punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

More tales from fandom: The last UniCon

I just felt the need to write these down. I think I am still having FanTek withdrawal.

The last UniCon (east coast) was a disaster. I can't exactly recall what happened but I recall a story about unattended Boy Scouts throwing a chair through a plate glass window, and of course, the con got blamed. Before you get all upset at this, keep in mind my foggy memory may be mixing this up with another con, filtered through many fables and rumors. The point is, the hotel shut the con down on a Saturday night.

My friend "John," whom I am going to call that because embarrassingly, I forgot his real name, was an attendee. John was the kind of soft, well-rounded and intellectual bearded types who might have been a former hippie, but didn't go on about it. He had a certain flair for being quietly anti-establishment, as indicated by his typical con garb: a tee-shirt with a bow tie in a crossed out circle. John was a little miffed, and retreated to his room on the top floor of this 10-story hotel.

As he was reading, someone banged on his door. He opened it to find the hallway scattered with people banging on doors.

"They're doing room checks!" said the stranger, before rushing to the next unknocked door.

Now, back in the 1980s, it was very common for people to share a room. Maybe it still is, and I am guessing this story would be familiar to many people who hike to anime cons. Sometimes we shared more than was legally allowed by the fire marshal. By a LONG shot. My personal record was 17 to our room back in high school, where the co-ed arrangement had us stacked like cordwood and sleeping in self made shifts: night people vs. day people. We had 3-4 teens to a bed, most of the rest on the floor, one in the closet, and usually one in the tub (which sucked because you'd get woken up by people who had to pee all the time). Part of this routine was not getting caught: the room was in four names only, often an unknowing adult parent was among those names.

John was at a point in his life where he felt no need to share a room. He was probably in his late 40s at the time of this tale. He felt he didn't need to put up with teen drama. So this warning was understood, but unnecessary to him.

John went out to balcony to avoid the noise in the hallway so he could continue to read. Across the street, there was a Tiki-themed bar and cafe, and it seemed to be overflowing with people. John started to notice that people were trickling into this establishment at a rate of about 6-10 every minute. This open-air bar was used to maybe 100 patrons, 200 at most. He didn't know how many people were at Unicon, but it had to have been over a thousand. The crowd swarmed the bar and cafe, spilled into the parking lot, and soon any open space across the street was occupied by random fen squinting in the evening dusk.

After a few minutes, there was another, more polite knock at the door. John opened the door and saw two men: a guy in a suit, and a security guard. The guy in the suit had a large printout, and addresed John by his full name.

"Yes," said John in calm reply.

"How many people are staying in your room currently?"

"Just me." John noticed the name tag on the suit said the man was "Hotel Services" with no name.

Hotel Service looked past John, not really listening to his answer. "You have listed here that you are the only guest in this room, yet you were issued two keys. Mind if we have a look around?"

John stood aside, but the Hotel Service guy and the gaurd didn't go past the entry way. The guard opened the closet, made a casual look. "You gave me two keys without asking, do you want one back?" asked John.

Hotel Service shook his head. "Nope. Sorry about this, we had a rumor that people were piling up in rooms up here. Did you see any room that might have more than 4 people?"

John shook his head, "I haven't been paying attention."

Hotel Service apologized, and they left.

John went back to the balcony. People had stopped streaming to the bar, and this was a good thing, because it was so densely packed, that people were in the street at this point.

About half an hour after this, John saw one person run like mad across the street and scream something to the bar. Suddenly, the entire bar emptied. Like a grainy pool of fannish liquid, nearly a thousand or so people swarmed like ants back into the hotel.

John smirked. "Room checks must be over."

UniCon was one of those legends that spun in a lot of directions. In the late 1980s, I heard about a dozen stories from that convention, almost them suspiciously like moral stories that make a good urban legend. But after that convention, all sci fi conventions started to get scrutiny. Then came the famous DisClave "non-load bearing sprinkler" incident, where a lot of cons are still trying to struggle against that image of rowdy sex-starved morons. I know even Katsucon has to explain what happened, despite it wasn't an anime con, despite the fact it wasn't even con attendees that hooked up a sexy, squirming, and willing bound woman to a sprinkler head.

That's why I always say, when one con has a disaster, we ALL suffer.
Tags: conventions, fandom, unicon
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