ALA 10

To make a Fanzine Lounge it takes a couch and one drink,

One couch, and a drink,

And ridicule.

The ridicule alone will do,

If drinks are few.

This was my third year attending Anime Los Angeles, and my second doing a fanzine lounge (and if you read last year’s report you know that is a wild exaggeration) with Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Jason Schachat.

This year we had made specific arrangements regarding location and furniture; they unfortunately slipped through the cracks due to the logistics of organizing from the Bay Area for a Los Angeles event. Upon arrival, we found that we had been sequestered away in a corner of the Obligatory Marriott Mystery Floor with a giant boardroom table dominating the room. Although not a bad room per se, it was almost entirely unlike everything we had requested. There was some teeth-gnashing and fuming before Leigh Ann suggested we simply do what we do best and go rogue. “You betcha,” I said, and we headed out to the ballroom level (also known as “The Convention”) to scope out unguarded rooms to hijack.

While considering another one of the rooms, we ran into the Fanzine Lounge’s Wendy, who pointed out that she was in charge of the Autograph Room. She mentioned it was currently only in use until about 5:00 p.m. each day, and that it was large enough for us to set up camp there without interfering with its regular function. Leigh Ann declared it good, and the next step was to acquire couches.

Luckily there were couches all over the place! We liberated two from the hallway the second they were vacated, and sat chatting until the wee hours. Sadly, our location meant that we were off the beaten path for most of our regular visitors from last year, including Chaz who we did not see once all night. Still, it was only Friday. I called it a night about 3:00 a.m. since I had to visit with my sister in Santa Monica early the next day.

I did just that, taking in the R. Crumb exhibit at the Hammer Museum and got back to the hotel in the early evening, just as the news of the 6.5 earthquake in Eureka was buzzing around Twitter. When I made it down to the lounge I found we had a bunch of nice chairs, a table covered in fanzines and a pony. The last was apparently being a hostage of some sort – I’m still fuzzy on the details. But it became clear that chairs and pony alike had been liberated from a separatist “Chaz Lounge” elsewhere in the convention – someone had tipped Leigh Ann and Jason off.

We whiled away the time waiting for Masquerade to start by hanging out and planning what to do with our hostage. I often skip Masquerades simply out of a reluctance to invest the five or six hours required to stand in line, wait for the show to start (late), suffer through the less-polished entries (too many) stay awake through the intermission (too long), only to see that just a fraction of the winners are present to receive their awards at the end. I use the time instead as dinner/nap/changing time. But ALA has an excellent masquerade and since I donít generally care about the panels much, I am usually already well-rested. This year was no exception, and I enjoyed seeing some wonderful costumes, some very funny sketches (looking at you, Stand Up Ninja!) and a half-time show that was half Tadao doing his thing and half AMV’s “Jizz in My Pants” was inappropriate but hilarious, well done) so although I didn’t stay until the very end I enjoyed myself a lot.

After changing into evening wear, we headed back to the lounge and spent most of the rest of the evening there. Since we were at the end of the hall we did not get a lot of through traffic, but we did get a fairly steady stream of people and a few long-term visitors that I enjoyed chatting with very much. Leigh Ann had ALA specific ribbons made that read “Hai! I know what Fanzine is” which she gave to people who could answer the question reasonably well.

At some point we realized we were past the midpoint of the convention and we still had not seen one single fuzzy ear of the Chair. It was decided that the problem was his splinter Lounge. Chaz couldn’t very well sit in his room if there was no furniture to sit in. Pleased with our sound reasoning, three of us headed over on a sortie, threading through a convenient but terrifying back passage that looked like something out of a J-Horror film (well okay, out a J-Horror remake starring Wendy as Sarah Michelle Gellar). When we arrived at the anti-Lounge we found several folks hanging out chatting. We also found a creepy-as-hell Yoda doll with which we took a bunch of photos before we cleared the couch off, Jason took the front, I the back and we started towards the door.

As we did so, Colleen Crosby frowned, “Uh, do you have permission to take that? Cause Lynn was annoyed that someone stole the chairs last night.” “Wow,” I said, “someone stole your chairs? That sucks!” Then I gave my end a hefty shove, urged Jason to keep moving and a second later we were out the door (thanks for holding that for us, Gizmo!) and into the hallway where Jason took over pushing, and we made a mad dash for the lounge to the rejoicing of our tribe.

We remained in the lounge for awhile, flushed with victory (and vodka) until we got hungry and decided to test out the Hilton next door (according to legend, it has a 24-hour restaurant). On our way to the lobby we ran into Chaz holding court in a hallway. A hallway! About to express dismay that he couldn’t be bothered to come lounge in the Lounge, on one of our (well, his) couches, we suddenly noticed there were In-N-Out wrappers on the table . . . I must have made some very pathetic sounds at this point since he offered to make a run if folks were interested (they were) before the place closed (soon!).

So it was that I got a double double with fries and a chocolate shake, and all was well with the world. Chaz visited for a bit and there was some teasing back and forth, which he took with his usual grace. He even lent me his fleece pullover when he noticed I was cold. A call came in on the radio regarding an earlier “Chairman Level Event” (my new band name) and he excused himself to go handle the situation. As the minutes passed we slowly realized we’d had our Chaz visit and would not be seeing him again. I couldn’t rend my garments since I was wearing his pullover so instead Leigh Ann suggested that we dress the pony in it. Within seconds we had a foreleg in each arm and had the lifted poor beast up for easier access. Naturally, it was at this moment that Chaz popped his head back in.

After a moment of horrified silence from all parties he retrieved his garment, sat for a moment, gently chided us and then got up and headed for the door. As he did so I spotted his wallet lying on the couch and dove for it, but his Con Chair sense was tingling (or just as likely the flurry of suspicious giggling tipped him off) and he spun around just in time to catch us redhanded. Chaz was not having a good night. Chaz collapsed in a gibbering heap. The Lounge painted another Con Chair kill mark onto its fighter’s nose.

Eventually order was restored, and again, all was well with the world. . . until I left the Lounge crew unsupervised for a few minutes and they demonstrated their couch stealing prowess in the hallway, literally the minute Chaz turned his back. Apparently the acceptable limit of couch theft in SoCal is three . . . four couches makes it a felony. The more you know, kids.

Not having been involved in that last heinous act of anarchy, I slept the sleep of the just and woke feeling peckish. We didn’t bother attempting breakfast, as the hotel restaurant at the LAX Marriott is the fly in the ointment with my experiences at this hotel. They close sometime between noon and 2:00PM, depending on how they feel, it seems. But as they never tell you when that will be for certain, it’s impossible to make plans. Given that breakfast ends at 11:00AM or something and they close pretty early for dinner as well, the main alternative is Champions, which is wall to wall screens and nigh unbearable.

By the time we got down to the lounge our stuff had been neatly packed and the space filled to the brim with bean bags, so we spent the remaining hours winding down, hanging in the main hallway saying hi and bye to folks, and chatting about Steampunk with some of out Lounge visitors from the previous evening. We met Steven Poon of the Spoony Bards and we even finally got a chance to spend some quality time (eye contact is quality, right) with our absent-for-the-duration minion to whom the future clearly belongs, regardless of attire. Finally we ran into John Hertz, who was on his way to call Regency Dancing! That was a pleasant surprise and we again caught up with him later to finally hand over a copy of SF/SF.

As we chatted, sat and occasionally wandered, we pitched Leigh Ann’s idea for ALA next year, that is, a Salon rather than just a Fanzine Lounge, created with an audience of the more dressed up and less bean-bag-centric costumes and fans, be they older or simply more sedate. Something where they can sit, maybe take a few pictures, enjoy the conversations and decor.

Yes, we know that’s called a Con Suite, shut up already.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #101, January 27, 2010