Previously in Steve’s life: Thinking back on the friendship I shared with Sandy Zier-Teitler, I’ve been documenting her zine and con adventures. OktoberTrek 92 was pivotal in our friendship. I had been part of the ClipperCon committee since 1986. ClipperCon was Baltimore’s second Star Trek convention… because we could. When ClipperCon dissolved, Sandy Zier-Teitler (then Sandy Zier) started OktoberTrek. 1992 was its third and last year of operaton.
I know Sandy anticipated going in that the third OktoberTrek would be her last. I don’t recall why she was thinking of stepping down, but I know that she booked De Kelley again specifically because she wanted to go out as she came in, with her favorite Trek actor there. I also recall that, at the 1991 edition of Pat Sponaugle’s infamous Fall parties, I said to George Laurence that I was nervous about 1992. He thought I was talking about the impending arrival of my firstborn, Ethan, but I was in fact talking about Sandy’s proposed retirement and the discussions she and I were already having about George and me taking over the con. And I know she wasn’t sure which way she was going to decide at that point.
But we still got through OktoberTrek 1992.
The next generation was already stepping up, actually. My wife Renee became Program Chair, which is basically second in command of the con, with the retirement of her mother. Bev had trained Renee for the job since she was 15, and, at 25, she was ready to go. The only part of the job she refused was doing the traditional Program Book report.
So our son Ethan wrote it. Scoffers may say he hired a ghost-writer, being, at the time, only two-and-a-half months old. But I would remind you that the author/editor of, to date, 2,824 reviews on the daily Figure in Question action figure review site has always been capable of working miracles.
Our ‘B’ guest was Brent Spiner. In those days, a con booked two actors, not ten or twenty. OktoberTrek 91 was a huge exception with three headliners and Bruce Hyde on the bill; but that only happened because Levar Burton asked us if we would book him. I would point out that we also paid that short list of actors in full, so our fans got a free autograph. (Although I think De only distributed pre-signed photos at that last event. He was slowing down.)
Things have not changed for the better, in my opinion. I personally find the spectacle of actors charging money for a signature to be kind of embarrassing. I know I’m not alone. Carrier Fisher hilariously compared it to doing lap dances. I also think having too many celebrities takes the focus off the fans themselves; but I accept that I am not the demographic cons are trying to reach anymore, and I salute those who have the energy to keep them going, even as I grouse.
Anyway, back to the ‘B’ guest… Many would have said he was the ‘A.’ Getting Brent to a con in 1992 was like getting Elvis—and Elvis was dead. Proving that our committee has always faced the most out-of-left field logistical challenges, Brent overslept and missed his flight, so he was not at the airport Saturday morning as expected. He jumped right on the first plane he could get, but we were down a very major guest until about 8:00 Saturday night. His scheduled talk was, I believe, at 1:00 or 2:00.
And here’s the deal about the Trek cons in Baltimore—we don’t do reserved seating. (Farpoint did for two years, when my friend Joe Motes was our promoter. It didn’t fit our atmosphere, so we dropped it.) So, De Kelly went off stage, and all those people who were packed in to see him knew that, if they left the room, they might not have a seat when Brent got there. And, at first, we had no idea when Brent was getting there. We told people to just keep their seats. We had no mechanism (and not enough staff) to tag and hold seats for them. We didn’t think it was fair to clear the ballroom when some people had been sitting there since we opened to hold a good seat for Brent’s talk.
So we put on a show.
A few shows, in fact. I don’t recall all that we did for six or so hours while people sat there. I know we screened the week’s Next Gen episode, which had not aired in our market. I believe it was either Blair Learn or Randy Hall that had a VHS copy via some sort of satellite feed. We might have shown two episodes, but one was definitely “Man of the People.” It was a blast watching new Trek with about 1000 friends, but that episode made it bittersweet. I had pitched a script called “The Face of the Killer” to TNG, and they reportedly thought it was very strong… but they had already bought a “Troi goes nuts” story, and it was “Man of the People.” I’d have felt better if that had been a strong entry in the series.
Anyway, if anyone remembers what else we filled those hours with, please comment. I’m sure we put the Boogie Knights up there, and maybe Luna-C.
One interaction I’ll never forget was that one poor volunteer at the door didn’t know what to tell a father of a very small girl who needed to go to the bathroom. I remember him telling the dad, “The committee said I can’t let you back in if you leave.” The dad was understandably distraught. I pinned my committee badge on the young lady and assured them that they could come back in if she was wearing that. Years later, they tracked me down to thank me.
Brent arrived, full of apologies and as warm and friendy as he could be. I had been concerned that he might let the committee take the heat for the audience being stuck for so long, but he let everyone know what actually happened, and then gave a wonderful talk.
And that was just Saturday. I’d better tell you about Sunday next time… it was a doozy.