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Billie Jean’s plane was late.” She whips out a notebook and asks if I have any comment. I say no. She writes “No comment.” Another woman dashes past, and I see by her press pass that she’s a reporter. From New York. “Bella Abzug ran! She actually ran! God, what a story! This makes the whole thing worth it!” It’s the second day, and I am trying to get into Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum “pro-life” rally at the AstroArena. Near the entrance is a small band of people holding signs, one of which reads, “WHO NEEDS JEWS DIKES ABORTIAN AND COMMUNISTS.” I wonder how long it will take Nazis to learn to spell “dyke” and “abortion”; evidently they’ve had enough practice with “Jew” and “communist.” An Eagle Forum official tells the sign-carriers they cannot join the rally. A woman whose placard says “STOP THE JEWS” begins arguing about her free speech and other First Amendment rights, including that of religion. Inside the hall, a pair of ersatz Everly Brothers are on stage singing “Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love?” No one appears to find this an inappropriate theme for an anti-abortion rally. I settle into a second row seat, then stand up for the prayer, pledge and national anthem. Houston Chamber of Commerce president Louie Welch comes to the mike and recognizes former Republican congressman Ron Paul and mayoral candidate Frank Briscoe, among others, who made this gathering possible. A Rolling Stone reporter slips me a note: “I have a hunch the action is downtown. Let’s go.” I rise, and so do two journalists from Tennessee who think we are onto something. By the time we get outside, three writers, one photographer, one broadcaster, and someone’s slightly befuddled husband are running for the lone taxi that has just stopped. Everyone squeezes in. I wind up sitting on the husband’s lap, heading for The Action. * * * The IWY conference was supposed to have everything: sex, violence and a cast of thousands. According to preconference stories, the Ku Klux Klan was going to be there with a cadre of Klan women who had learned to “walk like lesbians” for the purpose of disrupting the meeting and giving homosexuals a bad name. No less than 2,000 raging Mormons would attend. The American Nazi Party had a contract out on Gloria Steinem. Right-wing writers promised the conference would exhibit pornographic films about rape, and stage lewd entertainments that would include suggestive movements, self-examination of private parts, and two lesbians making love in a pay toilet. There would be 2,000 delegates and 15,000 observers. Security would cost $47,000 and be worth every penny. Nobody said there would also be 2,000 reporters running around like crazed weasels looking for The Action. After filing sensational predictions of the biggest cat fight in history, many of the journalists accredited to the conference came to Houston apparently ready to believe their own hype. So where were the lesbians slugging it out with the KKK? Where were the dirty movies? Where were the rightand leftwing females snatching each other bald-headed while the cameras rolled? Where was the story? The big news about the IWY conference is that 17,000 women gathered under Houston’s brown sky, and with a fair amount of order did what they came to do: pass resolutions on problems confronting women in everything from art to employment to welfare. The other news is that one helluva lot of cops and reporters sat around having a Close Encounter with ennui. It wasn’t exactly that nothing happened; it’s just that we expected so much more. At 11 Saturday night, four policemen and one policewoman were in the security command post in the west hall of the Center, drinking coffee and staring in front of themselves. 8 DECEMBER 2, 1977