COVENTRY '77 (EASTERCON '77)
THE COVENTRY CAPER
by Terry Jeeves
Having donned earthing rods, anti-static helmets, and doused our legs with water, we* were shattered to discover that some genius had de-staticed the De Vere Hotel, Removing our gear and depositing it in a handy ashtray, we registered, collected our room key, and headed for our week-end base which proved to be on the heaventh floor. Room 742 being supplied with oxygen equipment and a hitching post for any passing angel to tie up his cloud. We quickly unpacked essential con equipment (fanzines, cine projector, stack of paintings, con badge, a portable Burgess pie-tester and a length of rubber tubing for pinching drinks out of unguarded glasses) and descended to the Con Hall.
Pauline Dungate was 'introducing celebrities'... traditional and admirable though this practice is, it was hampered somewhat by the evident fact that Pauline only appeared to know six of the people present, apart from a Mr, Um-er, that is... he got several mentions, Ah well, she tried... indeed, she was very trying. Next came the first of a plethora of panels... the things bespattered the programme; interspersed by an occasional speech, an auction or three, and one or two ancient films... well, there was one new one, but that with brilliant forethought had been scheduled for Monday morning. Not to worry, good old 'Things To Come' was shown twice.
After a four star banquet at the adjoining Wimpey we carted my trusty Eumig projector into the Con Hall to show two of the three Delta competition films. First was 'THE 61/2p MAN running for 35 minutes, we had to sellotape extra sides on my take up reel to accommodate it. It was extremely innovative and had some brilliant gimmicks. Next came my own animated 'SUPERFAN* with a running time of 5 minutes. These had both been Standard 8mm, so now I whisked my little Eumig clear to allow the monster, 6ft tall behemoth projector to screen the 'TRYZANNIAN EXILES'. Sadly, it had been filmed at 16fps and was projected at 18,thus making everyone resemble a chipmunk in high gear. The plot was a a bit vague as no one could understand what was being said. Nevertheless, TRYZANNIAN EXILES scooped the kitty, and another good Delta Award was over and followed by `Adventure of Duperman' with a sound track so lousy, it ended up being run silent.
Bar time was as ever, delightful. John Brunner wore a delightful burgundy smoking jacket with silver edging. Bob Shaw had a delicate, smoke-aged pullover, tastefully spattered with Guiness. James White was as impeccable as ever, Dave Kyle in a red blazer kept getting mistaken for a letter box, as was evident by the number of letters sticking out of his left ear. It was about now, that the convention began to assume its regular bleary-edged look and time binding blended all people and events into un-chronological order. Waldemar Kunming was there without a camera. Hans Loose was there... but then he NEVER seems to miss.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Peter Weston conducted a 'Mastermind' quiz. Not being a mastermind myself, I can't remember who participated... or who won. This one tended to drag a bit... maybe a future quiz might have several, shorter opening bouts to warm up the audience! Being rather sleepy by this time, the Jeeves clan headed for the lift and found it being operated by a toddler who was having a great time whooping up and down in her own private magic carpet, Fixing us with that unblinking stare which small children reserve for adults she watched us in silence as the lift climbed slowly upwards and in blind robotic obedience, stopped at each floor, opened and shut its doers to nobody, before moving on to the next... the little wight had pressed EVERY button. If anyone has lost a little girl, you might try looking in a water tank on the 7th floor.
Saturday dawned... as did yet another panel, This time, Pamela Bulmer was chairing, 'The Role Of Women in SF' My two women thought It a good item to avoid, so we went out for a stroll around Canterbury and its lovely cathedral, Outside, an architectural hodge-podge but beautiful within. Back at the de Vere we were just in time to dodge a brace of speeches and a couple of auctions, but we did manage to catch the first screening 'Things To Come'.
With evening comes pie-fall. Brian Burgess was huckstering pies and bottles of milk at bargain prices. I know they were bargains, as I had priced the pies in Marks & Wotnots earlier that day... at 1p more than Brian was charging. A real saviour of mankind is Brian (Which is why I have his pies a free ad in 'Superfan'. Then it was Fancy Dress time. I had promised to push Pamela Boal in her wheel chair... and was astounded at the superb way in which her family had rallied round and converted it into a Dalek-style control chair... and Pamela into somebody called Charon or suchlike. Whatever she was, it was terrific and justly deserved the prize she won. Other guises were a superb 'Batman & Robin', a simply terrific Viking hero, Cat Woman... and a very well designed young lady whose costume was not only brief, but lacking in the stress design department, so that when she hurried, she became the most outstanding woman in the show. I pushed Pamela around once, ogled a very brief costume, and prepared to push Pamela a second time... Holy Klono, my strength had vanished! It took two more abortive attempts before I realised that the mini costume hadn't sapped my energy, but Pamela had shoved on the brake on the wheel chair.
Sunday saw the Daleks invading Earth yet again (on film, and for the umpteenth con time). Luckily, I has a date with a thrilling BSFA meeting in the Fairfax room before rushing back to the voting for next year's Con... a rather academic affair, as there was only one bid, Maybe that was lucky, as when Ken Slater yelled out to ask, if a double room cost £13.80 without breakfast, how much did a breakfast cost? He was told that no hard figures could be given so far ahead. True, but when I asked what they were charging as of right now, a lack of preparatory work was evident, as the proposers didn't know that either. Nevertheless, it is HEATHROW HOTEL in '78 complete with an unspecified breakfast cost... so better bring a frying pan and a couple of eggs
This year's huckster room was excellently set out, and full of oodles and oodles of goodies... but no genius has ever yet solved the perennial con problem of budgeting your book buying before you know how much the weekend has cost you. Normally, I don't find this art until Monday after the shop has closed, Also very well prepared and organised was the Art show, masterminded-by Marsha Jones... and an excellent job she did. Sadly, the art auction had to be curtailed, as auctioneer Rog Peyton arrived half an hour late from flagging fanzines in the very well appointed... and wel1 used, fan room. Highlight of the auction was the sale of a beautiful Eddie Jones painting for around £150.
Hot on the tail of the auction came another panel...of publishers. By this time, everybody (with £4 worth of banquet ticket scorching in their hands) was starting to avoid food in order to create cargo space. Toastmaster was Peter Weston, and an admirable job he did of it. Speaking of Peter reminds me that this was yet another con, where TAFF was neither plugged nor explained to attendees... which is a pity as some had obviously got the idea that it was some kind of reward for longevity in fandom. TAFF needs publicity...and finance, and if we don't make something of it at each convention, then it will soon be misunderstood and fade away, Which is also the time to announce that this year's worthy winner was Peter Roberts (who is NOT an aged and weary fan). He polled 104 votes, I raised 89 and poor old Pete Presford came in third with 12. So at this point, I'd like to thank all these goad kind people who voted for me, Sorry folks to let you down, but it seems I just ain't TAFF stuff.
Following the BANQUET came the DANCE, a lively and highly enjoyable session wherein we all did our assorted things to the great music provided by Gray Charnock and his men as they served up some three hours of red hot rhythm. Anyone who didn`t enjoy it must have 3 bad three left legs. One suggestion though, good as the music was I'd like to have seen a bit more variety added to the one weltz and a couple of quickstep rhythms which interspersed the modern twist beats. Perhaps another time Gray we could talk you into a few cha chas, rumbas, tangos and slow foxtrots for the s&c among us.
And so came Monday morning, a quick breakfast, off up the M1 and home. We didn't stay to see what seemed to be the only 'new' film on the programme 'Zero Population Growth? as it wasn't shown until 10.30 on Monday. In retrospect, another good, enjoyable Con, but if I had my druthers, I'd like to have seen less sercon (panel, speech, panel, speech etc) and a few more general fannisb or audience participation items. Whatever happened to the Liverpool Tape Operas, the 'This Is Your Fannish Life', the 'Twenty SF Questions', the Fan quizzes and so on which used to liven up the large gaps which keep appearing in programmes nowadays. Otherwise, I for one would like to give thanks to one more Con Committee for having given us another good weekend to renew old acquaintances.
(*we... is not the editorial 'we', it comprises Val, Sandy and me)