1999 Annual Gathering of American Mensa

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Program book cover

The 1999 Annual Gathering of American Mensa, The Big One, was held in Long Beach, California at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. It lasted from July 1st through July 5th. Tom Herbertson was the AG chairman. The attendance was 1189.

Orange County Mensa ran this AG, although it wasn't actually located in their county. However, most of the people involved were different from the ones who put together the 1990 AG, due in part to political infighting within the group. Anybody hoping for hospitality similar to that of 1990 would be disappointed, as this AG's hospitality was very different. For one thing, it was held in an outdoor tent due to draconian California smoking laws (the 2006 World Gathering faced similar problems in Florida, but elected to have only smoking hospitality in a tent instead of forcing all hospitality to go there), and getting there involved negotiating a labyrinthine "maze of twisty little passages, all different" that could be very confusing to newcomers, and was impassible to the handicapped (who had to walk around the long way outdoors). After 3 AM, the indoor passage was locked, so the outdoor way was the only way to get to the open-24-hours hospitality. The section of the hotel surrounding this area was "terra incognita" marked as "Nothing Of Importance" in the program book; all other AG events were quite remote from it. Hospitality food, while not entirely absent, was not always to the expectations of the attendees; once, a promised "Asian Buffet" was nowhere to be seen at the scheduled time, with everybody told "It'll be ready in a half hour"; a half hour later, it still was going to be "ready in a half hour". There was also strict enforcement of the rule (common at gatherings) prohibiting the taking of hospitality food to any other part of the gathering.

Registration also had some problems getting organized; the packets for pre-registered attendees seemed to be piled in a random order, so while people waited for hours in line the registration volunteers tried valiantly to locate the packets belonging to whomever was at the head of the line, in the process calling out a few names from other packets they managed to find in the hope that their owners were somewhere in line. It was total chaos, and ironically, the "express" line for pre-registered members was much slower than the line for those registering on the spot, who could be issued new, blank packets with no pre-printed one needing to be located.

There was a very good assortment of speakers, including radio humor host Dr. Demento and somebody from Industrial Light and Magic (who was unfortunately prohibited by his boss from discussing the upcoming Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace). There were also many games, including "Not Necessarily Jeopardy" and a casino night. Like hospitality, the games room was pretty remote and hard to find.

Registration and hotel fees

Registration for the 1999 AG was $49 by 12/31/1998, $59 by 5/31/1999, $69 after. The hotel room rate was $99 (single/double) or $119 (triple/quad).

External links

Preceded by:
1998: Cincinnati
Annual Gathering of American Mensa
Succeeded by:
2000: Philadelphia