Sam Moskowitz's Clevention Reminiscence

1955Clevention, Cleveland
by Sam Moskowitz
from the Noreascon Three PB

September 2-5, 1955, Manger Hotel, Cleveland, Ohio. Chairwoman and Chairman Noreen and Nicholas Falasca, assisted by Ben P. Jason, Honey Wood, and Stephen F. Schultheis. Isaac Asimov, Guest of Honor, Mystery Guest of Honor Sam Moskowitz.

This convention would have to rate near the very top of all conventions I attended, for the fullness and excellence of its program and the special award I received. The Guest of Honor was Isaac Asimov, but a special issue of the progress report was mailed out with a black silhouette on the cover and the cryptic heading: "WHO IS THIS MAN?" Inside there was the following: "What's the mystery behind the mystery guest? Just this; he's one of the people who work to make a convention a success, and never receive a thank you. We feel it's about time he did… This year, the 13th World Science-Fiction Convention will honor a fan who helped. The person chosen will not know he is mystery guest until his name is announced, at the banquet…. Here's where the fans get in on the fun. There will be a contest to guess the identity of the mystery guest. Complete details will be announced in the next Report. Remember, the mystery guest will be in addition to the regular guest of honor. Who can it be? It might be you. Join the convention and see for yourself."

The Mystery Guest of Honor was to be announced at the Banquet as part of the Hugo Awards presentations, handled by Anthony Boucher, then editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The night before there was considerable speculation. It was finally narrowed down in the minds of the fans in attendance, that it would be either Dave Kyle, who had been an active convention goer since the first, or C.I. Barrett, M.D., who had contributed a great deal to help both local and national conventions in the past. In fact, I remember discussing with Dave Kyle in his room elements for an impromptu acceptance talk, down to physical reaction.

The evening of September 3, 1955, I was seated at a table with Mr. & Mrs. C.I. Barrett, Mr. & Mrs. Lou Tabakow, Mr. & Mrs. Stephen Takacs, and Jean Carrol (now Jean Engels). Mark Clifton and Frank Riley had received a Hugo for They'd Rather Be Right as the best novel; Walter M. Miller had scored with "The Darfsteller" as the best novelette; Eric Frank Russell registered with "Allamagoosa" as the best short story; Astounding Science Fiction as the best magazine; Frank Kelly Freas as the best illustrator; and Fantasy Times, published by James V. Taurasi, as the best amateur publication.
Boucher then began a build-up for the Mystery Guest of Honor at some length and I remember Steve Takacs, seated next to me, commenting half way through: "Hell Sam, you've done everything that guy has!" By this time it was beginning to dawn on me that Steve was a lot righter than he knew. When they announced my name as Mystery Guest of Honor I tried hard to remember all the pointers I had used in coaching Dave Kyle and couldn't recall a one. All I could muster was a polite "Thank You." As I was later told by committee member Ben Jason, the award was for inaugurating world conventions, participating in their programs, auctioning non-stop until they were out of the red (which I had to do again for Cleveland, but this time Harlan Ellison proved an invaluable aid) and for The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, which had appeared only a year past.

Another unusual bit of programming was a Christmas play for the convention. Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, Fritz Leiber, and Robert Bloch were recruited to write the play at the convention, before presentation. At the last minute they needed someone to play Scrooge (science fiction style) and they discovered that I had some amateur acting background, so I was recruited to play Scroogewitz, in the first scene. Fritz Leiber, all incredible length of him, played "Tiny Timid!", Robert Bloch was "The Ghost of Christmas Past", Tony Boucher was also in the play, and a chorus composed of Judy Merril, Mildred Clingerman, Randy Garrett, and Forrest Ackerman sang the lyrics written by Damon Knight, "Poor Stef is Dead." Unquestionably the show stopper was supplied by a cameo appearance by Evelyn Gold, who, in a short, tight-fitting, low-cut dress, slowly slunk across the stage. She stopped when asked: "Who are you!" She replied: "I'm the man-ageing editor!" Damon Knight wrote me later saying that he and Robert Bloch were thinking of publishing the play, would I send him my part. I had to reply that I had ad-libbed the entire thing, that nothing was on paper! However, Frank M. Deitz taped the play, so it may still be recoverable.

At the masquerade ball, Honey Wood, secretary of the convention, displayed a superbly graceful pair of legs. When Rog Phillips, the late science fiction author, saw them, his eyes revolved in his head, he danced with her for the rest of the affair, and not long after the convention they were married.

Raymond Van Houten, one of the editors on the Hugo-winning Fantasy Times, was awakened to hear shouts of "Help! Help!" from the hall. He found a permanent resident of the hotel, who had the room next door, in his robe. The man claimed he had awakened when someone entered his room and took his wallet. The hotel kept several all-night rooms open for the convention goers and the man was identified in the Chester Room, playing poker with a group of fans. Without tipping their hands, fans blocked all the exits while the house detective and police were called, and the culprit was apprehended still playing poker. It was discovered that the man had a criminal record, having served three years in San Quenten, but though he still had the wallet on him at time of arrest, he had lost all the contents in the poker game and the money was not recovered!