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Pre - Balticon Memories

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Page 9 of 'A Short History of Baltimore Fandom'
Jack Chalker
restaurant banquet one year, Harry Harrison leaped across the table and attempted to strangle Ted White over some dispute about how White had edited Amazing Stories after Harrison had left it.

images/1x1.gifBSFS was eventually re-started. Some newcomers such as Sue Wheeler, Shirley Avery, and Martin Deutsch got together with a few old vets of the original club, like Pat Kelly and Mark Owings, and began meeting in small rooms at the Johns Hopkins University and other available places. With another returned member from the 1960s, Charles David Michael Artemus Ellis (CDMA in print, Charlie to us), they also assumed control of Balticon from Pauls, whose own business had been having some problems that required a lot of his time and resources; the club asked Charlie, who had never run a large convention before, to run a big one.

images/1x1.gif Charlie did. Moving out of downtown to the Pikesville Hilton on the Baltimore beltway, Charlie started with heavy publicity, made lots of deals, and went beyond traditional con fandom to his own contacts with film fandom to create a short amateur film festival to run concurrently, and, as importantly, he moved Balticon from President's Day weekend to Easter weekend. Balticon suddenly drew almost 2,000 people, including lots of writers, editors, film people, artists, you name it... and it was off. The Hilton, however, was not as good; its franchise holder was in trouble and tried to stiff the con, forcing a move the next year to The Hunt Valley Inn even farther out in the suburbs. There it remained for more than a decade, until Hunt Valley management tired of Balticon and Balticon finally faced the fact that it had outgrown the place. Since then it's been mostly in the Inner Harbor, at various hotels there. Balticons had quite a reputation in the early 1970s as fun conventions; Wheeler even arranged to import a performing group to Balticon that she'd seen at the 1977 Westercon. We understand that The Flying Karamazov Brothers still remember us fondly.

images/1x1.gif The high attendance brought BSFS lots of money; in the early 1980s the club found and rented a basement clubhouse on Charles Street near the Johns Hopkins University. This remained the center of the club and its activities until, after a decade there, crime had increased to the point where everyone decided we needed to move. At first intending only to rent, the club found and then purchased a former neighborhood movie house in the Highlandtown section of east Baltimore, then began to renovate and rehab the place even while it was being used as a meeting site. Only two other clubs that I know of, LASFS and NESFA, own their own clubhouses.
# # #
images/1x1.gifSue Wheeler led a bid for the 1980 Worldcon, but was beaten after a good campaign by Boston. Three years later, however, a renewed bid under Mike Walsh won. ConStellation was held at the Inner Harbor in 1983 with John Brunner as Guest of Honor, Dave Kyle as Fan GoH, and me as Toastmaster. Overambitious and underinsured, the convention wound up with money problems but managed to settle with all its creditors over time with help from NESFA and Rick Katze in particular. Contrary to popular opinion, ConStellation did not declare bankruptcy, and those who worked on it simply note that its problems cost no attendee one dime and that everyone got more than their money's worth. Eva Whitley's crab feast for 1,200, the first food function at a domestic worldcon in many years, actually made money and became something of a legend. It was also the first crab feast she had ever thrown.

images/1x1.gif Today's Baltimore fandom continues quite active; a mixed WSFA-BSFS bid for the 1998 World SF Convention won, and next year another worldcon will be held in Baltimore. The World Fantasy Convention has been to the city twice so far, once at the Hunt Valley Inn in 1981, and most recently in downtown Baltimore, in 1995, under Mike Walsh. Balticon is still held every Easter weekend. BSFS continues to thrive and the clubhouse is a center of faanish social activity in the city; the club publishes a regular fanzine, is a participant in fan activities all over the country, and is in contact with fans all over the world. Recently it's again become the center of regional fan activity, although it is generally acknowledged that the completion of clubhouse renovations will be one of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse.

images/1x1.gif Me, I still go to meetings whenever I can, and, after the meeting, I lead a number of others out to a 24-hour eatery where tradition is maintained.
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