Mary Ellen Wessels
GoH ConChord 1998

A Brief History of the Life and Times of Mary Ellen Wessels by Edward Stauff

Much as the wholesome Norwegian bachelor farmers settled Minnesota, so the equally wholesome Dutch bachelor farmers settled Michigan. Not content to remain bachelors, they had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and the occasional second cousin), maintaining a unbroken line of inherited Midwestern wholesomeness until they had Mew. (Ten days later, John F. Kennedy was shot. No connection has ever been proven in a court of law, and the few books written on the subject have been thoroughly debunked. But I digress.)

Mew’s genetic wholesomeness was reinforced by a thoroughly (well, mostly) wholesome upbringing. Her mother taught elementary school, baked pies from Michigan cherries, and taught her children wholesome songs like "National Embalmer’s School". Her father taught history, played sousaphone, and whistled incessantly (even the wholesome may be allowed such small peccadilloes). Her sister played cello and was the first one to teach her to sing in perfect harmony. Her favorite music included Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, Christine Lavin, Claudia Schmidt, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, and Emma Kirkby.

Unfortunately, this otherwise unbroken line of wholesomeness reached a dead end with her brother. At a tender age, this subversive sibling exposed his sister to the likes of Frank Zappa, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd, and the Sex Pistols. Her one feeble attempt at self-defense caused her brother to squish her head in a recliner. Something snapped inside Mew’s previously pristine psyche, and she soon turned to the likes of The Indigo Girls, Pentangle, Bonnie Raitt, Sheila Chandra, Fairport Convention, The Bobs, CSN&Y, Janis Joplin, Stan Rogers, and worse. An attempt at rehabilitation as a Girl Scout Counselor ended in disaster when another counselor, not nearly as wholesome as her uniform would imply, lured Mew to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (an all-wimmin event (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)).

Mew’s loss of her wholesomeness doomed her to thirteen (notice that number?) long years in and out of college, first at Oakland University where she further shamed her family by majoring in music. It was there that her descent into depravity reached its culmination: she discovered fandom, by way of the Order of Leibowitz. The rest, as they say... is apocryphal. She finally graduated, Come Loudly, with a degree in Children’s Lit and Drama/Theater for the Young, the better to seduce young innocents into the likes of F&SF. In celebration, she threw a wild bacchanal called MewBaCon, at which 80 people engaged in activities which I will not relate here, while her family wept.

In spite of the loss of her wholesomeness (or perhaps because of it), Mew has been GoH at cons around the world, including Harmonix in England, OVFF in Ohio, and FKO in Toronto, and will be Goh at Icon ’99. She also sang at several WorldCons (though under a different assumed name and disguise for each one). She has recorded with Thor, OCP, Love Song, Dancing Bear, Dag, Unlikely Publications, Wailsongs, and others whose contracts forbid her to mention their names. She freely admits to being a member of the infamous Black Book Band (Mike Kube-McDowell, Gwen Zak, Barry & Sally Childs-Helton) which is kicking off (and ending) its triumphant comeback tour at OVFF Oct. 9-11, 1998.

At Boskone ’95 Mew met an innocent, young, impressionable neofilker named Ed Stauff. (Well, he really was a neofan then!) Ed never had a chance. She seduced him (though she claims it was the other way ’round, and eyewitness reports differ on this subject). Because he couldn’t stand to be away from her (and the benefits were excellent), Ed spent many hours working on Mew’s folk recording "Current Obsessions" which has gotten airplay throughout New England and in Canada. (She hasn’t actually HEARD it yet on the radio but they assure her it has been played.) After surviving the trauma of recording, producing and mixing an album together, they figured it couldn’t get much worse so she moved to New England. A year later, in a desperate bid for medical insurance, she married him, thus fulfilling her ambition of becoming an Evil Stepmother (tm). A formidable duo right from the start, Mew and Ed were guests at Balticon ’98 and will be guests at BosKone ’99. Masquerading as a wholesome folk act, they have opened for The Short Sisters, Fred Small and Lucy Kaplansky, and have performed and led workshops at the New England Folk Festival in ’97 and ’98.

Enthusiastically leading a children’s filk, or degenerating young minds? Hard working member of the Interfilk Board of Directors, or founding Interfilk Wench? Singer of poignant uplifting ballads, or bard of banana slugs? Whatever else can be said about her, Mew has a truly outstanding voice, and after countless years of voice lessons, she is finally setting up shop as a voice teacher herself. She also plays guitar, recorders, mountain dulcimer, bodhran, doumbek, and others instruments. Meet her in person and decide for yourself how much wholesomeness remains, but whatever you do, don’t ask her about cucumbers.

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