Once upon a time, it was a LASFS Second Saturday, on a rainy day.
We were sitting about, making desultory conversation with people
when Bjo dropped in. (This was at the LASFS Clubhouse on Ventura
Blvd., back in the mid-70s.)
Bjo was bitching about how she'd been at a convention lately
where she'd encountered Harlan surrounded by his usual group of
admirers. She'd waved hello and he'd obviously ignored her
rather than merely not noticing her. So she yelled at him,
"OK, Harlan Ellison, go ahead and pretend you didn't see me.
But I remember when you got powdered sugar all over a policeman's
knee proposing to me." And turned to walk away. And found that
*most* of Harlan's admirers were following her.
At about this point, all the idle conversation in the room hushed
to an absolute silence. And Craig Miller asked, "Bjo, would you
tell us the story." So she did.
She said that she'd first entered fandom at a convention in
the Bay ARea back when she was stil int he WAVES [and married
to her first husband, IIRC]. She was in uniform and no makeup
and didn't consider herself at all attractive. But of course
there weren't many women in fandom back then, way before Star
Trek. And Harlan had noticed her at once. After he'd talked
to her for a few minutes, he told her: "Change your clothes,
cut your hair, put on some makeup -- and I'll marry you."
"Forget it," she told him.
One of his followers (yes, he already had them) took her aside
and told her -- in awed tones: "He wasn't kidding."
"Neither was I," she said.
But that didn't prevent Harlan from taking her under his wing
and trying to introduce her to all the dleights of fandom
and the Bay Area. This included persuading her to come with
him and followers to a couple of good restaurants.
The first was a very stylish place, whose very dignified
waiters were far too polite to notice the fans weren't
behaving like normal mundanes. At one point in the meal,
Harlan found that his wristwatch had stopped running. He
wound it but that didn't help. He shook it. He slammed it
on the table. Then -- hamming it up for his audience -- he
dipped it first in his ice water and then mushed it onto the
butter in the butter dish -- and held it up to exclaim
piteously: "It *still* doesn't work!"
"Oh dear," said the waiter who had silently appeared with
their food -- "and it's the very best butter."
Another time, they went out to a Chinese restaurant
recommended by some pros (the Silverbergs?). A very nicely
decorated restaurant with curtains separating the tables so
each group had its share of privacy. Harlan asked
for a menu, saying he'd order for the group.
"No, don't order," said the waiter. "Too many people. I'll
bring you what's good today."
"I want the menu," said Harlan.
"Okay," said the waiter. "I'll bring you the menu. And
then I'll bring you what's good today."
So Harlan placed a long and detailed order. And the waiter
(who turned out to be the restaurant owner) brought them what
was good that day -- occasioning outbursts of indignation
from Harlan every time he noticed it wasn't one of the things
he'd ordered. And they kept hearing strange sounds from the
table on the other side of the cloth curtains.
Finally Harlan pulled the curtains -- and there were the pros
who'd told him about the restaurant, along with a group of
their friends -- all giggling hysterically and trying to
But anyway, said Bjo, a year or two later, after she'd left
the WAVES, there was another convention at which she was so
sleepy that she got an obscene phone call (NOT from Harlan)
and fell asleep on the caller -- and the next morning, when
she still hand't woken up fully but was wandering around the
convention [note: this was before con suites served coffee
and soft drinks in the morning, let alone breakfast], Harlan
grabbed her and took her out of the hotel for breakfast --
talking a blue streak.
"I've figured you out," he said. "You're a romantic. An
Bjo grunted something incoherent while wondering if coffee
would materialize soon and whether it would help her wake up.
What Harlan did instead was stop at a street stand buy a dozen
powdered doughnuts. "You're a romantic," he told her again --
and stopped at another stand to buy her a dozen roses. Then he
escorted her off to a local park and had sit her down on the bench.
He gave her the bag of donuts -- after taking a doughnut for himself.
"You're a romantic" he told her again, as she sat there holding the
bag of donuts in one hand and the roses in the other. Then he knelt
down at her feet and continued jabbering.
A policeman strolled toward them from the other side
of the park, to say: "Miss, is this man annoying you?" just as
Harlan swept his arms out wide and cried, "Will you marry me?"
-- hitting the policeman's knee with the powdered sugar donut.
The policeman -- with great dignity -- brushed at his knee and
repeated his question. Bjo reasured him that Harlan wasn't
dangerous -- and then turned her -- still sleep-befuddled --
attention to convincing Harlan that she really, truly didn't want
to marry him.