Fanzines reviewed: SHANGRI-L’AFFAIRES “SHAGGY” #39
Shaggy (#39) Nov 1958
(Note: If the following doesn’t convince you the clubzine SHAGGY was a group effort by a staggering array of now legendary fans in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, there’s no hope for you.)
Faneds: Djinn Faine & Charles Burbee
“Editor in charge of growling, running errands, disorganizing and sometimes inspiration: Djinn Faine
Editor in charge of editorials and provision of Shaggy’s historical and sometimes hysterical facts: Charles Burbee
Art Editor in charge of grumphing and pencils: Bjo
Associate Art Editor in charge of charm: Cynthia Goldstone
Associate Art Editor in charge of Freudian Funnies: Bill Rotsler
Associate Art Editor in charge of abstruse philosophising and shading plates first rate: Jack Harness
Editor in charge of typos: Earnie Wheatley
Editor in charge of egoboo and inspiration: Rick Sneary
Editor in charge of misproduction: Al Lewis
Editor in charge of record changing and coffee making: Dick Sands
In charge of propaganda: Ron Ellik
In charge of Kultur: Bob Bloch
In charge of dimpled knees: Roberta Gibson
Technical Illitorary Advisor: Dale Hart
Technical Monstrous Mistakes Advisor: Forrest J. Ackerman
Editor in charge of plumbing, painting, and table refinishing: Zeke Leppin
Editor in charge of cover: Gestetner
Editor in charge of embezzlements: Barney Bernard
Advisors in reference to/and in charge of/confusion: Alex Bratman, George W. Fields, Milo Mason.
And the whole furschlugginger club known as LASFS.”
Wow! What a crew! I imagine the older you are, and the closer your proximity to Los Angeles back in the day, the more you understand how much fun it was to belong to LASFS in the late fifties. Of course it was (and still is?) fun to belong to LASFS in any era, I assume.
But there’s something very evocative about the particular day celebrated in this issue, October 31st, 1958. It’s Halloween, so naturally there’s a club Halloween party. The previous day there’d been a LASFS meeting marking the 24th Anniversary of the club. Heck of a festive weekend if you ask me.
Let’s start with the cover. On the upper right is Lillian Field who’d just moved to LA from New York City. She’s costumed as “Moonless Night’ a black and silver affair which almost copped her The Most Beautiful Costume Award” [at the Halloween party.]
Upper left is Djinn Faine, who’d just become editor of SHAGGY (this her first issue). Apparently the zine had been dormant for about a year and she was reviving it. (Did a good job of it methinks.) She’s dressed as a “Bitchy Witch.” Seems she’d spent the day prior to the party “scouring LA” in the company of Ron Ellik searching for a pair of black tights. If you look carefully at the poorly reproduced photo you’ll see they succeeded in their quest. I assume the sparkly bits, also visible on her cape, were added after her purchase.
Below her is Al Lewis, who hosted the Halloween party at his Santa Monica home. He is also hosting a mind parasite on his back. (Doesn’t everyone?) It was described by Ron Ellik “as a huge lump of plastic and latex, colored green and red, attached to the center of his back with ugly tentacles.” He won The Most Scientifictional Costume Award for this.
Harry Warner Jr. credited Lewis (along with Djinn) of doing most of the work on the revived SHAGGY for the rest of the decade, but how true this is I don’t know. He first joined LASFS in 1950 and witnessed the club’s decline from previous glory days. Meetings tended to be “solemn, offering such bland fare as North American Airlines training films.” Membership sank. At one meeting in 1955 only six people showed up.
Below him and to his lower right, dressed as Countess Dracula, is Bjo (Betty Jo McCarthy), whom Lewis credited with “ending the club’s isolation, serconism, and sluggishness in 1956.” Thanks to her “there was more fanzine publishing, partying, and movie-making… she did as much for Los Angeles area fandom in the 1950s as Forrest J Ackerman had done in an earlier era.” She even had a special talent, according to Ron Ellik “She can be the focal point of a dozen males, without producing jealousy or showing favoritism.”
Hal Shapiro is recorded as the first fan to make a pass at her. According to Harry Warner Jr. when describing the impact of her appearance at Chicon II, the 1952 Worldcon: “At least one BNF asked her to elope with him fifteen minutes after they’d first met. One penniless soldier slept in a janitor’s closet in the hotel, so he could be in the same building with her. A teenager tried to bribe Marion Zimmer Bradley to use a tape measure he supplied to obtain vital statistics on Bjo.”
Even more astounding, Vampira showed up at that Worldcon, and despite her “startling dimensions… attracted scant attention compared to the density of the mob of young men who surrounded Bjo.” (This will give you an idea of how truly rare “femmefans” were in those days, and perhaps how few “normal” opportunities young male fen had because of their alleged social ineptitude). In 1960 Bjo married John Trimble, also a member of LASFS.
Bjo, though probably best remembered as leading the charge to keep Star Trek from being cancelled after its second season (if my memory isn’t lying to me—which it frequently does), was renowned for her fan art, four small samples of which from SHAGGY 39 are reproduced here, and possibly the back cover is hers as well. “Her uncanny knack of capturing the distinctive appearance of each Los Angeles fan in sketches made them as familiar throughout fandom as if they’d become television personalities.”
Lower left of Bjo is the rather dapper Zeke Lappin, dressed as the Devil and described as “one of the most imposing and regal costumes present” complete with red-tinted beard and red-painted face, which won him His Satanic Majesty Award.
Zeke was part of the Bjo transformation of LASFS. They had been meeting at the Prince Rupert Arms, noted for its “rotting upholstery and goose-springed chairs” when Zeke offered his home instead. As Ron Ellik put it: “LASFS meetings are really worthwhile attending these days, being more casual with people sprawling on armchairs and sofas… you can stick around Zeke’s as late as you like, and Zeke furnishes pie, coffee, and goodies for an after-meeting session in the kitchen.”
To lower left of Zeke is Dick Sand, about whom I know nothing except, as indicated on the cover, he was editor of something (a fanzine?) called IMPO. He’s holding a skull, so I’m guessing he was costumed as a cobwebby version of Hamlet.
Getting back to Bjo at left centre, to her right is the Frankenstein Monster who is actually Frank Cuf, a friend of Rotsler, who came as Ygor. They made quite an entrance at the party:
“When Frankie and Johnnie [Ygor] walked in, everything stopped for a moment – dead! Rotsler walked up to someone and grabbed him by the shirt. ‘Come outside,’ he grunted, ‘The monster is hungry.”
“Rotsler was wearing old clothes and boots, with a lump of plastic on his neck to make it look scarred and broken and powder all through his hair and beard… [Cuf] is about eight feet tall, and was wearing shoes with soles about a foot thick. On his head wore a Frankenstein mask, complete with knobs under each ear, and on his body he wore a sort of throw rug shirt, which extended along his arms to leave uncovered his scarred and green hands and wrists.”
The shirt reference and Rotsler’s appearance are dead giveaways the pair based their costumes on Ygor and the monster in the movie SON OF FRANKENSTEIN.
To the monster’s right we see Forrest J. Ackerman, himself quite tall, cleverly disguised as Forrest J Ackerman. I presume the magazine he is holding is either the second or third issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND (he was about to head off to New York to edit the third issue). I have a reprint of #1, and its back cover is far too light to be the one represented here, so it must be issue #2’s back cover which featured, appropriately enough, a full figure photograph of someone in a Frankenstein costume holding up a protest sign of some sort. (I know it is FM because the top portion of the large white “M” is visible on the front cover.)
On the far centre right is Earnie Wheatley, average height, dressed as Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula. The only thing I know about him is that he was one of the technical assistants on the LASFS “home” movie titled the GENIE which Bjo and Fritz Leiber co-wrote. A 400 foot 16 mm colour film with sound no less. Leiber, Bjo and Forrest J Ackerman were the stars.
I know even less about the young woman at the lower right, Jill Youchard (I think the first letter of her last name is “Y” – can’t make it out) except to observe that she is rather fetching in a 1950s sort of way, what with form-fitting tights, a short cape, and jewelled high heels.
The quality of these costumes is rather high. As Ron Ellik remarked “After seeing the costumes at the Solacon Worldcon, I actually expected a rather dull evening of face make-up, bad jokes, and eye-masks. But LASFS turned out about forty strong, in costumes which showed more imagination, effort and skill than did everything at the Southgate masquerade ball put together.”
Here are Ron’s description of some of the costumes which didn’t make it onto SHAGGY’s cover:
“A Grim Reaper (Earl Samuels) carried with him a full-scale scythe, which kept breaking people off at the ankles – he’d have carried it above his head except that he is rather a short fellow and would have been poking people’s eyes out with the thing.”
“The Most Beautiful Costume Award went to Fritz Leiber for his blue-skinned, silver-haired costume as a Warlock.” Appropriate to his famed fantasy writing methinks.
“Larry Gurney copped The Most Humorous Award by carrying a pair of ping-pong balls and describing himself as the Ghost of Captain Queeg.” Some of you will get the reference, especially if you remember Humphry Bogart’s performance as Queeg in THE CAINE MUTINY.
The one costume I would most liked to have seen reproduced on the cover was “Rick Sneary wore his Nazgul costume from THE LORD OF THE RINGS series, inside of which you can only see a pair of evilly-flickering eyes.”
Jack Harness was also suitably impressed “It was probably the best Hallowe’en of LASFS that I have ever attended. Being in a private home helped a lot, as the old Club Room [in the Prince Rupert Arms] was like walking into a rather run down morgue. (The manager looked like an attendant in one, too!) But the current group are more of a fun-type party bunch than have been around for a long time. And – Hoo Boy! Do they like Costume parties!”
Thinking back to the various Halloween parties the B.C. SF Association used to throw (back when we had around 100 members) nothing springs from my memory apart from bits and pieces of casual, albeit painted, nudity. I recall I once appeared in sneakers, a towel, a T-shirt, and a pith helmet with two tiny propellers, in costume as a FANIDIOT. “You didn’t need to dress up for that,” one attendee rather unkindly commented.
The day before, October 30th, LASFS held a meeting at Zeke Leppin’s home in the evening. Ron Ellik described it thusly:
“It was a remarkably good meeting for LASFS with a large turnout. It didn’t equal the 20th anniversary [this being the 24th anniversary] or the 1,000th meeting, but it wasn’t advertised as much as those near conventions. A larger-than-normal group listened to Mort Sahl and Kenneth Rexroth [Beatnik poets, on records.] before and after the meeting, and Ackerman held one of his raffles, followed by a scientifarcial quiz such as only Ackerman can concoct – thank ghod!”
Al Lewis gives more details: “On the 30th of October, LASFS celebrated its 24th anniversary with much discussion, one of Forry’s traditional quizzes, and many prizes. The grand prize was won by Jack Jardine who got to accompany Forry to a special preview of THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.” Undoubtedly Ackerman’s High School buddy Ray Harryhausen, the genius behind the movie’s animation effects, was in attendance at the preview as well, and who knows? Maybe the other member of the famous Triumvirate, Ray Bradbury. Both Forry and Bradbury were very proud of Harryhausen’s accomplishments.
“Ted, Bjo, and Al tied for second and cut cards for the Morris Scott Dollens photograph. [?] Bjo won the low card. Right afterwards there was the usual weekly book raffle, and Bjo won it, and was undecided whether to take NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS or TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL.”
“Take NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS’ said Steve, ‘I’ll win the other one. She did, and he did. Just to round things out, Earnie, Ted, and Al won the other four pocket books, and as they were all sitting around the table in the front of the room, there were long, loud cries of ‘fix’ led by Djinn, whose cries were loudest and longest.”
In my effort to show how this revived issue of SHAGGY encapsulated the spirit of the revived LASFS, I’ve skipped over a number of articles such as Robert Bloch’s demand that fandom replace the Beatnik’s in public awareness.
“The Beat Generation became a craze… and on what basis? A couple of books about hitch-hiking around the country and a few poems of poetry recited against a background of refrigerated jazz and a bongo beat.”
“Why shouldn’t WE take over? … Some of the stuff I’ve heard at conventions would make Ginsberg’s HOWL sound like a thin bleat… Part of the charm of the Beatnik approach has resided in their vocabulary… this pitiful, meagre collection of words and phrases borrowed largely from musicians… Just doesn’t begin to compare with the large and picturesque fannish vernacular. Why should the general public be content to mouth such unappetising words as ‘bugged’ and ‘dragged’ when they can announce to the world that they’re ‘going gafia’… Who flips, man? Not when you can go Sercon! Oh, we’ve GOT the vocabulary, no doubt about it!”
Bloch’s article was titled “Them ain’t bongo drums – that’s opportunity knocking!”
Apparently opportunity passed fandom by. Oh well. Or did it?
Note: the two address’s on the back cover of SHAGGY #39 (below) are more than half a century out of date and no longer valid or an intrusion on anyone’s privacy. I reproduce it to display the nifty art.
Also note: two stamps. One for 2 cents, the other (upside down) for 3 cents. Them were the days, eh?
BY THE WAY:
You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines
You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project
You can find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive
And check out my brand new website devoted to my OBIR Magazine, which is entirely devoted to reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Found at OBIR Magazine