By Graham Charnock

What a strange thing about which for me to attempt to write an article. Graham Charnock and Party Animal are I guess, two terms that nobody would normally put together unless one of then were suffering from an abnormally large cyst upon the brain, or was in fact a Capybara, the largest living rodent. But let us see if we can tease some cheesy threads of fantasy from this Cheddar bedrock of truth.

This history of How to Party, throughout fandom and beyond and before, over the course of thirty years, from my own personal perspective, will probably start on any meaningful level in 1967 when I was twenty-one years old. But don't count on it.

Before that, where I was born and brought up, in Alperton, just outside Wembley, in what in those dim and distant years used to be called Middlesex, but which has since become Greater London (although how much greater that might be, one might dare ask, than the original London? Well, not much from my point of view, but that is a broader issue we need not touch upon here). I can only recall one party, the one in 1946 which greeted my birth. My mother stuck tiny rabbit ears to the side of her head and my father danced, possibly for the first and last time in his life. Well, I can dream.


We didn't party much in our family in Alperton. The war was over so after all there wasn't much else to celebrate any more. Sure we would occasionally, every alternate year, celebrate Christmas, when my mother would open a bottle of Babycham and my father would open a bottle of Macheson's stout. They wouldn't drink them, just open them and leave them on the sideboard. We would then eat cheese and biscuits and that was about it. One year my father gave me several lead farmyard animals which I found very chewable. We cooked with aluminum utensils and our garden shed had flaking blue asbestos on the roof. And to think they ban such things these days. Obviously none of this did me any harm, and possibly only enhanced my ability to party later in life. Thanks, Dad.


Just before I left sixth form at school there was an abortive attempt at a party organized by my friend Richard Miles, at once a strangely boring and yet strangely charismatic figure who later went on to become something in insurance, probably the something you wipe off the sole of your shoe after just stepping in it.

This party took place in a house where the parents had predictably gone away for the weekend, leaving us rampant sexual young gods in the company of a handful of rather bored girls who would obviously rather have been somewhere else, riding horses or something of that kind.

It was here I got my first snog. Well, kiss. Well, actually the grim experience of trying to kiss a girl who was determined to keep her mouth shut, her lips together and her teeth tightly clenched, and holding her breath while she did so. What disease she thought I was trying to pass on to her, I cannot imagine.

I think we drank cider and listened to 'pop' music on a Dansette Portable. The party broke up at about five o'clock in the afternoon because we all had to go home for tea, but not before Richard and his date disappeared into a bedroom for ten minutes and came out smiling smugly.

I was later to learn that Richard's date was his on-going girl-next-door friend who he met when he was twelve. So he had it made. I was the best man at their wedding much later. Another kind of party. At which I tried to cop off with a bridesmaid, and even took her out a few times before discovering she still held a candle for yet another different schoolfriend.

She ditched me with a sorrowful letter and later married her hero, and then, as I discovered through Friendsreunited (what a misnomer -- should be called FriendYouRealizedYouNeverLikedintheFirstPlace) she divorced him. All of human tragedy revolves around parties such as these. If she'd stuck with me and I had married her, history of course would be much different, and would probably have involved even more divorces, but fewer visits to America. So it goes.


I don't know when my first convention was. Long term memory deficiency has blocked it out. Can anyone remember me at Buxton? Well, that was probably it then. Whatever it was it wasn't a party, not unless you count wandering desolate corridors at three AM looking for fun, or at least some kind of life, other than a cockroach, a party.

I always figured in these early con days that fun and

parties were just around the corner, except it was never the

corner I happened to be approaching. Usually at those

corners there was a huge Gelf-Lord with a light sabre

blocking my way. Mind you I could be a bit exclusive.

People would rush up to me and say, 'Hey, party in room

106', and I would reply 'Yes, but I'm in room 204'. Maybe

I just didn't get the point. And so I tend to remember more

the parties I wasn't at rather than the ones I was at, but

perhaps that was a different issue also. In the morning

people would come up to me and say, 'Hey, great party

last night. You were great.' 'No,' I would tell them, 'you

are confusing me with Roy Kettle. I was on my own in room 204.'

I remember during my years of con-going nearly attending several parties without actually achieving consummation. Once I wandered into a room where the door had been left open. I was thirty and dehydrated and thought I might find some water. My feet were aching from wandering the corridors endlessly and I had to find somewhere to discretely jettison the foam gel insteps I had foolishly bought from Boots The Chemist the previous day. Hardly had I sat down than I found myself surrounded by Little Jimmie Robertson, who was quite little in those days but still big enough to surround me.

'Great party,' he said except in his peculiar Scottish lingo. More people arrived, Rob Holdstock, Greg Pickersgill, Roy Kettle, and I realized I was in danger of being trapped in a real party, where people were expected to talk wittily and then cop off with any unattached female that was going. I checked my watch. It was eight o'clock. Way past my bedtime. I made my excuses and left. Later that night, or earlier in the morning, I was woken up by people battering on my hotel door screaming, 'Get up Charnock. We know what you are up to in there.' (I may have got this sequence of events slightly reversed, in that it may have involved me beating on Roy Kettle's bedroom door. Or Rob Holdstock's. Or anyone's, who had actually been witty and copped off with someone.)

Round about this time, determined to party at a strange convention held on a University campus, I found myself cold and hungry with the munchies, in a field overlooking Brian Burgess's room. He was naked, and there was nary a pork pie in sight, and he was beckoning me from his window to join him. This might just have been a horrible dream brought on by too much cannabis but I suspect it wasn't. Needless to say I declined his offer of social companionship. Now if he'd waved a pork pie at me as the anecdote could have had a different outcome.

And so it wasn't until 1869 (possibly I'm wrong about this) that I went to my first real party. I'd fallen in with a scurrilous group of people known as Ratfandom, who were much younger than me (some by several years) but, what the heck, they were an open-minded crew and didn't seem to care about hanging out with geriatrics.

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"To all of you visiting friends and family over the Holiday:

drive fast, take chances."

"And sign your organ donor cards!"

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away with wearing stuff like that in the civil service. Pat pretended very early in the evening to be very drunk and sick and thus conned Chris, who was still amazingly sober or possibly less amazingly drunk, to drive her back to her home in Neasden, North London in his Triumph Herald. Me too. I stayed on the couch in her parent's front room and was awoken the next morning by them prodding me to discover a) who I was and b) whether I was still alive. This is a habit which has in fact lingered on with Pat to this day.


There is a special kind of party I have to talk about here called a book launch. One of the things I soon learnt about this kind of party in particular was not to talk to anyone, especially if you weren't sure who they were. Especially don't go to a book launch for Neil Gaiman and mistake Charles Shear Murray for Mick Farren. It can end up in endless confusion which always results in whoever you are talking to thinking you are An Asshole. But then there is never any guarantee at any party, I find, that this will not happen. I have had this problem in the past with Brian Aldiss, Samuel R. Delany, Langdon Jones, Terry Pratchett* and more other authors than you could tip into a cocked hat. (Neil Gaiman, by the way, is one of the best Partygoers I have ever met, humble, self-effacing, and far more likely to talk to you about the weather than his professional achievements.)


* Terry deserves his own moment of glory in this history of parties. I was in a group of three talking to him in Rob Holdstock's kitchen. One of them was Rob and the other was A.N. Other Famous Writer. Rob got so bored with Terry he made one of his 'must circulate' excuses to leave. Chris Evans couldn't think of an imaginative excuse so decided to go to the bathroom. Which left me and Terry. Whereupon Terry turned away and started talking to Rob's cat, Finnegan, who was perched nearby on a radiator. I could kind of understand it, I guess. Finnegan was always a better conversationalist than me. A few minutes later I saw Finnegan shuffle nervously out of the room, casting a look of horror back over his shoulder.


Unfortunately I live a few blocks away (in US lingo talk) from Rob Holdstock so frequently find myself invited to whatever social occasions are happening at his place. We used to play Badminton together every week for many years until old age caught up with us and although the after badminton experiences could hardly be called parties, they could always be called orgies. Something about the pheromones and natural endorphins released by physical exercise resulted in most of us rutting all night, only awaking bleary eyed to see John Brosnan, who had remained strangely sober, spouting forth on the stupidity of homeopathy. These days Rob events are becoming increasingly rare as financial straights hamper his overwhelming urge to party, and indeed orgy, but presumably this will change as soon as he sells his next novel and receives his biennial big fat cheque. Rob is very houseproud, despite the fact that he doesn't really have a house that he can be proud of, so frequently he would object when we spilt red wine on his beige carpet. I don't understand a man who would do that myself. I mean buy a beige carpet.


There are many different sorts of parties of course. And I should probably venture some comments on the more salacious ones. I believe what is popularly called an 'orgy' is one of them. I've never participated in one of these, unless you count Rob's pretend orgies, and a certain episode involving wet fish when I was eking out a living as a male stripper. Orgy is of course a fairly loose term, and is probably essentially defined by your own social and sexual proclivities. Is a hen party at a pub lock-out an orgy or just bored housewives interested in comparative anatomy? Is a party where people dress up in costumes of either a voluptuous or bondage-based variety and parade before each other, an orgy or a fancy dress parade? Depends if prizes are given out, I guess. I once interviewed a young lady, experienced in such matters and wishing only to be known as LK, about orgies, and she reported that in her experience the main criteria seemed to be the willingness of people to pile one on top of another, not necessarily naked, and giggle a lot. I can only presume, knowing the habits of the people involved, that a certain amount of hash brownies were consumed as a preliminary to the particular event of which she spoke.


Parties happen subsequent to unhappy occurrences as well as happy ones of course, such as those which follow the death of an individual. Unfortunately there have been too many of these in recent years, and too many to pass over without comment. When John Brosnan died many people took this as an excuse to get together and drink until they were senseless, but we won't go into the behavior of my son, James, on this occasion. Suffice to say as I left the Italian House late that night I looked up at the starry skies and had a vision of John gazing down benignly on me and saying, 'Thank God I didn't have to pay for that. And mine's a whiskey.'

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"Sexual freedom through all edible,

certified organic edible underwear."

-- Kale Libration Front

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Of course we all must be in agreement that the worst of all possible

parties is the after work leaving do. There is usually a tab so every-

body gets much drunker than they should, and then begin to wonder

why they are there at all when they really don't like the person who is

leaving. And never have. Later in the progress of drunkenness there

will inevitably come a compulsion to share this view with the person

concerned, who not only will perceive your underlying hatred, but will

gush over you in terms of how you were always the one he liked best

and you really must keep in touch, even though you both know either

one of you would be perfectly happy if the other walked out the door

and under a bus. If you are lucky you will get so drunk you will be able

to face your colleagues the next morning safe and secure behind a barricade of total amnesia. If you are unlucky, you won't.


Whatever you do, I have learnt, never turn up for a Joseph Nicholas party the day before it is due to happen. He and someone called Judith Hanna will only laugh at you and turn you and your bottle of Tequila away from their door. The next day it is safe to turn up, and you will meet a broad spectrum of interesting people, many of them Americans fleeing from the horror of a recent Worldcon in Glasgow of all places, and at least one of them will be Rob Hansen, and another Alun Harries. Be very afraid if one of the guests has recently won a Hugo for best fanzine because he/she will fondle it on every occasion, and also drink a lot of your Tequila. You can try engaging her partner in conversation but he will probably only glower at you. If the Americans are named Jerry Kaufman, you can safely ignore them because amazingly you will later meet them several years later in Seattle, should you choose to go there for another Party.


If you want to party in Seattle just ring up an escort agency. Your hotel commissar will give you a number. To quote Z.Z. Top, they have lots of pretty girls out there. On no account contact John D. Berry or Randy Byers. They will totally misunderstand what drives your desire to 'party' and drag you across town to a house in some obscure suburb owned by Andy Hooper (that's the house, not the suburb). Here you will be plied with drink and other substances and soon be reduced to spouting gibberish and filming yourself doing it. You will meet bizarre and yet also mundane people, including Jerry Kaufman, and a sinister gibbering dwarf named Victor, and in fact the experience will probably mirror every party you ever went to over the last thirty years, especially the ones where you wished you had remained sober. So it goes. And so it goes around. Will we dedicated party-goers never learn?

Well, I'm done, as the Actress said to the Bishop. The moral: Partying can be good if you trust the people you are partying with. I guess that's the bottom line. I've had quite good experiences along these lines quite recently in Harringey, Tottenham, Newcastle, York and Wiltshire, and Seattle and San Francisco. No names, no pack drill. As Kool & The Gang would exhort you: Celebrate!

Data entry by Judy Bemis
Hard copy provided by Geri Sullivan

Updated March 6, 2007. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.