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10 February 2009 @ 02:55 pm
Convention memories: The con suite that rebelled  
Disclave is a long dead convention, but when I was a kid, it had this kind of bipolar personality. During the day, it was regarded as a convention of boring old fuddie-duddies. But when the sun went down, the younger set woke up and started to horse around. I was part of that younger set, and while I never engaged in any of the antics, I did witness many of them first hand.

One that stuck in my mind over the last 16 years was Disclave in 1993 where the con suite rebelled against the staff.

Having been a loyal Disclave congoer in the 1980s, this abruptly stopped when I got married due to financial reasons (mainly we couldn't afford Balticon or Disclave, nor did we have enough time off from work). In the early 1990s, I attempted to restart my non-FanTek cons to coincide with the release of my first book. This didn't go as well as I would have hoped, but part of that was that I got a real job (heh) right after my book was released. In fact, while I was at Disclave 93, I got a call to leave for an interview.

To get a free badge and jump start my fan base, I worked the Green Room. I would seriously recommend doing this at any con after doing Reg table for a few years: many guests are simply fascinating and wonderful people. But the best part was seeing the unfolding of a convention so beset by internal politics, that one department actually rebelled and declared independence.

Disclave had its problems. The gist of it was that most people assumed it was run by a bunch of old people nobody really liked. I... can't vouch for that, personally. I have met a few people who broke off and formed Capclave, and they seemed nice. I had a fight with one guy who was a Disclave chair, but he was simply awful, and now he's dead, so I won't mention his name out of respect. I am sure he was nice to someone and had a family that loved him. But apart from that, all I heard from people was that Disclave was run by some incredibly old and bitter nerds who clung to their self-anointed scepters and blamed the 1970s for all their problems. But some people thought Bruce ran FanTek like some Nazi perv cult, and somehow the fact that Bruce and Cheryl were always in charge meant, well, they were royalty and not a democracy and... let's just say people say a lot of stuff about people who run "the other cons." So Disclave could have been run by hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, I don't know. I would also like to repeat that Disclave did not die because some fans playing bondage games tied a girl to a sprinkler head. It was non-congoers who weren't even on a convention block. I have heard it was a bunch of off-duty police officers, but I don't know anymore. But if I had to say why Disclave died, it would be because the politics were just horrendous among their own ranks. And THAT I personally witnessed at Disclave 93.

I was in the Green Room on Saturday, chatting with some volunteers, and maybe a famous person I couldn't recognize in a police line up. We were having fun being geeks, discussing topics, and some of us were drawing. My job was to make sure the Green Room had food, but all I really did was be a "gopher" (go fer this, go fer that) between the Green Room and the Con Suite. This job ended prematurely because I was told not to get food from the Con Suite anymore. Turns out the person running the con suite was sick and tired of giving us food. So we did food runs directly from a local grocery, and since I didn't have a car, I just sort of sat around and cleaned up here and there.

My first indication something went wrong was when some guests rambled in and said their panels had been canceled, and they didn't know why. Hoping for some central source of information, they were sad and mopey all the Green Room people could do for them was make sure they had enough carrot sticks, veggie dip, and chocolate chip cookies. So one of the guests sent for the guest liaison, which I had met earlier when some famous person showed up to the con and squatted in the Green Room and had to be forcefully ejected.

Yes, really. I don't know who this famous person was. Let's call him "Rick Rockett." Rick suddenly showed up in the Green Room, in full anger+pout mode, and forceful sat himself inn the comfiest chair in the room. He crossed his arms and stayed there. I looked at the head of the Green Room (let's call him Bill), and he looked back, and we shrugged. We didn't even check to see if he was a convention attendee or not. You meet a lot of weird people in fandom, and sometimes it's best to leave them alone. Either they will demand attention and leave when you ignore them, or they will not demand attention and not be bothersome. Shortly after Rick showed up, he was followed by the guest liaison and his assistant who were in suit+tie mode. They duo asked, in a manner that suggested forced diplomacy, to describe "the incident at the registration table." Rick then barked at the pair, and stating in a form which suggested he already expected a conflict, his list of demands. His list included some things that were rather impossible. Upset that his wife was a guest and he wasn't, Rick demanded a free badge, free hotel room, and a formal apology to be printed in his publication. ONE of his more unreasonable demands was that they republish the program book with his name in it and re-issue it to attendees. The two men in suits calmly explained they could not afford to invite everyone, and when they tried to explain why his wife was a guest and he wasn't, Rick kept interrupting them with threats of shutting down the con. "I represent the biggest names in the industry," he said. "And I will make sure they NEVER come to your conventions, even ones they have already attended!" Quickly realizing that time machines were works of fiction and delusional minds, they attempted to remove Rick from the chair. Rick crossed his arms and did not move and claimed he would sue them for assault and battery. The guest liaison explained that while they would stop trying to remove him from his chair, they would ask the local police to assist them if he wanted to make sure that no assault and battery had taken place. The assistant guest liaison offered to take Rick to his wife, and Rick agreed to this, and then they left. No idea what happened to Rick after that.

So we already had seen how badly the convention was going with the guest liaisons. So when the guest liaison showed up again, I was a little alarmed the liaison's tie was loosened, his white shirt stained with sweat, and wanted to know what the hell was going on? The guests stated that the function rooms that they were supposed to have panels in were closed and locked. His response of "WHAT???" suggested he didn't have hearing loss as much as he could not process what they had just said as credible. Most of the guests shut up at this outburst, and the guest liaison apologized, and asked them which rooms.

"The ones between the con suite," they said.

For reasons unknown to anyone I have ever spoken to, the head of Disclave programming decided to place the con suite in four adjacent hotel rooms facing the pool courtyard. The four rooms were joined by doors that granted access back and forth, but it gave the con suite the feel of one long rail car. Since the con suite was one of the major social gathering points for Discalve, this made it a logistical nightmare. It was hard to manage the place, keep it evenly cooled properly, and each room had its own bathroom that needed constant cleaning. Trash piled up in corners, and food ran out randomly from room to room. The con suite staff were also frazzled and stressed as they usually are, but now it was concentrated and intensified.

But it got worse. Programming needed two of those rooms for panels during the day. But instead of choosing two room next to each other, they chose two rooms in the middle. This cut the con suite in half. And by Saturday, the con suite staff, feeling pissed on and their wants and needs ignored by the convention officers, shut down the con suite. An hour later, they reopened it, and refused to let any one of the staff inside.

They had declared independence. And in their half joking and all serious manner, fueled by the need to relieve stress, made it as a mock rebellion. Taking a line from a Heinlein novel, "He who controls the money controls the nation, but he who controls the food controls the people," they turned the con suite into a "members only" club, which meant no staff officers or guests. If one showed up, they refused to open the door. Quickly seizing this darkly humorous situation, it quickly became THE party to attend.

The guest liaison would have NONE of this, and excused himself like Bruce Willis in any "Die Hard" movie.

As far as I know, he was unable to quench the rebellion, because it went on for a while, and was the talk of the con. "Starve the staff, feed the people," became a motto. "Let them eat cake," was also slung about, in reference to a large sheet cake they threw out the door during one confrontation. I tried to get in at one point, but because I had a volunteer badge from the Green Room, I was turned away. What I did see was a very, very successful party beyond that door.

Sympathy rebellions sprung up. The Green Room declared, via a sheet of paper and crayon, "The Republic of Greendonia," and we nominated Katherine Kurtz (a guest) as our queen. I have no idea if she ever knew we did this, but she was the friendliest and most fun guest who sat in the Green room that con, and she was Irish, so we wanted her castle inheritance, too. Our animal mascot was the Irish Setter, of course. When the guest liaison showed up later on, he tore the sign off the door, and screamed in righteous anger, "THIS IS NOT FUNNY! WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN TOO!!" And that was the end of that for the Republic Greendonia, having lasted a mere hour and a half. A proud hour and a half, though.

I had heard the con suite rebellion lasted into the evening, but at some point, the staff assaulted the con suite staff en masse and shut the con suite down to much booing by the party participants. At some point, the con suite was trashed. I don't know if was during the rebellion and general party mess, during the eviction as part of a phsycal altercation and attempt to make barriers, or after the eviction as a final trashing.

That Sunday morning, ninjacooter and I sat in the ruins of the con suite. The hotel tables were devoid of their tablecloths. Popcorn and cheese doodles littered the floor like debris after a hailstorm. Teasers for "Jurassic Park" were scattered everywhere. It *looked* like there had been a war. The con suite had been opened that morning by a modicum of new recruits, a banana republic of sorts, as a puppet to the dominating regime of concom. The food was gone, and the room was quiet.

It quickly became the "event of which we do not speak." To this day, either I hear about how much fun the party was, or how it never happened, stop spreading lies. I once attended a SMOF meeting run by convention runners, and someone from Shore Leave brought it up as a joke, and the Capclave people refused to comment.
 
 
 
Richard "Pocky" Kimpockyman on February 10th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
... wow.

Thank you for sharing this story... it puts some things I'd heard in the past into better clarity.
gorgeousgarygorgeousgary on February 11th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
Oh man...I had not heard any of those particular stories before.

But then, Disclave '93 was the one I was going to run filk programming at, but quit the con-com in disgust after a Disclave meeting turned into a round-robin "let's insult Fantek" session. I did not attend the con as a member either.

I did return in '95 to run the filk, but managed to avoid attending a single meeting. I put together the whole filk program by e-mail.
(Anonymous) on February 13th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
Heh, I love the way you tell a story...

Now I just have to wonder what the feck a "con suite" is. The "green room" I can guess at, even though we don't have that at our festival either... But a "con suite"? Is that something like what we call the "gopher lounge"? An area for staffers and volunteers to relax a bit and have some food, outside of the normal antics of the con?