Forrest J Ackerman's Denvention Remembrance
At the preceding year's convention 3 fans from Denver had bid, not imagining that they would win, and they were somewhat at a loss when the Chicon fans accorded the honor to the Denvention. Yes, the Denvention, not the Dencon -- and it was Donald A. Wollheim who had the inspiration for the naming of the third Worldcon.
I remember Olon Wiggins coming to me and asking my advice as to whom to invite to be the Denvention's GoH. At that time the potentials were plentiful: Edgar Rice Burroughs, John W. Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Ray Cummings, Otis Adelbert Kline, Jack Williamson, J. Allen St. John -- the list was endless. But I was in the enviable position of living about a year in the future as far as the works of Robert A. Heinlein went -- I was frequently invited to his home and allowed to read his forthcoming masterpieces in manuscript form, and I felt that, given another 12 months under his belt, he would be the hottest sf author of the year. My recommendation was taken and out of every Worldcon I have attended in the past 50 years, I thought Heinlein's GoH speech was the most memorable.
For the firstime a GoH speech was taped (by Walter J. Daugherty) and later I transcribed it, stenciled it, mimeographed it, collated it, stapled it, addressed it, stamped it and mailed copies for 10¢ apiece. A hundred copies of the pamphlet were in green ink and a second edition of another 100 in black. Several years ago a first edition (dealers are referring to it as Heinlein's first book, altho I don't agree) sold at auction for $1300 -- to a dealer! Heinlein was practically the whole show. I think there were less than a hundred of us there so we had him pretty much to ourselves and he made himself very available. When somebody tipped us to the fact that he would be celebrating his birthday during the con, private donations to a birthday fund made it possible to procure about 6 books his wife believed would be very welcome to him. And indeed they were -- he came near to tears of happy emotion when the gift was given at the banquet.
At the Denvention, Damon Knight proposed a flag for FAPA (the Fantasy Amateur Press Assn) but interest flagged after the con and nothing came of it. Damon appeared at the masquerade as John Starr, a character, I believe, from Jack Williamson's Legion of Space. Everyone was familiar with Eando Binder's automaton, Adam Link, and Heinlein got a good laugh as he walked stiffly across the stage in civvies as Adam Stink, World's Most Lifelike Robot. I won a prize as the HunchbAckerman of Notre Dame in a hideous latex mask created by pre-famous Ray Harryhausen. Morojo represented a frog-woman from A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool." Walt Daugherty wore the most expensive costume to date, the "$1000 Spaceman." (From the aerospace industry he had created a plastic helmet from discarded parts of the new and expensive substance.) E. Everett Evans was A Bird Man from Rhea, having spent endless hours gluing feathers on a costume.
There was an audible gasp as Heinlein (Mr. Cool Personified) paused during his GoH speech (I introduced him as the American Olaf Stapledon) to light a cigaret (!) and puff nonchalantly on it while delivering his talk. Comet; a short-lived sci-fi mag (5 issues), had offered a substantial-for-its-time monetary prize for the fan who overcame the most difficulties to get to the con. Disappointingly, the publisher didn't come thru with the bucks.
The infamous Claude "Cosmic Circle" Degler surfaced for the firstime and made some kind of an incomprehensible speech during the banquet. Walt Daugherty inaugurated the first science fiction awards, consisting of a nice little medal to be worn like an Army Good Conduct Medal. My face flushed with embarrassment and, feeling prickly heat thruout my body, I stepped up to the podium to accept mine, I don't remember what for, I guess as undisputed #1 Fan by then. The late Julius Unger rightfully received an award as best newszine publisher of the day. I believe Damon Knight and Olon Wiggins also received awards -- and the late artist Roy Hunt -- but don't ask me to bet my collection on it...after all, 48 years -- ! (Even Daugherty isn't certain who got what for why.)
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