Hi! Long time no see. I'm Elliot Shorter and I was Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate to Heicon, the World Science Fiction Convention in Heidelberg, Germany. As you may not know, one of the requirements for accepting the TAFF nomination is the pledge to write a report of your trip. In my column in Locus, where I used to comment on TAFF doings while I was the administrator, I started my report. If I recall correctly, I wrote how my candidacy began, and about the unusual surprise we received at the NESFA picnic in Boston. Then my personal life got in the way and I ceased writing. Last summer, after being out of work for three months, the urge to indulge in written fanac once more hit me. At the same time it was brought to my attention that people still wanted to read my TAFF report. In fact, there was this line of publishers waiting with hot mimeos, rolling offsets and the inimitable bated breath. Jerry and Suzle got to me first.
'TAFF Jottings' will appear as often as Jerry and Suzle can get me to give them material. The episodes described will not necessarily appear in sequential order. Fans who were involved with the bid and the trip are invited to comment and make additions. Fan artists are requested to read the column and its episodes. Any artwork resulting from those actions would be appreciated. Eventually a Compleat Report will be issued.
The following episode is ...
How Fearless Leader Got His Name
Those of you who have been associated with Don Lundry on the Lunacon '72 committee, the Lunacon '76 committee, the '7 for '77' bid/Suncon committee and the like, have often heard him called 'Fearless Leader', or, sometimes, just 'Fearless'.
Fearless Leader? Why?
Some of you who are old enough will recall that Fearless Leader was the villain on Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle; the master for whom those inept spies, Boris and Natasha, worked. So, what has a tv cartoon villain to do with a Name Fan?
Now you're hanging. What's going on? Read on, dear fan, and see how it all happened.
Don Lundry had organized a charter flight to Europe for the Heicon. Starting with Lester and Evelyn Del Rey at St. Louiscon, he had slowly accumulated a courageous group of fans ready to venture into 'the great unknown'. He had surmounted the tragic death of Evie Del Rey. He had overcome the loss of several key couples at almost the last minute. Things were going smoothly. And then came the letter...
Periodically the Worldcon has trouble with the Hugos. One year, Nycon III it was, the rockets were made of plastic. Another year, instead of being smooth, they were incredibly pitted. This year the problem was: would they be made on time? For the molds were aged and dying, and might not survive to make the awards. Also, they were being fabricated in San Diego, one continent and one ocean away from the convention. Gloom and despair spread across the Atlantic to that room where Mario Bosnyak, Thea-Molly Auer and the rest of the Heicon committee waited.
.... the letter:
Hugos made. Being sent to New York. Will arrive just before you leave for Europe. Can you bring them (I hope)?
Gak! What do we do now?
'El,' said Don, 'can you carry them?'
'Maybe one, I'm close to the 44 pound limit now.'
Scramble! Scramble! Scramble! Hunt! Hunt! Hunt! Find fan with no luggage. Where, oh where, is such a fan?
Departure day! Don, Nancy Lambert and I were to meet at 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center, across from the KLM office. Together we would take the bus to Idlewild's International Departure Building, where we would meet the rest of the flight. (Oh yes, for you younglings out there, the New York International Airport at Idlewild, called Idlewild, is known in some circles as JFK International Airport. I do not believe in instant adulation and deification. It was Idlewild. It is at Idlewild. And to me, who am proud of being a New Yorker with an advanced case of Sixth Avenue Syndrome, it will always be Idlewild. I might note that in at least one case, 'Uncle' has seen the light, and the Kennedy Space Center is once again located at, and on, Cape Canaveral, Florida.) I arrived first. Then Nancy arrived.
'What ho,' or words to that effect, said I. 'Is that little knapsack all your luggage, or has someone taken the rest to the airport?'
'That's all,' she said.
At this point, as bells were ringing, lights were flashing and gongs were gonging in my head, Don ran up carrying the Hugos in a plastic brown wrapper.
'I figure,' he said breathlessly, 'I'll take two, you'll take one and Marsha (Elkin/Brown/Jones) will take three. There have to be others who can take one or more.'
'Don't sweat it,' I said. 'Nancy only has a small knapsack. She can carry them. What do they weigh?'
They were sufficiently light so that even with her knapsack, Nancy had less than 44 pounds of material. So she agreed to carry them at least as far as England.
When the promised airport bus didn't arrive, we flagged a cab and headed for the airport. You know Tom Paxton's song 'Hell of a Way to Run an Airline'? There's a line in it that goes, 'Well, a taxi to the airport cost me seven or eight [dollars].' We know where he caught that cab.
At the airport we gathered the rest of the flight and went to check in. No problem. Then on to the loading gate for final check-in and transportation to the plane.
Through that door there. Go to your right and down those stairs.
'Hey! Where's Nancy? Where's Don? Hold it, gang! Our leader is missing. Without him we don't go.'
Some minutes go by. We begin to get nervous. Where are they? Suddenly here come Don and Nancy, Don looking somewhat grim.
It seems that in doing the seat assignments, KLM had placed four people in two seats. This little error was noticed at the boarding desk when Nancy Lambert (remember her? she's got the Hugos) showed her gate pass.
'I'm sorry, but you don't have a seat. You'll have to wait.'
'Huh!' Don said and went to work. He haggled. He threatened. He cajoled.
'No room,' they said stubbornly. 'She doesn't have a seat.'
'ALL RIGHT!' said Don. 'I've got reservations for an 80 person group. Confirmed reservations. If one of my people can't go, I'll pull everyone off the plane. EVERYONE!'
'Ha, ha. You wouldn't pull seventy-nine people off the plane,' said the airline.
'Watch me,' replied Don.
'Good grief. You would take all seventy-nine off, wouldn't you?' said the airline with dawning horror.
'And ground the flight until all their luggage was off-loaded.'
At that point the airline personnel got down on their hands and knees, and began to lay out all the boarding passes in a desperate attempt to find a solution. It soon became obvious that what they had done was to place the passengers from one row into another row that was already occupied. It was clear that the newly discovered empty row of seats was directly behind the doubly-occupied one. So, removing Nancy from Suzle's lap (yes, the editor of SpanInq was intimately involved with this problem), and placing her in a seat of her own, the airline people rose to their feet and apologized profusely.
'Thank you for your trouble,' said Don courteously, and he and Nancy and the Hugos headed for the stairway and the bus....
'Well,' says I, 'you are not only our leader, but our Fearless Leader, for you have braved the airline in its den and made it yield to you. So that this feat of bravery and leadership shall be ne'er forgotten, you shall be called "Fearless Leader" evermore.' And so he has been called.
And if you really think I said it that way (you can hear the angels' chorus and the strings, can't you?), even though I was and am in the Society for Creative Anachronism, boy, are you weird.
Next time: Don and I attempt to catch the train from Frankfort to Amsterdam, or, 'The Shortest Way Passes Every Fountain in Germany'.