Amazing Stories

Everybody Loves A Diagram, or: The Tucker Hotel – A Classic Fannish Legend

Fans were outraged! Outraged I tell you!

In 1952 rooms at the hotel where the 10th Worldcon, ChiCon II, was to be held (in Chicago) jumped from $5 a night to $8 a night. Bloodsucking parasites exploiting naïve fandom! Cruelty beyond belief!

Add to this fannish unrest over ‘pros’ taking over the World Convention (it was evolving into a sort of trade show for authors and publishers) and fen sentenced themselves to high dudgeon.

Enter Arthur Wilson Tucker, universally known to fen as ‘Bob Tucker,’ a legendary fan. Indeed, so popular and beloved was he for decade after decade of witty and amusing fanac his reputation rose to the giddy heights of being a legendary legend, never mind the fan aspect. I deeply regret I never met the man (now deceased) but our fannish paths never crossed.

Anyway, in 1952 his fiendish mind conceived ‘The Tucker Hotel,’ a fannish Shangri-La of a hotel tailored to fannish desires, needs, and sensitivities. Wonder of wonders, it was to be constructed wherever the Worldcon was being held, torn down immediately afterwards, and re-erected at the site of the next Worldcon. Tucker began to advocate his brainstorm in his writings and the idea quickly caught the fancy of myriad fen.

For instance, someone in Minneapolis advocated sending individual bricks through the mail to materially aid Tucker in his scheme. In short order he received about 60 bricks, not enough for a hotel, but sufficient to build a fine doghouse for Tucker’s pooch. A certain Rich Elsberry, also from Minneapolis, accused Tucker of being lazy and advocated he make his own bricks, but that straw be mailed to him to help out. So numerous envelopes stuffed with straw arrived. What the post office thought of this is not recorded.

Then, at Chicon II itself, a group of Anglo fans (including Walt Willis, right up there with Bob Tucker in popularity for his wry sense of humour), presented Tucker with actual ‘blueprints’ for the proposed hotel.

RG Cameron April 11 Illo #1 'FacadeTucker Hotel'

Obviously the people who put this together had a lot of fun coming up with ideas. I suspect they held several parties to brainstorm all the ‘appropriate’ facilities to be included, then handed the list over to Bob Shaw (famed fan and later SF author) to draft the actual diagrams. I think he did a very neat job of it too.

RG Cameron April 11 Illo #2 'Bheer Fountain'

Take the ‘open’ general entrance. It features a fine Bheer Fountain, an idea whose time came in 1952 and has yet to be implemented anywhere. I mean, sure, Renaissance Romans pumped wine out the nostrils of the horse in the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, but then they were always doing that sort of thing. A Bheer Fountain is thrillingly modern, but alas, remains futuristic…

Why bheer rather than beer? Since the rise of Ghughuism fen have always added an H to supremely important words. As in ‘Ghod’ for example. Not quite sure why…

The ‘T.L.M.A.’ entrance on the right, rather tiny, was reserved for ‘The Little Monsters of America,’ a short-lived (1951/1952) club & newsletter created by Lynn Hickman. Seems people tended to stare at young fans buying SF magazines at newsstands, staring as if they regarded said teenagers “as little monsters or something,” and Hickman figured it was time for the little monsters to organize for self-protection. A ‘gimmick’ club. Didn’t last.

Note Room 770 on the second floor directly above the entrance. This is in reference to an infamous (greatly exaggerated in the telling) non-stop room party held the previous year at the 9th Worldcon, Nolacon, in New Orleans. It set the standard, so it’s not surprising fen would want it perpetuated, like a raging fossil, within the continuously renewable Phoenix of the Tucker Hotel.

Note also the springboard and net on the upper right of the hotel, facilities designed to allow fen and pros to express their dismay on discovering what each other was actually like, but without permitting any self-inflicted bloodshed. And the cannon for ‘oneshots’ (single issue zines) is kinda cute too. Obvious, but cute.

RG Cameron April 11 Illo #3 'Tucker Hotel Floor Plan'

This contains a plethora of fun concepts and in-jokes. Having a spring-loaded “specially designed entrance to facilitate mad rush to the bar,” a “special contracting room for pros who ‘promised’ to show up,” or a “padded cell reserved for the Con Committee” are fairly obvious and perhaps predictable bits of fun.

But what is one to make of “Dungeons & Torture Chambers Reserved for Ben Singer and Ken BeAle”?

In-jokes of relevance to contemporary fans, but now incomprehensible to modern fen unless they have access to information which can put the names in context.

Take Ben Singer. He was a Michigan fan noted for his intense personality who was credited with causing at least one neofan’s nervous breakdown (and instant gafiation), for quitting (or being expelled from) the Detroit SF club and going on to found a club of his own which was promptly blacklisted by Detroit’s city hall. A bit of a gadfly nuisance in the opinion of some, hence his ‘banishment’ to the Tucker Hotel dungeons (a bit of notoriety which, like all fans, Singer would have welcomed, being singled out considered the height of flattery).

As for Ken Beale, he was also an ardent fan noted for brisk opinions, such as accusing the Chicon II Concom of taking part in the “filthy pro” conspiracy to hijack Worldcon away from fandom. Hence his topical inclusion in the blueprints. On the plus side, he was known for publishing a fanzine in a moebius strip format, which is impossibly and impressively cool.

Then there’s the incredibly thin garage for Henry Burwell’s car. Obviously everyone knew about his car and would find the garage amusing. But why?

What bugs me is I recently read a description of his car and why it was so popular and famous, but I can neither remember the source nor the description. It was probably used to ferry numerous fen along whatever passed for roads in pre-interstate highway America from one city to another for a convention, now doubt experiencing typical fannish disasters along the way. I gather it was a long, narrow car. What make? I don’t know.

What I can say for certain is that Henry Burwell’s car was famous. That’ll have to do.

Then there’s the lavatory facilities with stalls for ‘Males,’ ‘Females,’ and ‘Others,’ with a special urinal for F.T. Laney directly opposite the door to the ‘Others’ stall. What’s that all about?

A little bit of revenge perhaps. Francis T. Laney had been a prominent member of Los Angeles fandom in the mid 1940’s, dropping out circa 1947, having become fed up with fannish politics and life style. As he later wrote:

I am disgusted to find out how I kidded myself for a while. I actually believed all the high-sounding things I used to say about fandom as a hobby.”

Or as fan historian Harry Warner Jr. wrote:

It is impossible to be sure if Laney feuded with Los Angeles fans because he tried to reform them, or if he tried to reform fans as a result of a feud with them.”

In the pages of FAPA Laney published (circa 1948) “Ah, Sweet Idiocy” which blew the lid off LA fandom, in particular denouncing certain fen for being homosexual. Precisely why he attacked fellow fen for this I do not know, not having read the long out-of-print publication, but Canadian Taral Wayne is contemplating reprinting it in the near future. I suspect it will constitute fascinating reading, not so much for the attack aspect which I gather is relatively minor, but for the extensive description of fannish life and personalities of the day.

Whatever the merits of “Ah, Sweet Idiocy,” it created quite a brouhaha still vividly in mind four years later, so naturally the creators of the blueprints couldn’t resist reserving a special place for him close to yet opposite to the ‘others.’ I doubt he would have found it amusing.

The ‘Tucker Cemetery’ undoubtedly refers to two Tucker death hoaxes instigated by fans (one by Ben Singer!) which forced him to publically deny he was dead.

Could explain more, but moving on:

THE TUCKER HOTEL TODAY – with Art and Commentary by Taral Wayne.

RG Cameron April 11 Illo #4 'Modern Tucker Hotel'

and the latest version of that illustration:

New Tucker Hotel

As you can see, the old two-story Tucker Hotel still stands, at the back of the lot. Given the graying of fandom, wheelchair ramps and stair lifts have been installed. It is mainly used now for parties.

Between the new building and the old is the First Fandom fountain, an eternal gush of correction fluid, alternating between blue, green and pink. It is not recommended that guests linger near the fountain, as the fumes are both intoxicating and injurious to health.

To the left of the fountain is Corflu Hall, where the formal presentations of the FAAN Awards are held annually, as well as other ceremonies, lectures, readings and minor riots.

At the far right is the replica of the Tower of True Fannishness. Like Cindererella’s Castle at Disneyland, it is merely a plaster façade, and there is nothing in the structure but public washrooms. However, the view from the scenic platform is splendid.

In the foreground you see the modern, main building, which contains accommodations for fans who wish the privacy of their own rooms, and also ample floor space in shared rooms for fans who are content to merely “crash” – pillows and foam pads are provided, and sheets are washed daily. There are six hot tubs and a gym in the solarium.

A pneumatic tube connects the hotel directly to the airport, the nearest Chinese Restaurants, a diverse fast food court, and a Denny’s for purists.

The main building is also equipped with the latest in digital telecommunications – cell, Wi-fi, hi-speed optical, satellite dish, ansible, you-name-it! There is even a post-office and print shop on premises, offering a choice between old-school paper publishing, digital formats and social networking.

AND NOW BACK TO THE GRAEME:

As Taral reveals, old fans like myself are now living in the future of our past youth, a future filled with exciting options for the fannish life style and, even better, a future specifically catered to meet our desires, satisfy our passions, and fulfill our dreams… I wish… we all wish…

Speaking of dreams…

Below is my neofan ‘version’ of a fannish hotel, namely the Aspirer’s Club Headquarters I conceived and published in the monthly bulletin of the ‘spoof’ student club I founded in my final year in High School (1969/1970).

At the time I was only vaguely aware organized fandom existed and completely ignorant of any and all fannish traditions. Nevertheless the concept of designing a purpose-built club headquarters greatly appealed to me. Ahead of my time I guess (as opposed to my current obsolescence).

RG Cameron April 11 Illo#5 'Aspirers Club HQ'

Without going into excessive detail, the key to the more significant rooms is:

E – Entrance Bunker disguised as large scale model ship.

H – Emergency exit disguised as large erotic statue of Founder (Graeme).

L – Communications mast disguised as flag pole.

M – Guestrooms for naïve supporters of seemingly innocent cause.

N – Guestrooms for knowledgeable supporters of subversive cause.

O – Orgy Hall.

R – Recreation deck for staff, including equipment for slowly erasing intruders & traitors.

S – Slave Barracks.

T – Throne Room (for Graeme).

U – Administrative Deck A, Club Civil Service. Guests allowed.

V – Administrative Deck B, Subversive Tactics Think Tank. No guests allowed (to leave).

W – Orgy Hall monitoring and recording Blackmail Information Centre.

I like to think my diagram covered all the bases required for a successful organization. Easily convertible into an alternate version of a modern Tucker Hotel if you ask me.

Location? Somewhere nice. Moose Jaw maybe… (That’s in southern Saskatchewan…)

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