We've written several times, in previous
issues of Mimosa, that the Midwestcon is a fannish nexus -- an event where fans
of all regions and all eras convene. The DeepSouthCon is a little like that, too, and
past DeepSouthCons have been the subject and site of many a fannish misadventure.
Here is an account of one of the more notorious ones.
I do not want to write about the infamous "DSC Sanguine Swimming Pool Incident," now known only to Southern SMOFs and whispered about around campfires to neofen. This is not a matter of honor. The only topic more depressing than getting older is writing about how stupid you were when you were younger. One of the advantages of old age is supposed to be living down things like this. But I promised that I would do an article for Mimosa, and I surmise that I am duty bound to spill my guts.
So, gather around the campfire, children, while Uncle Celko tells you tales of when the world was young and how it all began.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Southern fandom was starting to enjoy a burst of activity. If you look at the DeepSouthCon history which gets reprinted in DSC program books, you will see that the convention was starting to get bigger and that it was also being bid for by many regional groups, which were just coming into being. In those days, we thought that getting three or four hundred people to a convention was a major achievement, so to see fan groups actually bidding was an enormous thrill.
The first Knoxville DSC, in 1969, was hosted by Janie Lamb. Janie needs a little explaining since I am not sure that the younger readers will even remember her. She was active in the N3F (National Fantasy Fan Federation) for a long time; to be honest, she was the N3F. Janie was older than most of the fans and was a delight to be around because you did not expect an adult to act like that. A genuinely good, fun human being.
An Atlanta contingent showed up at the motel and we unpacked ourselves into a single motel room. In those days, we used to sleep like cord wood to save the money. There was myself, Steve Hughes, Mark Levitan, George Orentlicher, Glen Brock, and I am not sure who else. At any rate, there were enough people in the room that I got to sleep in the bath tub. And it was not the worst place.
Mark had brought with him a little, tiny glass vial with a very bright red powder inside it -- water soluble industrial dye which he had obtained from his father. We had a second floor room which overlooked the motel swimming pool. And we had time on our hands. All in all, a bad combination. Ever hear the expression about idle hands being the devil's playground? Our moral character was much weaker in our youth, our time horizon was much shorter, and we healed much faster in those days.
The first effort attempted to deliver a fraction of a teaspoon in a paper napkin. The napkin was too light to be accurate and the stuff needed to be dissolved in very hot water first, anyway. Even defense contractors don't get it right the first time.
The next effort dissolved the dye in very hot tap water inside a used Coca Cola can, both of which the motel so generously provided. Unfortunately, the delivery system floated upright like buoy when it hit the water. The tissue wick we used to contain the liquid on its way down waved proudly in the air and not in the water.
At this point we probably would have given up and gone to bed, but fate took a hand. Two couples arrived at the pool in swim suits. We already had the room light out, so they could not see us lurking in the dark above them.
One young man (actually older than any of us at the time) got in the shallow end, found the Coke can with its bright red paper wick. In a fit of curiosity, he picked it up and pulled the wick out. The results were immediate.
The water around him turned bright red. He turned bright red from the waist down, panicked and dropped the can in the water. The can sank and he did not try to fish it out, since he was more interested in getting back to shore. This was a tactical error on his part, because the can hit bottom and the scarlet dye cloud it left behind was sucked into the
He knew perfectly well that he was going to spend the next few weeks wearing pants in most public places, so I don't see why he was as upset as he was. Crimson privates would not have been a real problem. It would have meant entertaining the young lady he brought with him with something she had never seen before.
The waves of vermillion went slowly but surely over the pool, turning the water a lovely burgundy color by the dawn. This was the morning that motel and convention relations began to break down a little bit.
The young man with the technicolor plumbing facilitations turned out to be the manager's son. While annoyed, he would return to normal in a fairly short time. Skin only discolors on the outside and the first layer washes off with gasoline.
However, the pool was not so lucky -- it was made of marine concrete instead of human flesh. Marine concrete absorbs water for about an inch below the surface. The blue stain in the concrete and the red dye were what made this lovely plum color that greeted our morning walk to the pool.
The manager came to Janie and told her that he wanted the heads of the persons responsible. Janie told him with a perfectly straight face that "Fans did not do this sort of thing," and then literally lined up as much of the convention as she could find in the lobby, and gave a speech for the manager to hear, asking for the guilty parties to step forward. I believe that I was bravely hiding under a staircase at the time. In a fetal position. Nobody confessed.
She then turned to the manager and stated that the convention was not responsible, again with a perfectly straight face. The manager was not kindly disposed to believe this statement, however.
Perhaps Ron Bounds dressed in a Viking outfit carrying off one of the waitresses from the bar the evening before the swimming pool incident had done much to destroy our credibility. Ask Ron about the barmaid; that's probably a good story, too. But don't do it when his wife is around, okay?
Janie found out who had been involved and cornered the lot of us, and told us that she was very glad that we had not been in the line up. We might have cracked under pressure and then she would have had to kill us. While this was going on, the motel confiscated her luggage out of her room to hold until she paid for the pool. Things were getting ugly at this point.
Janie had a fair amount of power in Tennessee at the time, via the governor's office. After all these years I cannot remember her exact title, but it was at the governor's private staff level. She got on the telephone, called the nearest state patrol headquartersand reported that the motel was serving liquor to minors. She then sent some minors with drinks into the motel bar.
The state troopers arrived very, very quickly; the nearest state patrol headquarters was literally next door to the motel. They came in on foot, issued the citation and left. Janie made a second telephone call, got more kids and booze; the troopers returned and issued a second citation. Three liquor violations in a year was a magic number.
At this point the motel was offered a truce; cool it with us or have no liquor license. Suddenly, management found her luggage and decided that a purple pool looked very classy. Besides, you make more money off booze than off swimming pools.
I visited that same motel many years later for another convention. The pool is once more regulation hotel pool blue, but they had painted it with epoxy sealer to get this color. I did not ask questions.
All illustrations by Kip Williams