The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

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Fireminer
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The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Fireminer »

Can anyone please take a look of a draft I've been writing for r/hobbydrama? It is about the disastrous 1976 Star Trek con in New York. I'd be especially graceful if anyone have an idea on what happened to Lisa Boynton and other people behind that con.

Here is the draft: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MUP ... ue&sd=true
Fireminer
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Fireminer »

So I posted the article. Here is it: https://old.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/com ... sastercon/
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by davemerrill »

That's a really deep dive on a long-ago convention! Must have been difficult researching a lot of that material. As a former con organizer, I definitely sympathize with the desire to lock one's self into a hotel room and hide from the convention chaos. In that situation the sense of panic and paranoia and oncoming doom is really powerful.

This article should be required reading for anyone thinking of starting their own convention.
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Fireminer »

davemerrill wrote: Thu Jul 07, 2022 5:21 pm That's a really deep dive on a long-ago convention! Must have been difficult researching a lot of that material. As a former con organizer, I definitely sympathize with the desire to lock one's self into a hotel room and hide from the convention chaos. In that situation the sense of panic and paranoia and oncoming doom is really powerful.

This article should be required reading for anyone thinking of starting their own convention.
A lot of the research work has already been done by Fanlore (a treasure trove of fan drama, if I may add), and all I did was to go through some old news articles.

It surprised me though that that late into the 70s and Trekkies were still being seen as weirdos, even to other SF fans. Guess that TNG and the movies was when the mythologicalizing of TOS became a thing.
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by mbanu »

Fireminer wrote: Sun Jul 10, 2022 8:17 pm It surprised me though that that late into the 70s and Trekkies were still being seen as weirdos, even to other SF fans. Guess that TNG and the movies was when the mythologicalizing of TOS became a thing.
If I had to guess, I would guess that the lack of home video is what made it weird, because they were keeping alive something ephemeral. I guess sort of like if there was a fandom today for Larry David's 2015 Broadway play, Fish in the Dark, that was convinced it was the absolute best, but nobody had seen it for 7 years, there were no films of it, and fandom mostly consisted of people trading memorized quotes from it and dressing up in what they remembered different characters were wearing in it, and getting together to share anecdotes from the intermission, "You remember that one guy who spilled water all over himself? What a time to be alive!" :D
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by davemerrill »

the 1970s were before home video, but Star Trek was re-run in local TV markets over and over and over again. Episodes were in syndication pretty much throughout the United States. Fans of the show could catch their favorites, the curious could watch it and find out for themselves what the fuss was about. Lots of people who didn't consider themselves "fans" or "Trekkies" watched and enjoyed Star Trek, enough so that Saturday Night Live could do a Star Trek skit seven years after the show was cancelled.

I guess the show's mainstream popularity is part of why the SF fans of the time - mostly fans of SF novels and short stories - saw the Trek fans as immature, celebrity-worshipping newbies. SF fandom saw itself as a special, select, elite group of smarty-pants brainacs who were above such mundanities as (ugh) television. Decades later this snobbery just seems amusing, but it was very real at the time.

BTW I have been researching a panel on Toronto's fandom conventions, and I found this great website that goes into really amazing detail about Toronto's first big Star Trek convention, Star Trek Toronto '76. https://torontostartrek76.ca The Enterprise bridge set that was constructed for this convention wound up being used for decades afterwards in a wide variety of events.
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Drew_Sutton »

Great write-up, Fireminer. Hilarious to read about shows that wind up sounding like real disasters. Some fun take-aways from this:
By every account, STC was a smashing success. It attracted 160,000 attendees and earned in excess of $100,000. Even Trekkies who did not attend and non-Star Trek SF fans were thrown into a tizzy.
Kinda weird numbering that paints a show as a success... if you math it out, that means admission/membership was about $0.62, which could be easily refuted, unless they claimed profit of $100k. If they claimed profit of $100k, that's different.
They were scared that since Lisa’s team—named “Telos IV”, or also known as The Chicago Strektacular—had paid so much for the guests, non-profit cons would never be able to afford the actors even if they were willing to pay. Furthermore, Telos IV planned to organize similar Star Trek cons all over the country. It seemed like the end of fan cons was nigh.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I've heard the same thing about anime/VG voice talent charging for autographs and headshots and the like at anime cons, where they'd been done for free, because the talent were getting booked for other cons and shows where they could charge for those items.

Everything is that is hyped as being the "death" of the fan convention at the hands of a corporate convention is, I think, a very small percentage of the cause of death of those shows. More likely, shows die from boring mundane causes like staff burnout or poor financial management.

Also, the "run shows all over the country" hubris is a recurring theme. I'll have to search and see if there's a write up on KuniCon already.
Behind the scene, things were however not as rosy. The organizers had made up the $100,000 to the media while in fact they lost $10,000. Long-time Trekkies who had experience attending cons also reported poor planning, poor reception, poor coordination and just a mess overall. Vendor owners were also angered as they were given just a narrow corridor to hawk their wares. All in all, the con “succeeded” because it attracted and impressed “normies”, while by every measure it should have been seen as a terrible con. So what could go wrong when Lisa Boynton and Telos IV decided to bring their con to New York?
Oh, look, lost money - guess we should expand! And lots of first year, logistical issues that could be worked out if you stay small(er, than say, going national), re-evaluation of policy and procedure, and lessons learned to take forward the next couple of years.
Among the guests were the cast of the original series plus the astronaut James McDivitt, Dr. J. Allen Hynek (professor of astronomy and director of the Center for UFO Studies), writer David Gerrold and artist Kelly Freas.
Admittedly, J. Allen Hynek made me laugh out loud. I'll need some experience for some folks who were attending shows in the 70s and 80s - were people like Hynek or other paranormal/conspiracy-adjacent folks more common on the general SF convention circuits then? I get that there's a link to an SF TV show about alien life to a guy who nominally researched aliens. I know that crowd has (and has had) their own shows or huge multigenre affairs like DragonCon have a programming track for that stuff, but it's just a little weird to me that the organizing committee thinking about there is a sizable amount of attendees for a clearly fictional TV show, showing up in their Vulcan ears to get fencing lessons from George Takei, ALSO wanting to stop by and get a lecture on the Edge Of Reality.
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Fireminer
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Fireminer »

davemerrill wrote: Mon Jul 11, 2022 11:32 am BTW I have been researching a panel on Toronto's fandom conventions, and I found this great website that goes into really amazing detail about Toronto's first big Star Trek convention, Star Trek Toronto '76. https://torontostartrek76.ca The Enterprise bridge set that was constructed for this convention wound up being used for decades afterwards in a wide variety of events.
There is an interesting nugget on that blog about the the Enterprise bridge set:
Pearse and her friends had seen a bridge set at conventions in the US, and her initial idea was to rent it for Toronto. Hagglund told me the guy who owned it “was not a Star Trek fan” and he wanted $30,000 to bring it up to Toronto for one day of use. “When I told Phill that, he said ‘We can build one for a hell of a lot less.’”
Just a while ago someone reached out to me and said that his/her best friend created the first sectional, live size Enterprise bridge set and took it around to all the first conventions. The man also drew the official Enterprise blueprints for Ballantine Books when it first came out. He lived in Upstate NY, Poughkeepsie. It could be the same bridge that was seen by the Toronto con's organizers.

I'm trying to ask the person if his/her best friend was the artist Franz Joseph.
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by George W »

There are trailblazers in every field.

Did the convention go well? It would depend on who you asked.

I've attended dozens of conventions. Some were run better than others.

They all shared the same love of the subject.

Did you attend this convention?
Fireminer
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Re: The 1976 New York Star Trek Convention aka DisasterCon

Post by Fireminer »

Fireminer wrote: Wed Jul 13, 2022 4:57 am Just a while ago someone reached out to me and said that his/her best friend created the first sectional, live size Enterprise bridge set and took it around to all the first conventions. The man also drew the official Enterprise blueprints for Ballantine Books when it first came out. He lived in Upstate NY, Poughkeepsie. It could be the same bridge that was seen by the Toronto con's organizers.

I'm trying to ask the person if his/her best friend was the artist Franz Joseph.
So the person replied it me, and it turned out his/her friend was Michael McMaster. There is an article on him on Memory Alpha.
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