Catacombs The Conventions
Star Trek August Party

The Star Trek August Party was a convention held at the University of Maryland on 1-3 August 1976. This was a convention for fans, organised around fan activities such as fan fiction, fanzines, art, costume and fan songs. Apart from a long distance telephone call to Gene Roddenberry, there were no guests, to keep costs low and focus only on fans. Nick Tate was the only actor to be invited as a guest.

This account is written by Darlene Palenik for the Nick Tate club. Darlene became active in 1999 fan clubs, along with several others who attended this convention, notably Mary D. Bloemker, who later launched the "Main Mission Alpha" fan club. Darlene died in 2013.

"IT'S MADNESS" by Darlene Palenik

Nick Tate at August Party, 1976

In the middle of July I learned that Nick Tate was coming to the University of Maryland August Party. Two weeks later, I headed for College Park, hoping that there would be no mix-up in ticket and room reservations. If all else failed, I could always explore Washington. After all, the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was finally open. It was with a great deal of relief that I settled into the 5th floor room at Elkton Hall on Friday afternoon.

To have anyone from Space: 1999 come to a Star Trek Convention would be unheard of among the die-hard Star Trek fans, but thanks to an open-minded committee chairman, a willing committee, several brave adventurers who sparked the ides, and more than a fair share of luck, Nick Tate actually arrived at August Party.

The first time Nick appeared on stage, Friday afternoon, some problems existed with the lights because someone kept turning them on and off (the same problems had occurred during the showing of 'The Metamorph', just prior to Nick's appearance). The heat in the ballroom was oppressive since, during a thunderstorm the previous night, lightning had struck the ballroom air conditioning units and knocked out the cooling system. It was under repair but in the meantime all of us, including Nick, had to survive it.

When Nick walked up on stage I almost felt that Alan Carter had just arrived from Alpha Moonbase, for Nick was wearing his second season uniform plus laser and commlock. He made a most imposing sight.

I wouldn't describe the atmosphere in the room as hostile; it seemed more as if the Star Trek fans were waiting to see how Nick was going to act. The first few minutes would determine the course of August Party.

From the first minutes, he talked to us on our level. I have a feeling he wasn't sure how such to tell us. When the question and answer session began, he requested the people asking the questions to identify themselves. This was a first! No Trek stars had ever done that and it seemed to turn the tide in favour of Nick. The time turned into a "feeling-out" process because the vast majority of the crowd (including me) knew very little about Nick other than his name and the fact that he was in Space, and he knew absolutely nothing about us.

Nick spoke only for an hour, but by the end of that hour the attitude of the crowd was beginning to change. Nick was winning them over. He very graciously agreed to a small autograph session on stage. We got to talk to him as well as get autographs and pictures. Some of my best memories of Nick come from that session.

After several mix-ups early Saturday morning, we all managed to get to the Dealer's Room only an hour late. Mary Hartery had been asked to appear on an 11 a.m. panel, and it was just after we got into the Dealer's Room that she asked me if I wanted to escort Nick. I couldn't believe it! I didn't know the first thing about escorting anyone, especially Nick. I think that if I hadn't been so exhausted, I would have been nervous, Nick was late in getting there; Mary was upset about being on the panel so we had to keep convincing her that she would do just fine. To get a change of pace for a moment, I left to get a couple of pictures in the Art Room, and when I came back, Nick was there. He was standing just inside the door with Mary, Pat, Ed and some others crowded around him. Mary told Nick that Pat and I were to be his escorts for a while. Ne seemed to be pleased about that and off we went.

Very few in the room recognised Nick, so it would have been a peaceful time if only it hadn't been so crowded. Nick didn't rush the trip around the Dealer's Doom; he was curious about the many things at each of the tables. He would look the things over, talk to the dealers, ask questions, occasionally read a flyer on a table or two. He just seemed to look over everything, until we got a table that had a back issue of the Space: 1999 magazine. Nick picked it up and looked through it. Then he finally found the artwork rendition of Alan Carter, he looked shocked as he looked at us and asked, "Is that supposed to be me?" What could we say to that?

It was almost tine for Mary's panel to begin. Nick knew about it and he told us to head for the ballroom. We went down about halfway to the stage - close enough so we could see and hear well, yet not too close so that if Mary saw me she wouldn't get nervous. He stayed for most of the lecture and occasionally Nick would ask Pat and us questions. It was at this point that I realised how little I knew about the background of the Star Trek movement. It was rather embarrassing but, after all, I hadn't heard of the phenomenon before February '75 and a year and a half isn't long enough to really get into the mechanics of the Star Trek network. I was especially embarrassed to discover that I knew nothing about the 'Kraith' series by Jacqueline Lichtenberg when Nick asked me.

Nick's caring about seeing Mary on the panel was something that surprised as but as I learned more about Nick, I realised that this caring is totally natural to him.

After the panel Nick was taken out to lunch and our group could relax for so hour or so. We scattered and somehow all found one another in the ballroom during the second showing of 'The Metamorph'. Toward the end of the episode we all started looking anxiously at the rear ballroom doorway watching for Nick to appear. 'The Metamorph' ended and no Nick. We just sat there, not daring to move. Finally Nick walked in and we all started breathing again.

The lecture was a panel discussion with Nick, Jim Burns and John Ellis. Jim was a writer for Trek Times and Starlog, among others. John is an actor and artist with the Space 1999 magazine by Charlton. Both are Space fans and the panel covered many topics, including the merchandising and promotional aspects of Space. The fans also complained about the editing problem. Nick had not been aware that the episodes were edited and he was truly sorry that there was nothing he or Gerry Anderson could do about it.

The crowd also wanted to know how the disappearances of Paul, Kano and Victor would be explained in the show, Nick said there are plenty of places where those people could be, that they might still be on Moonbase somewhere. Joan Winston, standing by a table near the left side of the stags, against the wall, called out "They're in the john,' That sent the entire crowd and the panel into hysterics, then things had calmed down slightly, Nick looked over at Joanie and quipped, "I wish I could do one-liners like that." The crowd again went hysterical, and when order had been restored Nick was still flipped out over the remark; he just wasn't coordinated as he thought about it once again, "That's a very good explanation," Then he continued to say that they haven't actually killed off any of the characters and that they might come back if there was enough public pressure.

[Joan Winston organised the first Star Trek convention in 1972 and was a pivotal figure in the fan movement. She had met Fred Freiberger during filming of the last Star Trek episode. Winston and Lichtenberg wrote Star Trek Lives! (1975) which for many general readers was an introduction to, and template for, science fiction fandom. She died in 2008.]

The audience didn't want the lecture to end and Nick could sense this, so he invited anyone in the crowd to walk up any time to talk to him.

Another autograph session was scheduled - this time in a private panelled room with a long table, plenty of chairs around that table and also along the walls. We collapsed in the chairs, grateful for the coolness of the room after the heat of the ballroom (the air conditioning still wasn't working).

Nick was marvellous with the fans. He would talk to each of them, pose for pictures, answer their questions and occasionally ask a question or two. Just watching Nick and the fans was s fascinating experience. The people were really quite friendly and pleasant to Nick and he, in turn, responded. It really had to be seen to be believed.

I and several others left early because we could get a ride bock to Elkton (by this point we were too hot and tired - and lazy - to walk).

I had a few hours to recuperate before the big events still to come that evening - the Costume Call and Nick's Party. I never did get to dinner or to help one of the girls with her costume (as I had promised on Friday) because I couldn't find her. But I did manage to watch the majority of UFO.

Around 8:00 I went to the ballroom, only to discover that the Costume Call had been pushed back half an hour because the judges had been taken out to dinner. Two of the judges, Connie Faddis and Monica Miller, came up on stage and sat down at the judge's table around 8:30. But the show couldn't go on... yet - number three judge was missing, Nick was somewhere in the Student Union Building but no one was sure where. The call went out to find Nick, and after what seemed an interminably long time (probably no more than ten minutes) Nick came sauntering down the left aids aisle of the ballroom. If there had ever been a time that the crowd would "boo" Nick, it would be now for delaying the call. But when he walked up on stage, the crowd cheered and applauded and all was well. Nick had finally been accepted by the August Party members.

The Costume Call went relatively smoothly - as smoothly as such an event can go. Nick was totally astounded by the amount of work that went into the costumes. Each of the categories had costumes more impressive than the once before. The judges alternated announcing the winners and Nick got to announce the fantasy category. Of course, Nick thoroughly enjoyed kissing the girls in the winning costumes. (I have since heard from many sources that Nick's best role is that of a romantic playboy). Nick especially looked closely at some of the more elaborate and/or revealing female costumes. In each category, finalists were called up on stage and the judges would walk over and give each costume a close scrutiny.

A Costume Call is not without its share of incidents and the August Party one was no exception. After the Fantasy winners had been congratulated, the girl in Jessica's costume (from 'Dune'), one of the semi-finalists, fell off the back of the stage. I don't think anyone was sure of how it happened. Nick saw her fall and before anyone could move, he had jumped off the stage sad was helping her, he didn't leave her side until he was sure she was okay. Everything happened so fast, but one thing was evident - Nick was more concerned for the girl's welfare than he was for his own safety. Ne could easily have hurt herself jumping off the stage that way.

In the Star Trek category, a girl in the costume "Boss's girl" (from 'A Piece Of The Action') walked up on stage and, in perfect character, flounced her way to the judges' table, sat on it, leaned on it and gave Nick a kiss. Nick was quite surprised (yet pleased, I'll safely bet).

The tables turned a moment later. A girl in an Indian costume, "Salish' (from 'The Paradise Syndrome') walked up the steps and stood on the left front corner of the stage. Suddenly she yelled, "Kirok!" and as she started running toward the judges' table she pulled out a knife. She came straight at Nick and for a brief moment it looked as though she was really going to attack him. Nick must have thought so too, for he pulled back in surprise and shock as she lunged at him. Talk about realism! Wow! Then she stepped back, modelled her costume for the judges and walked off. Nick looked surprised for a long while after that incident, later, he asked the girl about it and she explained the scene in the episode and Nick agreed that her act had been very effective.

Throughout the Call, Nick often stated how impressed he was with the industry and creativity put into the costumes. He was just totally amazed.

It took the judges a long time to decide on the Star Trek category. When the winners had all been announced and congratulated, Nick made one final statement to the crowd and he admitted that judging the costume call was the toughest thing he'd ever done. (But he obviously enjoyed it!)

During a conversation with Monica Miller after the Call, she was asked how Nick was able to judge the Star Trek category when he wasn't "overly" familiar with Star Trek. Monica told us that he judged on the quality and technical work on those costumes, and he let the girls decide the appropriateness to Star Trek. (I'll bet that he was influenced by crowd reaction.)

A few minor details remained to be cleared up. The performance category was run and the "Singing Andorian" (T.J. Burnside) was overwhelmingly as best performance and best all-round.

Everyone scattered after the Costume Call and I headed back to Elkton to prepare for Nick's party. The festivities began for many people before the party began. The party was by invitation only and for the first time Nick was alone with fans and friends. There were no autograph lines, no crowds and no hassles. What had been hoped for was a quiet evening for Nick to be able to relax and to get to know us, and maybe we might learn just a little about him.

Nick found a good friend in Joanie Winston as for a long time she and Nick discussed television - both British and American. It was an informative conversation to listen in on.

During this discussion several people brought in Space: 1999 books for Nick to autograph and Nick was very interested in looking through then, especially at the pictures. He hadn't seen the books before. Someone also came in with the Space: 1999 second season brochure from ITC. None of us, including Nick, had ever seen it, so we all examined it curiously. After a while, Nick started wandering around to the groups of kids in the room, than he finally settled down on one of the small couches near a window. Tracey brought in the Australian bush hat, and when Nick saw it, he looked as though he felt really at hone for the first time at August Party. He started telling us about the history of the hats, how they were used in the wars, and told us about Australia in general.

There were some problems at Nick's party. Even though we had two large electric fans running, it was still dreadfully hot in the 6th floor lounge. A severe thunderstorm around midnight didn't help matters any, nor did getting kicked out of the 6th floor and having to re-group in the 4th floor lounge. Nick was a really good sport about putting up with all the problems and also about posing for pictures and signing autographs for the committee members at the party.

The time seemed to pass by all too quickly. The greatest part of the evening woe in the early earning hours whoa we got Nick and Joanie surrounded in the back of the room and he began to tell us 'backstage' stories about some of the people and the filming problems of Space. We heard Nick's version of the story of filming 'Space Brain' (the problem with the foam machine) and it was hilarious. We lost all track of time and it wasn't until Nick stifled a yawn that we realised it was 2:30 a.m. The party broke up quickly; a group followed Nick to the elevator and he said goodnight to each person, waved goodbye to the group still in the lounge, then he was gone.

Nick Tate at August Party, 1976

The highlight of Sunday morning was a rumour going around that Nick had left the August Party and was heading back to New York. A lot of the people were really disturbed about this and no one seemed to have any information to confirm, or deny the rumour. Around 1:00 someone finally learned that it was 'The Metamorph', the first episode of Space's second series, that was being taken back to NYC by ITC, and that ended that rumour.

Near the end of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's 'Kraith' lecture Nick, Mary, Pat and the rest came in and sat in the front row. Soon after, Nick came on stage for his final lecture. The audience consisted mainly of old and new Space and Nick Tate fans and they wore very receptive. Nick seemed to be more at ease with this crowd than he had been on any other day. He got into many "inside" stories, including how he got the part of Alan Carter and developed it. The crowd was very appreciative and when the time was up, they were really getting involved. They didn't want Nick to stop, especially since this was the last chance to see him. The final autograph session (and chance to talk to Nick one more time) was held in the same room as the Saturday Session. The line was quite large and it took some time for everyone to talk to Nick.

The last person from the line left and Nick and the committee were finally alone. Nick leaned back in him chair and said, "It's finally over." It sounded to me as if he couldn't believe it. He was silent for a long minute, then he looked up and announced, to no one in particular, "This is madness." It wasn't until later that I realised how accurately Nick had described those three days. Everyone, including Nick, looked exhausted. The room become rather quiet, conversations started in hushed tones and a sense of sadness seemed to fill the room as everyone realised that our friends would soon be leaving. These were the last moments I would have with Nick and the friends I had made at the August Party, I didn't stay long as it was getting late, I was sick from total exhaustion, and still had a four-hour drive hone and had to be at work early the next morning. I left quietly because I found that I couldn't say goodbye to anyone. If I had spoken to anybody I would probably leave cried.

Even as August party ended, it seemed as though Nick was still overwhelmed by all that had occurred. After al], he admitted that he had been told that Trekkies are freaks. He didn't really know boa to handle all the fan reactions at August Party, which was perfectly natural because no amount of advance warning can prepare a person for the experience of a Star Trek Con. We had been attending cons for years, but Nick didn't ever know what occurs at a Star Trek Con.

There is no way to describe the benefits that Nick's visit will reap for Space: 1999. Nick say never realise this, but people gained an "I'm going to give it another try" attitude from the discussions. The feeling of the kids on the 5th floor of Elkton was one of total respect for Nick as a person and as a representative for Space: 1999 he seen a lot of Trekkers over to the series. One thing that amazes me even now is the interest that the audiences at the lectures showed when they learned that they could play a part in helping to make Space: 1999 a better show. Whenever Gerry Anderson's studio address was given, practically everyone in the room went searching for pencil and paper (and by the time they found them, Nick had to repeat the address anyway). At least the people were interested.

In many respects, Nick Tate is Alan Carter. Nick admitted that he patterned Alan after himself. Yet Nick is also quite different from Alan. Nick is involved in the world around him - he is an observer of people; he takes pride in his Australian heritage; he takes s sincere interest in people. He told us about the drought in England, and how he was concerned that the people don't seem to care about the scarcity of water. At the Party we got to know Nick as a person. We learned about the show, discovered how such Nick cares about his fellow actors and how well the cast works together as a team. We received a crash course in the process of acting, building a character and the problems of filming a show with special effects.

But most of all I learned that though an ocean or continent may separate people, we can still find common grounds on which to communicate, and that people are only as far apart as their enforced differences make them. Yet when people learn about one another and reservations melt, the distance between us becomes no longer a barrier, but a stepping-stone to understanding.

For many, a new understanding came out of August Party. Some lives may have been changed in the process of finding that new understanding, but one thing is certain. For all the Space fans who met Nick, very little will ever be the same again.