Whatcha Gonna Do with the Briefcase?

IMG_2342Family and friends are already sick of this story, but I’m told it was “legendary.” (All one word. Not Barney Stinson Legen-Wait-for-it-Dary.) And my brain is so drained that it’s pretty much all I got this week. By rights, I should be doing a Farpoint 2014 After-Action Report this week. For reasons of my own, I’m not going to do that. My reaction to Farpoint 2014 goes too deep inside my skull, and, as I’ve warned you, it’s dark and scary in there, and there are little mice…

So I’ll limit the Farpoint news to this: Farpoint 2014 happened this weekend. Weather kept Phil Lamar away. Melissa McBride was adorable. Alan Dean Foster had, of course, great stories to tell us. It was under-attended: 470 weekend equivalent paying, which means about 600 people plus 150-odd guest and hanger-on badges (don’t be insulted, I’m a notorious hanger-on) and about another 150 committee, staff, dealers and lifetime members. (All of those are paying too.) So about 900. We lost 100 – 150 to snow. BTW, a lot of cons would calculate their attendance as 470 weekend + 300 committee/guest = 3 days x 770 = 2310, but I think that’s a bit nuts. Farpoint has always counted people alone, and often forgotten to add in guests and committee.

So the real post-Farpoint entry concerns a briefcase I bought. It’s like this…

Alan Dean Foster was one of our big name celebrities this weekend. Our celebs usually donate to the charity auction, and many also then donate directly to the charity, as Melissa McBride did. Alan brought a briefcase he’d had since the late Seventies. He hadn’t used it in 20-odd years, and said it was just gathering dust in his basement. It had stickers from many exotic places he’d traveled, and he’s traveled some exotic places. And it had a promotional sticker for Star Wars, believed to be the first promotional item released for the film and the first artwork Ralph McQuarrie created for the project. And it was on a briefcase owned by Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the novelization of the original film and the first original Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. (Due respect to many talented people who’ve written Star Wars, that’s the only one of that series I’ve ever been able to finish.)

When Alan presented this at his first Committee Meet ‘n Greet, Sharon, our esteemed co-Con Chair, said, “Oh, you can bet Steve will go home with that.” She then introduced me to Alan as his SuperFan, and the man behind a years-long one-man campaign to get him to Farpoint. (To be fair to Alan, it was not a one-man campaign. Many people wanted him here!) So here I am, sweaty and in my grungy clothes, with a roll of gaffer’s tape on my arm. Poor guy must have figured his status had taken a plunge in the world if this was his “SuperFan,” and what the hell was with the gaffer’s tape anyway? Gaffer’s tape is stronger than duct tape, you know, and much harder to remove if it’s applied to skin… scary. I’m surprised he stayed.

The case went up for sale Saturday night during the Masquerade competition. I don’t always make the Masquerade, and this particular night I’d promised to do some heavy lifting for the Art Show team; but I made myself a promise to show up for the bidding, so that the case sold for a respectable amount. You never know how an item is going to go. I’ve seen a Patrick Stewart autographed crew jacket sell for $40, and lunch with Felicia Day go for $3500. I wanted to be sure Alan’s contribution would have a good showing, and I mentally earmarked an amount that would be my max. It would have been a respectable amount, had that been the final price, and I was equally happy with the thought that another Star Wars or ADF fan, or just another charitable giver, would take home the case.

So when I heard the words, “That concludes the entries in the 2014 Farpoint Masquerade” come out of the mouth of sultry vixen David Keefer… sorry. Auto-replace must have kicked in. I meant “Legendary Medieval Disk Jockey David Keefer”… When I heard those words, I ducked into the ballroom. The case went up for sale. I think they opened theĀ  bidding at $100. Several people called out $100, so I called out $150 to eliminate confusion. My friend Lew Aide made a competing bid, but I publicly chastised him. By $200, we were down to two bidders, and I was still well within my allotment. Bidding continued with spirit between myself (leaning casually on the side wall, defying the Fire Marshal) and a young man in the back row.

We weren’t yet at my limit when I decided to do some theatrical hesitating. It’s bidding strategy. Make the other guy think you’re wearing down. (I have no idea what I’m talking about. I make this stuff up as I go along.) The audience members took me seriously, and this amazing thing happened. Money started flying in my direction. It began with my friend TA Chafin, who asked me, “How much are you short?” and then forced $40 into my hand before I could answer. Quickly, another $100 or so in cash landed in my hand. Then $50 more from the chastised Mr. Aide. People were tripping over themselves to get to me. I couldn’t count the cash, and had no idea what my max plus their contributions added up to. People began to also hand my opponent money. Someone called out (referring to me, “He has more friends than you do!” A fine sentiment on the face, but I wish it hadn’t been said. The guy bidding against me seemed very nice.) Bidding cleared $400 before I could catch my breath, and then, well… I realized that most of the people handing me money were the Farpoint committee and cast members from the Usual Suspects and Prometheus Radio Theatre. They really wanted me to have that case.

I couldn’t let them down. This was a matter of honor.

Bidding finally ended at $675. Someone dubbed it the most expensive briefcase ever sold, but I suspect that the exploding ones cost more. That is, I assume this one isn’t the exploding kind. That could be embarrassing. Hmmm. Alan did work on a project now owned by Disney… hmmm…

But here’s the thing: I didn’t hit my max. More than half of the money was given to me. I handed back a check for $80 that Paul Balze had offered, “If you need it.” And my friend Jim Rhule stopped by later to say he was ready to get me to $800. When he heard I still had money to go, he said he would have taken me to $1000 then. Wouldn’t that have made the folks at the Julien Fleming Fund and BARCS happy? (Oh, BTW, I did give my max to the charities, just so you know. One of the other items wasn’t moving at the price I thought it should, so I paid for it as well. Didn’t actually claim it. It was an airport ride with a guest I could tell really just wanted to nap on the way home!)

I guess the nicest thing said to me during the whole go-round came from Lew: “Sorry I bid against you. If I’d won, it was yours anyway.”

Shucks folks, I’m speechless.

Okay, not speechless. Suffice to say I do have some very generous friends. After a grueling couple of weeks, it was uplifting to see them actually putting money on the line just to get me something they knew I wanted.

Several people have asked me, “What are you going to do with that briefcase? Use it?” Nah. Wouldn’t want to lose it or mess up the stickers. Maybe keep my ADF paperbacks in it? As many as will fit? Or my Star Wars figures? But wait, I only have two since I gave my original 11 to my son. I dunno. Inge Heyer asked me, “Who owns it, since everyone kicked in?” I figure I’m majority shareholder, since I made the biggest contribution. Long term, I imagine I’ll donate it to BSFS, assuming they outlive me, or the Star Toys musuem, same assumption. Or someone who values SF History and will give it a good home where people can see it.

There it is, Alan. Your “SuperFan” is a sweaty guy who brings gaffer’s tape to meetings in hotel suites and spends ridiculous amounts on briefcases.

Seriously, dude, you need to start courting a higher-end clientele.

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4 thoughts on “Whatcha Gonna Do with the Briefcase?

  1. As much as I wish it had been me who handed you the $80 check, Steve, it must have been someone else. I didn’t make it over there until after you’d already won the case, but if bidding had gone on much longer I’m sure I would have kicked in some money.

    • No, really? Kathy G. handed me the check. I thought she said it was yours! So, apologies and thanks to the dear friend I snubbed!

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