Dennis Dolbear at DeepSouthCon 50 in 2012. Photo by Rich Lynch.
Louisiana fan Dennis Dolbear died June 17 from pneumonia and septicemia reports SF Site News.
Dolbear joined the New Orleans Science Fiction Association (NOSFA) as a young fan within a few years of its 1967 founding, and enthusiastically helped create its fannish mythos. Although the growing club was just a few years old, some of its charter members shortly began to feel overwhelmed by an influx of Star Trek fans. To console themselves, they gathered at the home of “Faruk von Turk” (Justin Winston) and established the “Sons of the Sand.” As Dolbear later explained:
The Sons of the Sand (and the affiliated Daughters of the Desert) is actually the parent group for a number of affiliated organizations such as the Cubist Poetry Society, the Damon Runyon Society of N.O., the Uptown Meerschaum Collectors, and the N.O. Double Contra Basso Jug Band, to name but a few. The only requirement for joining either the parent or subsidiary societies is that the applicant be of gentle (i.e. noble) birth. Validity of pedigree will be decided by the Admissions Committee. (Note: ersatz SCA titles are, of course, not acceptable.) The Caliph (or leader) of the organization is the member with the most distinguished ancestry. This post is presently held by Faruk von Turk, who has authenticated his lineage to Charlemagne and Charles Martel. The post is also claimed by Donald Walsh, Jr., who has adduced some evidence that he is descended from the Roman emperor Caligula. The Committee has not fully accepted his claim, although if validated it would of course preempt von Turk’s.
Dennis Dolbear and Mike Macro when the world was young.
Dolbear was a long-time member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, active from 1971 to 1994. He regularly contributed NOSFAn, the clubzine he coedited with Peter Bezbak and, as the years passed, other zines with such colorful titles as Lapis Lazuli and Bouffant Jellyfish. For a time it became a SFPA tradition to list his name on the masthead among the officers under an ever-changing series of titles like “Official Provider of Life Support & Morale Boosts,” and “Bestest Buddy & Sweet Patootie.”
Dolbear was an attorney by profession. He and his colleague, Guy Lillian III, once thought to generate some business from the out-of-town football fans who came to New Orleans for bowl games and got into trouble in the French Quarter. The duo took out an ad in the Florida Flambeau, the FSU student paper, advertising their legal services. Their ad generated a lot of publicity, if not business. Sports Illustrated picked up the story (“Ill Legal Pitch”) and Dolbear gave an interview to the Orlando Sentinel:
Using unique entrepreneurial skills, Dolbear and Lillian have cast their lines into the water, looking to snag jail bait in a sea of N’awlins debauchery. The two civil attorneys from New Orleans took out an ad in the Florida Flambeau, the Florida State campus newspaper, offering their legal services to anyone suffering from the Bourbon Street Blues.
”If you get in trouble, we can help you out,” reads the ad. ”If you need a lawyer in New Orleans, call us.”
”It’s not so much that we’re ambulance chasers,” Dolbear said. ”Ambulance chasers are trying to cultivate a situation that might not otherwise exist. In our case, we are simply offering our services to people who get arrested. If you get in trouble and you don’t know who to call, we are here.”
Perhaps Dolbear’s most riveting piece of fanwriting was “Survivor” in Challenger 23, an account of how he and his 85-year-old mother clung to the side of their house to avoid drowning in the floodwaters released by Hurricane Katrina:
We then took the only refuge left. We went into the water – now over 9 feet high – and clung to the gutters above, in a 125 mile-per-hour wind and swift flood. (My mother is nothing if not tough.) After a short while, I moved to a tree outside, with flexible branches that I could crouch in. From this spot, I could relieve the stress on the gutter – already starting to bend – and be in a position to save my mother if she should let go – which she almost did, several times and did, once – I dived beneath the water and pulled her, with strength I got from who knows where. But she held, and I held, and we endured about two or maybe three hours in the full wrath of Katrina. I will never forget this, not as long as I live, and mere words seem inadequate to describe the storm’s power – and how small, how vulnerable it made you feel.
But after a few hours, the wind abated, and – could it be – the water actually started to drop. I checked again, mentally marking the water height against the bricks – yes, yes! it was dropping! We might not die after all! Our danger had passed.
No wonder Guy Lillian III ended his message about Dolbear’s passing — “[I] congratulate each and every one of us on having such a remarkable friend.”