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Name: Houstoncon
Dates: 1967-1982
Frequency: biannually (1967-1970), annually (1971-1982)
Location: Houston, TX
Type: fan-run
Focus: comic books, later Star Trek: TOS
Organization: Houston Comic Collectors' Association and Larry Herndon
Founder: Roy Bonario, Gene Arnold, Marc Schooley
Founding Date: 1967
URL: Wikipedia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
The program cover for 1982 "The Con of Wrath" aka "Ultimate Fantasy" -- it contains 44 pages.

Houstoncon was a series of conventions. Its primary historical focus was comic books, gaining Star Trek: TOS content later, with the last con almost all Trek.

This is not the same thing as Star Trek: Houston.

Some Early History

Roy Bonario, Gene Arnold, Marc Schooley and a group of Houston-based comic book fans founded the Houston Comic Collectors' Association in 1965. The HCCA was led by Bonario and fellow fans Mark Schooley, Gene Arnold, and Jerry Poscovsky. Collaborating with the Southwesterncon organiser Larry Harndon, they put on the first Houstoncon, which was officially called "the Houston Comic Convention." This first convention was held at the Ramada Inn on June 16–18, 1967. Southwesterncon had held its first convention in 1966 - the two conventions then alternated, with Houstoncon taking place in 1967 and 1969. By 1971, the partnership with Southwesterncon was dissolved and Houstoncon became an annual event. Houstoncon was then run by Ed Blair, Jr, with the help of G.B. Love.

The early Houstoncons were more broadly focussed on comic books, science fiction/fantasy and other pop culture elements including radio and television serials. All Houstoncon events featured screenings of classic science fiction films and old television serials. The convention featured panels with comic book professionals, and floorspace for exhibitors, including comic book dealers and collectibles merchants. The show included an autograph area, as well as an Artists' Alley where comics artists signed autographs and sold or did free sketches.

1974 and 1975: Combined With a Star Trek Con

In 1974 and 1975, "Houstoncon" was combined with a somewhat separate Star Trek con, not unlike Equicon was with Filmcon for a few years. The Star Trek part of the con had a Star Trek guest of honor. While some of the programming happened alongside the regular "Houstoncon" offerings, the Star Trek film rooms and the Star Trek dealers room were on different floors.

There was, of course, some conflict between these two different elements, and the somewhat different fans they attracted. The influx of Star Trek fans and their "feral" ways was viewed in disdain by some SF fans.

From an SF fan:

Like all Star Trek cons, this one had its share of Trekkies. To some people Trekkie refers to any Star Trek fan, but most ST fans find the word demeaning. I myself apply the term to female ST fans who squeal at the thought of just seeing one of the Star Trek cast in person. There were defiantly some of those at Houston. Trekkies are usually less mature than most ST fans and tend to make a nuisance of themselves. [1]

And some Star Trek fans were not particularly interested in the comics and old-time radio elements of the traditional programming. While this fan is commenting on the 1978 con, her disappointment was perhaps an echo of these 1974 and 75 cons:

The Con was a big disappointment—it was about 85% comic books, 10% Star Wars, and the last 5% a combination of Star Trek, Elvis, and other nostalgia. They only had two episodes of ST scheduled for the entire four day Con. It also seemed to be attended mostly by teenage boys and famly groups. I didn’t run across anyone else like me—a 33-year-old-single-intelligent-adult ST fan who just wanted to talk. [2]

Despite this conflict, the 1974 Houstoncon had the largest crowd for any Trekkie con outside of California and New York.

The Star Trek zine is the souvenir program book for the Star Trek subset of "Houstoncon."

"Ultimate Fantasy" aka "The Con of Wrath"

It is this last con in 1982 that most fans remember. It billed as Ultimate Fantasy, later, The Con of Wrath.

See "Ultimate Fantasy" aka "The Con of Wrath".

Similar Disasters

Some Badges, Flyers, Pages from a Program Book

Old Photos


Houstoncon 1967 (aka the Houston Comic Convention or Southwesterncon II) was held June 16–18, 1967 at the Ramada Inn in Houston. Approximately 124 people attended.


Houstoncon 1969 (aka the Houston Comic Convention or Southwesterncon IV) took place June 20-22, 1969 also at Houston's Ramada Inn. Ed Blair, Jr. was chairman.


Houstoncon 1971 took place June 17–20 and featured Kirk Alyn at his first fan convention.

flyer for the 1971 con

Ed Blair, Jr. was chairman.



Houstoncon 1973 was held June 21–24 at the Marriott Motor Hotel in Houston, attracting over 2,000 attendees; guests include Kirk Alyn, Frank Coghlan, Jr., William Benedict, William Witney, Dave Sharpe, Al Williamson, and Don Newton.

Ed Blair, Jr. was chairman

1973: Con Reports

It had been two years since I had attended a Southwestern convention, and after the hectic disappoitment of the '73 New York convention, I needed the break. Southwestern cons are far more relaxed in atmosphere than New York although there is easily just as much there to do, plus Houston was far more organized and concerned about the attendees than the ungainly and unfeeling New York con was. Films ran almost constantly at Houston in three different rooms beginning at ten o'clock in the morning and running after midnight. The only lengthy breaks between films occurred when the various panel discussions took place. The guest list at Houston was quite impressive as it included artist Al Williamson, Don Newton, Fred Fredericks, actors Dave Sharpe, Tom Steel, William Benedict, Kirk Alyn and former movie Tarzan Jock Mahoney. Of the actors the two I looked forward to meeting the most were Jock Mahoney and Oave Sharpe. I had always liked Jock Kahoney in his old YANCY DERRINGER TV series anc of all the people who worked in serials in the thirties and forties, I enjoyed watching none nore than actor/ stuntman supreme Dave Sharpe. The serial panel discussion was headed by Dave Sharpe as well as the other serial luminaries in attendance. The panel got off to a rousing start when Dave Sharpe and William Benedict staged a mock fight, and Dave Sharpe, although in his sixties, showed that he is as agile as ever and can still do a perfect fall. Sharpe is still very active in films having recently appeared in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE as well as doubling Tony Curtis in THE GREAT RACE. Another serial stuntman present was Ton Steel. I asked Tom how he felt about being the real star of THE MASKED MARVEL but yet receiving no screen credit. He replied that it really didn't matter to him, that it was "just a job".

The art panel, consisting of Al Williamson, Don Newton and Fred Fredericks was quite interesting as it brought to light some problems artists were having that I hadn't heard discussed before. One concerned only Williamson and Fredericks as it had to do with the restricted space given to daily comic strips, requiring artists to make the lettering larger, thus cutting down on the space in a panel for the art. The other point all agreed on and that was the diminishing quality of the art impliments produced today. Williamson especially was critical of things like pen prints of which he used to buy fifty that would last five years but now can't get through one year with a gross. He also said the paper produced now is much poorer and it takes him longer to do a drawing or it because cf that due to ink blotting and the paper bleeding. Don Newton mentioned that the paper shortage itself effected hiii when Charlton suspended operations for two months because of it. Many people feel that if you want to get the really rare comics that you have to go to New York. Not so. This year Houston's dealers room had no less than three copies of WHIZ 12 (#1) and one sold there for $2800. There were also copies there of ACTION #1, BATMAN n as well as piles of EC's. Something I had never seen at any convention before was at Houston, that was full tabloid size original Spirit sections. Only one dealer had them as they are quite rare, but the prices were a bit steep as they were from the late forties and were being sold for five times what the normal sized Spirit sections sell for.

There were also a lot of fine itens that appeared in the auction (an auction that, by the way, was free of any unseemly percentage charge). Superman #1 was auctioned off, as well as, several films Including NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Cne rather startling thing that occurred in the auction was when the cover proof set to CONAN #4 was auctioned off. Even though it's a one of a kind item, cover proofs are not that, rare, and yet some apparently Barry Smith fans wanted it badly enough to bid it up to $52.00! The highlight of the auction was the Carl Bark's painting that Russ Cochran put in. Dale Manesis and Burrell Rowe bid on It frantically until Dale finally got it for $2,350.00! That's only fifty dollars shy of the maximum price paid for a Bark's painting. And I can remember when I thought the nine hindred dollar prices paid last summer at New York were rather high. The prices on things in comic fandom are skyrocketing to say the least. I'm afraid that this is causing too many fans to be left behind in a cloud of dust wondering where it will all end.


The art show at Houston was easily the best presented at any Southwesterncon. It included the original Frazetta painting from the paperback edition of FLASHING SWORDS 41, two Carl Barks paintings, art by Al Williamson, Don Newton, and a splendid array of astronomical paintings by Morris Scott Dollens. The paintings by Dollens included extra-terrestrial landscapes as well as several Star Trek paintings featuring beautiful scenes of the Enterprise in space. But the convention's art show was not the only place that stunning works of artistry could be beheld. Kenneth Smith opened his room as a gallery of his works and on display there was virtually every major piece he's done, as well as many new pieces. The Imagination and color serene of the paintings was almost overpowering when so many were there to see at once.

Still other artistic creations were there in the form of figures constructed by John Fischner. Most of these were sculptures of creatures which have appeared in the films of Ray Harryhausen. The major exception was a sculpture of the crucified alien that had been originally rendered in a Frank Frazetta painting on cover of NATIONAL LAMPOON. John's representation of it was very finely done and sold for $40. [3]


Houstoncon 1974 was held June 20–23 at Houston's Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel. There were over 2,500 attendees, which was the largest audience for a Trek con outside of New York or California.

This con merged with the local Star Trek convention and and a larger con for comic books and sf. As a result, the producers referred to it as "STAR TREK '74 and HOUSTONCON '74". The "Star Trek '74" title DOES NOT officially refer to Star Trek Lives!.

This combination format was a disappointment to many. See Houstoncon 1974 and 1975, as well as con reports for each con.

A flyer lists the chairman as G.B. Love, Vice Chairman as John Ellis.

Another source says it was co-produced by Ed Blair, Jr. with G.B. Love. Guests of Honor included Walter Koenig, Al Williamson, Dan Adkins, Don Newton, Kenneth Smith, Fred Fredericks, Jock Mahoney, Kirk Alyn, Tom Steele, William Benedict, and stuntman Dave Sharpe.

From an April 1974 flyer in A Piece of the Action #13:

We are proud to announce the biggest single fan project ever before attempted -- STAR TREK '74 and HOUSTONCON '74. G.B. Love (chairman of STAR TREK 74) and Earl Blair (chairman of HOUSTONCON 74) are working together to bring you what may be the biggest single fan gathering ever seen. Last year Houstoncon, alone, drew nearly 2,000 people, which was by far the biggest such gathering ever to take place in the Southwest. And this year, with two complete conventions being held at the same time and place, the total attendance may be almost unbelievable. Can you afford to miss such an event?

flyer from 1974, printed in A Piece of the Action #13

If you're a nostalgia fan (comic books, Big Little Books, old movies, serials, B-westerns, etc), then H0UST0NC0N 74 is your cup of tea. If you're a Star Trek and science fiction movie fan, then STAR TREK 74 is where it's at. But you do not have to choose between the two, because you can attend both conventions (which are being held in the same hotel on the same dates) and one regular-priced ticket will get you into both cons. You can find more information on H0UST0NC0N elsewhere in this issue, but now let me tell you a little about STAR TREK '74.

flyer from 1974, printed in A Piece of the Action #13

We will have two rooms at our disposal--"The Vulcan Outpost" and "The Transporter Room." The Vulcan Outpost will contain our art display (among other things, a large collection of the astronomical paintings of famed artist Morris Scott Dollens), a large Star Trek display, and our dealers tables. The Transporter room is where we will be showing our films and a giant narrated Star Trek slide show (over 500 slides will be screened) We will be presenting a film program guarenteed [sic] to please any Star Trek fan, including at least 8 complete Star Trek tv shows (in color, of course), plus the fantasticly [sic] funny blooper film. We will be screening at least 7 science fiction movie classics, including: "THE TIME MACHINE", "FORBIDDEN PLANET", "1984",

"THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL", "INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS "EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS", and "WAR OF THE WORLDS". Tickets for STAR TREK '74 are $7.50 in advance or $10.00 at the door, for all four days. And remember, this one ticket gets you into both conventions. Dealers tables in "The Vulcan Outpost" are $15.00 in advance or $20.00 at the door. We only have a limited number of tables so be sure and order yours in advance. Send all ticket and table orders to: STAR TREK 74, c/o Earl Blair, 2511 Pennington St., Houston, Texas 77016

CONVENTION SITE: STAR TREK '74 (and H0UST0NC0N '74) will be held at the beautiful Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel in the heart of Houston. Room rates are: Single $21.00, Double $26.00, Triple $29.00. Again, it is very advisable to make your room reservation in advance! To make your reservation just write to STAR TREK '74 at the above address and we'll make it for you.

Our guest of honor will be Walter Koenig!! He will be giving an informal talk and will be discussing various aspects of "The TV Show That Refuses To Die". This will be followed by a question and answer period. Here is your chance to really get to know "Mr. Chekov", for he will be there three full days -- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

We will be giving away, among other things, a door prize we feel any Star Trek fan would give his eye teeth to own — a 16mm sound and color print of the Star Trek Blooper film.

COSTUME CONTEST: STAR TREK '74 and HOUSTONCON '74 will have a combined gala costume contest with a first prize of $100.00 in cash!! So let's get busy and make sure that Star Trek is well represented in it.

1974: Con Reports

HOUSTONCON/STAR TREK 74 occurred in Houston June 18-23, 1974. Chairmen of the 2 cons were Earl Blair, and G.B. Love. Approximately 3,000 people were in attendance for the 5-day affair which emphasized comics and nostalgia. Approximately 600 people were there for the ST 74 part of it.

ST74 guest of honor was Mr. Walter Koenig. HOUSTONCON guests included Kirk Alyn, Alan Barbour, William Benedict, Frank Coghlan, Harry Eauter, Jock Mahoney, and Dave Sharpe.

The film program was phenomenal and included such items as "DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL", "FORBIDDEN PLANET", "1984", "WAR OF THE WORLDS", Jimmy Cagney's "YANKEE DOODLE DANDY", "LET"S GO NAVY", "ANIMAL CRACKERS", "BLONDIE IN SOCIETY", "THE TIME MACHINE", "KING KONG", etc. There were also many old tv shows and old serials shown such as "DICK TRACY", and, of all things, "THE GREEN HORNET".

The main ST even was a speech by Walter Koenig on his current activities as well as the status of the return of ST. One of the more amusing anecdotes that came from his talk was the truth about the episode "The Apple". If you'll recall - there is one scene in it where Mr. Spock and Chekov set up a diversion so Kirk & company can try and capture the native spying on them. At this point Chekov become angry with Spock and says "What do you want? Violins?" What Walter Koenig was really trying to say was "What do you want? Violence?", but during the many takes of that scene it never came out that way.

Anyway, after Mr. Koenig's speech, there was a panel question-and-answer period with the panelists being Walter Koenig, Mrs. Helen Young (STW), Margaret Basta (S.T.A.R.), and John Ellis and David Patrick Bryant (STFU). Other noteworthy fans in attendance included Richard Arnold, Janice Scott, Sondra Marshak, Myrna Culbriath, and maybe the rest of the active ST/Texas fandom. [4]

For the first time in Houston, a different kind of ST convention was held... It was different because it was being held in conjunction with Houstoncon, a nostalgia-comic book convention which (unfortunately) got top billing while the ST convention was mentioned as an entirely different con. The name 'Houstoncon' was identified with a ST Convention. Attendance was estimate between two and three thousand... The only guest for the Star Trek convention was Walter Koenig. He was available for about an hour each day, and made a speech on Saturday... Even though there was not a whole lot of Star Trek in this convention, it was still a lot of fun. [5]

Walter Koenig was greeted by a very enthusiastic welcome at Houstoncon. Although Water enjoyed being the Star Trek convention's guest, he was plagued by the problem that confronts any actor who becomes heavily identified with a certain role. This was most in evidence when he appeared on a Houston talk show. When people called in to talk to him and ask questions they invariably called him Ensign Chekov. At first when someone called him Chekov he would silently mouth his name "Walter." But as it persisted time after time, call after call, he'd start saying "Call me Walter," and he even had to say this to the show's host once. Those who called him up were primarily girls, and one giggled so much you'd sware [sic] you could hear her blush. Primarily though the hour long talk show was very good as Dave Sharpe and Jock Mahoney were also guests with Walter and were interviewed. The show was very noticeably slanted toward Star Trek fans though as the host concentrated on Walter and showed a clip from the a Star Trek episode as part of the Star Trek bloopers, a part which apparently hadn't been prescreened by the station too carefully as it had a four letter word in in that ain't supposed to creep out over the air waves.

Like all Star Trek cons, this one had its share of Trekkies. To some people Trekkie refers to any Star Trek fan, but most ST fans find the word demeaning. I myself apply the term to female ST fans who squeal at the thought of just seeing one of the Star Trek cast in person. There were defiantly some of those at Houston. Trekkies are usually less mature than most ST fans and tend to make a nuisance of themselves. I discovered this for myself when I was waiting for an elevator going up along with a number of other people when one going down stopped., the door opened, but no one got out before the door closed and it continued down. Was out of sight of the door so I haven't really noticed much when a girl suddenly started laughing. She turned to a friend of hers and said, "Walter Koenig was on that elevator. He was about to get off when he saw you, turned around and got back on." [snipped: detailed info about some elevator hijinks]. Thankfully, most Star Trek fans aren't like that although I'm sure similar incenses occur at any convention.

On Saturday, Walter gave a talk and appeared on a Star Trek panel discussion. The swarms of fans who came to see this were of such numbers that the film screening room where it was to be held had to be opened up into the adjoining screening room to accommodate a standing room only crowd. For weeks there had been rumors flying about a new Star Trek movie in the works. Walter clarified all reports by stating that Gene Roddenberry and Paramount were negotiating to make a new Star Trek movie by nothing had been signed. It was still a hopeful sign though as it was the first time that Paramount had stated they were interested in reviving Star Trek. So although nothing was definite, talking was going on in serious degrees. One holdup was that Paramount was cautious about spending very much; they wanted to do a quickie and Roddenberry wanted to see it done right. The audience started to get a bit ugly when Walter mentioned that Paramount had suggested to Roddenberry that the series have all new stars, an idea which Roddenberry didn't care much for. When Walter was asked what other former cast members are doing right now, he mentioned that George Takei is on the Los Angeles Rapid Transit Commission. Quipped Walter, "He's navigating."

The turn out at the Houstoncon 74/Star Trek 74 made it the largest fan convention held outside New York and California. "We attempted to give the fans two distinct conventions for the price of one," convention chairmen Earl Blair and G.B. Love said. "Needless to say, we were more than pleased at the reaction. We felt, however, that most fans were a bit skeptical about the idea, not really believing they were actually going to get two cons for the price of one, but we made believers out of them, and we intend to expand the idea even further next year."

The success actually came as little surprise as all dealers tables had been sold by May 1st and advance ticket orders more than doubled the previous years'.

The Star Trek dealers rooms (which were on a separate floor from the Houstoncon dealers room, as was the Star Trek 74 film room) had plenty of Star Trek souvenirs, and dealers there did very well, averaging $500-700 taken in. ST items ranged from magazines, books, and T-shirts, to one dealer who had a hundred different color of Star Trek photos, most of them quite unique.

Films shown, besides ST episodes such as "City On the Edge of Forever" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as well as several others, included the feature science fiction filks THE TIME MACHINE, FORBIDDEN PLANET, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL as well as the Star Trek bloopers, which packed the room every time it was screened (which was every day!). Next year even bigger films are planed for an even bigger and better STAR TREK '75. [6]

Seventeen STWers attended the "con within a con" at Houston's Sheraton-Lincoln on June 20-23. STW had three tables in the ST Dealers Room, selling souvenirs and zines for some twenty-two ST clubs and fans as well as STW to help them raise operating funds for their organizations or ST activities. The total volume of business for the three tables was approximately $1,100; STW's profit was $201,50 before expenses.

Margaret Basta of STAR shared our table space. Several members of STW and the Final Frontier Star Trek Club gave many, many hours of work, and STW is indeed grateful: Kim Barhorst, Paul McElfresh, Janice Scott, Hal Wilson, and many others. In addition, various members of STW, Final Frontier, and Star Trek Penpals International, Interstellar helped man the tables — the Dealers Room was open thirteen hours a day for three and a half days, so you can see that it was a staggering job.

Richard Arnold donated postcards (with Uhura's photo) to STW, and again Jeanne Haueisen's donated art brought $4.00 to STW; we are indebted to such friends for their support.

Curtis Young, Letter Campaign Dept. Chairman, won third prize (a tie) in the Costume Competition as Tan Ru (who collided with Nomad), receiving a $10.00 cash prize. Guest Walter Koenig spoke to the con attendees on Saturday after noon, followed by a fandom panel discussion and question & answer session. On the panel with Mr. Koenig were John Ellis (Vice Chair man of Star Trek '74 and President of Star Trek Fans United of Florida), Margaret Basta (STAR), Patrick David Bryant (President National STFU), and Helen Young for STW. [7]

For the first time in Houston, a different kind of ST Convention was held last month. It was different because it was being held in conjunction with Houstoncon. Houstoncon is a nostalgia-comic book convention which (unfortunately) got the top billing while the ST convention was mentioned as an entirely different con. The name "Houstoncon" was identified with the ST Convention. Convention attendance was estimated between two and three thousand. The delegates filled out an information card when they registered which stated their reason for attending the convention (ST, movies, comic books, etc.). The committee wishes to find out how many came for what event. If enough came for the ST convention, they will plan to expand the con next year by inviting more guests.

The only guest for the Star Trek convention was Walter Koenig. He was available for about an hour each day, and made a speech on Saturday. In his speech he mentioned that ST revival is possible and that Roddenberry is currently negotiating with Paramount. How ever, even if decisive steps are taken now, it would not be possible for the show to come on until the fall of 1976. Koenig stated that the two major obstacles are these: First, Paramount does not want to spend much money on the show. It is obvious that a cheap budget will lead to a cheap rip-off. Roddenberry refuses to do the show unless it can be done right! And to re-create a show as complex as Star Trek means spending a lot of money. It is hoped that Paramount will agree to a mini-series. This means maybe one 90-minute show a month. A mini-series would allow the producer a better budget and more time.

Paramount's second objection is that they do not want to keep the original cast, (boo, hiss, etc.). They said, "If we're going to start all over again, why don't we bring in a new cast." I suppose they feel that the original cast is getting too old for star travel. I'm sure that 99% of fandom would object to a new cast.

As for the convention events.', .it was a bit disappointing. They did have three excellent science fiction films* "The Time Machine", "War of the Worlds", and "Forbidden Planet". They also had several ST episodes, mostly third season cheapos, A couple of the better ones were "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and "City On the Edge of Forever". A costume event was held with a first prize of $100. I understand that there were very few entries on ST since the contest was being run by Houstoncon. A huge auction was also held on Saturday. Some Star Trek items were auctioned off, but most of the items sold were paintings and comic books. One painting by the artist of Walt Disney's Donal Duck sold for $2350! Can you believe it!!!

Even though there was not a whole lot of Star Trek in this convention, it was a lot of fun. I spent the majority of my time behind STW's three tables. STW was not only selling their own "junk" (it was referred to as "junk" by Helen Young), but stuff from twenty-two other groups, organizations, and people.

A detailed report of STW’s profits by Helen Young is printed after this article. STWers that spent many hours at our tables are Helen and Curtis Young, Janice Scott, Hal Wilson, Cheree Townsend, and Clint Hall. Other non-STWers that put in quite a few hours were Tony Adamoli, Paul McElfresh and his mother, Kim Barhorst, and Susan Pomeroy. Many others put in a lot of their time, but there are just too many to list in this report. A big thanks to everyone that helped us; especially to those listed above. Without all of this help, it would have been impossible to operate three tables. Special thanks to Russell Young who manned our tables while his mother left to be on the fan panel!

I suppose a good way to summarize the ST convention was very small, but fun. Most of the other conventions have continuous events, but this one did not. However, it was stretched over four days and it does take a lot of planning to fill up four days of events. [8]


Houstoncon 1975 took place June 25–29 at the Royal Coach Inn, was again merged with the Houston Star Trek convention.

cover of the 1975 program book

Guests of honor included C.C. Beck, George Takei, Jock Mahoney, John Wooley, and Don "Red" Barry. Beck and Barry served as judges for the costume contest.

Ed Blair, Jr. was chairman.

1975: Con Reports

This con is a combination -- a long-running nostalgia portion featuring nostalgia, films, comics, fantasy, and a newer Star Trek portion with some SF. It is run more professionally than most ST cons, by Chairman Earl Blair, Co-Chairman G. B. Love, Business Manager Wilene Blair, and a staff of only 2, rather than by a committee of fans. HoustonCon lasts a whopping (and exhausting!) 5 days, with over 100 films on the program, including ST episodes, recent SF movies, old serials and TV shows, Westerns, even cartoons. There were 5 guests for the nostalgia portion, plus all the usual con events: dealer's room, art show, costume competition, auction, amateur film contest, etc but since you and I are getting mighty tired of the same old "usual" con features being repeated and repeated ad nauseum in previous issues, this instead will be a con report about what STWers did at HoustonCon (subtitle: "STWers in Con Far"). And do things they certainly did--perhaps simply because there were so many STWers in attendance, or perhaps because STWer's are so deeply involved in all facets of ST.

Carole Brownell (Club Consultants DC) might well be called our headliner. She presented the ST Slide Show using her extensive collection of filmclips and her humorous commentary. She also wrote and conducted the Intermediate and Advanced Trivia Tests. Both had preliminary written portions of 100 questions—then the highest scoring 25 moved on to an oral quiz, where a second miss meant you were out. And the questions in the Advanced oral finals were positively wicked! There was considerable frenzied and hilarious grading of the written tests two nights, with Carole, Mary Ellen Flynn (Con Sales Rep.), Eileen Flynn (Mary Ellen's daughter), Curtis Young (Letter Campaign DC), and Helen Young (Chairman) Xing the mistakes and toting up scores. We evea conned James Doohan into helping grade one night! Just to show how well-informed STWers are, BOTH finals were won by STW Volunteer Workers! Clint Hall ( CM A#11) was the Intermediate Champion, and Hal Wilson (AC#12) was the Advanced Champ--both took home engraved plaques.

Participating in the ST Fan Panel were Carole Brownell (who is also head of Save the ST Cast), Mary Ellen Flynn, Janice Scott (CD #3 and ST Education Programs DC), and John Ellis (representing ST Federation of Fans and Trekon International), with Helen Young as Moderator. The panel came so early in the con that Janice was whisked off her plane (late arriving) from Virginia, sped across Houston, and escorted immediately to the stage, without even a chance to catch her breath. Serving as security guards for dealer's setup were Hal Wilson and Russell Young (Supplies DC)-- then Hal and Bryan McKenzie (CM A#12) were also projectionists.

STW provided Security for the ST guest, James Doohan. Mary Ellen Flynn and Hal Wilson had the signal honor of meeting his plane. His speech to the convention was preceded by a charming touch-- 3 excellent dancers in costume did a Highland Fling to bagpipe music (all dance students of Christine Donald, a long-time ST fan from Canada), then Mr. Doohan was piped to the stage and introduced by Shirley Maiewski (Mail Room Director). Security for his autograph sessions was also provided by STW--participating were Mary Ellen Flynn as Sergeant-Major (with a most effective bark), Shirley Maiewski as escort for Mrs. Doohan, Janice Scott and Carole Brownell guarding the rear, Helen Young keeping the line in shape, Tony Adamoli (CM A#12) and Hal Wilson as the line-enders, Bryan McKenzie serving as bartender (cokes, folks!) for the workers, Tim Wilson (Hal's brother) selling JD photos and cautioning against requests for an excessive number of autographs, and Jim Wilson (another brother) as hall guard to cut ’’em off at the pass when it was time to exit. We decided there was quite a science to providing effective security.for such a popular personality, and we managed to perfect such techniques as "circling" to move through a crowded room and the "flying wedge" with advance and rear guards for quick longer movements. Now that STW has booklets of helpful hints for zlne publishing and how to start a club, perhaps next we'll do "How to Guard Your Star!" STW had 3 tables in the Dealer's Room (there were 5 Dealer's Rooms!) where we sold our own fund-raising projects and what seemed like everything else under the sun, too! There were donations from fan friends (ST at Rice, Mark Fraser) and donations from STWers (photos from Michelle Duveigne and Diana Hall; filmclips from Mary Manchester, Kevin Kann, Rich Heierling; nametags from Diane McClaugherty; art and sequined t-shirts from Mary Ann Stelzer) to sell, as well as zines and fund-raising projects from various other ST organizations and individuals (Final Frontier ST Club, Space-Time Continuum, the Trimbles, boojums Press, David Gerrold's DAGE Co., Harry Freidenberg, Lou Zocchi, Terry Manning, James Doohan, and Sondra Marshak) and STWers (Paul Driver, Jeff Maynard, Karen Fleming, Laura Virgil, Hal Wilson, Susan Pomeroy, Bob Gibbons, and Shirley Maiewski), plua distributing flyers for STW, Equicon, and Spectrum. (Whew!) All the above mentioned generously made donations to STW or are returning the favor by selling STW items at cons in their area or just generally plugging STW; we're very grateful for their support, and happy we were able to ring up sales of $1,400. for them and $*»00. for STW. . Janice Scott earned a gold star for bookkeeping the confusion. With 3 tables, and the Dealer's Room open a staggering 13 hours every day for 5 days, obviously everyone worked their heads off--but deserving of special mention for working the longest hours ail 5 days is Eileen Flynn. We cannot ever thank her enough and apoio- gize for turning this trip, supposed to be a graduation gift into pure slavery. Points for hours worked above and beyond the call of duty were also earned by Hal Wilson, Tim Wilson, Mary Ellen Flynn, Carole Brownell, Pola Staples (CM 11), and Curtis Young. Russ Young's nobility has to be mentioned--we made him run the tables during every important or exciting event that no one else wanted to miss! Often there were so many things going on the table workers went unrelieved for hours upon endless hours with nothing but cokes to sustain them--there were several days when the Flynns, Wilsons, and Youngs would not get time for breakfast or lunch until dinner time! There were other reasons, too--it took 2 1/2 hours for a quick sandwich and 3 hours for a hot meal in the hotel dining room when they weren't crowded; we even feared to enter when they were crowded..we'd still be there! Meals sometimes became a marathon event, with one group ordering and then upon arrival of the food 1 1/2 hours later giving it to a later arrival because theirs was the most pressing rush to be somewhere within a short time. And unfailingly we were seated at this particular table, which unstably rocked back and forth and made Shirley Maiewski seasick! (it wasn't until after the con that Shirley noticed her con nametag said “Skirly Maiewski"--and not one soul noticed in 5 days!)

There was a STW Meeting late Saturday afternoon, and mail-answerers Claudia Hofstetter (CM A#l) and Robert Blake (CM A#12) got a chance to quiz Shirley as to what the abbreviations on the fan letters meant. Shirley had a photo of herself hard at work in the Mail Room surrounded by file boxes and letters and lists and boxes heaped and overflowing with letters--one of which also had her large cat sandwiched in between layers of letters! She also, naturally, managed to casually bring out photos of her new grandson for us to admire.

Jan Levy (CM A#ll) and Susan Pomeroy (CM A#8 ) participated in the Costume Competition. Susan had won a second place in the Vul-Con costume show with her stunning Dolman costume ("Elaan of Troyius"), but with all the judges in this competition being from the nostalgia guests; no ST costume won a prize.

Lavon Dunaway (AC#11) and Polly Jones (CM A#6) spent as much time on their film and SF interests as their ST interests. Ah, and there were TV and radio celebrities born at HoustonCon--local TV coverage featured Clint Hall one night and an interview with Helen Young another night, while Shirley Maiewski and Mary Ellen Flynn wowed 'em over the air waves.

And much fun was had by all! [9]


Houstoncon 1976 was held June 17-20.

Schooley and Bonario were chairs and Ed Blair, Jr. was a consultant.

1976: Con Reports

Friendly was the key word...George Takei was warm and outgoing, never showed he was tired of answering dumb questions--though he was overheard assuring Laura Virgil that he was "bushy-eyed and bright-tailed!" Grace Lee Whitney was truly charming; a very sweet person...she and husband Jack Dale were both very polite and more than co-operative with everyone. Johnny Weissmuller always spoke to everyone nicely around the hotel as he encountered them, and is still very much Tarzan! The people were friendly and the con committee, though disorganized, very helpful. There was a fairly good mockup of the shuttlecraft, it felt weird to be in it. The lights in the dealer's rooms were out for three hours on Saturday, and the hotel ice and coke machines always broken—just to mention the glitches. Not too many ST dealers—they were greatly outnumbered by the nostalgia dealers. [10]


Houstoncon 1977

Guests of the 1977 show included Frank Brunner, Spanky McFarland, Jock Mahoney, George Takei, Forrest J Ackerman, and Roy Rogers.


Houstoncon 1978 guests include Frankie Thomas, Kirk Alyn, Ron Goulart, Gil Kane, Jenette Kahn, Frank Brunner, Ray Harryhausen, Greg Jein, Jim Newsome, and Paula Crist.

1978: Con Reports

Just two weeks ago I attended my first con, Houston Con ’78, and picked up a flyer about Ambrov Zeor books, which fortunately had your address. The Con was a big disappointment — it was about 85% comic books, 10% Star Wars, and the last 5% a combination of Star Trek, Elvis, and other nostalgia. They only had two episodes of ST scheduled for the entire four day Con. It also seemed to be attended mostly by teenage boys and family groups. I didn’t run across anyone else like me — a 33-year-old-single-intelligent-adult ST fan who just wanted to talk. [11]


Houstoncon 1979 guests included Walter Koenig, Chuck Jones and George Pérez.


Houstoncon 1980 took place June 20–22. Featured guests were John Byrne and George Pérez.

1982 ("Ultimate Fantasy" aka "The Con of Wrath")

The final Houstoncon, held June 19–20, 1982, at Houston's The Summit Hotel.

Houstoncon’s chief organizer, a local fan named Jerry Wilhite, wanted to do something big, as fan interest was at a high point; the film The Wrath of Khan had just been released. Wilhite did partnered with a ‘professional’ promoter, who booked all the ST actors (includng Mark Lenard) except Leonard Nimoy, as well as The Wrath of Khan’s producer Harve Bennett. The con was promoted with magazine advertising, laser light shows, billboards, a huge venue, and other promotional gimmicks. Walter Koenig's play, The Machiavellian Principle, was written and performed exclusively for this event. Wilhite and company advertised the con as vacation packages with tiers like “Silver Sponsor” and “Gold Sponsor.”

program cover for "The Con of Wrath" aka "Ultimate Fantasy", it contains 44 pages

This con is mostly known as "Ultimate Fantasy" (and later "The Con of Wrath").

Due to poor sales and apparent mismanagement, only a few hundred people attended the convention.

1982: Con Reports

From Lynn Syck (1993):

My very first convention was the Ultimate Disaster in Houston. I had always loved Star Trek from the time it was on the air originally but had no idea fandom existed until 1979 (I must have been living in a vacuum, no other excuse). Actually, I was living in a very small town in Ohio and feeling that I was the only Star Trek fan in existence. Anyway, as a wonderful result of having an LOG published in Trek magazine, I acquired a number of pen pals (or they acquired me, not quite sure which).

One in particular, Mary Rottler, from Oklahoma City, became a very dear friend and still is to this day. At some point in time, I heard about/read about the con in Houston and decided I just HAD to go. Now, mind you, up to this point I had never met Mary in person, had never even talked to her on the phone. I had also never traveled alone to a strange city and never attended a con. When I told my husband what I wanted to do, he said, "You're going to go WHERE? To do WHAT?"

Anyway, after many phone calls and plans, Mary and I met in Houston at the hotel. Now, the very idea of five whole days (yes, I bought the package plan, more fool I) with other Star Trek fans not to mention getting to see the cast of STII was just about overwhelming. Then, reality set in. I'm sure most of you know the story of mismanaged funds and poorly planned events. Suffice it to say that every time Mary and I returned to our room, we would find a note under our door from the hotel telling us that we would soon have to vacate. Now, over and above what was happening to us at the hotel, the stars who were of course staying at another hotel, were also extremely distressed. Little things like expenses not being met and so forth. An Ultimate Disaster indeed. At any rate, into all this mess came a knight in shining armor ~ a Mister Kelley by name.

A press conference was called which all the stars (except Leonard who had had the good sense to stay in LA) attended. What had been billed as a banquet, became cold cuts and potato chips and precious few of those. The fans were restless. Into the lion's den, the cast and Harve Bennett marched, looking like a whole group of Daniels and wondering no doubt how to find the nearest exit.

A couple of nice things happened. One was Harve Bennett who truly seemed to care what the fans wanted, which was a pleasant surprise. We had been told not to ask questions, that only the press could ask them. Harve completely ignored that little sanction and turned to speak to us as if we really mattered, a nice turn of events at that point.

Nichelle was really cute. Someone reported that there was a fire on the 17th floor (we were on the 1st). Nichelle just smiled, said "let us know when it gets to the third floor" and went on being charming to us.

Then, there was De. I don't remember what particular order they spoke in. All I know is that when he began to speak, he touched everyone there. He said that some of the stars had been reluctant to come to the hotel, that they had heard what had been going on and figured we would be in an ugly mood. However, he said that he assured them that Star Trek fans were the most loyal, wonderful, caring group of people in the world and they had nothing to fear from us.

At that point, I think they could have thrown us all out into the street and we would not have cared. De took a very scary, frustrating situation and with great calm and dignity, completely turned it around. [12]

From Joan Verba in Boldly Writing (1996):

Convention organizers in Houston had announced for some time an extravaganza called "The Ultimate Fantasy." They had booked all the Star Trek actors except Leonard Nimoy, as well as Star Trek II producer Harve Bennett. This convention was heavily advertised and promoted. Convention attendance was expected to be in the thousands. Announcements stated, 'vacation packages available including hotel, convention tickets to Ultimate Fantasy, banquet with the stars and the new Star Trek movie.' The reality, however, was different. Only hundreds, not thousands, showed up. The stars ended up speaking in mostly-empty convention halls. People who had paid for packages found that the hotel had no record of their rooms being prepaid. Despite this, the convention went on. Local fans helped the incoming fans who suddenly found themselves without hotel rooms. Harve Bennett and the stars outdid themselves in the attitude that 'the show must go on.' Despite the difficulties, with everyone pulling together, those who attended often ended up with fantastic stories to tell. In the July Interstat, Beverly Zuk reported having a good time despite problems, and Teri Meyer singled out Harve Bennett for his assistance: 'Thank you, Harve Bennett and cast. We are grateful. We are a fandom, blessed'.

From Nancy Kippax (2008):

Later that summer, another event took place that certainly had a negative influence on fandom, but as with so many memories, it has now become a special privilege to have been a part of it. I'm talking about a convention – an extravaganza – that took place in Houston, Texas called "The Ultimate Fantasy" – which became known among fans as "The Ultimate Fiaso" or, "The Con of Wrath"!

A group of fans in Texas had decided, around the summer or fall of 1981, that they were going to put on the biggest and best Star Trek convention in history. As I remember it, they hooked up with a convention promoter, an entrepreneur whom they trusted to run things. Fandom was deluged with flyers and ads. Calling their massive event "The Ultimate Fantasy", they rented out not only a large portion of a downtown Houston hotel, but the Civic Center Auditorium, where they planned to mount shows on the Saturday and Sunday of the con. Their guest list included every one of the original cast except Leonard Nimoy (who was apparently the only one with sound business sense), but also the featured performers from "The Wrath of Khan" – Merritt Butrick, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch. And Producer Harve Bennett. They offered various package plans. You could buy all the convention activities plus any or all of the shows at the Auditorium, you could have your hotel room included or not. There was even an opportunity to be a Gold Sponsor or a Silver Sponsor, which entitled you to everything plus some special perks to boot. The materials and presentation seemed organized and comprehensive. It sounded like it was going to be a fabulous weekend celebration.

Everything started to unravel almost immediately. People arriving at the designated hotel on the night before the con heard strange rumblings about money problems and a much lower attendance than the promoters had planned for. I'm not sure why this con failed to get the anticipated numbers. After all, the early cons in New York had drawn 14,000 and more. Perhaps it was the Houston location – a long trip for anyone other than a devoted (and flush) fan. The con itself was expensive, even if you didn't get one of the larger package deals. It was summer, and Houston was hot as Vulcan, the kind of humid heat that plastered your shirt to your body if you just stepped outside for five minutes. Whatever the reasons, fans just didn't come forth in great numbers, not enough to pay for everything that had been contracted for plus the appearance fees of all the guests they had invited.

Those guests started arriving, expecting to pick up their checks before they went on stage, and it soon became apparent that there was no money with which to pay them. At this point, the con committee, made up mostly of long time Star Trek fans, were running all over the place trying to find the man who controlled the money, the Promoter with whom they had been working, but the man was no where to be found.

Con attendees woke up on the Friday morning of the convention to find that the hotel had slipped notices under their doors informing them that they would have to come down to the front desk and either pay or check out. Many of these people had already paid for their hotel rooms – to the convention. But the hotel had not received payment for the rooms!

We were lucky in that we had ordered our hotel rooms independently and not through the convention. We all got the same under the door notice, but we could go down and prove that ours had been Visa or MasterCard charges to the hotel itself. But the fans who had paid through the convention had to either pack up and get out or pay the charges a second time and hope to get the original money back somehow.

Friday was a down day, with only the Dealer's Room open and no scheduled shows as all of this horror show unfolded. Even the Dealer's Room was in jeopardy of being closed down. Dealers had to take up a collection among themselves to pay the hotel.

Harve Bennett arrived in the midst of all this and quickly perceived what was happening and took charge. He rounded up the performers (everyone was there except for William Shatner, who was scheduled to arrive Saturday morning) and spoke to them all. He felt it wasn't fair to the fans who had innocently come expecting to be entertained. Harve had a very strong sense of "Star Trek's" fan base and what it meant to the franchise. He also had a strong sense of decency and fairness. At the end of that first day, it was announced that he was going to talk to us all at what had been planned as a scheduled press conference with the working press to meet and interview the actors. He had soothed and pacified the stars,convincing them all that they had to go on with the planned activities and shows at the Auditorium, whether or not they got paid. The convention Committee members had promised to pay what they owed, it just could not be that weekend. Harve called everyone together and took the helm with all the aplomb of Captain Kirk. His first words, in fact, as he stepped out to the mike, were a modified quote from the latest movie. He said, "As of ___ o'clock, I am taking control of this ship!" And his audience laughed, releasing the tension. He rejuvenated everyone's flagging spirits and showed us what "Star Trek" was all about. It was an amazing moment, a stirring testimony to why we loved these people so much!

Harve Bennett wasn't the only "hero" that weekend. Over at the Civic Center, the sound and light crews were getting ready to walk off, because they hadn't been paid, either. Young Merritt Buttrick took money out of his own wallet and paid the techs. His mom lived in Texas, and his family was coming to see him, so the show was personally important to him. William Shatner, for all his misgivings, came out on the stage at the Civic Center on both days and carried that audience in the palm of his hands, making everyone laugh and sigh and understand why we were fans. Nichelle Nichols gave an amazing performance of her song, "Beyond Antares". They had all pitched in like troupers and given us more than their time and talents.

Some of the events were scrapped and others reduced to bare bones, but the shows did go on and something magical had happened that was worth more than simply watching performances from afar. We had glimpsed the generosity and devotion emanating from a group of jaded Hollywood people for us, for their fans. They had reciprocated and reflected our love back at us.

And the missing Promoter? I have no knowledge of what ever became of him. But, sadly, several people on the Committee actually lost their homes and some had to declare bankruptcy, we learned later. I don't know if all reparations were ever made, but I believe an attempt was made. These people weren't dishonest or con artists. With the exception of that one convention promoter, they were all basically just fans like the rest of us. They got in over their heads, expected an attendance in the thousands and got hundreds, and ultimately had to pay the price in one way or another. There were mistakes in judgment and they over-extended themselves. For them, it was a personal disaster. As someone said at the time, they had Texas-sized ideas without the funds to back them up.[13]

From Marnie S (2012):

The Con of Wrath, or Ultimate Fiasco, it was a horrible metaphor for the ultimate mess-up. The guy behind it was not a normal member of the group. He had great designs, wonderful, fantastic desires and ideas, but he did not carry it out well. He was not a good businessman, he screwed everything up, he took a lot of money, which he frittered away. I don't think he had any — went into it with any kind of criminal intent, because he lost his house, he lost his marriage, he lost his wife, he lost pretty much everything that he had. But he was — He just never should have been involved in it in the first place. And, he, ah, a lot of people lost tons of money, who came in from not just the U.S. but from overseas. Who thought they had prepaid rooms, who had bought packages, that were supposed to be having transportation and seeing sights, and the shows. And he had rented this enormous, what was it called? I'm trying to think of the name of the venue, it was the enormous auditorium which was used primarily for basketball games and the Shrine Circus and what have you. It seated fifteen to seventeen thousand people? And he had supposedly planned five to seven shows? He had booked all the cast of Wrath of Khan except Nimoy, who couldn't make it, and I'd lined up Harve Bennett to come and talk too. And then promised them the world, and then couldn't deliver on most of it. He spent tons of money keeping a fleet of limos on call, twenty-four hours a day, for five days, and they did insist on being paid upfront— they were about the only people who were paid. And, for the rest of it, it went phhhbbt.

People did help. Katharine and her husband ... did a lot of work for him. I mean — The fans were starry-eyed and saying, this was the way, this was a fantastic convention. He had promised so much, and they were trying to help as much as possible. Completely unpaid; none of us got any money out of it at all.... it was discovered Thursday, the first night, before it was supposed to even open the shows, that fans were arriving and rooms at the hotel had not been paid for, food that had been promised had not been paid for, was not going to suddenly show up. People were here who'd traveled from England, for heaven's sake, and they had no money and no — y'know, very little money and — everything was supposedly all prepaid and it was not there.

A number of fans, those who had helped the most and were the most influential...literally maxed out their credit cards by paying for as much as they could. Other fans in the area took people into homes, to give them a place to live. Those of us who had been on security— we'd been training for about six months, actually, martial arts and crowd-control techniques and stuff like that, we were supposed to be put up at the hotel, which of course we weren't, but we, they did have a green room for us at the, ah, the venue, and we wound up going out and— There were two of us that were married, went out and bought food and brought it in, to give the actors something to eat. And then the actors, out of their pockets, when they found out what was going on, many of them pitched in. And George, and I think Walter even helped too. It wound up that there was supposedly this big banquet that was already paid for, and of course wasn't there. George and Walter wound up buying — I think it was mostly paid for by George, though — wound up buying food, and put out a spread of cold cuts and sandwiches and salad stuff so people would have something to eat, out of their own pockets. And they knew they weren't going to get paid. And other of the actors chipped in for this and that. When the call was made to Harve Bennett, who hadn't come out yet, because it was before it was supposed to start, and he was still back in California, he flew out immediately. He jumped in and got Paramount to help subsidize and keep this, because they didn't want the name and the franchise of Star Trek to — He convinced them that they didn't want to tarnish Star Trek with this enormous failure. And he stepped in, and they made good on a lot of stuff that otherwise would not have even gone off. He called Shatner the next day — Shatner wasn't supposed to come out until Friday — well, I guess this was started on Wednesday — Friday, and Shatner jumped on a plane. He didn't even go home, I don't think. He went directly from work, wherever he was working that day, on whatever lot, grabbed only what he had, I guess in his dressing room, which was a little bitty carry-on bag, a valise, and jumped on the plane and came out that night. The show had not been written, which... Mark Lenard, stayed up all night writing a show, putting something together. Mark was very, very involved in that. He did a lot of that, well, he and Walter did most of it. People just jumped in. They had already lined up a bunch of appearances at local radio stations, TV station, Good Morning Houston, and there was a visit to the children's hospital, which the actors insisted should not be publicized. They did not want to do it for publicity, but to help out and visit the kids. [14]

From Alayne Gelfand (2014):

[I saw an ad] in the back of a Starlog magazine, it said "The Ultimate Fantasy." And I went, "What's that?" And I looked into it, and took myself off to Houston, and the rest is kind of history. I met people there and it just rolled on... It was a huge con that was a disaster. Everybody who had hotel reservations— the people had run off with the money, there were no hotel rooms for anybody. The con was small, so you had all these— Most of the actors there were talking to, like, fifty people, so it was kind of embarrassing too— But it was my first con experience, and I was standing against a wall looking forlorn, and this woman came over and said, "Look, you know, do you have a room, do you need help, have you been here before, are you a fan—" whatever. And she took me into the dealers' room, showed me what a fanzine was, and she showed up on my doorstep the following weekend with a huge suitcase full of fanzines. So that was the beginning [of my involvement in fandom]....Oh, I ran toward it, arms open. It was wonderful. It was just exactly what I needed at the right time of my life. It gave me a community, and it gave me a philosophy that was positive when my life wasn't real great. [15]

From Infinitus_Potentia at r/HobbyDrama (2023):

even before the con began, troubles had already brewed. Ticket sales was low even for a ST con back then, likely because of how expensive it was and that it was organized in Houston, too far away for anyone but the richest out-of-state fans. At the same time the budget had run out. No one knew the true extent of how bad the promoter screwed up, but frittered away the money he had. So no money, no accommodation for the fans, no guest fee for the actors, and no rent for the avenue owners.

When fans—including some foreigners—arrived at Houston on the Thursday before the con, they found themselves without a room to sleep or food to eat. Those unwilling to pay the hotels a second time faced the prospect of packing up or sleeping outside with an empty stomach and under the scorching Texas heat. While there were less fans than expected, it was still a disaster nonetheless. And none could find the promoter who held all the money.

Houston Trekkies did everything they could to put out the fire. Many opened up their homes to welcome the visitors and fed them. They went into debts to do that, because they had already contributed a lot of money and labor to the con—unpaid, of course. The actors chimed in too, with George Takei and Walter Koenig noted to have paid out of their pockets for the attendees’ food and accommodation. Merritt Butrick even paid for the technicians. His mother lived in Texas and was about to come to see her son at the con, so it was extremely important to him.

When Harve Bennett was informed of the situation, he convinced the higher-ups at Paramount to subsidize the con so as to avoid the bad press and not make a bad name out of ST. Mr. Bennett then flew from California to Texas, rounded up the actors who had already been at Houston, and told them to work together to save the event, and agreed to let the con organizers pay them at a later date.

The artists did all of that and more. William Shatner, who was supposed to arrive a few days later, immediately flew to Houston. Mark Lenard got intimately involved in writing the script for all the talks and performances at the con. Other actors made appearances at local radio stations, TV stations, Good Morning Houston, and a children's hospital, the last of which they insisted not to publicize.

Marching into the empty hotel conference room did Harve Bennett and the cast, before the restless and empty gazes of a few fans in forlorn. Mr. Bennett declared with aplomb: “As of ___ o'clock, I am taking control of this ship!” And with these words, he restarted the whole thing and gave hope to the attendees.

After a short press conference hosted by Mr. Bennett and the actors, the talks and performances began in earnest. In some recollections, William Shatner came out on both nights and was nothing short of a firecracker, while Nichelle Nichols gave an amazing performance of her song Beyond Antares. And of course The Machiavellian Principle was performed, with the actors donning specially-designed silver space jackets and acting out what was essentially a radio play inside a shuttlecraft set. They gave nothing less than their best and sent the fans home with a smile on their faces.

The 1982 Houstoncon was saved, but not without extracting a heavy cost. There were the debts incurred by the local Trekkies, but those in the organizing committee lost their homes or were forced to declare bankruptcy in order to pay off what they owed. Jerry Wilhite lost both his house and his marriage. The only one who got out of it scot-free was the promoter. The event would then be known as “The Con of Wrath” and was the last Houstoncon, though there would still be some other ST con organized in Houston such as Star Trek: Houston.

The 1982 Houstoncon was a tale of hubris and passion, of buffoonery and loyalty. What was supposed to be a total disaster was barely averted thanks to the disinterested contributions of fans and artists alike. This is the kind of event that makes or breaks a fandom, and I’m glad that they pulled through. It should also serve as a lesson to all con organizers about trusting the right people and, more importantly, know your audiences. [16]

Further Reading/Meta