When I first left Beckett in 2007, my “plan” such as it was, was to write a book about people in the hobby much in the way that Lawrence Ritter did in his masterful tome, “The Glory of Their Times.” Ritter, who wrote the book based on the assumption he wanted to talk to players of an age long ago whose numbers were dwindling. He did an absolutely masterful job with his writing and not only Is the book and CD collection unforgettable but they also helped to create the whole genre of players remembering times past. We have many books now of varying commercial success based on what Ritter did.
I have realized over the past two years that I have now created my own “book” of memories one column at a time and only when I got to an event such as the National do I realize how much of an impact these words truly have on people. When I saw Bill Huggins this year he told me that several of his friends brought up his athletic “exploits’ at the 1984 National Sports Collectors Convention in Parsippany, New Jersey where he tore his Achilles tendon in an ill-fated race against Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen. When I told him I had written about the subject recently you could see the light go on and that is where people remembered the story from. Another story I promised recently to tell was about the great “jacket” story of the 1984 National.
You see, the Aspen Hotel had dreams of being the go-to place for a wealthy clientele and the lounge area actually required anyone entering to wear a jacket. My old friend Mel Solomon and I went out to the Aspen about two weeks before the show to get an idea of where to park, how to determine best load-in practices and basically get our answer to how to get in. Thus, we drove out to the Aspen one Sunday evening to see this sign at the lounge “Jackets Required.” They actually would not let us into the lounge without jackets.
Although I would not end up going to the lounge area, I made sure there was a Jacket in my car going forward so I could enter the lounge if I wanted to. However, most dealers were not used to such practices and for those dealers staying at the hotel who wanted to drink at the hotel bar, the novel solution was created. That’s right, my old friend Mike Gallela had fortuitously packed a jacket for the trip and Mike Gordon always wore a jacket and for anyone else who wanted to enter the bar, jackets were smuggled out so they could gain entrance to the bar. Thirty years later, the world is a lot looser and I don’t even think about packing a jacket anymore to the National. Makes you wonder why the Aspen had such a silly rule anyway. Out of all of the locations where the NSCC has been held, the Aspen was the first place to no longer exist.
At least it was a nice hotel. Before their renovations, collectors remember the old George Washington Motor Lodge in Willow Grove, PA as perhaps the worst dump ever to host an major convention. The standard joke used to be that the sheets in the hotel had not been changed since, well, George Washington slept there. Words cannot describe how mediocre everything at that hotel was. To me, the best example of how people regarded the chain was in 1987. After a weekend at that hotel I went on a show and store trip to New England with a fellow New Jersey dealer. One night, we were trying to check into a hotel but it was sold out. Someone in the lobby indicated he was from the Philly area and I replied, ‘I just spent three nights at the GW Motor Lodge and man, it would be nice to spend an evening in a nice hotel’. Miraculously, the hotel clerk on duty heard me talking about the GW and said ‘we have a room for you all’ and dang it if was not one of the hotel’s best. I’ll never turn down getting help when someone pities me.
Fast forward more than 25 years and think about this year’s National. The best aspect among the many good ones about the location is the huge amount of decent hotels within shouting distance of the Rosemont Convention Center. Whether you choose a hotel where you never have to go outside or a hotel in which it is a short walk or car ride, there is no shortage of hotels and some restaurants nearby. Honestly, the same is true for Anaheim and Baltimore and one reason among many why I really do not like the Cleveland location. There really is no central place in Cleveland nor can you walk to the other hotels which the show uses. As a convention attendee, I would be just as happy at a downtown hotel and be near the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Progressive Field and other local attractions.
And I’ve been reminded via email of one of (if not the biggest) changes in the hobby over the past 20 years. I received the email blasts from F&W with both the Ross Forman and George Vrecheck and it hit me. These articles, excellent as they were about the National, were an anachronism, The National ended four weeks ago and sites such as this one not only provided daily stories and video as well as social media updates but also concluded its work within a short time after the show ended. While I’m a great believer in perspective, communications are quicker than in 1995 and we no longer need to wait four weeks for a show recap. Fun stories based on what whom and what we saw are ‘evergreen’ and can linger for a while but the show report just seems dated.
As Rich’s Ramblings continue to talk about both past and present we will continue in our quest to use what we have a few times a week instead of a full book which I never have the patience to write. In its totality, this column is kind of a living book about the hobby and we have a lot more fun stories to talk about. I’ll leave you all with this story, circa 1992. I was returning from a show trip where this announcement comes over the PA system: “Would Susan Opp please check in at gate #7, Susan Opp, that’s OPP”.
Well at that time one of the biggest songs in the country was Naughty By Nature’s O.P.P. and everyone under the age of 30 was cracking up with that announcement and the older people were wondering what was so funny. Susan Opp, wherever you are, I bet you are one of the few people who is thrilled that no one sings OPP anymore.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]