TAFF Tales
1955 TAFF Report: H. Ken Bulmer

Chapter 2 illustrated by Atom

Published July 1959 in Orion 22 ed Ella Parker
Rekeyed by Vin¢ Clarke

2 • New York Garrett

This was a few weeks before the Con, and Pamela and I were undergoing indoctrination and inoculation, carrying out exercises such as testing for amount of heat, alcohol, loss of sleep and noise toleration that could be taken, and we were engaged upon a field test of this nature, surrounded by a screaming, laughing, drinking, generally high-living group of fen in an apartment. The door opened, and two men entered.

There was a slight, foetus-like pause.

I stared quizzically at the two newcomers. One was large, rubicund, shaven-headed, round and red-faced, filled with an alarming energy. The other was small, thin faced, dark haired and filled with an alarming energy.

They clasped their arms around each other's shoulders -- quite a job for the smaller but he did it, none-the-less, and advanced upon us, singing. What they were singing made no sense to me. That may have been because they were using different keys,, weren't quite in tune, weren't quite sure of the words -- and the tune was a little shaky too. However, I managed to maintain a politely frozen poker face. They stood before me, singing directly into my face. I began to wonder if this was some special tribal rite that was perhaps the preliminary to a ritual scalping. I held my composure and put on the polite expression Campbell must have assumed when he heard where the MofF&SF came out at the Solacon. [1]

People about me were sort of applauding in a stunned, awed fashion; I scraped up memories of Waterloo, Trafalgar, Minden and Balaclava to set against Bunker Hill and Saratoga.

The song sputtered to a close. Both men were sweating with the fierce energy they had put into it, and their faces were fixed in tight grins while their eyes searched mine with a febrile, expectant hunger. The last words of the song, literally shouted so that they should penetrate the stuffed cotton-wool in my head, were : 'For he is an Englishman!' No doubt William Schwenk would have admitted some familiarity with the words; but it is highly unlikely that Sir Arthur would have cared to own acquaintance with the music. [2]

I realised with a sincere and stupefying sense of grateful shock, that these two were paying me -- and my country -- a compliment. I managed to garble out some sort of embarrassed reply, and said that I'd never heard the song before. This was, more or less, true. Not the way they had sung it, anyway.

And these two fine flowers of our rebelled colonists?

Randall Garrett and Harlan Ellison.

The large, crop-headed man of energy was Randall Garrett, he had but lately left the U.S. Marines. That., alone, should tell you a great deal. Of Harlan, more later; this cameo will be devoted to Randy. At that time he was battering his way into Astounding and the first Robert Randall stories -- Bob Silverberg and Randy Garrett -- were rolling from their combined brains. Ye Gods! When I think of that fantastic summer in New York -- I believe I am right in saying that nothing like it had hit the li'l ole metropolis in years -- I am immediately whisked back into one of the most adventurous -- in special terms -- most enjoyable and most hectic periods of my life. For, you see, Pamela and I lived in New York. We didn't just pass through on a visit centring round a special affair. But back to Randy.

After this first meeting we met the incredible bouncing bundle of energy many times. Pick out a few high spots. One, in particular, remains burning brightly at the altar of memory -- all right. then, I'll write this the way I want; you wanna read fannish writing, flick the page, bub! One evening after a full evening's entertainment, Pamela and I wound up with Randy and he decided that we ought to go out on the town. We, weak-willed, agreed. A taxi was forthwith hailed and we sped downtown to the residence of Kathleen Maclean. This lady is well known to ASF readers. There was a chance that she would have a free evening and Sandy was all for hitting the high spots. He'd just been paid, not ellessdee but slashed -through essess by good ole JWC, and the money was burning a hole in his pocket.

We arrived downtown, paid off the cab and walked a short distance through the side streets that, we were informed, were habitually filled with just the sort of hood that the American 'B' picture industry portrays so faithfully. I held Pamela's hand.

Later on, going to a meeting of the Hydra Club, we were reliably genned up on the official price-list for jobs. It went something like this: One beating up: 10 dollars, One broken leg: 15 dollars, A hospital case: 20 dollar, and so on, all neatly price-tagged, until there was something like: 'One Chicago overcoat -- check current pricelist.'

We arrived at a small block, about six storeys or so high. Everything seemed in darkness and repeated bell-ringing produced nothing. I brushed off a furtive offer of a 'smart razor job, guaranteed messy' thinking of various friends who would undoubtedly benefit from little expenditure on my part, and asked Randy what next?

Well -- you've seen films of the US Marines landing on Pacific Islands and wallowing about in Korea? Randy was fully up to scratch and showed himself worthy of the silver star they gave him. He would have left the Seventh Cavalry still sweeping out the stables. Up the side of the building -- a midget for New York but a towering giant if set down here -- ran a fire escape. Ahah! But the end of the fire escape was a goodly distance from the ground. The Yalu River's a good way from Peoria; but the boys got there just the same.

Randy gave me no time to argue. The next instant I was staggering about the sidewalk with Randy Garrett -- all fifty stone of him -- perched on my shoulders.

'Stand still till I get a grip!' he shouted in the Tone Of Command.

'If I stand here I'll be driven into the pavement', I gritted out. The force of Randy's fists on my head prevented me from parting my jaws; so I gritted it out. I managed to weave back to the iron railings and steadied myself. Then an Atlas ICBM took off from my shoulders. (Note that cunning dragging in of Atlas without the tired old mythological stuff?). I almost went to my knees; but the Garrett was airborne!

With a sirening wail the fire escape descended under his weight. He was up over the rail and then -- truly -- he went up those treads like a cat. Well -- for a big man he moved in the best traditions of big bulky men in fiction -- fast. Then we heard him hammering on a window, He yodelled a bit, too. I'd already suggested that Katy Maclean might not want to see us; but the Marines had over-ruled all that shy nonsense.

Some time later the window opened and Randy disappeared inside. Now -- here I must be honest in my memoirs -- I can't recall if Pamela and I went up via the front door and inside stairs or if we nipped up the fire escape. It is of little moment; we entered the Katy Maclean apartment.

Well! This was a garret to which Garrett had brought us, and I refrain from any other comment except for a casual flick of the eyebrows in the direction of the wheels of IF [3], and to do it justice would need an extended novel a la Trilby.

One long narrow room with a small window was literally covered in pictures. Pieces of hacked about plaster and suchlike stood about, a couple of divans looked as though Elinor Glyn had just gone out. Piles of books and papers -- well, they're standard equipment for all sf folk. Pots of paint and brushes were kicked underfoot. Empty frames, canvasses, stretchers, paint -- and pictures. A busted fridge to keep ours at Dave Kyle's company. Empty coffee cups and fag ends. A sort of bivouac in the centre of a painter's garret studio -- if you follow.

Katy had rented the place from a painter who was returning the following day and Katy and her typewriter were seeking alternative accommodation. Here is no place to go into all this; -- even if I could recall half the arrangements that went on in NY at that time -- and so we pass on to the search for liquor, the cajoling, and finally the sallying forth into the NY night. We had quite a ball that night too, winding up back home -- Dave Kyle's place where we were living on our own -- somewhere around 4am.

And another spot. Tom Lehrer was all the rage then, and Pamela and I brought back his record (a gift from Dick Wilson) which went the rounds over here, being tape-recorded by many fans until the BBC caught on a number of years later and did a Third Programme on him; with most of the best bits cut out.

Randy fits in here only as a sort of flashlight picture that the memory picks up and hangs on to. We were riding through the NY night, en route to another party, in Larry Shaw's car (ah! Larry Shaw's car!) and Randy was in the back seat singing Tom Lehrer's songs at the top of his voice. We all joined in at the bits we remembered. Especially the 'ility' part, which is supremely wonderful.

If you don't know Tom Lehrer then grab the record; it's worth it. We first heard it at Dick Ellington's, when we were talking to him and a gang including Dan Curran, Bill Donaho, Art Saha and like that.

Randy always seemed a little put out by my beard. When I told him, truthfully, that I'd grown it to prevent worry about shaving on journeys and therefore not looking respectable, he took the moral to heart. Some time later a whole gaggle of the lads grew beards, Bob Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Ted White. We had an appointment, arranged by Randy, with Arthur C.Clarke. Larry Shaw drove us down to the hotel. Randy was the only fan in NY who knew that Arthur was in town; having had the information direct from the West Coast. The idea was to greet Arthur, and then shock him by showing him two other Londoners. (I know Arthur kums frum Zummerzet but the idea was there).

Well, we met Arthur, who was pleased, I think, to see familiar faces. Pamela and I hung about down below and then jumped out on Mike Wilson and scared the living daylights out of him. We had a good meal, during which a good deal of 'smoke-filled room' activity was done in arranging with Arthur to be Guest of Honour at the New York con, for the following year.

Then Randy went along to the drug-store in the hotel and bought a razor and blades in a plastic case. This he wanted to present to me. I explained as politely as I could that by this time I was attached to the beard, and, anyway, if I started shaving now I'd have to keep it up. (As, circa 1959, I jolly well have, curse it!) He was most hurt that I'd refused his offer to clean me up, but it all passed off well enough. He left the razor in Larry's car. A letter I had from Larry reasonably recently informed me that he was using the razor himself, as he'd gone away for a weekend and forgotten his -- and discovered the Garrett/Bulmer razor lying in the crevice of the upholstery! So everything has its uses.

Randy Garrett and a glass of alcohol went hand in hand , if you follow. The amount of liquid he stowed away was matched only by the amount that seeped through his skin when he was engaged -- as he usually was -- in doing something extraordinarily energetic. He and Bob Silverberg thrashed the faces off their typewriters, turning out material which they rushed off hot-foot to Campbell. Then the whole NY fannish community hung about biting its collective fingernails waiting for The Decision. If 'Nay' gloom and despair struck all. If 'Yea' -- well on one of the very first occasions of this nature I had an appointment with Randy to discuss a story that had been cooked up by a gang of us during one session. I went uptown to the block where the fans lived in various apartments -- Bob Silverberg, Ron Smith, Harlan Ellison -- and where Randy Garrett bunked down on any convenient floorspace.

I waited, passing the time of day with Harlan who was busily fanning instead of writing pro stuff -- just as I am now, squanderer of time! -- and eventually, gave up. Randy was missing for three days.

There was a knock on one of the apartment doors. It was opened -- and Randy stood in the doorway for only an instant, and then pitched forward full length onto his face.

Quite a guy.

Perhaps the latest news we have of him merely fills out the character portrait we have. He has taken up religion in a big way, becoming an Anglican, and religiously attends all services. He refused to attend the '57 con. because he would have to leave the US and his church. The fact that Anglicans started here didn't, apparently, enter the calculations.

Why should Randy join an English church? I think it was part of the Gilbert & Sullivan and like that mania that was around NY. I wouldn't like you to imagine it was me -- I am not Church of England. But whatever it was, I feel convinced that Randy is sincere and genuine about it; he doesn't do things by halves.


[1] At the '58 World Convention, Solacon, the Hugo usually awarded to Campbell's Astounding went for the first time to the Magazine of Fantasy & SF.

[2] William Schwenck Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan: Gilbert & Sullivan. The song is from H.M.S. Pinafore, Act II.

[3] Irish Fandom, addicted to puns.

Vin¢ Clarke