It wasn't just at the door I had problems. There was a devil of a job finding a hotel to check into. It seems there was some sort of convention going on in Sydney, and people were being sent as far as Wollongong to find accommodation for the night. However I found a place with one solitary room left.
Came the formal opening, George Takei came up on stage, and the applause was the loudest I have ever heard in my life. It literally hurt the ears. It was even louder than the Welcommittee's... and George's wasn't pre-recorded.
Then a bloke in a Starfleet uniform got up and explained that all the movies that were my reasons for coming, were not available.
After a screening of Catspaw and the lunch break, George made a speech of how he loved the hospitality, and what a nice place Sydney was. Short pause while the Melburnians booed. George promised to visit Melbourne while he was here. Short pause while the West Australians booed.
He went on to say that Star Trek: The Motion Picture would be released on 7th December 1979, with a budget of $30,000,000! (The next James Bond movie has a $54,000,000 budget. One day one of these ultra $$$ movies is going to flop heavily, the producers will take it as a sign the sf bubble has burst, and there will be a new SF crash. Just thought I'd share this personal gem of optimism.) The new Starfleet uniforms are one piece affairs that require assistance to get into. To avoid smearing makeup while these things are pulled on and off, a silk container for the human head was devised...rending new meaning to the term "Bag your head."
"Star Wars " said George, "was escapism. Star Trek is rooted in the concerns of today."
The costume parade was held that evening, and I became part of it at the last moment. I didn't have a costume, but was wearing a turtle-neck shirt, so with a pen, scissors and a bit of paper, I made myself a chest emblem and went as a S.H.A.D.O. technician. (Remember the series U.F.O.?) I didn't get a prize. After all, there were people there wearing costumes they had spent months to make. Mine had taken all of five minutes.
I didn't bother with room parties that night. I had spent the previous night sitting up in a train, and on this particular night was ready to flake out at the drop of a tribble. The next morning I checked out of my hotel, and adjourned to the Menzies Hotel and ST con, lugging an overnight bag made bulky by the presence of various purchases, including a Star Wars shooting script.
First on the agenda was a talk on UFOs, in which I learned that if all the stars in the observable universe were the size of pinheads, you could put all of them together in a block sized 50 km by 50 km by 10 km. I learned about the UFO that saved Shatner's life in California, when he was on a motor bike trip.
Then came the auction, in which I obtained a copy of Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine for $7.00. It could have been mine for $6.00 but I had bid against myself – something easy to do, especially when the auctioneer is apparently looking 90 degrees from you when he takes your bid, and you think somebody else made the same offer.
One of the films shown was an item presented as a movie short and called Hardware Wars, featuring, characters like Princess Ann Droid and Auggie Ben Doggie. Believe me, you haven't lived until you've seen Chewbacca being played by the Cookie Monster. It is also interesting to see our heroes – armed with laser firing electric drills – board a planet-destroying waffle iron...in a shot-of-steam iron. A blurb at the end goes: "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss three bucks goodbye.''
Then came the Great Draw, where the person whose badge ID number was drawn got to have dinner with George Takei. I looked at my badge number – and decided that the odds were against me. So, confident there was no chance for me whatsoever, I watched the draw certain I would not win. Sure enough, I didn't.
I did get to see an 8 mm version of The Man Trap for the first time. This episode was never aired in Australia, due to the fact it contained the salt vampire, and vampires on t.v. were verboten in those days.
Close to the end of the festivities, Nikki White gave a talk on the noble Klingons and how they were a lot better than Kirk and his cronies. This degenerated into a brawl between Klingons and Federation, with tribbles being used as weapons.
Someone took advantage of the ruckus and momentary darkness, to steal half the on-sale-for-$5.00 each tribbles. After pleas for the thief to own up, and a period of darkness for the return of the tribbles... the things remained missing. Not the most pleasant note on which to end a convention.
Afterwards, there was a question and answer period, in which George Takei offered to answer any questions whatsoever. I wanted to ask what the purpose of existence was, but had to catch the next train to Melbourne, and it was getting late. So I picked up my overnight bad and headed for the door. My big, fat, bulging, stuffed-full overnight bag. And the tribbles were still missing. A number of icily suspicious gazes followed me out the door.