Star Trek Lives! (convention)

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Convention
Name: Star Trek Lives! (convention), also known simply as the "Star Trek Con," or "FebCon," or the "Committee Cons" (while Al Schuster was part of the Committee, called the "International Star Trek Convention"). The phrase "Star Trek Lives!" was used by other conventions as well.
Dates: 1972-1976
Frequency: annual
Location: New York
Type: fan-run
Focus: Star Trek
Organization: checks for the 1975 con were to be made out to "Star Trek Associates"
Founder: From the 1973 program book: Joan Winston & Elyse Pines/Elyse Rosenstein (Other members included Allan Asherman, Eileen Becker, Steve Rosenstein, Dana Anderson, Thom Anderson, Renee Bodner, Stu Hellinger, Devra Langsam, Deborah Langsam, Eileen Becker, Maureen Wilson, Joyce Yasner and Al Schuster) aka The Committee (Star Trek). In later years: Barbara Wenk, Wendy Lindboe, Louise Sachter, Stuart Grossman, Claire Eddy, Diane Duane and David Simmons served on the Committee.
Founding Date:
URL:
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first page of a 4-page flyer advertising the 1972 convention
George Takei, Joan Winston (in blue shirt), and many unidentified fans at the second "Star Trek Lives!" in 1973.

Star Trek Lives! was a early and influential series of Star Trek conventions held in New York in 1972-1976.

The first convention was held January 21-23, 1972 at the Statler Hilton and featured guests (Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement and D.C. Fontana), an art show, a costume call, NASA space displays (moon rocks and an astronaut suit), and a hospitality room. Episodes were also screened from 16mm prints, including the original pilot The Cage and a blooper reel.

The phrase "Star Trek Lives!" was used on the flyers advertising the first convention in 1972 and was part of the Star Trek revival campaign undertaken by fans in the early 1970s.

Quick Guide to Titles and Dates

  • In the summer of 1971, the committee organized a meeting in "Brooklyn Collage's Gershwin Auditorium, which could barely house the turnout."[1]
  • The International Star Trek Convention/Star Trek Lives! at the Statler Hilton Hotel, New York (January 21-23, 1972)
  • The International Star Trek Convention at the Commodore Hotel. This was Leonard Nimoy's first convention appearance. (February 16-19, 1973)
  • February 15-18, 1974 at the Americana Hotel, New York
  • The Star Trek Convention at the Commodore Hotel, New York (February 14-17, 1975)
  • The Star Trek Convention 1976 at the Commodore Hotel, New York (February 12-16, 1976)

The Individual Cons

Subpages for Star Trek Lives! (convention):
1972 · 1973 · 1974 · 1975 · 1976

The Name

For many years the event was simply referred to as "The Star Trek Convention" or the "Committee Con," the latter in reference to The Committee.

While Al Schuster was chair of The Committee (1972, 1973, 1974), it was also called the "International Star Trek Convention." Schuster took the name "International Star Trek Con" with him when he broke away to create Schuster Star Trek Conventions.

This con was also commonly referred to as FebCon.

As more conventions popped up in other cities and as the New York convention group split into two groups, the name "Star Trek Convention" became less unique. To avoid confusion with the overlapping names, "Star Trek Lives" has been selected for this article on Fanlore to refer to the series of New York Star Trek conventions before the split with Al Schuster.

Early, But, Not the Actual First

It is commonly believed that the 1972 convention was the very first Star Trek convention, but that honor goes to a smaller convention in 1969 held in Newark, New Jersey: Star Trek Con (1969 Star Trek con). However, the 1972 convention was the first convention that had guests.

About

The organizers of "Star Trek Lives!" anticipated only 500 attendees. When 3000 fans showed up, by the final day of the event registrars were issuing ID cards made from torn scraps of wrapping paper and some fans were let in for free: "We ran out of everything," Devra Langsam remembers. "We were cutting and sticking labels and pinning them on with straight pins." [2]

"....[They] had expected about 500 to attend the convention. But, four hours before it was officially due to start, [Al Schuster] looked around at the mob scene on the 18th floor [of the Statler Hilton Hotel] and said, 'It's wild. We're going to have at least 3,000 people here. They're coming in from all over, Arizona, California, Canada. There's a whole busload from Toronto.'[3]
undated photo of Gene Roddenberry addressing fans at a Star trek convention in the 1970s

An article in the Village Voice in 1972 describes the first convention:

"The convention was dreamed up and organized by three adult sci-fi freaks and show buffs, but it seemed to have been taken over completely by kids -- they manned most of the tables and did most of the trading. Few people over 16 were in sight, but there were plenty of 10- and even eight-year-olds lugging around huge suitcases crammed with treasured nuggets of Startrekia, and they approached the business at hand with the same circumspection that's evident at a big Parke-Bernet event. One pale, serious kid who looked about 11 approached another -- 'Aren't you that "Dark Shadows" freak?' 'Yeah. Got anything?' 'Some early glossies, to trade for Shatner shots only.' 'So, let's have a look."[4]

In spite of what the outside world thought about fandom, fans were ecstatic to be gathering:

"The auditorium had seating for 500 - and 1500 crowded in to hear Roddenberry speak. Yet the event never got out of hand; Trek fans have a reputation for being well behaved, if exuberant, and this proved that it is one they deserve. The mood was exhilarating, and when Roddenberry spoke, the crowd exploded. Even he was surprised at the amount of love and appreciation for the series that the fans gave him. At one point, the fans even burst out chanting “Star Trek lives!” Suddenly it seemed possible that the series wasn’t dead after all."[5]

The history of the convention was detailed in Joan Winston's 1977 essay So you want to have a "Star Trek" convention which was printed in the Starlog magazine. More history can be found in her New York Times Obituary in 2008.[6] Others have blogged about the convention here[7] and here.[8]

Even though the 1972 convention netted the organizers only $92.36 each (after expenses)[9] the organizers assembled for another, larger convention in 1973 and over 10,000 fans registered to attend. The Committee planned better in 1973, picking a larger hotel, The Commodore, and this second event was the first one that actors James Doohan and George Takei attended. Mr. Spock, aka Leonard Nimoy, made a surprise appearance - he happened to be in town - and was almost mobbed.[10] One fan has blogged about his recollections of attending the 1973 convention here.[11]

In 2016, Devra Langsam said:
Ihe fact that the conventions grew bigger and bigger was shocking. We had about fifteen people working on the Committee, of whom only five actually did most of the work. That's the way that goes—we had help from a friend who had access to a real computer, so we were able to computerize our mailing list long before anybody besides big companies ever dreamed of that, and we sent out a progress report, which is what the Worldcons do, saying, "Hey, look at this. We've invited this person to come, and he says he's going to come." We didn't say how much we had to pay him. The first convention was such a success, in terms of reaching people, that when we started to do the second one, we got a lot of people coming back. So it was like you had three weeks off and then you started all over again for the following year's convention. [12]

One of the highlights of the convention was the fan built life size bridge of the Starship Enterprise. In his book "Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History", Robert Greenberger describes how fans disassembled the bridge, which was housed in update New York, and transported it down to Manhattan to be reassembled for the Committee conventions . Fans would photograph themselves on the bridge often wearing costumes.

Renaming, and a Split

In 1973, the convention was retitled to the "International Star Trek Convention." This name would move on with Al Schuster when he split with the rest of the Committee in 1975.

The convention was held three more times in 1974, 1975 and 1976.

According to one article:

"The '74 con was too crowded - 10,000 to 14,000 attendees - the exact number is unknown as the Committee split off its Chairman after this one and the one who ran registration took the records with him. But, the crowding was so bad that Fire Marshalls became involved. The Committee was soon nicknamed The Coping Committee - they coped."[13]

Photos from the 1974 convention convention are archived here[14] and for the 1975 convention here. [15]

The February 1975 convention returned to The Commodore Hotel with a new chairperson Devra Langsam under the name: "Star Trek Convention". Guests included William Shatner, Isaac Asimov, Majel Barrett, Hal Clement, David Gerrold, Devra Lansing, Gene Roddenberry, George Takei, and Bill Theiss, costume designer who brought with him costumes that he had fans model. This convention "was also crowded, more so because some sneaky kids teamed with a dishonest printer to sell counterfeit tickets.""[16] Al Shuster, the former "Committee" chair put on his own Star Trek convention a month earlier under the name "The International Star Trek Convention" at the Statler Hilton after having a falling out in 1974 with the original organizers which led to at least one lawsuit. [17] Al Schuster was able to secure William Shatner's attendance even though the 1975 Star Trek Convention had booked him to appear at their event one month later. Luckily, both events did well.[18]

The February 1976 convention was the last organized by 'The Committee' and opened at the Commodore Hotel under Thom Anderson as chairman. Over 5,000 fans attended and the overflow had to be turned away.[19] The Committee event faced stiff local competition with Al Schuster's International Star Trek Convention taking place in mid January 1976 and Lisa Boyton's highly commercial event only two weeks later.[20]

undated composite photo of a Star trek convention in the 1970s
Also by 1976, the 10th anniversary of the airing of the show, many more conventions began appearing across the country.[21] And, that year, Al Shuster put on his own 10th Anniversary convention held at - yes again - the Statler hotel in New York. Another fan led group, Tristar Industries based on Staten Island, sprang up and continued hosting Star Trek conventions in New York. They continued organizing conventions until 1982 when commercially run, for profit conventions began taking over:
"The price of hotel space skyrocketed to the point many organizers couldn't afford "big city" hotels space anymore. Also, after 1979 and STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, Trek became "hot" property again and Paramount Pictures, wanted a piece of the action in terms of licensing the very name "Star Trek" to a convention-which became an expensive proposition. Also, major "A" list guests started wanting astronomical fees for their appearances at such events, and many also declined going to them....it was around 1982, that Creation Conventions actually made a somewhat exclusive deal with Paramount to hold "Star Trek" conventions, much to the chagrin of the smaller local conventions which were being told by lawyers to no longer use "Star Trek" in their promotions or convention names. Creation went onto well into the 80's and 90's securing many if not all of the biggest names in all of the varying "Star Trek" series."[22]

In 1976, Gene Roddenberry commented on the the "Star Trek Lives!" and similar cons, and of profit:

SS: What kind of money is being transacted here at these conventions?

GR: I understand that quite a lot of money has been made at the conventions. At Equicon, however, and the February "Committee" Convention, really with the amount of money that group who puts them on make, they could have done much better going out door-to-door to sell vacuum cleaners during the same amount of time it took them to put the whole thing together. [23]

Nancy Kippax Remembers

Nancy Kippax has blogged extensively about her experiences at the series of New York conventions:

Shirley Maiewski Remembers

From a 2000 letter to the Canadian zine Trexperts, Shirley Maiewski says:
It is hard to believe that it has been twenty-eight years since the very first all STAR TREK convention was held!... Since then there have been literally hundreds of them, all over the world. I was fortunate to have been one of those who went to that first one... The con, as they have been known ever since, was held on the top floor of the hotel— eighteen stories up. The Committee thought there might be about 800 people attend, but when they stopped counting on Sunday afternoon, there were over three thousand! And they realized they had something! Yes, it was crowded! The guests at the con were Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana, Bjo Trimble, Richard Arnold and an exhibition of NASA material... Others there were sci-fi writers Isaac Asimov and Hal Clement— both STAR TREK fans. One of the main attractions was the Dealers' Room, where one could buy all kinds of Trek mementos. One of the tables was run by Bjo Trimble. I had corresponded with her a couple of times and was so pleased to actually meet her at last. You may remember that Bjo was the one who started the letter-writing campaign that saved STAR TREK after its second season. I went up and introduced myself to her and before I knew it, I was helping her run her table! That's how things go at cons! Later on, Bjo closed her table and we went walking through a hall, when Bjo said, "There's Isaac Asimov. Want to meet him?" Of course I did and she introduced me to him. I had read his books for years and it was a great thrill to meet him. Not only meet him, but get kissed as well! Seems he always kissed ladies when he met them. Back to the con— D.C. Fontana gave a talk on how it was to write for the show and answered questions. One question asked was "What does the T stand for in Kirk's name?" That was never explained in the original series, you know. Dorothy came right back with "TIBERIUS!" Seems it was a nickname they used for Shatner on the set! Now you know! Another first at that con was the showing of the Blooper Reel— the out-takes from the shows. They played to a packed house, and you could not hear a line of dialog because of the screams of laughter!... The great thing about conventions is that you meet so many great people! ... Times have changed, of course— prices for one thing. As I recall, our room at the hotel cost something like $27 a night that time. The last con I went to in New York about three years ago I had to pay $127 a night! The tickets for that first con cost i3S0> [24] Nowadays they can run almost $100 if you want reserved seats. I seldom go anymore, Much as I'd like to, unless they are close to home. I do recommend them, however, go if you can! You will have fun. [25]

Attempts at Replacement

The cessation of "Star Trek Lives!" and Equicon created a hole in many fans' lives, and they either turned to the Schuster Star Trek Conventions, quit going to cons, turned towards smaller regional cons, or, in the case of the chair of August Party, attempted to created a new series of Star Trek cons. From a January 1978 appeal:

From Kolker's description in Ambrov Zeor #6 (January 1978):

Every year, science fiction fandom holds a World Science Fiction Convention. The site and committee for these conventions are picked by the fans themselves from among bids submitted by various groups in different cities. No matter how many other conventions are held through the year, this is the one central gathering for fans of science fiction and fantasy.

There is no such gathering in STAR TREK fandom. In past years, fans east of the Mississippi routinely went to The Convention in New York while those west went to Equicon, but neither of those early conventions exist any more.

Moreover large conventions have become almost the exclusive preserve of large commercial outfits, not connected to fandom other than in the fact they make money from it.

Therefore I propose that fandom begin working on plans to take control of at least one convention back into its own hands. That we begin work on the World Star Trek Convention.

Although details, of course, have to be ironed out, Washington's Birthday weekend has a certain amount of connection with fannish tradition and should be ideal for the convention. [26]

Articles, Meta, Further Reading

Caption for this negative and mocking 1976 article from the UK paper, "The Guardian," "Trekkie with antennae; embarrassing to the SF straights," an example of the worst of mundane and fansplaining reporting about fans. The article mentions the "Star Trek Lives!" cons.

References

  1. HISTORY-THE BEGINNING OF STAR TREK by Fraser Stone; reference link.
  2. True Trekkie: Joan Winston tribute unsigned and undated; WebCite. See also NPR's Star Trek Present At The Creation dated May 20, 2002.
  3. TrekCon Photo Album - Master Index; WebCite.
  4. Reprint of the January 27, 1972 article by Howard Smith & Sally Helgesen; WebCite.
  5. 'Die Geschichte von Star Trek und den Fans', dated 2001 by Frances McStea; WebCite.
  6. Joan Winston Creator of the First 'Star Trek' Convention Dies at 77 ; WebCite.
  7. '1972 ST Convention Report' WebCite; WebCite of pre-con article; WebCite of the Monster Times post-con article.
  8. STAR TREK - THE SEVENTIES: THE CONVENTIONS, THE FANS WebCite by BoG, April 15, 2010. Another fan has written up her recollections of the 1972 convention here; however, she may be remembering a later event as she described the actors being present, which they were not at the 1972 convention; WebCite.
  9. Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History By Robert Greenberger page 67.
  10. Star Trek Conventions in the Seventies by BoG, April 15, 2010.
  11. The First Star Trek Convention, or How I Got my Geek Cred WebCite, January 3, 2009.
  12. from "The Fifty Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History" by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, published in 2016 by St. Martin's Press
  13. Star Trek Conventions in the Seventies by BoG, April 15, 2010.
  14. Fanac's Star Trek Convention 1974 WebCite
  15. Fanac's Star Trek Convention 1975 Page 2 WebCite here.
  16. Star Trek Conventions in the Seventies by BoG, April 15, 2010. See also Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History page 70 By Robert Greenberger.
  17. Fanac's International Star Trek Convention 1975; see also an article detailing the fall-out and subsequent lawsuit in These are the Voyages newsletter.
  18. Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History By Robert Greenberger.
  19. magazine article about the 1976 convention.
  20. Star Trek Promoters Out To Make A Fast Buck in the Lakeland Ledger dated Feb 22, 1976; reference link; reference link.
  21. Chicago hosted its first Star Trek convention in August of 1975, at the Conrad Hilton Hotel; 15,000 fans were estimated to show. Video footage can be found here. Read also Bob Eggleton's account of the 1978 Star Trek convention held at the Statler hotel here; WebCite.
  22. STAR TREK 1978 posted dated December 20, 2008; reference link.
  23. from Trek Times #2
  24. Typo. If someone has this zine, will you correct it?
  25. from Trexperts #91
  26. from Rich Kolker in Ambrov Zeor #6
  27. Timeline WebCite.
  28. reference link.