Joe Pilati passed away on June 8 last year. A teenaged fanzine editor in the Sixties, Pilati had been for the past three decades the chief writer and editor for Corporate Campaign, Inc., supporting labor rights, free speech and environmental issues.
He earlier worked for the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix and the Village Voice, before joining the staff of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in 1976 to help craft the historic J.P. Stevens Campaign.
Joe Pilati started Smudge, his first fanzine, in 1960 at the age of 14. Jay Lynch, later founder of Bijou Funnies but then only 16 himself, soon discovered the zine and started doing cartoons for Pilati —
Well…In 1960 I was in high school doing cartoons for the school paper and stuff. In an issue of Cracked magazine, which was edited by Paul Laikin back then, I saw a plug in the letter column that Paul gave to a kid in Pearl River, NYnamed Joe Pilati. Pilati had just published the first issue of SMUDGE, a little fanzine printed on a ditto machine that ran interviews and news about the guys who did the professional satire mags of the day…HELP!, MAD, CRACKED, SICK, those mags. So I sent for a copy, and wound up doing illustrations and cartoons for SMUDGE. That plug in Cracked was also seen by Skip Williamson, Art Spiegelman, and several other kid cartoonists. They all sent for SMUDGE and did drawings for SMUDGE. In the back of SMUDGE, Pilati would run reviews of amateur satire fanzines printed on ditto machines and mimeograph machines by kids around the country. Many of ‘em contained original satirical articles on a variety of topics. Kids doing their own imitations of MAD.
Pilati published Smudge on his school’s ditto machine. The zine had a circulation of 80 copies. He also ran news and interviews with the editors, writers and artists of the various Mad-style satire magazines of the era.
A couple years later Pilati shifted his efforts to a new fanzine named Enclave with a focus on science fiction and politics. Enclave attracted new work by Harlan Ellison and Ray Nelson. It had a larger circulation, 150 copies — good coverage in the fandom of those days.
Joe Pilati’s raucous sense of humor — and ability to yank columnist Tom Perry’s chain — was chronicled in a 1965 issue of Hyphen:
But other than that, Joe Pilati is a very pleasant house guest. It’s nice for an isolated fan to find someone else with similar attitudes… for instance, towards the coming of the mail. My wife and the neighbors are practically indifferent to this exhalted event, but Joe shows a proper reverence. My only complaint is he seems to get more than I do.
That, and of course his carelessness about MY mail. I was working from 10am to 6pm recently and had to call home each day to find out what had come. “Nothing,” Garrett said after Joe had brought in the mail. I went home to lunch with my heart down in my socks. When I came back I found a note to call home. Joe Pilati was apologetic. “There is a letter from Bob Lichtman for you,” he said. “It got lost in my letters. I’m really sorry, Tom.” I could hear him chuckling off mike. “That’s OK, Joe,” I said. “There’s also a letter from Germany, he added. Now his laughter was wild, insane. “It must have got, uh, lost among my huge masses of letters,” “Sure, Joe, sure,” I said, senile tears in my old eyes. Fortunately, there WERE letters from Lichtman and Germany waiting when I got home—else you might read in Fanac next year about a sensational fannish murder case in Ohama, Bebraska.
Pilati’s death was brought to fandom’s attention by the February 2013 issue of a political newsletter edited by one of his friends.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]