Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I’m not remotely a fan of Dragon*Con.  Back when I was writing Mike
Gustovich’s Justice Machine in the mid-1980s, the title’s publisher
sent Mike and I to the show to promote our book and the rest of the
company.  Mike was in dragon-heaven, by which I mean he bought so
many dragons of various shapes and sizes that I almost pretended I
didn’t know him on the flight home.  These days, given the baggage
fees charged by most airlines, it’d probably be cheaper to create
an actual dragon.  I came away from the event thinking it was the
sleaziest convention I’d ever attended.

On my first day at that long-ago Dragon*Con, a young woman offered
me sex if I would let her stay in my hotel room. It was the most
uncomfortable elevator ride - yes, we were in an elevator and we
weren’t the only passengers - of my life.   I generally relate this
tale in discreet terms and describe the offer far less explicitly
than she did.  In reality, she didn’t disguise it in the slightest.
Making me more uncomfortable was her age, as in underage.  Maybe 16
at best.  When I declined her offer, she looked at me as if I were
a freak.

One evening at the convention, looking for some of the few people
I knew or a relatively quiet party, I stumbled into an honest-to-
gosh slave auction.  With slaves being pretty clearly offered for
the sexual entertainment of their buyers.  Maybe it was some sort
of elaborate role-playing thing, but it creeped me out.  It would
not be the last thing that creeped out that weekend.  I never had
the slightest interest in returning.

Dragon*Con didn’t blip on my radar again until I learned Ed Kramer,
one of the event’s founders, had been arrested on child molestation
charges.  The evidence against him seemed pretty damning, so I was
surprised when some people leapt to his defense.  But, as he would
not be involved in the convention and because I had no interest in
attending the convention, I didn’t think about Dragon*Con for many
years after this initial news story. 

Thirteen years in which the predatory Kramer managed to avoid going
to trial through one artifice or another.  Thirteen years during
which, as a co-owner, Kramer continued to receive a huge chunk of
Dragon*Con money with the other owners of the show proclaiming they
were helpless to cut off his annual cash flow, reportedly $150,000,
which was allowing Kramer to delay his trial and, worse, continue to
attempt to prey on other youngsters.  Thankfully, after his most
recent arrest, he has been denied bond and is in prison awaiting
his ridiculously overdue trial.

Up until recently, I had been vaguely aware of attempts to boycott
Dragon*Con or, at the very least, convince the co-owners to do the
right thing and end payments to Kramer by any means necessary.  I
didn’t follow these attempts closely, but I knew several of those
involved in the attempts to be good and honorable people.  I didn’t
get involved because I didn’t see what I could add to the efforts.
That was a mistake on my part.

On April 22, The Beat ran an update titled “Dragon*Con Founder Ed
Kramer files dozens of complaints from jail while looking extremely
creepy.”  I was horrified by both the news reporting and the too-
many comments from posters who apparently didn’t see or understand
the clear moral issue at hand.  My own response:

“The comments from Dragon*Con are sounding more and more like
bullshit to me. They can walk away from the show and start a new
convention. I think they want the name value of Dragon*Con. Which
means we should do everything we can to make the name Dragon*Con
synonymous with child molestation. Destroy the name value.

“That said, I can’t imagine how anyone – fan or professional – can
attend that convention knowing Kramer profits from it.

“Get a moral clue, people.”

I won’t dial back those comments a notch.  I also posted them on my
Facebook page where the discourse got so insulting I felt I had to
delete the thread.  In the aftermath of my Beat comments and what
I posted on Facebook, I began to get a great many private messages
and e-mails from people.  Some of these thanked me for my comments
and other attacked me, usually anonymously, in the time-honored way
of the troll.  After a while, I also began receiving e-mails from
people telling me of their own non-Kramer experiences at Dragon*Con
and my horror hit a new level.

I must be very clear about this.  This is an opinion piece.  It is
not investigative reporting.  I’ve not attempted to verify what I
have been told, which is why I won’t be writing about it in detail
and why I don’t accept it as unvarnished truth.  But some of these
messages I received rang true to me and, if even 10% of what I was
told is accurate, the title of today’s bloggy thing is not just a
clever play on the title of a popular movie, but my fervent wish.
I think Dragon*Con should die at the end.

Perhaps the other Dragon*Con co-owners can’t simply walk away from
the event to start a new one.  But they most certainly can resign
their positions on whatever board manages the convention and their
roles in putting on the show.  Being part of even a privately-owned
company, being part of a board, having a job with Dragon*Con, none
of these are slavery.  You can walk away. 

Yes, they would also be walking away from what I’m told are pretty
sweet jobs and profits.  Yes, I understand that would be difficult
for any of us.  But, to repeat what I said in my Beat post, their
efforts are enriching Kramer and have allowed him to fend off any
justice for over a dozen years and have allowed him to place other
young people in jeopardy.  How can anyone remain a party to that?
Moral choices are seldom as easy as this one.

A close friend of mine took the side of the Dragon*Con co-owners in
a discussion of the matter.  I don’t deny the founders might well
feel they are acting in the interest of their own families.  But,
in the over a dozen years they have had this steaming pile of crap
before them, they claim there has been no way they can scoop that
poop and dispose of it properly. 

In all those years, they couldn’t find attorneys with the same or
even greater skills than Kramer’s representation? I can’t buy that.

I have been told of criminal assaults and other illegal activities
at Dragon*Con and that they are not solely the acts of “outsiders.”
If anyone can document these assaults and activities, they should
come forward and do so.  If anyone witnesses criminal assaults and
activities, they should report them to the proper authorities ASAP.

Dragon*Con is not its own world with its own laws.  Sleaziness may
not be a crime - though it often is - but some of what was reported
to me was certainly criminal in my opinion.  It also appears that
Dragon*Con’s internal security is, at best, woefully inadequate for
an event of its magnitude and, at worse, complacent or unconcerned
about such things.  The show generates a great deal of profit.  At
the very least, those profits should be used to make Dragon*Con a
safer environment for attendees.

I have been told of a great many celebrities (writers and artists
and actors and producers and so on) who will no longer attend the
convention.  Some have gone public with their decision...and others
have not.  I would urge all to go public.

Whatever you get from attending Dragon*Con, whether it be sensual
delights or good times with friends or professional advantage, it’s
not worth what else comes with the convention.  It’s not worth the
continued cash flow to Kramer.  It’s not worth the danger to some
attendees.  It’s not worth the sleaze.

That I will not attend Dragon*Con may well be meaningless.  I made
that decision over two decades ago and have not regretted it in the
least.  Indeed, even what I write here today, while it will surely
anger some people and generate a few impotent threats against me,
might not have a great deal of meaning in an age when everyone with
online access can have a blog or post their opinions, informed or
otherwise, with general impunity. 

What I do accomplish today is to make my stand against what I feel
is an intolerable situation.  One writer making a stand.  Probably
lost in the electrons that dance across your screen.  Nevertheless,
something I had to do, something I believe to be the right thing to
do...and I hope I’m not alone in that.

But, maybe, just maybe, if enough others make a stand, if respected
voices in our fan and professional communities make a stand, then
maybe today’s title will prove prophetic.

Dragon*Con dies at the end.

Which is as it should be.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. I've seen too many situations in which people thought preserving their institutional sandbox was a greater good than anything else. One of the many reasons I'm suspicious of groupthink.

  2. Well said, Tony.

    And you know, sometimes the victory is not in defeating the monster. Sometimes the victory is simply in taking up arms.

  3. There's one logical flaw in your reasoning. Kramer's guilt has not been established by law, only the accusation, and a long delay in a trial. You're suggesting that these partners and employees must walk away from this business because it is profiting someone who is ACCUSED of a horrible crime, but not someone convicted of one. Your opinion on his guilt or innocence may not be shared by others. I have absolutely no knowledge one way or another on this subject (and Kramer might be the anti-christ incarnate for all I know), but I cannot imagine most people leaving a lucrative job simply because a co-owner is accused of a crime. Once he's convicted, it's a done deal, but until then, one has to assume the biz continues unabated.

    1. i would disagree. The concept of innocent until proven guilty is something that applies to the government and the courts, not the general public. We are free to form our own opinions and act on them accordingly as long as we aren't breaking any laws ourselves. If we were to presume that he wasn't guilty until it was proven, he wouldn't be sitting in a jail cell right now awaiting trial, he'd be walking free like the rest of us. The evidence is pretty damning.

      Also, this is not a case of someone quitting their job because a co-owner is accused of a crime, it's a case of wanting Dragon-Con to dissolve itself as a corporation so that this man does not continue to profit and support his defense off the money we spend to go there.

      While I share Tony's feelings, from what I've read, it's not as easy to dissolve a corporation as we might like. If it truly is just a matter of them wanting to hold on to the brand name, then I think they're wrong. Life is full of hard choices and we sometimes have to do things we don't want to do for the betterment of ourselves, our family, or society. If they can legally separate themselves from this guy, then they should, even if it's a huge inconvenience to them. But I suspect it's trickier than that.

    2. Ty you have a good point, the only caveat I'd make is that part of the way Kramer avoid prosecution for so long (to determine if he was guilty) was by throwing tons of money at lawyers in an effort to roadblock any trials (and to go so far as an attempt to leave the country to a non-extradition country). As long as his coffers are full, it appears there will be no timely determination of guilt/innocence. So decide to not attend in a desire to see this go to trial so we can all move on, and hopefully D*con can move on as well.

    3. Ty, this was my response as well. I always get worried when people respond to accusations of a crime rather than legally proven ones.

    4. There's also the caveat of the business and it's dealings with the Atlanta businesses as well.
      Something as big as D*C would have to be booked well (years) in advance with enough hotel rooms and the like to compensate.
      That's a LOT of money in broken contracts... even if it IS for the best of moral reasons.

  4. I stumbled out of my room at 3 AM, Dragon*Con 2002, to find two Stormtroopers fucking over the hotel balcony. In nearly full dress.

    That poor young woman who offered you sex for a place to stay. That poor young woman.


  5. I'd like to say I'm thankful I never had any interest in Dragon*Con, and reading of the sordid, seamy underside of this event, well.......!

    I can count on my hand and leave room for a thumb the number of conventions I've attended over the last 30 years, all in my home area. I have not heard any tales of debauchery on the level of Dragon*Con. I guess we're a little tamer in the Northeast, after all.......

  6. This is pretty judgmental, man.

    1. Life occasionally calls for using good judgment.

      Grow the fuck up.

  7. Amen, Tony.

    I haven't been back to Drag*On Con since the early '90s when I was there as a very minor guest. I'm hardly a prude, but the whole thing was very bizarre -- less fun than filled with a desperate sort of hedonism and people taking un-serious things far too seriously. The Kramer issue just topped off the entire filth sundae with a pus-filled cherry for me.

    Ty Templeton's comment (above) itself has it's own logical flaw: moral judgments are not the same as legal ones. One need not be held guilty in a court of law before we take our own ethically responsible actions as regards the individual in question. Mr. Isabella's argument is clearly a moral one, not one from the point of view of law -- an appeal to decency and honor, not legalisms.

    Often, the guilty slip the law, especially when they have the financial resources to do so. This hardly means we ought to aid and abet them.

    Richard Van Ingram

  8. I have not yet decided when/where I will do a follow-up to this blog. However, for those of you new to the bloggy thing, all comments must be approved by me before they appear. If you saw some of the attempted comments I received, you'd understand why.

    That said, I've approved every comment on today's bloggy thing to date. I'm impressed that even those who disagree with me have expressed themselves in a most respectful manner. Thank you.

  9. I've attended every Dragoncon since 1995 and have never seen any of those alleged acts while I've been there. There are over 40-50,000 people attending every year. With some of those in the teenage to twenties range, they may indulge in some of those acts in private, but unless you actively seek out some of those "parties", you probably won't see any. Most of the people I see are families or couples happily going to concerts, panel discussions, or other activities devoted to some of their interests such as Star Trek, Star Wars, or even costuming. I do join a group of cosplayers that meet up for photo shoots as various comic book groups such as the X-men, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Avengers, Batman, or the Justice League. While they enjoy costuming as one or more of their favorite characters, they are friendly, welcoming, and giving. Many a little boy or girl has seen someone dressed as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or some other character and dashed up and asked to have their picture taken with the character and he/she willingly poses with the little kid, or sometimes a adult.

    About Mr. Kramer, sure he is a shareholder, but he has no involvement in the convention. Suppose he has 50 shares of Microsoft, Apple Computers, or Walmart. Does that mean we all should boycott all Microsoft products, or get rid of your iPhone, or never shop at Walmart or Sam's Clubs any more? Of course not, so the same reasoning applies to Dragoncon.

    Tom Wagner

    1. He owns more than a third of the con; as much as Pat Henry, so I call that being involved. Furthermore, DC has had fundraisers for him since his arrest and Pat Henry, in his capacity as CEO has publicly denounced the victims and their families as liars, whilst constantly changing his story about Ed and his involvement.

      So in short, DC has been behind him when public opinion was with them. Their policies are bad enough. And yes, if Ed owned half of Microsoft, Apple or WalMart then I'd stop giving them money. That's the American way. We practically invented the boycott.

      Meanwhile, people like you can continue in moral bankruptcy, but please shut the hell up because your rationales are as nauseating as they are redundant.

  10. I have been attending various conventions around the country since the mid-'70s. I've seen some rowdy con-goers and even had hotel security come up to the room where some of us were having a party. I have never attended Dragon*Con, but do know a few folks who have, maybe I'm naive but I haven't heard about many of the things that seemed to have happened there at any other cons I did attend.

    As for the offer of sex for a room, I personally know of only one incident like that and that occurred at another con which I won't mention.

    I agree with your main point and find it hard to believe that the other board members of the Con have not tried to either distance themselves from Kramer, legally or to resign their position. I can't speak for them, their friendship or relationship with Kramer, but I can't see myself staying with an organization where my own reputation might be injured by my staying. Once Kramer's case finally does go to trial, whatever the result, everyone connected to Dragon*Con is going to be under some pretty close media scrutiny. It may be time to pull up stakes and create a new convention without the taint.

  11. I try to be guided in questions like this by thinking "What would Superman and Captain America do?"

    I believe that they would try to inspire the Dragon*Con board to cut ties with Kramer, no matter what the cost, and to go on and create something better and brighter in its wake. I think they would go to Dragon*Con specifically to keep people safe.

    (What would Jesus do? He would inspire Kramer to recognize his evil, repent, and be redeemed and forgiven. This is admirable, but slightly less likely than Superman and Captain America patrolling the corridors and asking the board to take action. :-)

  12. I agree with your larger points, Tony, but feel you hurt your argument overall by taking your own admittedly extremely limited experience of the convention and extrapolating it as some big Caligula fest. I attended for many years and the levels of debauchery I observed were actually somewhat disappointing and no better nor worse than I've seen at any convention I've ever been to. A (possible) teen in an elevator is not a community, and a group of presumed adults engaging in consensual fantasy isn't exactly some terrible thing.

    DragonCon is a huge, professionally run con, and unless you go out of your way to mingle with certain subcultures, almost entirely family friendly.

    That said, I'm not going either, because of the larger, and actually pertinent, issues involving Kramer.

  13. Legally, the DC board can't just all resign and start a different con. Kramer would simply sue them for the act of cutting him off from his financial stake - and he would be well within legal precedent to do so. A corporation can't just arbitrarily get rid of undesirable stockholders, as much as they may want to do so.

    The thing is, the real bad guys here aren't the DC board, it's the state of Georgia justice system, which has failed to bring Kramer to trial for 13 long, inexcusable years. Kramer's attorneys may well be greasing some government palms - the delay is plain ridiculous.

    The DC board CAN jettison Kramer once he's convicted. Chances are pretty good that the court will require his stock to be sold to make restitution to his victims.

    So while people may feel good boycotting DC - and I certainly understand the desire to not have your money support Kramer in any way - if you really want to put the effort where it needs to be, boycott Georgia and Georgia products. Stay away from Falcons, Hawks and Braves games. Stop drinking Coke. Turn off CNN, TBS and their various networks. Don't fly Delta or Southeastern. Avoid Home Depot, Waffle House and, yes, Comic Shop News. And let them all know that you won't be supporting Georgia based products until Kramer is tried. We all know there's somebody at Coca-Cola who, with a phone call to the right person in the Attorney General's office, could get the trial underway next week.

    1. Considering Cliff Biggers, who runs Comic Shop News, has spoken against Kramer and has sought to hold Bob Barr, Kramer's former attorney and former member of the House of Representatives, culpable, as well as presenting viable solutions that DragonCon could take to absolve themselves of Kramer (running their for-profit organization as a for-profit organization instead of pretending to be a non-profit and thus paying their 1500 volunteers), you have totally proven you have no idea what you are talking about. Punish an informed advocate because of the state in which he resides and where his tax dollars which he has no control over go? Talk about cutting off one's nose to spite their face. Cliff Biggers is one of the good guys.

    2. Restitution to victims would be handled by a civil lawsuit by the victims after criminal case was completed. Criminal law doesn't really handle anything but criminal punishment.

    3. No, your arguments go beyond merely being fallacious. They're downright NUTS.

      DC money kept Ed from going to trial and put him back on the streets where he would prey on more boys. Had DC gone up in smoke, then Kramer would have been convicted.

      You can rationalize supporting DC and a child sex predator with such lunacy all you want, but for those who have a moral compass and are smart enough to see their money at work, it's a very simple decision: DON'T FEED THE DRAGON.

    4. Yes, anonymous (but I assume not THE anonymous), Cliff is a good guy. But he pays taxes to Georgia, and his business pays taxes to Georgia, which has failed to prosecute Kramer. The state of Georgia does a number of things that support DC financially and otherwise - so if you do things that raise revenue for Georgia, you are supporting DC. If you want to not feed the dragon, you need to not feed him through the back door, either. Nothing so far has induced Georgia to act - so vote with your wallet.

      Todd, you are correct that restitution would come as the result of a civil suit. My point (probably not stated clearly enough in opting for brevity) is that a conviction in the criminal action would enable that process to occur - and in the absence of such a conviction, it is nearly impossible for it to happen. As it stands now, if the other stockholders take any sort of dividend, they cannot withhold Kramer's dividend - but if he were convicted, it is not unlikely that the court would allow his dividends to be placed in an escrow account pending the civil trial, rather than being given directly to him. DC can't even do that, now - asking for that prior to the start of an actual trial, at the very minimum, would most certainly be rebuffed by Kramer's attorneys.

    5. You assume incorrectly and I'm guessing you have no idea what Anonymous is.

      Do you know what a red herring fallacy is, because you seem to have a barrel of them.

    6. Well, if you're really THAT Anonymous, maybe you can find some documents that will reveal who in the Gwinnett County DA's office has been facilitating keeping Kramer out of court for so long. There's a trail (of cash) somewhere...

  14. Not sure if the following would be deemed illegal, but I do know for a fact that a year after his initial arrest Kramer was still somewhat secretly working for DragonCon. Pat Henry himself admitted it to me and said Kramer was working on the "peripheral." Kramer was still calling some shots at that time. I was contracted to work for the con on a specific deal and was told to call Kramer and speak with him about details. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but I was operating under the "innocent until proven guilty" school of thought. This was before the laundry list of accusations continued to pile up. Believe what you want, but this is 100% true as best as I can remember.

  15. Nobody suggests I attend Dragon Con because it's a well organized show or that they think I'd do good business there. It's always with a wink and an eyebrow waggle and because it's a "crazy fucking party."

    I've never gone to Dragon Con because I'm always so skeeved out by why people suggest I attend. It feels like being pressured to try pot on the schoolyard again. I'm not interested in attending your cosplay fuck-weekend. Which is how it's been described to me by multiple parties over the years.

    What have these other shareholders been doing for the last 10 years except hoping that things go on as-is and nobody makes a stink.

    Shareholder distributions don't happen automatically. The board has to decide to pay those out. So stop paying them out completely. What if they remaining shareholders took salaried consultant positions instead? Kramer isn't going to show up to do any work. Then the only way he could make any money is if the show is ever sold or if someone buys him out.

    (of course shareholder distributions are taxed at 15% and salaries at 35 or higher, so oh well).

    1. Kramer has already sued complaining that co-owner Pat Henry and his wife are taking excessive salaries and withholding financial information.

      The problem is that Pat, who is also president of Dragon*Con, has to give up exactly the same income that he denies to Kramer (they own the same 34% of the shares.) He does not seem to be able to fill that gap with salary.

      Reference: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/dragoncon-faces-appeal/nQNqG/

  16. I do wish you had separated your two main issues. They might both be fixed by shutting down Dragon*Con, but you can't really discuss fixing the two issues via alternate strategies when you mix Ed Kramer's association with the event and anecdotes of sexual assaults at the event.

    Your two issues really deserve to be address in separate discussions. It's not like Ed Kramer is responsible for the misbehavior or crimes of participants, especially when he is in jail.

    You might have also made it clear that Ed Kramer's alleged abuses did not occur at Dragon*Con.

  17. I don't understand why so many people are adamant about supporting DC? If Apple or Coke or Nike, 3 companies that do not provide a necessary product, had a board member accused of molestation they would probably have the person voted out ASAP perhaps even with a bonus but they would no longer be associated with the company. We boycott over homosexual slurs, racial slurs, and sexist slurs but this man is accused of a crime and there are people adamantly supporting this con? It's like I'm in bizarro world.

    1. They did vote him out as board member - but he's still a stockholder. That, they can't do much about. Despite what some have suggested, they can't dissolve the corporation, then form a new corporation without him that performs the same function - that would just go straight to court, and wouldn't hold up. They'd need to dissolve it and then not hold a con for at least five years before forming the new entity.

  18. I have added a question to the Q&A site Quora, asking what legal options the board and other co-owners have with regards to ousting Kramer from his financial attachment to Dragon*Con.

    Let's see what the lawyers and legal experts have to say about various tactics.

    While you have to be a member of Quora to follow the question, you can sign in via a Facebook account, if you prefer.


    1. Thanks for doing that. I'm very interested in seeing what they have to say.

  19. I'm a survivor of a sexual predator who raped me repeatedly as a child and now I'm a comics professional.

    Reading about this case is very triggering and makes me physically ill - I'll have nothing to do with this convention and I urge all the fans, my peers and colleagues to boycott as well.

  20. Todd G.
    I wouldn't preclude testimony of Kramer molesting his victims during DragonCon
    Tony: Thank you for the support, Tony. As you well know, the two young brothers who survived Kramer's abuse, as well as their mother, appreciate and support the boycott.

    They are a reminder that DragonCon never was and never will be the victim in this story.

  21. This thread is difficult to read. I attended the con back in 1989, primarily to see Anne McCaffrey.

    Now, I knew that some cons had a certain reputation by this time--frankly stated, if you wanted to get laid, there were conventions where you were essentially guaranteed it would happen, all for the asking. But--perhaps oblivious, as this was not my reason for attending conventions--I did not know that Dragon*Con was among those. It is possible that this reputation had not yet manifested itself as blatantly as it would in later years.

    I did indeed meet Ms. McCaffrey, and several other people, both famous and anonymous, and had an enjoyable weekend. No sleaze, no propositions, nothing of the sort. (In fairness, I am neither handsome nor wealthy, so I wasn't exactly what most people would consider a "catch" even for a weekend).

    I was heartbroken to hear what happened in later years, with rumors swirling, and some people taking the view that Dragon*Con should be boycotted and destroyed, and others believing that if they could only rid themselves of the few bad apples, the applecart would be restored as it was.

    The toughest part is that this has perverted part of my love of dragons. I'm not fanatical about it, but I do like a good dragon-oriented story, etc. But having seen this, it cannot, MUST not be unseen.

    I will not attend Dragon* Con unless, or until they clean it up. Kramer, to begin with, must go, PERMANENTLY. The legal matters are for the courts to decide, but his presence and association with this event has soiled it in a manner that cannot be simply ignored.

    The security has to be modified to be effective, and while I don't object to people letting it all hang out, there are some things not best done in public,even between consenting adults. They can, quite literally, get a room.

    But above all, this is supposed to be a place where fans can have fun. Professionals advertise their latest works, the hucksters make some money from the concessions, and a good time is had by all.

    I'm just sad that so many people have not had, and will NEVER have, the pleasant and positive experience that I did back in 1989.

    Perhaps someday, someone will start again, and get it right this time.

  22. I have had more than one serious incident of assault by male comics professionals. One very bad incident was in Atlanta. I am glad to see that when a MAN speaks up and tells the sleazy truth about what goes on behond the scenes, he gets believed. Often, girls are not believed. Children who got assaulted are not believed. I will not attend Dragoncon.