The first one that comes to mind came somewhere in the mid 1990s, when Cheryl Evry had issues getting people to show up to panels on Friday. So one of them was labeled, "A Squid, a Jar of Mayonnaise, and a Bottle of Wesson Oil: Punkie Explains." I found out about this panel a few hours before I was supposed to host it. I thought of doing, "How to make squid salad," but I am sure that the three or so people that showed up were not gourmands. I forgot what I actually said, but I think we discussed how much we hated Barney the Dinosaur.
Speaking of that, at another FanTek Con, I actually hosted a "Why We hate Barney" panel, which was one of the most packed I have ever hosted. About halfway through the panel, people got so worked up about how they hated Barney, if some poor sot in a Barney suit, perhaps on the way to a kid's party, passed by our door, I am sure a mob would have tracked him down and beat the living shit out of him with blunt objects. I had never felt the awesome power of starting a riot, but I am sure it would have started off like that panel. People got so worked up, so full of anger and hate, that I was losing control, and since I never hosted another one.
I once was asked to host a panel on Heinlein. I had not read any but two books of his, and that was in high school, and I didn't like either of them. I couldn't find the head of programming to have my name removed, so I hoped that the other panelist would speak more than I did. The other panelist didn't show up. So, what to do? I was honest. I said, "I have not read any but two books of Heinlein, and that was in high school, and I didn't like either of them! What's so great about Heinlein anyway?" Well, some people in the audience didn't like that. But what I hoped would happen eventually did, and it turned into a discussion circle where I just sat there and moderated my audience.
Another time, I was finishing my panel, when a panelist for the next panel asked to have a word with me privately. He was freaking out. He had never hosted a panel before, and while he did volunteer to help out, he was hosting this panel alone and was about to pass out with fear. He was pale and shaking like a leaf. He begged me to stay at the table with him. So I did. and that man's name was Frank Herbert. No, I am lying, I don't recall the guy's name, but the panel was ABOUT the then recent death of the creator of the Dune Saga.
I have often offered to give titles to panels when the rooms were not filled. And no programming chair has EVER taken me up on it. Panel titles include:
- The Art of Hotel Chair Arrangement: A post modern exhibit expressing blind obedience in a world that simply sits and waits
- The Mobius Strip Panel: We're all on the other side of the room.
- The Klein Bottle Panel: We're on the other side of the Mobius Strip Panel
- Invisibility Class Lab and Workshop: Must have attended previous Invisibility panel, test out your new invisibility cloaks!
- The Anti-Panel: The panel for people who hate and never attend panels, even ironic ones.
- Time Travel Demonstration: Hosted on Saturday, it promises to zap you to the previous Friday. Don't be late!
- The Order of United Science Fiction Pessimists: The moderator is probably no good, and nobody will show up anyway
- You're In the Wrong Room: The panel is in the OTHER room, stupid.
- Vendor Exhibit: New Trends in Hotel Function Room Carpet Patterns
- You're It! The first one in the room is the moderator!
- Meet the Guest So Famous He Refused to Show Up to His Own Panel, Panel
- Confused People Meet and Greet: Topic, "Is this panel for real?"