Patia von Sternberg

Fandom's only professional ecdysiast, Patia von Sternberg was an East Coast con fan. Most memorably, Patia originated the Secret Handgrip of Fandom in 1974 and provided the entertainment during the masquerade judging at MidAmeriCon in 1976.

With goh Robert A. Heinlein at the front of the audience, Patia stripped down to her g-string and pasties, to the tune of Joan Baez's rendition of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Then she tossed her brassiere at Heinlein.

Heinlein's wife, Virginia, was sitting next to him, along with Heinlein's brother, Lawrence, a brigadier general in the National Guard, who was in full dress uniform. Virginia took Patia's bra and put it across Heinlein's shoulders, so that he could match his brother with epaulets.

The performance did not find favor with some fans who had young children along, even though partial nudity was fairly common at Worldcon masquerades in those days, perhaps because the masquerade judges hadn't finished deliberating by the time Patia had finished stripping, so she went on dancing in the almost altogether for another 20 minutes.

"At the end of the GoH banquet the next day, Heinlein brought out his "epaulets," draped them over his shoulders, and stood at attention facing the audience. He then asked for Patia; when she wasn't in the audience, he asked if anyone could find her or knew her well enough to give them back to her. "She may need them at a later time," he said."

In 2005, Ted White recalled going to see Patia's "uncensored" performance at a Washington, D.C., strip club soon after MidAmeriCon. "I was impressed," he wrote. "It was the first (and only) time I ever saw a cigarette smoked with that portion of a woman's anatomy."


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