Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joan Winston - Without Whom . . .

As you can see from the image of Joan Winston's natal chart [ http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/rimonslibrary/cz/cz24/JoanWinston.html ] -- she has Sagittarius rising. And boy is she typical Sag -- honest to a fault, with a huge, warm, inclusive welcome.

These traits are reflected in the title of her first book, The Trek Conventions, or How To Throw A Party For Twelve Thousand Of Your Closest Friends.

During the 1970's, she was nicknamed Mama Trek for a reason -- she organized and took care of things for the Committee that created and ran the first 5 huge Trek Conventions in New York City.

At the time, she was in charge of Contracts at one of the national broadcast TV networks. She had a knack for detail and never forgot a thing.

So it was natural that she came to handle the publicity for the conventions. As described in her first book, this job escalated from totally out of control to truly astronomical.

If you like any of the Star Treks -- TV, animated, comic, graphic novel, Internet New Voyages or film -- you have Joanie to thank.

The way Hollywood works, the only thing that counts is publicity. A nice, warm little convention with a few hundred (or even thousand) fans means nothing to Hollywood. No number of conventions would have gotten Star Trek revived, made into an animated, or made into films, or more series, no matter how many people attended or how many books were published and became "best sellers."

The only thing that matters in Hollywood is publicity. What mattered, what made a difference to the Powers That Be was the way the press covered these conventions, reviewed the books, focused on fans and their "real" lives, and interviewed those of us who had written books on or about Star Trek.

Star Trek, and its bumper stickers like "Beam Me Up, Scotty" became a pop-culture phenomenon -- became a total cultural phenomenon.

Remember, in those days there was no Internet, email, Lists, blogs, chat rooms, texting. The only way fans came to know other fans existed was through Media coverage and published books.

A lot of the impression the Media got from the huge Star Trek fan events came via Joanie Winston's sunny, warm, chatty, breezy, utterly SANE and NORMAL businesswoman with an insane job persona. Though coverage included a lot of derision, it also became permeated with Joanie's attitude of joyous fun, and that attracted more attention than the derision ever did.

During the 1970's when the New York conventions were attracting all this media attention and spawning other huge Star Trek conventions around the country, Joan suffered through the transit of Pluto over her MC and through her 10th House. She had breast cancer, twice, and gall bladder surgery (the old fashioned, "most painful surgery recovery there is" style) and several other major problems. In fact, she put off the gall bladder surgery until after one convention because the con was more important! And despite the pain, she charmed every reporter and Mothered all the frazzled committee and the Trek Stars who attended.

With the conventions over, and her health improving, she turned more to writing and speaking at many other conventions. In addition to Trek, she spoke about her experiences with breast cancer (in a day when such things were NOT discussed in public). I believe Joanie saved several lives because of her open Sagittarius-Rising honesty. And she'll still talk to you about it today more than thirty years later -- get those checkups!

The Making Of The Trek Conventions came out after David Gerrold's The Making Of Star Trek, and my book, the Bantam paperback Star Trek Lives! by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston. David Gerrold wrote the ST:TOS script The Trouble With Tribbles, and is still working in the film industry with a film in theaters now. He's had a number of very prominent and well written Science Fiction novels published as well.

Sondra introduced me to Joan as someone who could write us a chapter for Star Trek Lives! on how the conventions happened. Joan talks a blue streak, but her pencil can't keep up with her mind! It took a lot to get her to put the words she spoke so fluently down on paper, but once she did -- it was dynamite. So we included Joan in the byline of the book.

Joanie's chapter is the one most remembered from Star Trek Lives! For decades afterwards, she'd tell those tales to enthralled convention audiences. Her talks were always packed because she could add personal anecdotes about all the Stars. The chapter led to her being able to tell the whole story in her own book -- and then a couple more Trek books, too, one that she edited filled with cartoons.

Somewhere in between all this, Joanie contributed a story to my Star Trek fanzine universe, Kraith. http://www.simegen.com/fandom/startrek/kraith/kc003/kc03_01.html#OBLIGATION/

Much later, she went on to become a famous fanzine writer for her Riker/Star Trek: The Next Generation stories published in various 'zines.

Actually, I wasn't impressed with Riker at first -- Joanie opened my eyes to nuances of the character and Jonathan Frakes' wide ranging skills. In 1996 and 1998, Frakes directed the 8th and 9th Star Trek movies. I'm telling you, Joanie has an instinct for this stuff! Frakes launched into a totally stellar career using skills and talents I never saw in him at first. See his filmography at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000408/ and goggle at what Joanie saw in this man from the first.

Meanwhile, Joanie tried her hand at novel writing and turned out two blockbusters in the best seller mode -- one of which even sold for good money, neither of which ever saw print! It was the most bewildering misfire of the publishing industry I have ever seen.

Our friendship went through many stages. Often, during the early Star Trek conventions I'd end up rooming with her and a couple other women. Once I slept on a lumpy bed because she'd hidden the Star Trek blooper reel under my mattress! Another time, she and some other friends dressed me up as T'Pring and entered me in the costume contest (my first and ONLY time in a costume!) -- I met a woman just last month who saw me as T'Pring and remembered it! I thought I'd lived that down.

My zany adventures with Joanie continued -- she lived in Manhattan and I lived in the northern suburbs of NYC. She dragged me into town as often as possible to take me clothes shopping at bargain shops with higher class clothing than I could find near me. She has a sense of classic style and value that is as unerring as her sense of high craftsmanship among entertainers.

I went to her apartment to watch Star Trek episodes -- she was one of the first to have a video recorder. Her first was a JVC with 3/4 inch tape -- a broadcast machine she picked up used when the studio discarded it. Through numerous upgrades to DVD's, she always has the best equipment.

During those years, we talked on the phone for hours, a couple times a month at least. Often she'd relate uproarious encounters with the stars of stage (she does live in Manhattan, you know) and screen. She dated a number of them and loved to go dancing. She was always the first to tell me about the best new TV shows, too. She had the inside scoop on everything to do with show business.

In the 1980's and 1990's she used to come up to my house on the bus, stay over, and then we'd drive to Maryland for Shore Leave together -- then I'd drive her home to Manhattan and circle on north to my own house -- a 7 or 8 hour drive home instead of 6. We'd blast along the highway singing with Theodore Bikel tapes (before cars had CD players). We discovered we had a lot of favorite movies in common -- Dirty Dancing being one.

Since I moved to Arizona, we only talk via telephone.

Which brings me to the reason for this web page. You see, despite being cutting edge on TV video equipment, Joanie has never gotten online!

The electric wiring in her incredibly old New York walk-up apartment just wouldn't (and she had several techs try different things) allow for running a computer or getting it online.

If you Google "Joan Winston" you'll find mention of her books, some casual references in con reports perhaps -- but you won't find her homepage, you won't find her blog, you won't find her on social networking -- you won't find HER. And, except for here, you won't find a reason for that, either. Joanie just doesn't do computers. Period.

So we wanted to create that online presence for Joanie, explain why you can't find her, and point out that without Joanie Winston -- (and 12,000 of her most intimate friends) -- there might very well not have been any more Trek than ST:TOS.

If Star Trek, the Conventions, the books, the additional novels, the online continuation by fans, http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/ which is now called PhaseII, have touched your life -- then you have been touched by Joan Winston.

Please contribute your thank-you Joanie's website. You'll find instructions at http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/rimonslibrary/cz/cz24/JoanWinston.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Thanks, Jacqueline. I love knowing the history of remarkable individuals.
    I would have loved to see you dressed up as T'Pring!

    P.S. I've been reading your articles at sime-gen and I just wanted to say THANK YOU!

  2. You're welcome!

    Which articles have you been reading?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  3. I've been reading the articles under Required Reading in the Online Lessons. There's so much stuff! It's a goldmine really. Some of it I do naturally, like Finding the Protagonist, while other things I've had to learn the hard way, like at what point to start the story. I learned that from you, by the way! Took much Trial & Error too. I think all I have left in the Recommended Reading are the articles on Conflict, some of which I've read before. I think I've got a handle on conflict/plot. Organizing it in a clear way the reader can understand is the challenge for me. The Notecard Method I learned from reading SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder, which you recommended, helped a lot.

    Of course, there's a lot more to Sime-Gen besides the Recommended Reading for the Online lessons too!