by Art Mattson, OCM Historian
Orange County Mensa celebrated its beginning in April, 1980, with a Kickoff Dinner with 50+ in attendance at the Hansa House (it’s gone now) on Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim. Orange County Supervisor Edison Miller was our guest speaker.
We have subsequently celebrated our anniversary every year. I have had the pleasure of chairing the event seven times. Judy Semler and John Olsen have each been in the hot seat four times.
Two years after the Kickoff, Event Chair Judy Semler engaged the renowned science fiction writer Ray Bradbury to speak. He brought a huge (HUGE) notebook to the lectern and said “What shall we talk about?” Putting his finger to a page near the middle, he turned to it and began telling a story from it. He repeated, finding more stories, regaling us with tales for a captivating hour. Afterward, he stayed for two hours signing autographs and chatting with us. He had come early and met many of us during the cocktail hour. Judy and I enjoyed some delightful conversation with him at dinner, too. 135 attended that dinner, a sell-out, at Victoria Station (now Westminster Manor) on Beach Blvd. in Westminster.
Judy continued as the Chair for three of the next four events as well. She took us to the Newporter Inn, the Orange County Mining Company, and the Newport Beach Country Club.
We repeated at the latter in 1987 when Brenda Kiser chaired. Writer David Gerrold gave us the complete lowdown on the new TV series, Star Trek – The Next Generation. We were in on the ground floor of this popular program.
Our speakers didn’t always show up. In 1997 when we gathered at the Embassy Suites in Anaheim, our speaker called from the freeway to tell me he was hopelessly stuck in traffic. He simply could not get there. Our own Lindy Burke was in the audience and came forward to save the day. After finishing her brunch, she spoke off-the-cuff about astrology, going through the signs (Aries, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Scorpio…). When I thanked her after an hour, I was roundly shouted down. There were a few signs she hadn’t covered yet. She willingly kept on and finished all twelve signs to the delight of the audience. The errant speaker was Albert Einstein (Arden Berkowicz). Lindy can include on her resume that she once filled in for Albert Einstein. He made it up to us by appearing at our RG three months later, and then finally speaking at an Anniversary Brunch nine years later, at the Phoenix Club in 2006.
In 2011, our advertised comedian cancelled three days before the event. I had a huge dilemma, but not for long. I called our Mensa friend Richard Lederer in San Diego, told him my problem, said “HELP,” and he responded, “I’ll be there.” A noted author of more than 40 books, Richard has been the keynote speaker at four AGs, and has spoken at many gatherings, always to a full house. As Lindy had done 14 years earlier, he saved the day.
Reprinted from the April, 2014, Oracle