19 September 2016

Unconventional Convention —
Susan Cooper, Unbarred


*hic* You may be wondering why my name is attached to this post instead of Susan’s. See… we went out drinking… Well, not drinking exactly but imbibing slightly. Okay, we were drowning in our cups, flippin’ inebriated. And at the bar Susan says “There’s Brad Pitt,” and I say no, it can’t be, we’re too blitzed to see straight. “It’s Brad Pitt, I tell you. He’s drinking mimosas and flirting with me,” except she pronounced it “mirmoshash.” It’s not, I say staring into my empty glass and then she says “He tastes like Brad Pitt.” I’m not sure what happened or if Suze has a 2-foot Tex Avery tongue, but I grabbed her and we ran before the cops arrived. We raced to SleuthSayers Corporate Headquarters to post her article when she says, “Oh, no. I slipped Brad Pitt the wrong key.” So without her office key, the Crider Building security guard, who was already irritated by Leigh’s stupid article a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t let Susan in. While she happily napped snored in the lobby, I rattled up the elevator by myself and posted her freakin’ article. So there. *hic*

Velma

by Susan Rogers Cooper

In honor of Bouchercon week, I thought I would tell tales from previous conventions. The Statute of Limitations has expired, so any admissions made in this post cannot reflect adversely on those involved. That said, let’s talk about ClueFest.

Many of you may never have heard of this particular convention, mainly because it was very small, held in Dallas, Texas, and only lasted about four years. The mystery fans who started and ran this convention did so with gusto and grace. The tales to be told revolve more around the hotel of choice than the convention itself. It is only apt that I tell these tales now as I plan on traveling to New Orleans with my dear friend Joan Hess (a co-conspirator) and rooming with my other dear friend Jan Grape (at times an instigator).

My first inkling that the location of the convention was not at a Five Star hotel was when I took my shoes off in my room and my feet stuck to the floor. Never a good sign. Then we, my roomie Jan Grape and I, discovered that the hotel bar closed at ten p.m. For a mystery convention? Were they out of their minds? Did they not want to make the big bucks? Had they never heard the rumors about writers? This brought about the great wine opening fiasco. They – the hotel staff – wouldn’t allow us into the closed bar to find a corkscrew, nor would they send someone up to the room with one, due to the fact that there was only one staff member on duty. In the entire hotel. The fact that we also did not have any pillows in our room only intensified the situation. That was the first day. And it was only half a day.

The first full day of the convention the air conditioning in a room that was to be used as a panel/discussion room failed – this convention was held in July, in Dallas, where temps often reach and steady at 100 degrees or more. This caused them, the staff of the hotel, to relocate the panel/discussion to, you guessed it, the lobby. Yes, the lobby. Joan Hess and I, both smokers at the time (this was the ’90s, get over it) had moved to the lobby to smoke as the bar was, again, closed. They, the staff of the hotel, made us leave. Seeing as it was over 100 degrees outside, we, Joan and I, decided to sneak into the bar to smoke. I mean, come on, we could see into the bar and there were ashtrays everywhere! A clear invitation.

The bar was a section of the hotel lobby area bordered by a half wall. Joan, in pants, jumped over. I, in a dress, managed to keep my ladylike demeanor intact by carefully maneuvering my way over the wall. We were halfway to an ashtray when the alarm went off. Let’s just say I wasn’t as ladylike as I lept over the wall to safety. Walking carefully to the front of the hotel, one could clearly hear Joan Hess say, “Is it a fire? Must be. Maybe we should leave.” I could not respond. I was giggling too hard. And I’m not much of a giggler, but then the situation clearly called for nothing less.

It was that evening that we discovered that the hotel next door to ours (with, we assumed, clean floors and an open bar) was hosting a sci-fi convention. Joan, Jan and I looked at each other and, of course, Joan said, “Well, duh. Let’s go.” So we did. On the escalator to the lobby we saw a man dressed in a full “Cats” the musical costume. He was gorgeous.

Once in the lobby area we saw more women than we cared to see dressed in the skimpy Star Fleet women’s uniform, a man with a black wig and pointy ears, three or four red suits (we didn’t stand too close to them -- you know they’re always the first to die), and then the contingent of Star Wars characters: three Princess Lea’s, a couple of Han Solos, and one Chubaca. Which was all quite fascinating and instigated a discussion of why we mystery people didn’t dress up. Of course, for the guys it would be easy: a couple hundred Sherlock Holmeses, a few Hercule Peroits, a Sam Spade or two. But for us, the women, who did we have besides Miss Marple and a few dames in red dresses? We decided to let that idea stay on the back burner. Eventually we found ourselves in the basement level in a room occupied by fantasy gamers (always the basement, the poor guys), with nothing very exciting going on. So we headed back to our dingy, mostly barless hotel.

The one really good thing about those conventions are the stories that can be told. When everything goes right, there are no stories. It’s the mess-ups and derailments that made a con memorable. If I could remember the name of that hotel, believe me I’d post it here. Hell, I’d post it anywhere, although I’m pretty sure it died a natural death years ago.

Looking forward to new adventures in New Orleans, where I’m sure the bar will always be open.

P.S. Whatever Velma might have told you isn't true.

— Susan Rogers Cooper

7 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Susan, after your crazy adventures in Texas, I hope you found a bar that was open, or at least an open bottle. Sounds like you needed one ;) . Fun piece.

Bill Crider said...

Wasn't there a drug raid at the hotel, too? I miss ClueFest.

Anonymous said...

I'm rolling. Tastes like Brad Pitt? I sputtered and slopped coffee everywhere. It was well worth it though. Then the main article had me gasping. What have I been missing out on? What do you have to do to get a building named after you?

Elizabeth said...

Susan, great post! I almost feel like I was there ... in fact I almost was there. Never heard of the ClueFest but I was at a different convention in Dallas in August of 1993 & was staying at the Hyatt Regency. This was when I still had a job ... the Hyatt Regency overlooked a horrendous cloverleaf-type interchange of several highways & from my hotel room I could see an encampment of homeless people who were living there. One evening we took a field trip to the Mesquite rodeo which I thought was horrible. But we almost didn't get there, because it turned out our bus driver didn't know how to read & couldn't follow the road signs from Dallas to Mesquite. When we got to Plano we knew something was wrong & asked for directions. Good times ...

Jeff Baker said...

LOL!!!!! Our room in Kansas City at Worldcon last month in Kansas City was likewise interesting. No sticky floor but we couldn't turn up the a.c, in the room! I kept thinking of the Lovecraft story "Cool Air."

Velma DiVine said...

Jeff, I can't recall Cool Air, lots of others but darn, not that one.

Elizabeth, we should get YOU to tell your stories!

Anon, at least you have a functioning liver. I'm not so sure about me.

Bill, I'll have to wait for Susan to answer that. I know she's been traveling today. Really, she lost her keys to SSHQ or at least her password.

Paul, thanks on behalf of Susan. I hope she gets in okay.

Jeff Baker said...

"Velma," I think the text of "Cool Air" is online, if not it's readily available. It was an episode of "Night Gallery," and may be on You Tube or Daily Motion. It is a chiller!