The Summer of 1973 - Part VII
Recapping last issue: once the dealer's room had been rearranged at the 1973 San Diego Comic Con due to Fire Marshall demands, I found my one dealer's table converted from being the least visable in the room, to having the premiere location, right at the front entrance. This wonderful turn of events allowed me to have a great deal of success at the convention. I don't remember my sales numbers any more, but I do know that when I got home I had nearly $1,000 in the bank (that would be equal to about $3,000 in today's dollars...), plus I had doubled my inventory of high grade Silver Age comics during that three convention (Detroit, Dallas, & San Diego) tour of 1973. That wasn't too bad for a kid who was just barely past his 18th birthday.
Before I move on to other topics, I want to mention a few small rememberances from the San Diego Convention. First, the 1973 convention was relatively small, with only about 1,000 attendees. That was enough, however, for the convention to pass from being just a small event in the rund down hotel San Diego, to being a real convention. Even more important, the trend was already beginning of the LA comics and animation celebrities showing up at the convention in droves. I remember that the 1973 convention had an organized celebrity breakfast, where you could enter a drawing to see which celebrity would share your breakfast table. Like most other rabid comics fans, I was hoping to draw Jack Kirby, but instead I found myself eating with June Foray. For those of you who don't remember, Ms. Foray was one of the premiere voice actors of all time, with dozens of great credits ranging from both Rocky and Natasha in the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, to Magica de Spell in DuckTales. Meeting Ms. Foray was a highlight of my show, as she was both incredibly kind and remarkably charming. It has been over 30 years since I had breakfast at her table, and I still remember that morning with exceptional fondness.
Two other people I met from the animation community were Willie Ito and Jerry Isenberg. They were sharing a dealer's table, and generally just hanging out as fans. Aside from the fact that they were both veterans of the Hana-Barbara Studio, they were also both huge Carl Barks fans. If I recall correctly, both of them had been on the list for a Carl Barks painting, and their paintings were delivered to them at the convention. I think that I remember that one was $900, and that the other was bigger, so it was $1,100. Those numbers stuck in my mind because they were such a jump upwards from the $400 that was paid for the "Sherriff of Bullet Valley" door prize at Multi-con '72, in Oklahoma City. That wonderful painting was auctioned off at the end of Multi-Con '72 because the winner of the door prize drawing was a non-attending member, who had no interest in Barks. She said "sell it!," so the conclusion to that great 1972 show was a live auction for one of the first-ever Carl Barks paintings. I sure wish I would have had the money to bid $425...
Another story from the 1973 San Diego convention was already told (in part) by Mark Evanier. A couple of years ago he wrote in his column about a thief who entered the room on Saturday morning, and shoplifted a great number of expensive comics. Where I can add to Mark's story is that the titles and issue numbers of the stolen books were broadcast around the room. Later that day, the thief was so dumb that he came up to me and tried to sell all the stolen books to me as his "father's collection." I stalled the guy long enough to get the attention of convention organizer Richard Buttner. Richard confronted the guy about where he got the books, and then we forced the guy to empty the big shopping bag he was hauling. Not only were all the books that had been listed as stolen in the bag, but more than a hundred additional rare issues were also in the bag, many with dealer price stickers still on them!
As word spread quickly through the room that we had the thief in custody, angry dealers began drifting toward my booth from all around the room. Suddenly, with no warning, the guy bolted for the hotel lobby. Since my booth was now closest to the door of the dealer's room, this was relatively easy. What the guy didn't factor in, however, was the anger of the dealers he had ripped off. As he sprinted out of the room, several dealers ran after him. In a scene right out of the movies, one dealer leaped forward, tackled the guy by his knees, and dropped him to the carpet. Hotel security then hauled him away to a small room, to await the police. I never received any thanks from the dealer's whose books I had recovered, but that was no big deal. Making that one contribution finally made me feel like I had become an active member of the comics dealer community. That was more than enough reward for me.
My final recollection about that 1973 San Diego convention was my friend Torger coming up to me with a plastic bag containing Jack Kirby's used cigar butts (!). He had been following Jack all around the convention, and had collected an almost full bag of Jack Kirby "treasures." Now I've always been more than a bit obsessive compulsive (not to mention very anal rententive), and I genuinely hate to throw anything away, but Torger's claim that he would one day sell Jack Kirby's cigar butts for a fortune seemed just a little bit too insane. Hah! Was I ever wrong. Just think what they would bring on eBay today! Who knows, with a little prodding, maybe CGC will even establish a grading standard for used cigar butts. With proper DNA testing, this could become a whole new subset of comics collecting! It took 30 years, but Torger is now completely vindicated.
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