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Rumor control from Darrel Exline

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Here is a direct copy of what I just finished posting on AFF.

read on...> Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but if the convention's been run into
> the ground due to bad management, (and I'm presuming that's whre the debt
> comes from) why not do the honerable thing and sell the business on for a
> dollar, or post it to furbid?
>
> ANTIcarrot.

Why? Because that's what happened to me, and I wouldn't wish that on another fur.

Read on, as I quash this and some other rumors that have been flying around the net the last few days:

* Rumor: I intentionally killed CF.
* Fact: ConFurence died after CF10 when the attendance started dwindling. Mark and Rodney knew they couldn't afford to run it anymore, and the existing CF staff voted me in to replace them. I bought the name from Mark for $1 and created The ConFurence Group to act as the business entity.

The problem was that even though the death-blow to CF was received that year, it squirmed for quite a while before its last heartbeat this past weekend.

My CF12 (2001) contract with the Bubank Hilton was signed 2 months before CF11, back when I thought CF10's attendance drop was a fluke based on (1) the move to san diego, (2) the change to april, (3) sharing easter weekend, and (4) the worst weather San Diego had in 40 years. I had every reason to assume that moving back to Orange County, off of Easter weekend, and hoping for better weather woudl improve the attendance. It didn't.

This resulted in my signing a *really* bad contract for CF12, one that post-CF11 I did my best negotiating to fix before the convention, but couldn't find any reason for the hotel to give me concessions.

If there's one thing that I will take the blame for, it's being too naive to write a good hotel contract back in early 2000. I count that now as a learning experience... a really hard one.

The day before CF12, the hotel estimated the hotel bill, with the room shortage, was going to cost about $85,000.00 and that was not even including my own hotel room. That would have been the total end of ConFurence, if it wasn't for one thing: The hotel really needed cash that weekend because they screwed up their own booking of another event, and with our low room block pickup, they wouldn't even make payroll that weekend. The hotel offered to cut the total bill for CF12 to just $30,000 (including my room) if I could give them a cashier's check for that ammount before the con, and if I would sign for two more years.

I negotiated a very sweet 2-year contract extension, one that had only half the room block requirement of CF12, and due only to my mother's Death insurance payment I hd just received, I was able to come up with the cash. They put everything into the contract that I asked for, but wouldn't come any lower on the room block than 400 room nights with an 85% pickup requirement (meaning I had to book 340 room nights to pay for the meeting space, or pay a percentage of the meeting costs, based on a sliding scale)

This was when I decided that ConFurence would only live two more years, unless something phenomenal happened, and attendance started to increase.

Attendance didn't increase. In fact, it dropped. I know that I *said* that attendance was about 700 members since CF11, but in fact, it was 703 at CF11, 640 at CF12, 580 at CF2002, and we had just approximately 470 memberships at CF2003 this last weekend.

It's over now... I can finally tell you the real numbers without hurting future attendance. In fact, I promise to prepare a full disclosure of CF2003's budget as soon as I finalize the books in a month or so (sometime after the artists are paid, the deadbeats are tracked down, the hotel bill is finalized, and the checks have all cleared, and I've had time to put it all down in writing).

* Rumor: I took money from the film crews.
* Fact: I did not receive one cent. Not even credit for the rooms they rented to change into their costumes.

* Rumor: I invited the film crews to "get even" in some way.
* Fact: I turned down over 50 inquiries in the last two months from media groups who wanted to do pieces on ConFurence. I accepted local newspaper inquiries, for their calendar sections, and even provided photos from CF2002 for them to use in their articles (I'm not sure any of them used the photos, but our event did get mentioned in at least one paper, in a short one-paragraph blurb).

The Jimmy Kimmel show contacted me for the first time on April 16. Being a fan of the show, but not a regular ABC-TV watcher, I hadn't heard of his late-night talk show before. I stayed up to watch that evening's show and decided they were fairly harmless and gave them permission to attend.

The Man Show from Comedy Central (a show that even though it was started by Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Corrolla a few years ago, both of them have since left the show) called me for the first time on Monday, April 21. They were quite surprised to hear that the Jimmy Kimmel show would be there also, so I'm certain the two groups (belonging to competing media giants: Disney/ABC and Comedy Partners Inc.) were not related.

In neither case was their any hint that they had heard about us from previous bad press. In fact, I had authorized a Press Release to be sent out last February (using a LASFS contact for media coverage), and both groups referred to that Press Release as their source for contacting me. I didn't think that either crew was aware of any "seedy" aspects of furry, and therefore there was a good chance they'd each do a good piece.

The Hilton first stepped into the negotiations when The Man Show contacted them regarding the location shoot on Wednesday, April 23. The City of Burbank (which is the heart of the movie and television industry) has very strict laws about getting permits for location shoots. Not only does the city of Burbank take a piece of the action, so does the Hilton. Hilton is seasoned at bieng a location for filming, and already had some boilerplate contracts for The Man Show to sign. They asked The Man Show to pay them $4,000 which they dickered down to $1,500. Very strict licensing agreements between the Hilton and The Man Show were traded and signed, and I have only the information that the hotel told me about those (ie: no hotel staff on camera, no Hilton logo or recognizable profile of the entire building, no entry into rooms that are noted as off-limits, etc.) I made sure that the Cabaret and the Art Show were listed as off-limits, and that anyone recognizably on camera would be required to sign a waiver, or the footage would be unuasable.

* Rumor: The only way to stay off camera is not to be at the con
* Fact: The only people on camera were those people who chose to be, and who were willing to sign a waiver. ANYONE who did not want to be filmed, or who did not give permission for their image to appear, WILL NOT APPEAR on either show. If someone who didn't give permission shows on either program, they should consult an attorney regarding seeking damages from them.

Unfortunately, this rumor helped to make problems at the convention, and since the "good" footage ended up unusable, only the bad footage remains... If either program is seen as "bad" toward the fandom, it's largely the fault of people who didn't want to speak up in a positive light when given the opportunity.

Also, when The Man Show, desparate for additional footage, put all their crew into costume and went to the fursuit dance, most of the fursuiters decided to avoid the event. Sad. The Fursuit dance could have been fun, especially since our DJ's (picked by John Cawley) were all producers from Cartoon Network.

* Rumor: "The Burned Furs" have anything to do with ConFurence or with my policies.
* Fact: As far as I know, the "Burned Furs" don't even exist anymore. The last time I associated with any of them was in 1999.

* Rumor: Southern California fandom is too large to not have their own convention.
* Fact: Well, apparently not. Southern California may have a lot of willing workers, but not enough dedicated and willing to put their head on the chopping block.

* Rumor: I have shunned or ignored assistance from dozens of capable people in the fandom.
* Fact: Who are these people? Where are these people? If anyone offered their assistance, belive me, I took it! I formed an advisory EMail group back in 1999 that included many people who are not even on CF's staff, so that I could get their advice and guidance. I later formed an advisory group from all across the country to judge who should or should not be a guest at future ConFurences (based on fan-politicking over some allegedly bad guest choices). I joined the LASFS and associated with SMOF's whenever I could. I joined the staff and/or committee of a dozen other southern california conventions to gain insight from other groups.

I have NEVER turned down advice or assistance when it was offered.

* Rumor: Conventions are easy to run, as long as there are people who want to help.
* Fact: Conventions come and go. VERY rarely do they last as long as ConFurence has lasted. Most conventions, when they go, take someone into bankrupcy at the same time. I was able to bite the bullet for 4 losing years of ConFurence, and because I still have my house some people would like to believe that I profited somehow. I'm nearly $60,000 in the red now, offset only because I refinanced my house last December and it's worth 30% more than I bought it for in 2001. ConFurence was paid for by my own personal debt load increasing. The only redeeming thought there is that the interest on my Equity line is tax deductable... big whoop. I still have to make payments on that debt for another 10 years.

* Rumor: I wanted to end ConFurence.
* Fact: I *had* to end ConFurence. If I didn't, then it would continue to eat into my house, and my life. Since 1999, I have had my asthma get worse, my blood pressure is through the roof, and I am taking prescription migraine medication at onset which happens about twice a week, sometimes with an optical aura that makes me temporarily blind. I have a pinched nerve in my spine at C5/C6 which causes my whole left hand to go numb for hours at a time, and I've gained weight. I'm a freaking wreck and I have to take control. I can't do that and also deal with all the fan politicking bullshit out there.

I love furry fandom. I love watching the shows, reading the comics, collecting the artwork. I love spending time with my friends at conventions, furry meets, or as my guests at my house. I'm not going to give up any of those things, nor am I going to wilfully do anything to harm them. I'm not going to lose my house or kill myself slowly by increasing my stress levels, though. I just won't.

To anyone and everyone who thinks that they know better: Bite me. You haven't a clue, and you are no longer worth my time and effort to argue with. If you think you can run a convention yourself, or you think that it's easy, you are welcome to try... but I wouldn't wish that kind of torture on my friends.

To any of my friends who want to pick up the ball and run with it: I will give you the best (and worst) of my experience to try to keep you from falling into the hole that I just filled in. I owe it to the individuals who honestly want to try to do better to keep them from hurting themselves.

* In conclusion:
ConFurence (the convention) is dead. Furry Fandom is not. I'm not going to disappear, I'm just not going to run CF anymore.

There are a lot of people who "want" the convention to continue, but it has yet to be seen if there are enough who will put their money where their mouth is. I've spent about $60,000 over 4 years. That's more than $1,000 per month on average that I have lost on the last four conventions. If that expense can be spread among a dozen or so board members, and they can stand to pay dues or assessments into the board to cover the costs, with no guarantee that they will get their money back... then... just maybe... there might be another CF.

Darrel L. Exline
Director, The ConFurence Group
Promoting anthropomorphic fandom related events since 1999.

---
Upcoming Events I am still involved with:
* Monday night Movies at the Polar Den (Every Monday)
* Conjecture II: A Brief history of Time (October 2003)
* LosCon 30: "Navigating the worlds of Science Fiction" (November 2003)
* ConDor XI (March 2004)
* Gaylaxicon 2004 (April 2004)
* San Diego Westercon Bid for 2006 (July 2006)
---

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Having been in SF fandom for a long time, and involved with working cons, if not running them, I have to say that this rings true for me. Cons are horribly expensive to run, especially in this day and age of liability issues. Congrats for keeping CF going as long as you did, and screw the critics who all have their own agendas.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I heard all this from other folks as well.

Take care, Darrel, and screw the jerkweeds who didn't want to ever do anything for CF but ***** about it.

Ardashir

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

About the only clarification I would make on that is that confurence died AT #10, not after. CF9 had 1,299 attendees and was the largest ever. Moving the convention to another city adn another month at the same time caused a 40% loss of membership under the same management it had always had. Coupled with the success of Further Confusion, which took business away from Confurnece and precluded correcting the date change mistake.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

Unfortunately, this rumor helped to make problems at the convention, and since the "good" footage ended up unusable, only the bad footage remains...

What happened to the 'good' footage, and what constitutes 'bad' footage?

And clear up one rumor... was it the hotel that invited both shows, or the CF team?

-DuQuesne

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

there are of course many factors as to why some cons do well and others faulter and being remote from the situation i can only conjecture. i'll take darrel at his word that he got nothing out of it but the shaft. still i have to wonder if this isn't a text book example of how making everything have to begin and end with little green pieces of paper is an 'a number one' way of destroying it. a lesson with much broader application then the narrow confines of our genre.

Your rating: None Average: 2.6 (5 votes)

Most of this may be moot: you already admit you lie:
Darrel: "...I *said* that attendance was about 700 members since CF11, but in fact, it was 703 at CF11, 640 at CF12, 580 at CF2002."

Lying to get people to attend a convention that was in decline. Obviously you didn't think the truth was enough to convince people to come.

You did not listen to good advice because you knew better. You cite contact with numerous people who have run conventions ranging in size from small specialty cons (Dr. Who, Loscon, etc.) to large conventions (Worldcons, Westercons, etc.). Many of these conventions were held at this very hotel. I know first-hand that you didn't listen to a key suggestion I gave you multiple times when you asked my advice ("Get an experienced hotel liaison!!!"), because you did NOT get an EXPERIENCED hotel liaison. Hence, your fiasco at the otherwise excellent Burbank Hilton.

You publicly joined a radical group who professed hate for certain members of the fandom. Since the Burned Furs were not an organized group, the only way to be a "member" was to publicly affiliate yourself with them and their very public, very inflammatory agenda. In doing so you alienated a large part of the attendees making up the 1,300 attendees of CF9.

Having promised to "clean up the convention," you, PERSONALLY, sold a dealers table to a company making animal dildos. You did this-- not your dealers room department head. When complaints came in about this person selling these items in plain view, your solution was to move them out of the dealer's room and into a PUBLIC HALLWAY. Your attempts to rectify this situation were laughable. And another portion of attendees were offended and angry.

Darrel said: "The hotel really needed cash that weekend..."

What? Are you asking me to believe that a HILTON HOTEL-- part of a billion dollar chain-- was that far from defaulting on payroll? If they really told you this, then you were a fool to believe them (and being part of a group who's dealt with them for years, I doubt your account).

Darrel said: "...the worst weather San Diego had in 40 years."

No, not even close. And blaming the weather is lame. Either people were going or they were not. Not a single flight was canceled, not road closed because of the weather. It rained. That's all. A large part of the drop was your association with BF's (certainly judging from usenet posts at the time) and the availability of newer, friendlier conventions in the San Francisco bay area and on the East Coast.

Darrel said: "This resulted in my signing a *really* bad contract for CF12, one that post-CF11 I did my best negotiating to fix before the convention, but couldn't find any reason for the hotel to give me concessions."

So you are saying that the big drop in attendance of CF11 CAUSED you to sign a BAD CONTRACT? This makes no sense at all. Nothing but foolishness (a combination of ego and inexperience) caused you to sign a bad contract.

Anything associated with J. K. "fairly harmless"?!? Come on! Get real!

Darrel said: "I didn't think that either crew was aware of any "seedy" aspects of furry, and therefore there was a good chance they'd each do a good piece."

Yes, the Man Show and J. K. show are all about wholesome forms of entertainment and good clean fun. I'm sure they had no idea "furry" had anything to do with "freaks" and "deviant sex" (as the fandom is described on the JK show).

Darrel said: "The only people on camera were those people who chose to be"

Except for those people with identifiable, custom-made costumes who never signed releases.

"If someone who didn't give permission shows on either program, they should consult an attorney regarding seeking damages from them."

Oh, thank yew! You screwed up and now it is up to innocent individuals to initiate a lawsuit?

"Unfortunately, this rumor helped to make problems at the convention, and since the "good" footage endedup unusable, only the bad footage remains... If either program is seen as "bad" toward the fandom, it's largely the fault of people who didn't want to speak up in a positive light when given the opportunity."

By your reasoning, the "bad" footage is to be blamed by those not willing to be filmed. It's always someone else's fault, isn't it Darrel.

"Also, when The Man Show, desperate for additional footage, put all their crew into costume"

The Man Show came prepared with actors and costumes. They intended all along to make sure the freak factor was high. And thanks for spoiling the dance, Darrel.

"Southern California may have a lot of willing workers, but not enough dedicated and willing to put their head on the chopping block."

No, just not enough people to get aboard a ship piloted by a fool.

Bottom Line: You, Darrel, invited both programs to the convention, essentially screwing over those last, loyal attendees.

"To anyone and everyone who thinks that they know better: Bite me."

This pretty much sums up why you failed.

ConGo
(Who knows enough of the situation to not put up with this lame attempt at spin. FWIW, I'm sure Darrel knows who I am.)

Your rating: None Average: 4 (4 votes)

A decade later and this flips my entire perception of Furry History upside down, and I have been unwittingly giving false information to vulnerable new furs. This is a golden piece of Furry History that should not be forgotten, and I am more convinced than ever that the time has come for a full archaeological and ethnographic study of this Fandom.

A decade later, from a Furry who never lived it, thank you, Exline. As someone who runs even the smallest scale Furry endeavor, thank you.

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About the author

darrelx (Darrel L. Exline)read storiescontact (login required)

a courtroom technology specialist from Lemon Grove, San Diego, CA, interested in polar bears, and furry fandom of course.

Owner / Director, The ConFurence Group, promoting anthropomorphic fandom-realted events since 1999. Chairman: ConFurence 2003; Dealer''s Room Lead: Conjecture (October in San Diego), Fan Tables at LosCon 29 (Burbank, Nov. 2002)