Jay Kay Klein (1931-2012)

Jay Kay Klein at Bucconeer (1998).

Jay Kay Klein, who spent his final days in hospice care with terminal oesophegeal cancer, died May 13 reports John Hertz. Jay Kay was 80 years old.

Jay Kay and his camera documented decades of fanhistory. His four photo-filled Worldcon Memory Books (1960, 1962, 1963, 1966), are nostalgic monuments to an era most of us missed.

He was Fan Guest of Honor at Discon II, the 1974 Worldcon. He received the Big Heart Award in 1990, and just last year he was enshrined in the First Fandom Hall of Fame. Pros appreciated his work, too – he was awarded a SFWA Presidential Plaque for Extraordinary Photographs.

Jay Kay entered fandom in 1945, at a Philadelphia SF Society meeting. Within two years he also joined the Queens Science Fiction League Chapter in Astoria, Long Island, and the Eastern Science Fiction Assn. (ESFA) in Newark. Much later he was part of two failed Syracuse Worldcon bids in the 1960s.

From 1977 to 2005 he wrote and supplied photos for the “Biolog” feature in Analog.

As time went by Jay Kay showed considerable sensitivity to ways in which he felt overlooked. Sometimes he passed it off with humor. When MagiCon (1992) insisted fans show photo ID’s to register, Jay Kay claimed to have satisfied the requirement with an old photo from his portfolio showing himself on a con panel beside Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. But another time I found it easy to agree that it seemed unappreciative when staffers at a Worldcon tried to discourage him from roaming in front of the stage to take photos during major events. After all, he had made himself legendary taking photos in situations like that.

P. S. Trivia question: A photo of Jay Kay Klein is included in the “Fan Gallery,” a traveling exhibit displayed at Worldcons. Guess what former Worldcon chair was the photographer? (Not me.) The answer is at the bottom of this webpage.

Jay Kay Klein taking a photo of Discon II’s other GoH, Roger Zelazny. Photo by David Dyer-Bennett.

Jay Kay roaming in front of the audience at Discon II. Photo by David Dyer-Bennett.

15 thoughts on “Jay Kay Klein (1931-2012)

  1. When I started going to conventions (in 1969) he seemed to be at everyone of them. OF course, back then when dinosaurs walked the earth, it was possible to go to pretty much all of the conventions on the East Coast.

    I was glad to read that he had donated his photos to the Eaton collection.

    May his memory live on.

  2. When I first began attending conventions, I thought he was an annoying guy with a camera. THEN I found out who he was (and whenever I* had the chance, I made room for him).

    Jay Kay will be sorely missed.

  3. Oh, I’m going to miss him. So glad that he donated his photographs to a collection – but not in the least surprised. He was an institution.

  4. I hope someone has the time and ability to make all his photos available in some sort of digital archive, with names and dates as much as possible along with the photos.

  5. Back when I worked worldcons ( 1976-1980, the early modern primitive period of conventions), I found Jay both annoying and sweet. Annoying, because, yes, wherever the action was, he was always there, and sometimes “there” was where I wanted to shift people around for better traffic flow or to preserve views for the honored guests we’d just seated in the front row. Sweet, because he always moved fast to accommodate whatever we needed. Not necessarily as fast as I wanted in my youthful impatience, but really, fast enough.

  6. Jay Kay worked for General Electric, doing advertising and other work for them which involved him, yes, taking photos. I saw him at several IEEE conventions and trade shows in NYC in the 1960s and 70s, in his mundane guise.

    He had a large collection of now-vintage Leica cameras which he used in his pro and fan work, and walked around with a camera bag which weighed quite a lot. He’d learned photography in the days before zoom lenses, and his bag always contained many rolls of film and numerous lenses.

    He’d had heart problems in the 1990s, and told me he was on medications which adversely affected him—so he stopped taking them.

  7. This is sad news. The first time I met Jay Kay Klein was at MidAmeriCon, and then kept seeing him at assorted cons. Didn’t know him that well, but he was always where the action was. Thank you for the very nice obituary about Jay Kay, Mike, and everyone’s comments here prove how much he will be missed.

  8. Sorry to hear abut JK. He will be missed indeed. I guess he’s taking pictures at the Consuite of the Celestial Tucker Hotel now.

  9. Jay also had a lovely singing voice, which not enough people knew about. We tried to encourage him to join us in concert giving, but he became unnecessarily shy about doing so, preferring to stick strictly to joining in at open sings — but far too rarely, alas.

  10. Jay was an interesting cat to say the least, I looked after him in his final days and made the arrangements for the hospice. The evening he told me what he wanted me to put on his tombstone I had to get up and walk out of the room for a minute to collect myself. We spent a lot of time together while he was still in his house, he directed me as to what should be shipped to UCR Riverside, the first thing I sent was his collection of negatives. They were meticulously filed and categorized by name, thousands of them. He always told me about his “golden vocal chords” yet could not sing a bar due to age and radiation treatments. His legacy meant everything to him. Jay was a gentle, kind man and will certainly be missed by many.

  11. “The evening he told me what he wanted me to put on his tombstone I had to get up and walk out of the room for a minute to collect myself.”

    and ….???????

  12. I thought he was going to say, “The rise and fall of practically everyone”, but it was simply his name, his wifes name, DOB / DOD, married 57 years and Syracuse University Class of 1953. He said he just wanted a little bread box sized memorial, we did a little better than bread box sized! (Needed a little more real estate for what he wanted inscribed) …So it was not so much what he wanted on it, but the cold harsh reality of what was coming next, sooner than later.

  13. Well said, Craig.

    I worked with Melissa Conway to get JK’s legacy into Eaton, a huge improvement for us — and we plan at Eaton to print some notable ones and display them in the collections room. Fans should come see Eaton, in Riverside CA — the largest sf and fmz and sf ms. collection in the world by far.

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