The Return of Dr. Fandom
by Ted White
Paging through The Washington Post today I ran across the following obituary:
That name might not mean much to you -- it almost didn't to me, although "Ganser" rang a faint bell. But the first paragraph made it clear when it said of the woman that she was "48, a member of the singing group the Shangri-Las . . . ."
And in the second paragraph, "The Shangri-Las got their start at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens in 1964, when twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser teamed up with sisters Mary and Betty Weiss." Okay, then.
And in the final paragraph there is this: "After the group broke up in 1968, Mrs. Dorste got her high school diploma. She married and divorced. She later worked for Nynex." That's the local phone company. She died of breast cancer -- at 48.
To appreciate the impact this item had on me, you must know that in 1965 I had a major crush on Mary Weiss. She was the lead singer of the group, in which her younger sister Betty (who was also very attractive) was only a part-time participant. Mary had long straight blonde hair, although I always suspected she had help with its color. The twins -- who sang backup -- were dark and vaguely glowering, their hair shorter and bobbed, their expressions often sullen. They were taller than Mary, but much less pretty. All of them spoke, and sang, with strong New Yawk/Queens accents, and as a group they projected a somewhat punkish image. They were not one of your Cute Girl Groups, all wholesomeness and dressed in pink, still virginal, still Sweet Sixteen. You got the impression that these girls had been around the block already. They knew the score. Girls grew up fast in New York City in the sixties. The Shangri-Las had.
I collected all their records (the obituary refers to "five albums," but there were only three, not counting Best Of collections -- and the best was their first, which collected their singles onto one side, and presented a live concert on the other side) and even followed the career of their producer, Shadow Morton, who learned on the job, their first (hit) single being his first gig as a producer.
The Shangri-Las hit some sort of basic chord with a lot of people -- and not just people like me who became smitten with the lead singer. My daughter, Kit, for instance is a big fan of the group. Part of it was the material, but an equal part was the image they projected and the accent and tone of their voices. For a couple of years there, they were Big, they were Hot.
I always wondered what happened to them. The Post says they "broke up in 1968," which doesn't surprise me. I recall hearing in the late 60's of their appearance in a small Brooklyn club and thinking that must be a major comedown for them -- they'd once performed on the same bill with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- they probably put an end to it soon thereafter.
Without a career in showbiz, the Ganser twins must have receded into a more mundane life, with Marguerite ending up at the phone company. Twenty-eight years of Normal Life, after a short time in the Spotlight. I wonder what Mary's doing now.
Whatever happened to Benoit Giraud? And where is THE FROZEN FROG?
I ask this question because the last time I saw Ben was in Scotland, at Intersection, where he appeared healthy and in good spirits. And the last FROZEN FROG I received was before then. A year ago.
Maybe there's an issue in the mails even as I write this. I hope so. Because I'd hate to think that the experience of Intersection had somehow driven Ben into gafia.
I like THE FROZEN FROG. It had become a personal favorite of mine.
Although fandom at any given time will usually be dominated by a few fanzines -- the fmz that everyone agrees are the very best -- the overall tone of fandom is determined more by the body of fanzines coming out at that time than by those few leading zines. When there are a lot of enjoyable middle-grade fanzines coming out, Fandom Is Good. When there are few such fanzines making regular appearances, fandom suffers.
THE FROZEN FROG is an unpretentious, but enjoyable, middle-grade fanzine. It doesn't come out every two or three weeks, but it did in fact come out fairly often . . . last year. Benoit projects exactly the right tone for the fanzine, and he attracted a number of regular contributors to the FROG's letter column -- myself among them. Indeed, in the last issue he announced that he was going to make THE FROZEN FROG into a letterzine since he felt that was its strength and the direction in which it was growing.
You know, what with the trip to UK and Scotland, I never did get around to LOCcing that issue. I had meant to write an encouraging letter, supporting the change. But I did tell Ben how much I enjoyed his zine, and I hope I conveyed to him my pleasure in meeting him as well.
But still . . . . Is Ben waiting for letters for his first letterzine, wondering why few or none of his regular letter-writers have written? Or was he blown away by Scotland? Or, has he been publishing regularly all this time, and some irregularity in the Postal Service has diverted my copies to the head of the Make A Wish Foundation?
Tell us what's happening, Ben! Fandom wants to know!
It was Franz Miklis, he of THE GALACTO CELTIC NEWSFLASH fame, who first laid the Dr. Fandom moniker on me.
I tried it out with an "Ask Dr. Fandom" column concept in SPENT BRASS maybe a year ago (maybe more; I feel like I've been travelling faster than light recently, and space-time has been contracting, Einstein-wise, all around me . . . which may explain the ticket I got -- for going only 82 mph! -- today . . . ) which did Not Fly. No one had any questions, for The Doctor, at any rate. Don Fitch used the opportunity to write me a letter, but he asked no questions.
I met Franz at Intersection too. He had paintings in the art show, which impressed me less than some of the others on display, but in person he was bearded and friendly and I'm sorry I didn't spend more time with him.
By the time many of you read this, LACon will be over, and I will have missed it. I regret that, but I don't regret missing out on another chance to stay in the same hotel LACon used in 1984. The first room I was given looked really great. It was a corner room and two walls were mostly glass. But the room was hot when I checked in and it stayed hot all night. The air-conditioning was not adequate and heat was coming through all that glass -- even with the drapes drawn -- faster than the system could deal with it.
So the next day I had my room switched.
The new room got cool enough, but the air-conditioning had another flaw: it only recirculated existing air in the room, never replacing it with fresh air.
The windows were sealed shut, and the a-c unit, built into the bathroom ceiling, could work only with the air that was already there. Since I had parties in that room every night (the fwa was founded at one of those parties), the air quickly went stale from a combination of tobacco and other smoke and the general use of that air by the many dozens of people who partied each night.
I got used to it, so that I hardly noticed it during the party, but it really hit me the next day. I'd get up, go out, do conventional things, and at some point in the late afternoon or early evening I'd return to my room for some reason and be greeted at the door by a blast of chokingly bad air.
This got worse, day by day, until by the time I checked out there must have been a vanishingly small amount of oxygen left in the room's air. (Indeed, when I first heard this year's Worldcon would use the same hotel, I briefly entertained the fantasy of returning to my old room, only to find the air still as dead after some twelve years . . . . )
A fatal flaw for a hotel, I should think. Corridors that dipped and tilted oddly were a lesser problem for that same hotel, and I've all but forgotten the rumors of construction scandals that were floating around the place in 1984. But it does amaze me the building still stands.
Return to the table of contents.
Previous article: TAFFragment #5 -- Hotel Hansen (The Early Years), by Dan Steffan.
Next article: What happened at Farber Day, then?, by Pam Wells.