Sandy, the Secret Financier – Farpoint 93

I told previously how Sandy and I had discussed, even before OktoberTrek 92 began planning, that she might step down as the financial backer for the convention, and we talked about me stepping up to lead the new con, with George Laurence, our logistics expert, as my second. After all the heartache behind the scenes of that third year, Sandy did indeed decide she would step down. She announced this at the wrap meeting, after touching base with me.

I showed up with a proposal in hand to explain to the committee what I wanted to do. It already bore the name “Farpoint,” chosen because, in those days, “Encounter at Farpoint” was the only episode of the (then) two Trek series that featured characters from both “generations.” I wanted to send the message to fans that our con would embrace fans new and, um, experienced. Today such a distinction may seem silly. Back then, it was still kind of a big deal. At least I thought it was.

In short, Sandy and I had this gamed. She was ready to hand off the reigns… to me. Her only request—”Don’t call it OktoberTrek.” Hence the new name.

So we gathered together, Sandy gave her little speech, (“It’s time for me to pass the baton.”) and, at the appropriate time, I opened my mouth to speak. The committee heard the words, “Well, okaaaaaay. I guess it’s time I stepped up.”

Yeah, those words did not come from me. They came from my mother-in-law, Bev. I understand your confusion. We were about the same height.

Sandy had not talked to Bev about taking over, thinking that, since Bev had retired from the committee, she wouldn’t be interested in coming back to be the con chair. But she was interested in doing just that. She wanted a crack at it. (I am here today to tell you that people who retire from the committee and decide to come back are not to be trusted!) But the committee agreed that Bev should be the new chair, and that I should be the one handling the money. Seemed like a good compromise. For a while.

I should confess that, for the first ten years that we knew each other, my mother-in-law and I did not have a relationship that resembled a mill pond on a hazy summer day. We were both driven, creative, hard-working… and bossy. It wasn’t until the Fall of 1995 that we sat down and signed a treaty of sorts, agreeing on our sovereign territory so that we stopped stepping on each other’s toes and actually became allies. (And we did become allies.) But this was 1992, and we were still at odds. After many hectic months of butting heads, Bev realized that she wanted to be a grandmother more than she wanted to be a con chair, and that running Farpoint meant more to me than it did to her. So she stepped back. She always—always!—supported me. Until the day she died. But she did step away from that thing that was making us clash.

Back to Sandy, who was a calm, long-suffering presence throughout the Volker-Wilson clan’s growing pains. Now that OktoberTrek was legally dissolving, there was no one to be the party of the second part in the five-year contract Sandy had signed with Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn. There were two years left on that contract. Oh, there was an out clause. If Sandy canceled immediately, as I recall, there would have been no penalty. Hotel banquet contracts usually have a sliding scale. In January, you agree to pay, say, $10,000 to use the premises and have the support of the staff on December 1st. If you cancel your event by February 1st, you might not have to pay anything. If you cancel 180 days out, you pay $5,000. If you cancel 90 days out, you pay $7500. After that, you may as well just have the event, cause you’re gonna owe the whole 10K anyway.

With the multi-year contract, I think there was an out-clause for zero dollars if Sandy canceled by November 1st. But, now that Bev, the committee and I were going to start Farpoint, she didn’t want to cancel. She wanted us to be able to take advantage of the price she had locked in back in 1990 for another two years.

Great? Great.

Except…

That meant Sandy could not dissolve OktoberTrek, Inc. without paying the hotel bill, which was about $13,000.

OktoberTrek did not have $13,000.

Sandy could have declared bankruptcy, dissolved the company, and left Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn holding the bag. A lot of convention backers would have done just that. Never mind the fact that it would mean that Hunt Valley Inn would not trust future conventions. Never mind the fact that it would mean Farpoint probably couldn’t get off the ground, and Shore Leave would have been in for a world of hurt. A lot of convention backers would have said, “Too bad, so sad, hope I didn’t make ya mad.”

But Sandy believed in this crazy convention tradition we had all started years before. Sandy believed in fandom. Sandy believed in her family. And that was us.

So Sandy paid off that $13,000 debt out of her own pocket. She did it so all of the rest of us could have Farpoint. And, 28 years later, we still do.

She also made me promise not to tell anyone.

Sorry, big sister, but I only promised not to tell while you were here to chase me down if I broke my promise. You decided to up and leave me, so…

So I want everyone to know just what kind of person you were. The kind of person who threw herself into debt—on a limited income, while supporting her family members—just so her friends and extended family could keep having the time of their lives once a year.

That was my adopted sister, Sandy Zier-Teitler.

You know that Bible verse, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things?” It’s probably my all-time favorite. Whenever I hear that from now on, I’m going to think about Sandy.

Live Long and Prosper (Dammit!)

–Steve 

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