to talk about lollipops". The audience was pretty upset at the guy who asked the question."
  • "Takei coming into the hotel drenched after jogging all around the park nearby and all the fans that ran with him. The lobby when Leonard Nimoy came in and people went from being busy to INSANE in a matter of just minutes. My first sale of artwork at that con, to Hal Clement, (author); and going to the dealer's room and spending every penny. An escalator when crowds were nuts and being held back by the Klingons. One held up his foot and asked the crowd, "Would you hit a Klingon in toesocks??"
  • "No, no! The toe-socks incident was in New York the next February. Same con committee, same Klingons. He was trying to keep the crowd from surging up a shut-down escalator and assuring them there was no room at the top either. Some agitators began saying, "How can you trust a Klingon?" To which he replied, "How can you not trust a Klingon who wears toe-socks?" while shaking off a boot to show striped toe-socks. The crowd laughed so hard, they forgot to riot."
  • "Oh my! Blast from the past. The Klingons are members of the Dorsai Irregulars who were hired to do crowd management at the event. I am one of them, but I was managing a section of the ballroom instead of being on stage. The first Klingon seen in the video was Robert L. Aspirin, who went on to become an SF author. The bagpipes were played by Corinna and it's Lucy who is being hugged."
  • "I remember that convention very well: 3 days for $40! I attended the main ballroom cast presentations - twice! After their little speech and a short Q & A, the cast member sat at the side to sign autographs. There were two movie "theaters" (one that exclusively showed episodes, and another showing Sci-Fi films) and another room had guest speakers. Harlan Ellison was there, so was David Gerrold (who can be seen giving Nichelle Nichols a short kiss in the video above."
  • "When Nimoy got up to speak, a Mother asked if her little boy could take a close look at his ears, which made a very cute moment. In the morning, from a taxi, I could see George Takai jogging to the Hilton. Finally, the hallways were full of vendors selling mostly homemade stuff, as this was long before mass merchandising production. Four years later, the movie premiered! Yeah, I was there, too, and it was a great time."[9]

References

  1. from Star Trek Prospers #27 (May 1977)
  2. Chicago Tribune, Action Line, August 9, 1975
  3. from Star Trek Prospers #7
  4. Trekking To Blast Off in the Toledo Blade dated August 21, 1975; reference link; reference link.
  5. LOC submitted to The Halkan Council #12 (1975).
  6. from "The Best of Trek," online archived copy at The Best of Trek]
  7. Star Trek TV and Movie Tie-Ins by James A. Lely (1979); reference link.
  8. Boldly Writing notes this should have raised some red flags as previous fan-run conventions in New York and Los Angeles had had over 10,000 attendees. The October issue of APOTA reported there ended up being 12,000 attendees.
  9. reference link.