Forty years ago, at the first MidAmericon in 1976, the very first Hugo Losers Party was held in my room at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.
The night before, at the awards ceremony, I had lost two rockets (one to Larry Niven, one to Roger Zelazny, fwiw). The affair began as a modest little party in a modest little room, with some peanuts and cheese curls and whatever booze we had been able to scrounge from other parties. But as fate would have it, my room was next to the pool deck, which allowed us to overflow the confines of my double, which we soon did, to become the loudest, largest, and most memorable party of the con. Gardner Dozois was our ‘herald,’ announcing each guest as they appeared, and naming them either a winner or a loser. Losers were cheered and welcomed, winners were booed and cursed and pelted with peanuts… unless they told a good story about they were really losers. (Which Alfie Bester did most memorably). Thus did that first Losers Party pass into fannish legend.
In the decades that followed, the Hugo Losers Party became a worldcon tradition. Many more great parties were thrown (most notably, I think, the 1981 party in Rusty Hevelin’s suite at Denvention), and eventually the party became somehow ‘official’ and a tradition arose whereby the following year’s worldcon concom threw the bash after every Hugo ceremony. That worked for a while, but gradually the original spirit of the party was lost, as the event became stuffier and duller and more institutional, finally even abandoning the name ‘Hugo Losers Party’ because some sensitive (and irony-impaired) souls did not like being called losers. (Hey, we’re all losers, boys and girls). The nadir was the ‘party’ the Sasquan concom threw at Loncon, which was truly a dismal affair. So last year, at Sasquan, I decided to reclaim the party that Gardner and I had started… but since life (and fandom) have been good to me, I was able to do a little more than we’d been able to do in 1976.
The Sasquan party was a great success, I think. But of course that meant I had to do it again. I mean, how not? This was fortieth anniversary, and we were returning to Kansas City. I did toy for a moment with the idea of trying to book my original 1976 hotel room… and the adjoining pool deck… but, alas, the room, the deck, and the pool itself are all gone, demolished in one of the hotel’s numerous renovations over the past forty years. (The old gorgeous historic Muehlebach still stands, but alas, remained dark and unused throughout Big Mac II, with the con confined to the newer Marriott wing, and the even newer Marriott across the skybridge).
Instead we went two blocks away and rented out the Midland, a gorgeous old 1930s movie palace. I mean, how could I resist? I LOVE old movie theatres, especially the art deco palaces of the 30s and 20s, and the vaudeville houses that preceded them. And the Midland was stunning, as I think all our guests agreed.
Drinks were drunk, barbeque was eated, losers were feted, winners were mocked, Alfies were given (more on those next rock). And when two in the morning rolled round, the band played “Teen Angel” and we all remembered Dave Hartwell, who was sorely missed.
What more is there to say? It was a party to remember, I think. Just like 1976.