LASFS Memories of Helen Smith
additional memories/comments by Ginger Borden (Smith during the time in question)


I remember....

Meeting at the SilverLake Park/Playground building. We had to be out by ten p.m., at which time many fans retreated to Jack Harness' apartment, also occupied by Owen Hannifen and Barry Gold, to play poker, to visit and to indulge in other forms of fanac (any activity in which two or more fans engage at a time, including snogging.)

The Hill, where many LASFS meetings occurred. Harlan Ellison showed up one night with a story he'd just written and which he read to the quietest group of fans I've ever seen! It was a first draft of "The Beast The Shouted Love at the Heart of the World." When it was finally published, it bore little or no resemblance to the one he'd read to the fans, with the exception of the title. There was a rule that only residents could park in the drive and at one point, Owen Hannifen, a resident, came roaring in to demand who had dared to park in the drive. Harlan looked around and said, "I did. Is there a problem with that?" Owen shook his head and said pleasantly, "No, no, not at all, Harlan."

"The Hill" was on St. Andrews St. in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful, big house that stood its ground for a long time after high-rise apartments were built on both sides of it, but finally succombed to "progress" after a few years.

One night when Don Fitch brought in a false arelia plant from the Arboretum, where he worked, and without a word, quietly set it on a stand by the door. A couple of us sat on the steps leading upstairs to watch the various reactions of those who came in. The could be divided into two groups: one, who just barely glanced at it (the heads) and those who nearly freaked out at the sight, absolutely convinced that this was some new form of the dreaded marijuana.

The Christmas party where during the traditional Gift Exchange, one of the unwrapped packages (brought by Barry Gold, I believe) turned out to be a huge block of dried green material, wrapped in cellophane. Again, there were two reactions: those who freaked out at the sight, convinced this was a brick of the dreaded weed, and those who rushed forward to take a pinch and give it the sniff test. Actually, it turned out to be a block of balsa wood which had been coated in white glue and then in oregano before it was wrapped.

Zotz (the book) being a tradition at the LASFS gift exchange for quite a number of years. No one wanted it. No one admitted to bringing it.

Meeting Robert Bloch (and that miserable cigar of his!). One fan was more than a little in awe of meeting him and another fan said, "He's harmless. Bob has the heart of a small child." Bob, overhearing this, removed the cigar, leered a bit, and said, "Yeah. I keep it in a jar on my desk!"

The same has been said for Forry Ackerman and Ray Bradbury.

Meeting Fritz Leiber.

I, too, remember meeting Fritz Leiber. At Westercon in 1963 in LA. In an elevator at the Lafayette (?) Hotel across from Lafayette Park. I did not know who he was, as I was not an SF fan at that point in time.

I also remember Fritz Leiber and Poul Anderson fighting in an SCA tournament in Lafayette Park that year, also during Westercon.

When that place had to be given up and the residents were moving out. Cris Stevens asked for help, promising to make spaghetti for all those who came to help pack and move. That spaghetti sauce had some *very* interesting, and illegal, spices in it, which certainly freaked out certain people when they found out about it some time later. Actually, nobody noticed anyone acting any different, and with some fans, it's hard to tell, so I suspect there wasn't all that much in it.

I was at that moving party. There were enough "herbs" in that spaghetti sauce to be very noticeable. I don't like spaghetti sauce in general, but I really liked that one! It took me two hours to eat one plate of spaghetti; I didn't notice that it had gotten cold; the bits of leaves kept getting caught between my teeth. After that, I used it in my own sauce as often as I could, but not in such quantity. If memory serves, Cris used 2 full "lids" in that pot of spaghetti.

The parties at Jane and Bill Ellerns (Blackguards), where their quiet next door neighbor turned out to be Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Bobby Kennedy.

The New Year's Eve party with the candle castle and the apartment across the courtyard, where those who wanted to smoke had to go. It was a rainy night and some of us were standing out on the balcony watching the lights that lined the road up to Universal City Studios. We smelled smoke. The apartment across the way was all dark, but there appeared to be a crack in the bay window from which smoke was oozing. Jack Newkom went over to check, but the door was locked and no one answered his knocking. The door was hot to the touch, so someone called the fire department, and we all hung over the railing on the balcony, watching, as the fire department hauled out a burning couch, where someone had apparently dropped some burning smoking material. The smoke damage must have been intense. Why we all didn't get busted, I'll never know.

Smoking dried banana peels (once) after someone said you could get high that way. Not only was it nasty, but nothing happened. If you haven't tried it, don't bother.

Walking from Vermont, when the car broke down after being at Harness' place, all the way back to the bus terminal, so we could catch a bus back to my apartment in Long Beach. (Streets were not so dangerous than as they are now in the middle of the night!)

Larry Niven's parties in Westwood, where I was sulking in a corner for reasons I won't go into, when Norman Spinrad came in bursting with excitement, but too shy to tell anyone that he had just gotten the proof copy of a book he had not been able to sell in this country because the content was so controversial, but had finally managed to sell to a publisher in London. We talked for a bit and I got read the first chapter of "Bug Jack Baron."

When Ken and Terri Goldsmith had rented the "tower apartment" of a huge home/mansion in Cahunga Canyon. And some of the "fanac" that occurred there. No details will be given, but those who were there will remember. Maybe.

Going to visit Philip K. Dick and his lady at their place in San Francisco and feeding avocados to their cat, Willis.

Ripping the shells off of crabs at Cap'n Jack's with Phil Dick. He certainly knew how to entertain a lady. At least when he wasn't writing.

Going to Ray Nelson's place to crash on their living room floor late one night and hearing Walter T., then about 8 or 9, saying "Daddy! You're not wearing anything but your birthday suit!" And Ray answering, "It's my birthday, isn't it?" Lovely way to wake up after you've spent all night driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco!

The convention where the ConCommittee had just done a complete change of members just before the convention, which naturally caused a great deal of confusion. We all know how sensitive Harlan Ellison is and the first ConCommittee asked him to speak at the banquet, which meant that he was an invited guest and therefore should not have had to purchase a banquet ticket. They neglected to tell the second ConCommittee, who asked Harlan to pay for his own banquet ticket, for which fandom was duly blasted by Harlan in his short speech. Like many fans, I had no money for a banquet ticket so after the banquet, had sneaked into the banquet room to hid under the food table to listen to the speeches. I had no knowledge of the circumstances and was absolutely furious with Harlan for his (what I considered) poor treatment of fandom. Shortly thereafter, I ran into Larry Niven and let him have a blast of the anger I was feeling at Harlan. Unknown to me, Harlan had come out of the banquet room behind me and heard every word falling out of my big mouth. To his credit, he never said a thing, but the look I got as he went through another door, made me cringe. Larry, in his usual gentle fashion, explained quietly what actually happened. I ran around to try to find Harlan to apologize, but he was gone. Back to Larry, who gave me Harlan's phone number. Rather to my astonishment, he answered the phone and was very gracious and understanding, to the unknown fan blubbering out an apology. Then he laid down the one condition needed to bring him back to the Con: A petition asking him to return signed by a specific number of fans (I don't remember the exact number.) In less than an hour I was able to call him to tell him I had the petition and he returned to the Con.

Not being able to go to a Con in St. Louis (usual excuse -- no money.) Fans who went came back absolutely furious with Harlan (again!) Seems he had agreed to give a speech backing LA for the next WesterCon, but had also given a speech backing San Francisco for it. When I asked why, no one seemed to know. When I asked if anyone had bothered to ask *him* why, no one had (fans are quick to jump on "A Dirty Pro," as you may have noticed.) I called him to ask why. His explanation was simpe: He'd been asked by LA first and agreed. Then a fan (he didn't specify who and I didn't push it) from San Francisco also asked him to back San Francisco. He owed this particular SF fan a bigtime favor and fan was calling it in, so he didn't feel he could say no. Simple as that.

Both Harlan stories could be true since Harlan, bless his wonderful and well-meaning heart, tried hard to please everybody at the same time. An impossible task.

Randall Garrett asking for and receiving the jewel from my naval at the Westercon near Santa Barbara - the first one at that campus dorm/hotel. The rest of those jewels ended up either at the bottom of the swimming pool or in the bathtub of the room where I was staying. Those jewels were remembered by the staff of the hotel 4 years later when we went back - and even the cleaning men recognized me.

Sitting on the stairs of that convention with Tim Powers in just those jewels.

Sitting at the edge of the crowd that had gathered around Harlan Ellison to listen to him tell stories. I loved listening to him tell Harlan Ellison stories. He barely noticed that I had on only a few pasted jewels.

Those jewels were artistically applied by artist George Barr and Bjo Trimble.

Meeting David McDaniel in college in 1961. And his friends, Bruce Pelz, Ron Ellik, and Bjo, among others, all squeezed into a Peugeot (puggot) to go somewhere.

Roof parties. Hall parties. Stairwell parties. 1974 T-birds are not meant for sleeping in.

All puns are intentional. We used to keep rolls of nickles around for the Pun Fund at LASFS, altho I was never in the same league as Bruce and Randall and the others.


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