Schuster Star Trek Conventions

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Star Trek Convention
Name: Schuster Star Trek Conventions (also referred to as "Tristar Conventions", also referred to as the Townsley cons, also by a variety of individual names)
Dates: 1975-81
Frequency: annual
Location: New York, and then later in other cities
Type: actor conventions, for profit
Founding Date:
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Schuster Star Trek Conventions (often called "Townsley Cons") were a series of 1975-1981 Star Trek conventions.

These cons were first run by Al Schuster, a former member of the committee that ran Star Trek Lives!. Several of these cons were titled" "The International Star Trek Convention." After Al Schuster split with the Star Trek Lives! conventions in 1975, the name "International Star Trek Convention" went with him.

This split with "Star Trek Lives!" was due to large differing points of view related to profit, vision, and promotion.

Schuster then added John Townsley as his business partner.
In the Beginning, there was Al Schuster, and the Committee. And the two would be split, and briefly each would offer up a different event, before Schuster would reign alone as the King of New York. His Heir Apparent was a man named John Townsley, who inherited the multitudes which Schuster and the Committee had grown.[1]

Eventually, Schuster's franchise began holding "Schuster Star Trek Conventions" events in other cities such as Atlanta and Philadelphia. Many of these conventions were organized under the name Tristar Industries [2] The last two cons (1981) were produced by "Capital Expositions" which was the same company and address but with a different name.

These cons were closely entwined with Townsley and Schuster's for-profit business, April Publications.

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.

More from Fancyclopedia:

From At the Helm #1/2, "The Schuster Syndrome."
This is all very confusing. In New York City in the mid 70s there were at least three rival Star Trek conventions with Star Trek Convention being the oldest. The Star Trek Lives! committee split in 1974, with its chairman, Al Schuster, leaving to create a rival convention.

He kept the name (International Star Trek Convention) from the previous conventions while the committee started using Star Trek Convention for theirs. Many in fandom distinguished the new Al Schuster-run conventions from the old committee-run conventions by calling the Schuster-run series "Al Schuster's International Star Trek Convention"...

Al Schuster's 4th Annual International Star Trek Convention was scheduled a month before Star Trek Lives! (the Star Trek Convention) so that in 1976 things came to a head with three New York Star Trek conventions in a two-month period. Al Shuster's 4th Annual International Star Trek Convention was first, being held on January 22-25 at the New York Hilton, the Star Trek Convention 1976 was on February 12-16 at the Commodore Hotel (which had a membership limit of 6000), and a commercial Star Trek convention two weeks later.

The Shuster-led convention attracted between 20,000 and 50,000 people according to the New York Times with many ticket holders being turned away when the facilities were completely swamped. (Its committee seems to have been entirely unprepared and quite disorganized.) The New York Attorney General investigated and both fan-run conventions ended. See also Star Trek Fiasco.

This had a fortunate side-effect in that it probably helped to kill the SF Expo, an convention planned for June of that year at the New York Hilton which was an attempt to create a regular SF convention on the scale of the Star Trek conventions. [3]

"Star Trek America" Replaced the Fan-Run Cons... And Then in Turn, Was Replaced by Creation Con

Star Trek cons followed a familiar fandom life-cycle, one fueled by money.

"Star Trek America" had moved into prime fannish territory as a for-profit venture, only to be ousted less than ten years later by an outfit with similar goals but deeper pocketbooks -- Creation Con.

The "Tristar Cons" as they were called then, lasted until about 1981, when a few things happened. 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.

The last "Tristar Con" I believe took place someplace out on Staten Island at a low-rent Holiday Inn and the last guests, I believe, may have been Roger C. Carmel (Harry Mudd, who lived around New York at the time) and Howard Weinstein. Weinstein, btw, was the writer of the Trek animated "The Pirates of Orion". I never attended that one. But it was around 1982, that Creation Conventions actually made a somewhat exclusive deal with Paramount to hold "Star Trek" conventions, much to the chargrin [sic] 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. [4]

Specific Schuster Cons

Subpages for Schuster Star Trek Conventions:

Also see Star Trek Christmas Festival, a mini-con in 1977.

The Cons Listed by Their Informal Names

Below are the cons, some with more informal names. Also, fans were very casual in how they referred to these series of cons, often calling them titles that were a fusion of the "official" names, as well as the Star Trek Lives! series of cons. This makes sorting these early cons out very tricksy.

Some cons may be missing in this line-up

Schuster: a 1976 Video Interview

See Al Schuster, along with Harlan Ellison, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig discuss cons, the "cult" of Star Trek, fan exploitation, violence in Star Trek, and a whole lot more.

Over-Reaching, Greed, and Other Complaints

In 1976, Al Schuster notified fans that, due to financial difficulties, plans for his Seattle convention have were canceled. [5]

In early 1978, David Arey ("Audio-Visuals, Tristar Industries Inc., STAR TREK AMERICA, STAR TREK PHILADELPHIA, STAR TREK ATLANTA") wrote a letter to Warped Space #37, addressing fan complaints about fan experiences at the Schuster Cons:

I wish to comment on some of the unflattering things that have been said concerning the conventions that we hold in various areas of the East Coast. It has been stated that we are a rip-off group, only interested in the amount of money that can be made from the STAR TREK phenomenon. I have also heard the pronouncement that we do not have enough variety to our cons. My comments will be directed towards these two points.

First, I must state that the majority of STAR TREK fans who attend our cons are very loyal and caring. It seems to be a small group that feels we are not giving as much as they feel would be necessary for an enjoyable con.

The comment about being a rip-off: not only in my own opinion, but, in that of other fans, the conventions we do are not a greed-project! When you pay your $20.00 for a three-day ticket, we try to give you three, full days of entertainment. An average of seven different events are taking place from the time we open at 10 o'clock in the morning. Example: Dealers' Room; episode film room; art exhibit; writers' panels; amateur film contest; autograph session with the stars; a variety of displays on space colonies, space shuttle, computer advances, etc.; and the crazy costume contests. This is only a sampling of the type of things that take place at our cons. The science fiction film festival usually takes place after 9 p.m. As a rule, the last room to close down during the three days is the episode/film room. It usually closes around 3 a.m.! We are one of the few conventions that have had Leonard Nimoy attend. With this as an example, do we sound like a rip-off to you? It must also be understood that it is a costly investment to put together a convention of this type. Hotel bookings, stars' air-fares, equipment rentals, film costs; not to mention the salaries of those on the staff that get paid for their hard work. Simple it is not!

In regards to the variety question, I guess I have already answered that. If someone out there still considers us a rip, please send us any information you have on how to make it less expensive to put on a convention, and we will lower our ticket prices.

My thanks for allowing me to air my views about this matter. [6]

Fan Comments Regarding These Cons and Profit, Size, Quality


I wonder if what many fans object to about the pro conventions (like ST America) is not that they are not getting their money's worth (in terms of actual dollars spent for a particular type of attraction, they are probably getting their full dollars' worth), but they are not getting what they feel they ought to from a con. Those of us who have been going to cons for a few years are not fond of pro cons ...they're shows, in some cases approaching circuses, with big time everything and a lot of show business thrown in. They're impersonal; not only is there no contact with any of the guests as a rule (I admit that this would be hard to achieve, but I also think that the circus atmosphere at pro cons is one of the reasons that contact between guests and fans is probably impossible), but it's very hard to have contact with other fans. The general tone of the cons is rather mercenary. It just feels wrong, especially when I compare it with some of the big fan-run cons a few years ago, which were almost as large as the pro cons or larger, had the stars as attendees and most of the attractions of the pro cons, but also had the more intimate atmosphere that originally drew me to cons. It was possible to meet other fans because there wasn't three-ring entertainment 24 hours a day.


I submit that there is a noticeable difference between a con which the committee is doing for the love of it, and one for which the committee is being paid (which makes it in one sense just a job like any other); just as you can tell when an author has put love into a book or a director has cared about a movie, you can tell when a con is presented for love rather than money. [7]
STAR WARS is here, and I am glad to be in at the beginning of a new fandom. However, I don't think it will replace TREK — it might enhance it! Meanwhile, science fiction on TV marches to its doom. LOGAN'S RUN has run its course — a pity, because there were some good ideas in it. But not enough Trekkers were willing to save it, so down it goes! To be replaced, next year, by Buck Rogers which will probably be played for Camp! And what's the latest movie rumor? For anyone who wants face-to-face confrontation, I'll be at S.T. World in New York in February; at T'Con in March; then nothing till summer. And I'll explain why New York fandom supports Mr. Townsley and his Cons — at this point in time, they're the only game in town. THE Committee closed up shop In '76, and there's a Mini-Con every six months, but for a full-scale Con you need an organization and a lot of money, and Mr. T has both. Ergo — he tries to provide fannish activity and Star Fan activity and in my opinion he's done pretty well. He MUST bring in the Neofen — that's how he can support the rest of the con. And if fandom doesn't admit new members, it's doomed to extinction by slow attrition, as people gafiate. [8]

You ask for a Right of Statement, you got one! I am taking to the typewriter at the request of Leslie Fish, who is occupied in finishing The Weight, and a couple stories, and her and my mutual Andorian novel. She is as disturbed as I am over something that really is getting out of hand.

I refer to the current disenchantment and semi-boycott of pro-Cons run by Tristar, otherwise known as April Promotions or, let's face it, Mr. John Townsley. People are spreading malicious rumors involving bankruptcy, or insults to TREK stars, or worse. My own technique for dealing with these rumors is quite simple: I ASK the man. May I now state the following:

John Townsley is NOT going bankrupt. He did NOT write insulting or snide letters to certain STAR TREK actors, nor did he refuse to pay the requisite fees. He is NOT cancelling Phillycon [9], he is postponing it until STAR TREK II filming is over, and the people he was scheduled to have as speakers can tell us what we REALLY want to know about the film.

Before you start crying "scab", I may add that I am NOT on the April Promotions payroll, not in the least. I am NOT paid money for singing at Tristar cons (although I do get a free ticket and table to sell my stuff) and I have as many beefs as any one else about a certain printing job Mr. T. did for me. But I dislike seeing someone who is performing an important function in fandom getting the shaft for no good reason. (I'm sure you can find some more accurate evils to heap upon the man.)

Let's face it -- you don't get new people into fandom unless they know it's there, and a lot of people DON'T know fandom exists unless they run into it at a good-sized Con, to which they were lured with the promise of seeing Big Bill Shatner in person. Case in Point: Leslie Fish (that's where SHE comes into this act). Leslie didn't get into Fandom until the Lisa Boynton DisasterCon in Chicago in 1975 -- simply because he wasn't running around in Fannish circles at the time. For that matter, I was totally unaware that Fandom was out there until I got into the New York Star Trek Cons through a librarian friend who happened to be on the Con Committee. As people gafiate (through disenchantment or sheer pressure from work, family, etc.) new people HAVE to take their place, otherwise Fandom dies.

The only way you can get large numbers of people into a STAR TREK Con is by having a "show", which means that you have to be able to rent a large hotel, in an easily accessible part of town; you have to have an organization to run the thing, end you have to have money to put out in bonds, deposits, etc. The halcyon days of the New York Con Committee are long gone, and a big Pro Con takes a lot of all the above, plus an indefinable something known as seichel -- know-how, experience, etc. After running cons for two years in several cities, Tristar is learning.

According to Fish, Mr. Townsley's reputation in the Midwest is that of someone who gives value for value -- you want a show, you got it. He also provides plenty of fannish programming for those who want it: panels on Welcommittee, or fanzines, or filk-songs, or what-have-you. He's been getting more fans involved (for the basest of reasons -- we don't charge that much) but the result is that Neos get to see what fun fans have, and this makes them want to get more involved.

Which brings me back to my basic premise. Whether or not someone chooses to attend a Con is his/her own business. There are numerous factors involved. However, deliberately panning a Con in advance, simply because it is run by Tristar, is, in my opinion, a mistake.

There is no other way for a lot of people to get together (again, Leslie Fish told me that she could never have come to Hew York for a smaller Con, simply because of the expenses. By singing at STAR TREK World Expo in February 1978, she got people interested enough to buy her records; thus, a lotta people got to know about Leslie Fish, Townsley got a new fanstar. Fish got some money, and everyone was happy.). The Neos see the BNFS, and the fanzines, and they want to write or draw, or just take part -- and fandom is revitalized.

OK, I'm a cock-eyed optimist, and sure, there're a lot of people who have gripes! But in the long-run, I think the Tristar Cons are the best Pro Cons around--until someone else can do better. And I, for one, will continue to support them.

Is that enough of a Statement? See you at STAR TREK America, courtesy of Tristar!!!

response by Linda]: As a former assistant to the New York Star Trek Conventions (the "Committee Cons") and as an active member in both science fiction and Star Trek convention fandom, I really must say "for shame, Roberta”. Having been to the February 1978 and September 1978 Townsley Trek conventions, I must say that I spent more money for admission and got less value for my money than at any other convention I have ever attended (except for one "pro" con in New Jersey that shall go unnamed and unmourned) [10]. This is particularly true for the one this past September. Now admittedly my membership was paid for by the people I was working for, and my partner was selling our fanzine at a table we purchased in the fanzine room, but $15 or $20- dollars for a three-day convention (actually only 2½) whose two main guests were Jimmy and Walter (who appeared for only approximately an hour each day) is a bit much. Scheduled guest, Mr Shatner, never showed, and although a sign was posted, there was no reduction in the price of admission, regardless the fact that Mr Townsley did not have to pay Mr Shatner for a non-appearance. All other programming was fan programming, and not much of that either. I don't think anyone got their money's worth.
So what value am I getting from Mr Townsley? None. For one-third to one-fourth the price of a Townsley Trek, I can go to a T'Con or Sekwester'Con, have the time of my life, meet new people and just plain enjoy myself. (And before you argue that there aren't many of them around, what's to stop other fen from running small regionals in the tradition of small regional sf conventions? I'd love to see more August Partys and the like!) I don't need to meet George or Jimmy or Walter or Bill for the umpteenth time. As for the new fans- - there were plenty at those smaller conventions too. And they probably had a better time than the neos at a Townsley Trek.
One reason I work for my friends at a Townsley Trek (be sides the fact that I like to) is that I do not enjoy his conventions. If I weren't working, I would simply not attend any function I had to pay to get into (and by the way, it was rumored that one did not have to pay to get into the fanzine room, the only place I spent any appreciable time in besides the dealers' room where I was working!), and would just attend the parties at night, I am opposed to anyone paying $15 or $20 just to see one's friends.
A pox on Mr Townsley and his conventions.
[Jenny]: Roberta Rogow has done fandom a service, I think, in upholding the Townsley cons. I've never been to one, so am only speaking theoretically, but I've heard a lot about the Townsley cons, and the great majority of comments were negative. Many objections said, "big-con impersonality, rip-off,"etc. -- well, the man is trying to make money. So what? I don't be grudge that...the cons do provide a chance for neos to find fandom, and 'old' friends to get together -- and for them, well, once you're in fandom and know the people, what dues it matter, if the con is commercial? The cons are the people, and those people you care about will be the same at a big pro-con or a small intimate fan-con.
So let's not knock Townsley too much — at least until we can provide a better service than he gives.
In the same vein, neither do I object when the stars try to promote their own books, records, etc., and thus try to make money "off us". (Nobody's compelling us to buy.) This is a business to them, folks. If they find,within themselves, a fondness for their fans, and the Trek experience itself, why, that's wonderful. But it is still a job. They are not necessarily Trekkers themselves, just because they've helped create or present our dream. I don't resent that! They are men and women with their own lives to live and their own priorities. Any affection they have for us is the frosting on the cake. Now it happens that I'm very fond of frosting -- but hell, either way, I've got my cake.

This is a note of complaint and/or inquiry for John Townsley, the guiding light behind the Tristar STAR TREK conventions. So John dear, what, oh what, has happened to those once thick, detailed, interesting, highly illustrated program books that we were once given upon registration at your various cons. The offerings you have been producing and issuing under the guise of "program' books" have become increasingly poor in page count and content.

They have become become downright pitiful. With each succeeding (1976 onward) convention the program books you have produced have diminished from program "books" to program "pamphlets" to what we finally found at the STAR TREK Atlanta Convention — program "pages". Where are those lovely program books we once brought home so proudly? Can we truly consider them a remnant of yesteryear?

Several of us "malcontents" have already mentioned the sorry state of your program books to one or two of your workers at the Atlanta Convention. We received sympathy (no tea, though) and little else. Come September and the STAR TREK America Convention in New York, and we shall see what good our little gripes have done. We shall see whether the program books have improved.

Why have I been harping on the subject of program books? For several reasons. In the first place, these program books were advertised from the first Townsley TREK Con as a uniform series of souvenir booklets -- potential collectors' items. Also, however, there is a further, underlying reason. The disintegration of the Tristar program book lets has become symptomatic of a general air of ennui that has begun to cling to the big Pro Cons.

While on the subject of conventions, Mr. Townsley, what say you to the possibility of having a few sprinklings of the "little people" at your conventions? We all love Shatner, Nimoy, DeKelly, and the rest of the regular crew, and we certainly want you to continue to have them at your conventions as frequently as possible, but we would also love to see those people who only appeared once or twice on the show... people like Jason Evers, Jane Wyatt, Robert Brown, Kathy Browne, Mark Lenard, Kim Darby, Kathryn Hays, William Campbell, Roger Carmel, Barbara Anderson, Sabrina Schrif, Leslie Parrish, Joan Collins, Diana Muldaur, Joanne Linville, Micheal Ansara, etc.

These people added a great deal to the overall popularity and effect of the show, so why not invite them, as well as the major stars? I know from conversations with other people that they feel as I do, and would also love to meet these unsung "guest star" heroes and heroines. At least make the attempt and send out your invitations. You might be pleasantly surprised to see how many of these people would be interested in attending a convention.

And you might also be surprised at the face-lift such a move would give to the Tristar STAR TREK Conventions. Ask anyone who went to the 1976 Bicentennial Con — one of the highlights of the Convention was getting to see and meet such people as Stanley Adams, Susan Oliver, and Kathryn Hays. How about a return to that kind of a Convention??? You know the kind -- one where there's something going every minute; major programming, alternate programming, fan programming, full-scale film programming (like, all day for those not interested in the other scheduled convention events), and such old stand-bys as the Hucksters Room, the art show, any special exhibits that might be set up, and the special evening highlights the Masquerade contest, the Grand Ball, etc.


Mr. Townsley, you were on the right trek once. Would it be too much of a miracle to ask for a return to the program books and Con programming of yesteryear? [12]


Are you as totally fed up with the irresponsible behavior of J. Townsley as I am? I'm referring, of course, to the recent Philadelphia convention fiasco. [Referring to schedule changes with no notification]... in both cases, I suffered considerable financial setback and an even greater degree of mental anguish. I am (to put it bluntly) sick of getting screwed by this turkey, and I want to shoot him down! True, he is the only person who handles pro cons, but his cons are little better than nothing. And surely there must be some way we could stage our own larger-than-fan cons. Townsley's advertising efforts are so pathetic. I would be surprised if we couldn't do better via the grapevine. Perhaps we have legal recourse?... Or perhaps we could stage a boycott in hopes of getting Townsley to improve? I am as anxious as the next fan to get together with friends, especially since I don't live on the east coast where gatherings are common... but I do think we owe it to ourselves to consider alternatives... [13]


I must object most strongly to your unfair and unkind remarks about dealers. Practically every dealer is also a fan and collector him/herself, who happened to become a dealer, some almost accidentally, in order to further and support their own fannish habit—not too different from many fan artists, writers and editors. If anyone gets the hard time from Paramount, or from con managements, it is the dealers; look at what happened at Houstoncon last year, or the last Townsley cons where many dealers never received refunds for the tables they never got. [14]


The Star Trek cons today are nothing like the ST cons of the 70s, in particularly the Al Schuster and the Committee cons. First of all, they were larger, averaging 3000+, and there seemed to be more enthusiasm among the attendees. Even the one-day Mini-Trek cons were fun. Shucks, even the John Townsley ST cons were fun compared to ST cons nowadays. I went to Clippercon in February, and even though I had a nice time, the con didn't have the same electricity, the excitement of the old cons. Maybe I'm just getting old. More importantly, the ST cons of the 70s were fan run cons. With your inexpensive (by today's standards) membership, you got a con shopping bag with lots of goodies: a really nice program book, badge, pocket program, Buttons, etc. .. There were NASA exhibits, guest speakers, and usually at least one member of the cast as Guest of Honor. The dealer's room was good, the art show was decent, and the film program kept you going all night. The con suite was really active, especially after the con. At the 1975 New York ST Con, we had a con suite party that lasted 12 hours! Honest! It started when the con closed at 6:00 pm and I got home at about 8:00 am the next morning. At this party was composed the famous filksong 'Battle Hymn of the Convention'. [15]


We always had a party to introduce the next issue of our zine. Shore Leave was easier (than the Townsley conventions) because the people at Shore Leave were nicer and the hotel people more accommodating.

The Townsley conventions were held in New York at the Statler Hilton. This was a very old hotel. They had very odd rooms—the rooms were either very large, or very tiny. (The small ones had been used as servant’s quarters decades ago.) The size of the room you got when you checked in depended entirely on the luck of the draw. A first I didn't care about room size, but after I brought out the first two or three issues of Nome, premiering them at the Townsley conventions, I started doing room parties for Nome.

We needed a big room. The last time we brought out a zine for a Townsley convention, we decided, let's tell them in advance that we need a big room. We got there Thursday afternoon. We requested a big room, but the hotel clerk gave us the runaround. He gave us the keys to our room, but when we got there other people were already in that room who had nothing to do with the con. We went back downstairs. The clerk refused to give us a better room, so I told him, just cancel the reservation; we’re local; we'll just commute. Without a word he turned around and handed us another key. It was for a big room.

After Townsley stopped dong the conventions Shore Leave was just beginning, so we switched premiering zines from Townsley to Shore Leave. We wanted a fan dominated convention, and we premiered most of the rest of our zines at Shore Leave from then on. [16]


Conventions in the Schuster era were notable only for the masses of pilgrims who came willingly to each one. Al Schuster was a promoter, an entrepreneur who staged "shows" much like today's Creation Cons. There was no "programming" to speak of, nothing past 5 p.m. except Costume Call, no panels, no use of fannish talent. There were only the actor guests, but for those of us who had never had an opportunity to get up close and personal with any of our beloved Trek idols, that was enough. And we knew no different kind of convention experience.

New York wasn't the only venue for Schuster. He staged smaller cons in Washington, DC, in Philadelphia (at the hotel later known for the "Legionnaire's Disease"), and in other cities farther removed from me. At these "smaller" cons, the guest list would be shorter and the con would last only two days. And the reign of Schuster was only for a few years, although it seemed longer at the time. But it was John Townsley who put on the Show of All Shows – Bi-Centennial Ten – which was in 1976, only three years after Schuster started with the Committee in 1973.

The Townsley cons went on up into the 1980s sometime, and it was he who held two in New York every year. We lived for the end of summer and the Labor Day weekend convention. And Christmas became an afterthought as we geared up for the President's Day Weekend con in mid-February. Although, as the years passed, we went to other conventions in other locales, nothing compared to the ones in New York, because it was there we saw the majority of our fellow east coast fen. [17]

Press Commentaries


From a 1976 article in the UK newspaper, "The Guardian,":

The first of New York's three [cons], at the Statler Hilton, drew a relatively modest 4,000, but that, says promoter Al Schuster, was because an alien called Lisa Boynton beamed in from Chicago and cut his throat with a much-vaunted rival Con at the New York Hilton. Ms Boynton packed 20,000 into her event, and locked maybe as many again outside.

There was well publicised strife, as well no doubt as a presentable killing, at the Hilton Con, something that did no go unremarked at the Con at the Commodore a week later [at Star Trek Lives!]. Organiser Joan Winston said rather bluntly that Boynton had "raped and pillaged," and that Schuster was just in it for the money. Mr. Schuster reported that the Commodore crowed were childishly naive, and naive they may well have been, but they sold out the five-day Con up to its 6,000 capacity at up to $20 a ticket. Writs, meanwhile, have been far thicker in the air than starships.
From a 1976 article in the "New York Times":

In the science fiction world of “Star Trek,” earthly divisions are a thing of the past. But promoters of the cult that has enveloped the television series, who live in the world of competition, seem to be having some trouble living up to the brotherhood ideal that the program fosters.

The Star Trek convention that opens at the Commodore Hotel today is the third here in a month, and perhaps the 20th in the country in the last year. There is an industry churning out Star Trek memorabilia. There are dozens of books, and Paramount is planning a film.

The cult, it seems, is as strong as ever. But so too are the words that some of the rival promoters have for one another after two years of grand‐jury hearings, lawsuits, countersuits, settlements out of court and competing conventions.

To Joan Winston, one of the organizers of the convention that opens today, Albert Schuster is a man who is “interested only in making money.” Mr. Schuster, promoter of a rival convention here last month that lost money, considers Miss Winston and her collaborators “childishly naive.”

If the two agree on anything, it is that Lisa Boynton of Chicago, promoter of yet another convention, which drew more than 20,000 people to the New York Hilton Hotel, was an out‐and‐out interloper. Her convention came two weeks after Mr. Schuster's, which drew only 4,000. “She just came in, raped and pillaged, then left,” said Miss Winston.

“She's strictly a businesswoman, out for the buck,” said Mr. Schuster, who believes that Miss Boynton's advertising “confused” thousands of “Trekkies”—acolytes of the cult—into patronizing her convention rather than his.

“She just about buried me,” he said.

Once upon a time, Mr. Schuster and Miss Winston were on the same team. Together with about a dozen other New Yorkers, they mounted the International Star Trek convention here in 1972, the first of its kind. The organizers planned for 500 people, and got 3,000.

It was not the birth of the cult. That had been growing since 1969, when the series was dropped by network television and went into reruns, which can still be seen on dozens of stations across the country. But it was the first solid evidence that: Star Trek frenzy could be, turned to gold.

The same team followed up with conventions in 1973 and 1974, before Mr. Schuster and the others split asunder. Accounts of the dispute vary, but the essence of it seems to have been that Mr. Schuster, an entrepreneur, wanted, to make the convention more commercial than his collaborators would allow.

Miss Winston, manager of the contracts department at the American Broadcasting Companies’ headquarters here, proclaims herself a “Trekkie.” To her, the conventions are a means of propagating the Star Trek “message”—one of a future when life on earth will be peaceful, and multinational crews travel through space in search of other forms of life.

To Mr. Schuster, who lives in Hackensack, N. J., “there is no such thing as altruism.” It is fine, he said, if the conventions inspire their patrons, but the principal purpose must be “to exploit the series commercially.” Besides, he added, while some of the Star Trek programs were good, many others were “pure tripe, utter bunk, complete garbage.”

A Plethora of Suits

When Mr. Schuster parted company with the others after the 1974 convention, he said, he took with him some $6,000 from the convention bank account. This resulted in a barrage of suits that have still not ended. In the meantime, he has continued to organize a convention of his own here, as well as others in Philadelphia and Washington.

The five‐day convention at the Commodore, which advertises itself as “the real one,” will follow the pattern of the others. Some of Star Trek's principal actors will be there for discussions, and there will be a dealers’ room where enthusiasts can buy everything from Star Trek T‐shirts to jewelry. The 6,000 tickets, at $20.60 for all five days, are sold out.

And where will Mr. Schuster be? Right there, in his rivals’ dealers’ room, purveying his Star Trek wares.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “I don't have any choice. Since my own debacle last month, I have to find Trekkies wherever I can.” [18]


  1. ^ from Reminisce With Me/The Big New York Cons, Part II (2006)
  2. ^ "These conventions, were done at the time by the now-long defunct "Tristar Industries"(it wasn't an "industry" as much as it was a few people who organized things) of Staten Island, which essentially picked up the baton left by Joan Winston's bunch, in 1976." -- STAR TREK 1978, Archived version, Bob Eggleton, 2008
  3. ^ from Fancyclopedia
  4. ^ STAR TREK 1978, Archived version, Bob Eggleton, 2008
  5. ^ a notice in A Piece of the Action #37 (May 1976)
  6. ^ a letter of comment in Warped Space #37
  7. ^ from a letter of comment by Bev Clark in Warped Space #37 (June 1978)
  8. ^ Roberta Rogow in Interstat #4 (February 1978)
  9. ^ This is a reference to the con that was planned for July 4-6, 1980, Philadelphia, that did not take place.
  10. ^ This was possibly Creation Con.
  11. ^ comments by Roberta Rogow in Right of Statement #2 (September 1978), first response by Linda Deneroff, second response by Jenny Ferris, both in Right of Statement #3 (1979)
  12. ^ comments by Carole Crater in Right of Statement #2 (September 1978)
  13. ^ from Universal Translator #7 (very early 1981)
  14. ^ Barbara P. Gordon in Interstat #69 9July 1983)
  15. ^ from Comlink #32 (October 1987)
  16. ^ from Legacy Interview with Victoria Clark in Legacy
  17. ^ from Reminisce With Me/The Big New York Cons, Part II
  18. ^ "Earthly Rivalries Have “Star Trek” Promoters in Orbit," by John F. Burns, February 12, 1976, "New York Times"