LEROY KETTLE:

THE FAN GUEST OF HONOUR INTERVIEW.


Simone Walsh

Leroy Kettle
This interview was taped on the afternoon of Saturday 25th March at SKYCON, the 1978 Eastercon, held that year at the Heathrow Hotel, Heathrow Airport. Leroy Kettle was interviewed by Simone Walsh. Transcript is by Eve Harvey and originally appeared in her fanzine WALLBANGER #1 (Aug '78). Audiotape to .mp3 conversion courtesy of John Harvey. Photos taken at SKYCON by Rob Hansen.

THE KETTLE INTERVIEW (.mp3 audio)

Running time: 37.41 File size 34.4MB

While the transcript is informative, the real entertainment is in the audio. The best way to enjoy it is to download the file (right click, then 'save target') and listen to it on the audio device of your choice.

SW
Let's begin at the beginning. When did you first become interested in science fiction?

LK
Well, I was about 2 and I started reading H G Wells'. The sort of age everyone who's famous starts reading sf. No, I started getting it from a travelling library that came round about every six months. I think the earliest sf book I remember borrowing that was really impressive was the Best of Startling or Thrilling Wonder edited by Sam Mines. There were some remarkably good stories in that, quite adult ones that actually mentioned SEX, which really turned me on. I was only 15 at the time and I hadn't heard about things like that. After that I got into Biggles, Capt W E Johns and all that sort of stuff. Patrick Moore and Kemlo were a real turn on.

SW
How did your interest in sf lead into fandom?

RK
Well, I finally got hold of a copy of New Worlds and in the back of it was one of those ubiquitous adverts about joining the BSFA so I joined. I got a letter from that well-known dwarf, Charlie Winstone, who said you're very welcome to join and sent me all these fantastic lists - exciting! Through that I got involved in the first con I didn't go to because I had appendicitis. Not going to that con was one of the most exciting times of my life! Really ace. It was at that con that I didn't meet Greg for the first time - it was his fist convention - we met later.

SW
What was your first actual contact with fandom?

LK
When I touched Audrey Walton's knee. Audrey Walton was a large lady with a husband who spent all the time laying around not doing anything. I used to go round to see her because she put out a fanzine - Wadezine - and in some obscure way I'd got in touch with her through the BSFA. Every time I went round there we used to talk about science fiction and her husband just used to lie there, not doing anything. I'd look at him, and he'd look at me, and that was it. Audrey and I put out a fanzine that was pretty awful, but I must have enjoyed getting involved in it because I did a lot of stuff for it - pretty rubbishy stuff, but it was my first venture into the field. I think everyone starts off on a low level - Greg for instance with his famous non-existent fanzine New Pembrokeshire Review, which everyone here didn't get a copy of.

GREG PICKERSGILL
I put it out at the convention before the one I first went to.

SW
So at what stage in your career did you decide to go to a convention?

RK
I can't really recall why I wanted to go. It was advertised in the BSFA literature... possibly in the bulletin Archie Mercer did ... and I thought it sounded like a good idea but I got appendicitis. When I finally did go I only knew one person...

SW
Audrey?

RK
No, Audrey didn't go. She gave me a pile of fanzines to give out which were so abysmal I just left them in a little heap in a corner and five minutes later they were all gone - that was really bizarre.

SW
Which was your first one?

LK
Oxford 1969,

SW
Which I believe was the first banquet. I think it was John Brunner's idea for his trendy friends.

GREG PICKERSGILL
Well that's a bloody good reason for doing away with that then!

SW
For those who weren't here, Stan was asking eariler when the first banquet was held.

LK
Yeah, that was the first time I was ever nauseated by John Brunner - it was the first time I'd met him. He's not here, is he? No, he really did, he got up and ponced around in front of everyone. When he was on a panel with anyone he had this routine with a cigarette lighter so attention was drawn to him, flicking away with it and beaming at people and talking about his own books. If he was introducing someone, say Brian Aldiss, he'd say "here we have Brian Aldiss who is a friend of mine and I'm John Brunner and I wrote this" (holding up a copy of one of his own books) and Brian Aldiss would be sitting there thinking "cretin".

SW
Do you recall from that convention since it was your first, anything that particularly stuck in your mind as a brand new neo at your first con?

LK
Yeah, it was fucking incredible that's all.

SW
Incredibly good or incredibly bad?

LK
Incredibly good, I'd never experienced anything like that before. I'd only taken to drink a year beforehand.

SW
And did you feel the "I want to get into fandom, I wish I was one of those sorts of people", or didn't you even notice there was something called fandom that you could get involved in?

LK
No, there was certainly something different there - there were a lot of cretins and there were only a few people of my age and younger (Greg) but it was nice meeting those people and keeping in touch with them. At that time, however, eighty percent of the people there were a lot older, middle-aged, about my age now.

SW
Who was the King of Fandom in those days and has the emphasis changed?

LK
Oh, it was Phil Rogers and John Brunner and people like that.

SW
John, as a fan? No he must have been a pro.

LK
No, he was trying to dominate the fannish sort of thing, and people like Phil Rogers - people who haven't got an ounce of wit or sense about them.

PETER NICHOLLS
Were Charles Platt and Peter Weston there?

LK
Charles Platt was there trying to steal the big poster they'd got up for 2001.

GREG PICKERSGILL
He got there before us, the bastard.

LK
It's true, Greg and I stole down in the middle of the night...

SW
Gerry Webb stole it surely because he had it stuck on his wall.

LK
Yes, Gerry had it on his wall but I think Charles Platt was the one who stole it.

SW
And do you find cons getting better over the years?

LK
No SW
You're not enjoying them any more than you did then?

LK
I enjoyed my first convention the most and then there was a big hiatus around Chester and Bristol for some reason, I don't know why. Mancon was quite a low, but this one's a good one at the moment.

SW
Does anyone have any questions they'd like to ask Roy on early conventions? Any scandal from early on?

PETER NICHOLLS
When was your first convention Simone?

SW
Well, before him.

GREG PICKERSGILL
I should point out that when I first met Roy I was very impressed by him because I was under the impression that he was someone called Leroy Tanner who at the time was writing book reviews for Amazing. I was really knocked out to be introduced to this incredibly famous Leroy Tanner.

SW
Right, can we get onto Fanzines now. At what stage did you decide you wanted to start pubbing your own ish?

LK
After I packed up doing one with Greg. Greg had been trying to pub his own ish for some time and I went to see him for a few days, and it was the one occasion actually that I went to see him and neither of us got arrested.

SW
Could you expand on you being arrested with Greg?

LK
I'll expand on that in a minute.

SW
It sounds more interesting than what you're going to say.

LK
No it isn't. We suddenly decided we were going to produce a fanzine and we did it in a weekend. We put out issue No 2 of Fouler. It was a lot of fun, Greg used a lot of stuff he was going to put into his non-existent New Pembrokeshire Review, and it seemed to strike a cord in a lot of fandom of our age. It really irritated a lot of older people, Graham Boak and people like that. He did enjoy it to begin with I think and responded to it but it was something very much of our generation. Greg did virtually all the work on it after the second issue, he made sure Fouler was spelt right and things like that.

SW
And how come your meetings with Greg nearly got you arrested in those early days?

LK
Well, whenever I went down to see him we always got incredibly drunk. On the first occasion we were just walking around and Greg said he knew a woman who lived in a house we were just passing and I said "you know a woman who lives in that house?" We were with another friend of Greg's and so the two of us grabbed hold of him and lifted him up like a battering ram and charged at the door with him. He wasn't particularly happy about that. Just as we reached the door it opened and we all stumbled inside past this woman who was standing there. She said "I know you Greg Edwards". Obviously she didn't. Apparently he'd been going around molesting her daughter and giving a false name. We stumbled down the steps while she was shouting at us and looked to the right of the street to run away that way and there was a policeman there. so we looked to the left and there was a policeman there - we were surrounded. We had our names put down in their little books and then we went home.

Then the next night we were sitting around next to the canal at 2 in the morning, chatting drunkenly away when this policeman comes up and wants to search us - to make sure we'd got our balls in the right place, you know what policemen are like - and then he put our names down in a little book.

We used to take it in turns to look after each other. One of us would get incredibly drunk and the other guide him. On another night it was Greg's turn to get incredibly drunk and he was lying in the gutter, so I just tapped him in the stomach with my foot to wake him up and he went B L E U G H - just like that - all over the place. Then he stood up, got hold of this bottle, broke it on the wall and held it in my face. I was a bit taken aback by this because I had made him better, I'd made him throw up. For some reason he forgot what he was going to do with the bottle and threw it over this wall. Suddenly a policeman appeared and apparently he'd been leaning against this wall just around the corner, listening to us. He picked Greg for littering, but he didn't say whether it was the bottle or the vomit. He got Greg to walk along the yellow line in the road but it was one of those roads that was all curved and Greg walked an absolutely straight line, totally missing the yellow line and so the policeman said, "Right, you'll have to come back with me". We were both a bit reluctant to go through this routine of police stations and things so I tried to phone a cab to pick us up but I couldn't. Eventually he let us go as long as I'd look after Greg. I took him away and we stumbled homewards. Eventually we stopped outside a machine that sold us milk at exhorbitant prices because it was the middle of the night. As we were standing there drinking this milk a police car came screeching to a halt and this policeman said, "You were going to take him home". "We'rejushhavinglilldrinkofmilk". "OK" they said and zoomed off again. We got our names in books three times because I got my name in only once. Then finally, the coup de grace was that Greg's name in the final event actually got him in court and fined - front page of the local paper - 'LOCAL BOY MAKES BAD'.

SW
Did you make any other friends in fandom ?

LK
I didn't make him, he was created like that! Peter Roberts - I met him at the same time I met Greg and he struck me as rather peculiar - long hair and wearing pyjamas all the time. I remember trying to impress him once by telling him about this famous folk singer who was at university with me. He kept on saying "Are you sure, are you sure?" It turned out that I'd got the name completely wrong . . . I've forgotten who I was talking about . . . name a famous folk singer, quick, quick . . . PETE SEEGER, RALPH McTELL. . . Ralph McTell . . . actually it was: So I was saying Ralph McTell was at university with me when actually it was some cretin who used to get up and sing in the bar, name was Bert Sponge or something. From then on Peter realised I was a cretin and he's never looked back.

Transcript (Part 2)
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