The Summer of 1973 - Part V
Returning to my recounting of the three trips I made to conventions in 1973, my success at the Detroit and Dallas conventions gave me the confidence (and the working capital) to finally take a shot at the "big time". I was going to San Diego! After nearly being killed after falling asleep at the wheel on the drive back from Dallas, however, I decided I wanted to make my trip to the upcoming San Diego convention a bit safer. In order to accomplish this goal I called upon my friend, and long-time customer, Lyle Pierson. Lyle had helped me the year before in sneaking out of my parent's house at 5 AM on a beautiful summer morning, in order to haul my comics inventory to Multi-Con '72 in Oklahoma City. Had Lyle not been willing to assist me in defying my parent's direct prohibition by surreptitiously loading my 5,000 comics into his wonderful faux fur-lined hippie van, and then driving us across the high prairie to Oklahoma, I would never have had the life-altering experience in 1972 of attending my first national comics convention.
When I offered Lyle the same deal in 1973 to drive me to San Diego as I did going to Oklahoma (he provided the van and drove - I paid for all gas and the cost of the KOA Campground), that was fine with him. Since I was still really tight for money, however, I then asked him if he would mind if two guys I knew from my freshman year at the University of Colorado accompanied us. Lyle had no problem with two extra riders, so I then offered Keith and Torger a trip to the 1973 San Diego Con as long as they would pay for the gas, and the cost of the campground for all of us. They initially thought that was just a wonderful bargain, although I think that everyone involved later had some second doubts about their agreements with me when they finally figured out that I had essentially bargained a free ride to the convention for myself through my adroit managing of the situation. The fact remains, however, that had I not wangled the others into paying all the expenses of the trip, I simply couldn't have gone, and without my prodding they would never have attended what turned out to be a fantastic convention. In the end, it turned out to be a win-win-win arrangement for all of us.
After setting up the transportation arrangements, my next problem was getting a table at the show. By 1973, the San Diego convention was already starting to experience growing pains. Beginning as a really small show (300 attendees) in the Hotel San Diego in 1969, by 1973 the show desperately needed expansion room. The organizers gained this much-needed additional space by moving to the swanky Sheraton Hotel on Harbor Island, right across from the airport. Even with more space, however, all the tables in the dealer's room (75?) were sold out a month in advance. The person who gave me this bad news was Richard Buttner, one of the people who is now long-forgotten, but who worked diligently for many years to help build the San Diego convention, eventually becoming the organizer of the entire show. In those early days, among his other jobs, Richard ran the dealer's room, and had the sad task of telling late-comers (like myself) that there was no more room at the inn.
Hearing this dreadful news put me quite a quandary, as before I had called the convention about a dealer's table, I had first needed set up the entire travel arrangements with Lyle, Keith, and Torger. Having no other options at that point, I told Richard that I was committed to coming to the show anyway, even if I didn't have a table. I then begged him to see if maybe he could find me some space for my comics, even if it was a little half booth in a corner. Richard said he would try, but made no promises.
The trip across the desert to San Diego was just about as fun as can be imagined. In those incredibly innocent days, all four of us were rabid fanboys, and the thought of going to a big-time show in California made us so excited that the crawl across the desert (the Interstate system was then still incomplete in many places...) seemed endless. We kept ourselves entertained, however, by talking about comics, comics, and more comics. The closest I can describe the interactions we had on this trip would be to advise you to pick up a copy of Rich Koslowski's brilliant THREE GEEKS comics, which very sympathetically portray the adventures of three comics-crazy teens. Depending on the day, I would have been easily recognizable as completely manifesting the behavior of any one of Rich's passionate comics fanboys. Quite honestly, the are many times today when I really miss the comforting naiveté of those blissfully innocent years in my life...
When we finally arrived at the show (ta-da!), Richard told me he had some good news, and some bad news. The good news was that he had found me a spot in the room for a table! The bad news was that the location was in an almost invisible alcove in the far back of the room, facing a blank wall. I would also have very little space behind my table, as the emergency exit doors were the reason for this alcove, and I could only extend out as far as the door frame. In reality, however, this gave me about 4 feet of wiggle room behind the table, which was just about equivalent to what other dealers had in the better locations. It was thus with immense gratitude that I gave Richard my $20 rental fee, and hauled my comics by hand into the incredible 1973 San Diego Comics Convention!
To be continued....
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