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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

 

Essays

SEXAPHONES, BLUE OINTMENT, AND MOTHERLOVERS
In memory of my friend, my mentor, my hero, Robert Bloch

Earl Kemp


I went to my first World Science Fiction Convention in 1952. It was like walking into a world I had been seeking for a very long time. I felt, instantly, that I was at home at last and among my kind of people.

One of them, my kind of people, just knocked my socks off when I first met him, he was so impressive. His name was Robert Bloch. I met many other people there at that time, of course, numbers of whom have remained with me until this day, in one way or another. But there was something very special about Bob; he made me feel good about myself and he made me laugh and he became a really good friend.

It helped that my wife was from suburban Milwaukee, and that we went there frequently to visit the in-laws. This helped my and Bob's friendship because it often found us physically near each other with extra time to spare.

We saw each other frequently at parties and social gatherings of some sort or another, usually science fiction related. Bob would come to Chicago whenever there was something special going on, especially if he could be sure that Bob Tucker would also be there. And if Bob was, you might as well just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride because it would be one hell of a delightful trip getting there.

In Wisconsin, just down the road a bit, were well-known active fans like the ever-lovely Phyllis Economou who wrote under the masculine assumed name of P.H. Economou and the mile-a-minute punster Dean Grennell. On the professional side there was Raymond A. Palmer, the imaginative innovator Richard S. Shaver, and the always entertaining bear of a man, Auggie Derleth. Wisconsin had its share of nuts besides Ed Gein.

Bob and I enjoyed this close friendship for over a dozen years. Not only did we talk on the phone frequently, we exchanged letters a lot. Bob was one of the few people I have ever known who, if they have any intention of replying to correspondence at all, they do it on the same day the letter is received.

I knew all about the in-progress Psycho and Bob's character of Norman Bates (Bob consistently referred to him privately as "Master" Bates) and that it was inspired by local nut Ed Gein. I had the rare privilege of reading Bob's underground novel From the Land of Sky Blue Ointments all about conveniently located sexaphones. I did my damnedest to persuade Bob to allow me to publish it through Advent but he was always against wide-spread distribution of it for some reason. From what I can remember, I loved it.

I did, later, compile a collection of Bob's fan writings and publish them through Advent as The Eighth Stage of Fandom. We were both rather proud of that volume as a symbol of our friendship if nothing more.

It was so delightful, knowing him, seeing him often, and hearing from him frequently that as in all things excellent, I thought they would never end. Only they do.

Bob moved to California a few months before I did. Ironically he moved exactly the same distance, 100 miles away as he and I had lived for those earlier dozen years. Only this time that 100 miles was separated by not just the distance but both our changing lives. We saw each other much less frequently and then only at very special social occasions or award banquets or things like Tom and Terry Pinkert's science fiction salon in Santa Maria.

The thing I most remember about Bob is that if I so much as caught a glance of him somewhere in the distance, my being would light up. My mood would instantly elevate. As I got closer to him, the feeling would only intensify and, in his presence, the warmth and good humor and laughter would flow on endlessly.

God, I miss him so.

This essay was written in August 2000 and first appeared on this website. It is © 2000 by Earl Kemp and appears here with his kind permission. Mr. Kemp's website is located here.