Greg Thokar's L.A.con II Reminiscence
Nineteen-eighty-four, the Worldcon in Los Angeles. 1984, George Orwell's dystopian novel. The con choose as its mascot a rat, in recognition of one of the most widely read science-fictional books. It chose as its location the Anaheim Convention Center, directly across from Disneyland.
Certainly the most unique event of L.A.con II was the discount day they arranged for fans at Disneyland the Wednesday before the convention. The con had incorporated its mascot's picture into many of its publications, and convention souvenirs, including baseball caps and t-shirts. It must have startled many at Disneyland as thousands of fen descended on the unsuspecting park wearing, not Mickey Mouse, but Reynolds Rat.
L.A.con II was a landmark in many other ways as well. It was, far and away, the largest Worldcon ever. Over 6400 fen preregistered and, with the help of a strong, local advertising campaign, another 2000 plus joined at the door. The Star Wars trilogy was shown together (at midnight!) for the first time ever. The 300-table Hucksters' Room was a vast expanse of books, fanzines, movie memorabilia, and related material. The Art Show took several passes to view all of the 400-plus panels and tables containing a remarkably high overall quality of art. The Showcase area was especially memorable, where each artist represented chose their best piece of the year to display. (Even the Art Show sales set a record of almost $100,000.)
The masquerade did its part in setting records. Not only did it have the largest number of participants; as a consequence, it ran well past midnight once the judges had made their decisions and the last award had been presented.
The convention's first official event was the Thursday evening ice cream social. There fans consumed a record number of gallons of ice cream while cheerfully waiting in lines for their favorite flavors and chatting with friends.
Pro GoH Gordy Dickson was another Worldcon Guest who was in poor health. The concom kept him secluded, except for his scheduled appearances. His GoH speech, set in the cavernous Convention Center arena, was a memorable talk about how he began writing and the creation of his Childe (Dorsai) Cycle.
Gordy's lack of presence was made up by the Fan GoH, Dick Eney. This man seemed to be everywhere I turned. Whether perusing the Hucksters' Room, or dropping in at the fan lounge, or just wandering the halls, Dick would be there with a cheerful smile on his face, enjoying everything immensely.
Luckily, even for its attendance, the facilities were expansive enough to never seem too crowed. The Convention Center had several large function rooms and the 15,000 or so seat arena. The Anaheim Hilton was a perfect convention hotel. There was a large, three-story, atrium where, if you waited long enough, anyone you were looking for would pass by. The hotel was only four or five stories tall, so there were few opportunities for elevator parties. It also had two sprawling courtyards off the cabana suites, perfect for parties, and four hot tubs, each at a different temperature. One could walk from party to party without ever entering the hotel.
And of course there were tons of parties. The bid parties that year really stood out. It was the first hotly contested race in a number of years, with Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York City all vying for the 1986 Worldcon. Each had its own distinct flavor, whether New York's egg creams, or Atlanta's punch. Boston was also there with its gala announcement (and 20-person masquerade costume) for 1989 and its bid party with the soon-to-be-traditional 10-lb. bar of chocolate.
L.A.con II also was known for the largest surplus in Worldcon history. It ended up almost $200,000 in the black. Much of the money was used to reimburse the convention workers and participants. A significant amount has been disbursed as grants. [One of which is the $1,000 yearly grant L.A. has given each recent Worldcon towards the creation of the Hugo Award Trophies.] L.A. certainly wasn't what Orwell could have conceived of, but then again, it certainly wasn't what any fan from 1939 could have conceived of either.
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