Midwestcon in Cincinnati is rapidly becoming one of our favorite conventions. Besides the relaxed atmosphere (there's no programming to distract anybody), it's a true fannish nexus -- a place where fans from all geographical regions and all eras convene. And it's been the genesis of more than one article for Mimosa. The following, for example, was distilled from the audio recording of a fannish Saturday night bull session at Midwestcon 39 this past June. Here, NOLAcon Fan Guest of Honor Roger Sims was verbally dissected by First Fandom members Howard DeVore, Lynn Hickman, and Ray Beam, and we finally get to learn...
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The Awful Truth about
Roger Sims

a Midwestcon 39 conversation with
Lynn Hickman, Howard DeVore, Ray Beam, and Roger Sims

The "Teddy Bear" Incident (San Francisco Worldcon, 1954)

Lynn: Let me tell you how Roger got the nickname "Teddy Bear". He was putting the moves on this good looking gal...

Howard: The lovely Irene Barron.

Roger: I called her V.R. -- Voluptuous Redhead. Largest hips in fandom. Smallest waist.

Lynn: Roger was sort of putting the moves on her, and I guess her boyfriend came over, the way I heard it, and said to her, "Is this fellow bothering you?" And she said, "Roger? He's just a little Teddy Bear!"

Roger: But who was her boyfriend?

Howard: I don't know who it was at the time, but she married Tom Scortia.

Roger: But it wasn't Tom Scortia at the time, it was some guy in the Air Force. {{ ed. note: Purportedly, it was Art Rapp. }}

Howard: I'm surprised he didn't drop you out of an airplane!

The Border City Con (Detroit, 1954)

Howard: Roger finally got a chance to make a fool of himself in 1954. Tell us how that started, Roger.

Roger: What did I do in 1954?

Ray: The Border City Con!

Roger: Oh, God! Do you really want to hear about that? Well, Mr. George Young allowed as how we ought to put on a little Border City convention that everybody in Canada and the United States, and every country east, west, north, and south would absolutely have to come to.

Howard: They were going to have top-name writers as guests of honor. I don't remember, but I assume they must have contacted some of them.

Roger: Not very many.

Howard: Well, it didn't matter because everybody they contacted refused, and they couldn't get a guest of honor. The convention was over the Fourth of July weekend; it must have been about the middle of June when the last writer turned them down. George and Roger were out to my place and they were beginning to wonder: well, where could they find a writer? I said, the only chance you've got is to get the local writer, Tom Sherred. He was the only writer in the Detroit area at that time.

Ray: They knew he was local because they recognized the bars in his stories.

Howard: I'd been going to the same bars as Tom did when he wrote the stories. But in any case, I knew Tom and I had his home address. So they talked Tom into coming down and giving the Guest of Honor speech. As it turned out, Tom started out with a serious speech, and the audience was completely cold. They couldn't have cared less about whatever it was he was talking about. So shortly into his speech, he switched subjects onto something entirely new that would amuse the audience, and I don't think anyone in the audience ever realized they'd gotten parts of two different speeches. In any case, you had other problems with the convention, Roger. Do you recall any of them?

Lynn: There was the picnic.

Roger: It was off in the boonies someplace.

Howard: They wanted to do something unusual. So they had decided to have a picnic out on Belle Isle, a local resort park only 10 minutes or so from downtown.

Roger: Couldn't have been more than 15 minutes from the hotel.

Howard: Anyway, they started their picnic. Now tell them about Harlan.

illo by Dave Rowe Ray: Well, Harlan wanted to go home before anyone else did, so he called back to the Detroiter Hotel to get hold of George, but they said you could only get hold of Mr. Young if it was an emergency. So Harlan said, "It is an emergency! Roger Sims has drowned!"

Howard: Harlan wanted a ride real bad!

Ray: Pretty soon George showed up at Belle Isle, and he was just as white as a ghost! He was horrified! But then here comes Roger walking out, and immediately George knew who to blame! He went for Harlan...

Howard: He may have been a little mad because Roger hadn't drowned. Anyway, by the time the convention opened they were already beginning to realize they were going to be vastly short of the money they needed. Roger was driving a `48 Plymouth, and he didn't know if he could sell his car for enough money to pay the bill. The one thing he did know was that George didn't have any money or anything to sell for money.

Roger: We had a small auction. If it hadn't been for a set of Astounding that appeared out of Howard's attic, we would have been in the hole.

Lynn: As it was, only Howard was in the hole...

Life with Harlan Ellison (New York City, ca. 1957)

Lynn: Tell us about sharing an apartment with Harlan.

Roger: It was an interesting three months of my life. Harlan was continually broke. I had some money that I had saved up, and I would lend it to him. He would get a check and pay me back, and then two days later he would be broke again. We went back and forth like this for the whole three months. Anyway, he had sold a story to W.W. Scott, who was editor of a SF magazine; Scott was going to send him a check and it would arrive Monday. This was Friday. Well, that would take too long; Harlan had to have the money now, so we went down to Scott's office. While we were waiting for the check, Scott said to Harlan, "Why don't you write me a story while you're waiting?" So Harlan sat down and wrote a story, Scott read it and said, "OK, type it up nicely for me and I'll buy it." And he gave Harlan his check, which was for $208. On the way home, we stopped and bought a statue, a book, and a chair. He sent money to his mother, and we took a cab home. We arrived there with seven dollars and fifty cents left.

Lynn: This explains why Harlan was broke for several years.

The Cross-Country Trip to Worldcon and Back (Detroit to San Francisco, 1954)

Lynn: What about your trip to the 1954 San Francisco Worldcon?

Roger: There were five of us on that trip: John Magnus, Bob Briggs, George Young, Harlan, and myself. We were driving a brand new Pontiac, a drive-away we were delivering to San Francisco for somebody who'd bought it. And a number of things happened on that trip. Someplace in Ohio, we stopped in the middle of the night to change drivers. John Magnus lost his wallet. He was the only person outside of Bob Briggs who had any money at all.

Howard: Tell them how much money you had, Roger.

Roger: Well, we didn't have much money, but we did have a box of magazines in the trunk that we were going to sell and pay our way.

Howard: And you were only going to be gone two weeks.

Roger: I sold my stamp collection for maybe ten dollars. I got a paycheck from the Navy for $45 for being on drill for two weeks. And I don't think Harlan had any money at all.

Howard: He had some pre-dated checks. His mother had given him a check for every three days, and dated them hoping he wouldn't find a way to cash them ahead. But he did!

Roger: Anyway, we stopped, and we switched drivers, and the wallet disappeared with at least two-thirds of the total amount of money. Except for Bob Briggs, who never let go a nickel to help us.

Howard: He was the only one in the crowd that had any sense!

Roger: We went to sleep someplace in some farmer's backyard, woke up in the morning and tried to drive back, looking for the wallet. We must have spent three hours trying to find that dumb wallet before we gave up. Finally, George said, "Well, did you find anything?" And Harlan said, "No, but it wasn't a total waste. A snake bit John."

Howard: Magnus wanted to turn around and go home. He had sense!

Roger: But we weren't about to do that. Not too much happened after that until we got to Wyoming. Then we had a fight in the restaurant over the food -- over who was going to eat what, who was going to eat the lumpy mashed potatoes. This was a common occurrence with Harlan when going to dinner -- who was going to eat what he considered the bad food and "Why couldn't I have your good food?".

Ray: What about the ticket you almost got?

illo by Dave Rowe Roger: Oh, that. Harlan was driving and we were in California. I was sitting next to Harlan, and George was sitting on the outside. Harlan passed a group of cars on a two-lane bridge, crossing the double white line. He knew he was wrong. On the other side of the bridge there was a cop waiting for somebody to do something dumb like that. He pulled out behind us. Harlan passed another group of cars; it was us, a group of cars, and the Sheriff's Patrol car. Then Harlan says to me: "I don't have a drivers license. Change seats with me." And we changed seats at 55 miles per hour. I still don't know how we did it. Maybe George helped.

Howard: George would have had his foot on the gas pedal!

illo by Dave Rowe Roger: Well, I pulled over and the cop pulled over behind me. As I'm getting out of the car, Harlan says, "Yellow lines! Michigan has yellow lines, remember that! Yellow lines!" So I walked back, and he's got his book out. He's writing; he's not playing games. In order to stop him from writing I took my wallet out and I shoved my license in his face so he can't write. At this point he makes a mistake; he says, "Mr. Fairfield". That's the name of my street. Belng an honest person, I point out to him that's not my name, my name is Roger Sims. And he says, "Well, Mr. Sims, you weren't exercising due care and caution." So I said, "I was confused by the color of the lines. We have yellow lines in Michigan. I didn't real1y know what the white lines were for." And he let me off.

Howard: Bob Briggs split the moment they got to San Francisco. He didn't want anything more to do with any of them.

Roger: We reached the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco on a Wednesday. We got a room for the four of us; two people had regjstered. In order to save money, we took the mattress off the bed. Two people slept on the mattress on the floor and two on the box springs on the bed. On Sunday morning, we forgot to put the chain on the door and didn't put the mattress back on the box springs before the maid came into the room. She immediately sized up the situation correctly and we got summoned to the front desk; they wanted extra money for the nights we had been there. So we paid the bill and we moved, I don't know how many people we attracted but two people again registered and this time we had seven people. One of the people who did not register was Harlan, and of course Harlan made a long distance call and had them page him in the room. Monday morning we moved again...

Howard: By request, of course.

Roger: ...and this time only one person registered for Monday night, and this time we had 13 in a single room. We had bodies all over the floor.

Howard: During all this time they were working up a Worldcon bid. Detroit was bidding against Cleveland that year, and I was later told by the Cleveland people that when they went out there, they felt that they were wasting their time. The Cleveland club probably had 35 members and possibly a budget of mavbe $200 for the bid. All they really knew was that they were bidding against this huge, highly organized club in Detroit, which actually consisted of only seven or eight people, none of whom had any money. Detroit probably didn't spend a nickel on the bid because they didn't even have enough money to eat on. Roger and George were trying to sell my magazines in the huckster room. And every time they accumulated three or four dollars they went out and had a meal -- if they didn't sell any magazines they didn't have any meals.

Lynn: How did you get back? Hitchhike with a bundle of magazines?

Howard: The other three did essentially that.

Roger: They looked in the paper and found some guy driving back who needed help with the driving.

Howard: And George helped him. The owner of the car got to pay both of George's speeding tickets. By the time they had reached Toledo this guy was very happy to get rid of them. He simply dumped them out on the expressway, said good-bye, and drove away from them. The three of them hitchhiked thirty or forty miles from Toledo up towards Detroit, where Magnus had left his car. Somewhere near seven or eight o'c1ock that morning I got a phone call; they had hitchhiked with these heavy boxes of magazines as far as they could, and would I please come and get them.

Roger: I was in the Naval Reserve at the time, so I got to fly to Detroit free instead of hitchhiking.

Howard: When they took Roger to the airport in San Francisco to catch hls plane home, George asked, "Have you got any money left, Roger?" And Roger said, "Yes. Here's your dollar, George."

illo by Dave Rowe
All illustrations by Dave Rowe

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