Elyse Rosenstein Has Died

Elyse Rosenstein in 1982. Photo courtesy Steve Rosenstein.

By Andrew Porter: North Bellmore, NY, fan Elyse Rosenstein, 69, died suddenly on February 20th. She had been undergoing rehabilitation after suffering a broken leg. At the time of her death, she was a retired secondary school science teacher. 

With Joyce Yasner, Joan Winston, Linda Deneroff and Devra Langsam, she organized the very first Star Trek convention, held in NYC in 1972. The convention was not only the very first media convention,  it was also the biggest science fiction convention to date by a considerable margin.

As Rosenstein recounted at a Star Trek convention held at the Javits Center in NYC which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Star Trek on NBC, she, with her friend and fellow fan Devra Langsam, first conceived the idea of the convention.

“For some unknown reason I turned to her and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have a science fiction convention for just ‘Star Trek?’ and she turned to me and said, ‘Yeah,’ we could invite 500 of our most intimate friends,’” she explained. “If she’d said that it was a terrible idea, none of this would have happened.”

At the time, Star Trek fans were often looked down on by many science fiction fans, who were more into books and magazines than TV shows. The pair hoped that a convention specifically geared towards Star Trek would do a lot to bring fans together. The rest, as they say, is fan history.

With her then husband Steve Rosenstein, in the early 1970s she ran Nova Enterprises, which sold Trek-related products. She was an Honorary lifetime member of Lunarians, chaired the 1983 Lunacon, and worked on many Lunacon committees. And she was nicknamed “The Screaming Yellow Zonker” by Isaac Asimov.

Elyse Rosenstein had a BS in physics and math, and an MS in physics, and taught science for more than two decades. She was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Long Island Physics Teachers Association. She was featured in numerous honors publications, including multiple editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, and Who’s Who of American Women

She is survived by her son, Michael.

40 thoughts on “Elyse Rosenstein Has Died

  1. Linda Deneroff was not part of the 1972 Star Trek committee.

    The committee in 1972, as per the Souvenir Book was:

    Al Schuster, Co-ordinator
    Elyse Pines, Program
    Joan Winston, Dealers Room, NASA Display, Signs
    Eileen Becker, Registration
    Allan Asherman, Art Show
    Deborah Langsam, Costume Call
    Joyce Yasner, Displays
    Devra Langsam, Slide Shows, Program Asst.
    Regina Gottesman, Hospitality
    Steve Rosenstein, Auctioneer, MC
    Stu Hellinger, Program Assistant

    Chris Steinbrunner/Chester Grabowski, Visuals

  2. Stuart Hellinger: So when you wrote on Facebook “It is with a very heavy heart and much regret that I have to report the sudden passing of one of the founding members of the original New York Star Trek Convention Committee…” which year was that founded?

  3. Mike, the first New York Star Trek convention was in January 1972. I won that year’s trivia contest, and then went on to write the trivia contest for the next four years.

  4. Linda Deneroff: OK, so you weren’t working the con that first year, but in the later years?

  5. My first exposure to the concept of fandom was the book “Star Trek Lives” in which Elyse was a major player.

    May her memory be a blessing.

  6. Mike Glyer, yes, in the remaining four conventions I was on the second level of the committee. There were three levels: organizing committee, assistants and volunteers. That’s how I learned that cats gave me asthma: I’d go to the meetings at Elyse’s or Devra’s and come home wheezing.

  7. Mike, as Linda said, our first convention was in January 1972. After that, we moved to Presidents Day Weekend though 1976. I remember Elyse first talking about the idea in 1971, Summer/Fall. At fist, I thought she was kidding.

    Linda was an integral part of our committee from the 1973 convention through our last one in 1976.

  8. Pardon my asking, but I assume that the convention I attended in January 1975 at the Americana hotel in Manhattan was one of a different (competing) series of Trek conventions; is that the case? There’s little documentation online.

  9. My condolences to friends and family of Elyse. The NYC Star Trek cons were iconic!
    This might be the right venue to ask: does anyone have information about the first Star Trek con held in Albuquerque, New Mexico? It was the first SF con I ever attended, and I met both A. E. Van Vogt and Jack Williamson there. There was also a (plywood) life size mock up of the Enterprise bridge that you could goof around in. I believe the year must have been either 1975-1976. I can’t find out anything about this event online, strangely enough, though I once read somewhere that the first L.A. Trek convention had some spin-offs in other cities, and that might have been one of them.

  10. Yes, the Trek fans in the early 1970s were annoying in demanding Trek programming and viewings of the shows. Committees began to decline showings because of cost. So, Even the blooper reel came with a price tag. the idea of separate conventions was a good idea.

    My wife Giani Siri attended the first and her first convention. I think Mom in Law wanted her out of the house, but she went and said it was crowded, filled with all kinds of people she could talk to.

  11. Creation Entertainment (Adam Malin and Gary Berman) frequently claim they put on the first Star Trek convention. Does anyone know where they fit into all this (not saying they did, just trying to clarify)?

  12. gottacook: The “Committee Con” at the Americana was in 1974.
    The first (1972) was at the Statler Hilton, the second (1973) at the Commodore Hotel, the third (1974) at the Americana, and the fourth and fifth (1975 and 1976) back at the Commodore.
    Hope that helps.

  13. Steve Randen: Messrs. Malin and Berman may have attended or possibly even volunteered at the first Star Trek Convention (I have no idea), but they certainly did not run it.

  14. Steve Randan: Is Creation again stating that they put on the first Star Trek Convention? If you have any direct info or links, it would be appreciated. I thought they stopped years ago when they were threatened with a major lawsuit. They probably could claim that the were the first “commercial profit-making:” ST con, but that wouldn’t look good for them.

  15. Linda et al. – Apparently, Schuster and the Committee split from each other in late 1974, resulting in Schuster’s convention at the Americana in January followed by the Committee’s convention at the Commodore in February. (I don’t recall whether my college friends and I knew about both, but the January one was during the semester break and the other wouldn’t have been feasible.)

    (source: https://fanlore.org/wiki/Schuster_Star_Trek_Conventions/1975_New_York_City_Schuster_Star_Trek_Convention, which in turn cites Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History by Robert Greenberger, pp. 69-72, available at Google Books, including a long quote from Linda about the Committee conventions.)

  16. mlex: does anyone have information about the first Star Trek con held in Albuquerque, New Mexico? It was the first SF con I ever attended, and I met both A. E. Van Vogt and Jack Williamson there. There was also a (plywood) life size mock up of the Enterprise bridge that you could goof around in. I believe the year must have been either 1975-1976.

    According to this 1977 edition of the New Mexico Daily Lobo:

    Space Freaks to Convene
    “Ivan Cook’s Star Trek, Comic, and Science Fiction Film Convention will be at the Albuquerque Convention Center January 21, 22, 23… Other convention guests are science fiction writers A.E. Van Vogt, Jack Williamson, and Fred Saberhagen.”

  17. I know in 1979 I attended a Lunarians meeting at Elyse and Steve’s apartment. She will be missed.

  18. WOW! you folk are amazing! i was a wee bit too young (born in 72) and on the wrong side of the Atlantic to attend 🙁 .
    GNU Elyse Rosenstein x

  19. JJ: Amazing discovery! Thanks very much for that sleuthing. I am delighted to know that this event was not an hallucination. I also vaguely recalled that Takei and D.C. Fontana were there, but I couldn’t bring myself to mention it. I was mostly interested in meeting the writers.
    Above all, I must admit to being delighted to have been introduced to fandom at an event heralded under the title: Space Freaks to Convene!

  20. JJ, geez, you are right! I googled for this stuff years ago, but of course the rapid wheels of gerbils are spinning new indexes at the speed of light.
    Now I even find a very sarcastic review of the event, too.

    I must say that the con was pretty much as described, and no, I’m not the kid in the photos! I didn’t wear spectacles until the ripe age of 50.

    But the reporter, Daniel Crain, was too dismissive of the writers actually. Because the uniformed shock troops were off marching one another around the Civic Auditorium, and after Crain had yawned and gone off to watch the belly dancers, I was practically alone with Van Vogt for the Q&A. I asked him about his writing method and if he actually knew where he was going with his mad plot twists . He was very jovial and kind and explained it all to me, including the bit about his alarm clock that he used to shock himself awake at regular intervals during the night. He claimed that this provocation of the lucid dream state was what inspired many of those sudden flights of fancy. Years later, when I’d been able to compare Van Vogt’s advice with other writers whom I’d met in various situations (people like John Cheever, Paul Krassner, Allen Ginsberg, Samuel R. Delany, Norman Spinrad, etc); I never forgot how kind and sincere Van Vogt was. Call him crazy, but I always liked him.

    He was kind enough to sit down with a teenager and say, “yes, of course, this is how you write a novel! and when you’re stuck, just keep jolting yourself to get the words going again.” He was like the professor in Tennesse Tuxedo with his 3DBB, explaining it all with great pleasure.

    BTW, Jack Williamson was very much the same. A tall, kind, jovial giant, wandering around in his suit jacket. He talked about writing “Legion of Space” in much the same light. Though he was more even-keeled than Van Vogt.

  21. gottacook wrote: “Linda et al. – Apparently, Schuster and the Committee split from each other in late 1974, resulting in Schuster’s convention at the Americana in January followed by the Committee’s convention at the Commodore in February. (I don’t recall whether my college friends and I knew about both, but the January one was during the semester break and the other wouldn’t have been feasible.)”

    I’d completely forgotten about the “dueling conventions” that year. It confused a lot of people. And thank you for reminding me of Robert Greenberger’s book. I never did find it in a store, but I’ve just gone on line to the giant website that shall not be named and purchased it.

  22. In both 1975 and 1976 there were “dueling conventions”, Schuster’s in January and ours in February. January 1976 also had Lisa Boynton’s disastrous New York Star Trek ’76, which had severe over crowding, the hotel limiting entrances to people who had paid tickets/memberships and a lot of investigations afterwards.

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  25. Stu – Wasn’t there also a Star Trek-ish convention in the 1976-1977 era put on by a company called “StrangeLande Productions”?? (Sorry, Stu… 😉 )

    It’s hard to believe that Elyse is gone. I remember when Joan Winston passed away many years ago, but she was much older than most of us. Then Regina Gottesman, and I’m sure others I’ve missed. Although the relationship between Elyse and I was rocky at best, we sort of reconciled as time went by, and then when our grandson Isaac was born 11 years ago.

    For those didn’t know her, Elyse is survived by our son Michael, his wife Alana, and their two children Isaac and Emily. Elyse also has a brother Elliot who lives in California with his family.

  26. Steve Rosenstein: You had to bring that up? The Boston Star Trek Convention in April 1976 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

  27. @Stuart C. Hellinger – This is a time of remembrance for what went on during that era. The list would not be complete without your esteemed and inglorious contributions… 😉

  28. So sorry to hear this. 69 is much too young!

    I’ve been reading The Making of the Star Trek Conventions, and I’ve been flooded with nostalgia for the early fandom. I was only 6 when the first convention was held, but I was a fan by 1976 and remember the tone and excitement of the conventions very fondly. Ms. Rosenstein played an important role in the creation and growth of that community and it is sad to see her heading off into the Undiscovered Country.

  29. Steve my condolences to you and your son, my heart is with you both — i sadly haven’t seen Elyse since the 80s, but she was a real angel in encouraging me back then when i started to go to art school (and with the two small science fiction conventions that i ran on long island, as she some how managed to get us isaac asimov and hal clement as guests of honor). when she chaired lunacon she also let me have a room just for screening anime, and this was back in 1983 before so many people even knew what anime was. she had a real love of science fiction and star trek, and shared that passion with so many. i’m so sorry that she’s gone, i regret that i never had the chance to thank her…

  30. There’s a claim on Creation Entertainment’s wikipedia page that they started the “first annual Star Trek convention” in 2001 (with a Citation Needed marker), and I gather from this post and thread that the 1972 convention was followed by several years of other conventions (annually, one might say), so if anyone knows their stuff when it comes to editing Wikipedia and feels so inclined…

  31. I hadn’t heard of Creation’s Trek cons before about 2001, so AFAIK they didn’t have any. Went to one – I wasn’t impressed by the con part. However, we got the Trek adventure stuff included, and that was fun.

  32. Meredith: The line on Creation’s Wikipedia page is “In 2001, Creation hosted the first annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.”. Depending on how you read it, it is correct, as it was the first ST con in Vegas.

    They used to claim on their website and on promotional material that they “invented the Star Trek Convention”. They removed that claim several years ago. I don’t think they are still saying that, as far as I know.

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  34. Hi Michael – Thank you for your kind words about Elyse. I remember your conventions at SUNY Stony Brook and the work Elyse did to get Isaac and Hal for you. That is what she did best, guest liaison and relations.

    You did thank her in a way that was much more appreciated than simply saying “thank you”. You gave her a venue to do what she enjoyed most. She was in her glory during those years. As they said in the old MasterCard commercial, it was priceless.

    Best regards – Steve

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