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Mark Halegua (1953-2020), R.I.P.

Posted in Pulp People on March 26, 2020 @ 9:35 pm

Last night I learned that long-time friend and fellow pulp collector Mark Halegua passed away on March 18th at the age of 66. After he failed to respond to multiple e-mails and phone calls over a period of several days, a mutual friend called the NYPD and asked them to visit Mark at his apartment in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens. The police first performed an on-line check, which revealed that Mark had passed away from unnamed “medical complications” and that his next of kin had been notified.

I was momentarily shocked but not altogether surprised to learn of his death. Mark had been in poor health for some time. He was already diabetic when he suffered a serious heart attack last August. He spent several months in hospital and then in a rehab facility; during this time he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and put on diuretics to flush excess fluid out of his body. Eventually he developed kidney disease and was undergoing dialysis three times weekly. I don’t know if Mark contracted Covid-19, but his underlying conditions certainly put him in the high-risk category. He would have been among patients least likely to survive the virus.

Those of you who frequently attend pulp conventions would remember Mark as a regular attendee. More often than not he could be found in the dealers room, selling everything from vintage magazines to T-shirts adorned with pulp covers to CDs loaded with cover scans. He also peddled these wares from his Pulps 1st website. Mark was a big guy, hard to miss, with a ready smile and a hearty laugh that reverberated in even the biggest space.

Back in the early Seventies I used to see him at a large comic-book convention staged in New York City every July 4th weekend. He was just a guy I passed in the dealers-room aisles; I knew him by face but not by name. Oddly, I met his brother Richie more than a decade before I got to know Mark. For many years Rich Halegua was a prominent dealer in original comic art and I was one of his customers. Got many good pieces from him.

At the 1997 Pulpcon in Bowling Green, Ohio, I recognized Mark from the comic-book conventions and introduced myself. During our first brief conversation I learned he was a fan and collector of the “Thrilling Group” pulps edited by Leo Margulies and published by Ned Pines. He was compiling complete sets of The Phantom Detective, Black Book Detective (with his favorite character, the Black Bat), and Captain Future, among others. He liked hero pulps in general and also had a fondness for science fiction.

I can’t honestly say Mark and I became close friends, but we interacted every year at Pulpcon and I occasionally ran into him at a small monthly New York gathering of comic-book collectors. My own interest in comics had long since dissipated, but a few of that show’s regular dealers also carried pulps. One day I remember approaching a merchant who was patiently listening to Mark chide him for charging too much for his pulp magazines. The guy easily could have snapped, “If you don’t like my prices, get the hell away from my table.” To his credit, though, he took Mark’s tongue-lashing with equanimity. After finishing the tirade Mark strode off, waves of righteous indignation rippling in his wake as he clomped away. Years later I teased him about that event. “But,” he replied, “his prices were too high.” He wasn’t a bit embarrassed to be reminded of his outburst.

Mark selling his wares at the 2011 PulpFest.

By 2005 Mark was not only attending Pulpcon each summer, he also was patronizing the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention every April and New Jersey’s Pulp Adventurecon every November. But being around pulps and pulp aficionados three times a year still wasn’t enough for him. After making inquiries he arranged to commandeer the meeting room at a downtown branch of the New York Public Library for monthly Saturday-afternoon meetings of what he called the Gotham Pulp Collectors Club. The club met for the first time that November. The charter members were Mark, Chris Kalb, Robert Lesser, Leo Doroschenko, and myself. With very few exceptions the group has assembled every month since. It’s gone through several venues and currently meets at the Muhlenberg Library on Manhattan’s West 23rd Street. The membership has grown to nearly two dozen people and roughly half of them are present at any given meeting.

Mark took great pleasure in the Club’s success and longevity, and constantly advocated for new members. In the last year or two, even in fragile health, he looked forward to every meeting—and even more so to the “after-meeting,” which consists of group dining at the local coffee shop. Those sessions are often lively, to say the least. During last month’s meal Mark and I got into a heated argument over politics. But as was always the case following such eruptions, we left the diner with no hard feelings. “See you next month,” Mark called to me as he shuffled up 23rd Street.

This month’s meeting was scheduled for last Saturday, the 21st. As it happens, New York’s libraries are closed to groups like ours due to Coronavirus concerns. But I wouldn’t have seen Mark anyway. He died last Wednesday.

I noted earlier that Mark and I weren’t especially close friends. Occasionally we swapped e-mails between meetings, and on rare occasions one of us phoned the other. I often kidded him, sometimes mercilessly, although he gave as good as he got. But there was never any rancor between us. And when you’ve been sitting next to a guy every third Saturday for 15 years, you get used to him. Mark enjoyed being around pulps and enjoyed being around pulp collectors even more. I’ll miss him.

Mark at the 2017 Windy City convention.

14 thoughts on “Mark Halegua (1953-2020), R.I.P.

  1. I recall several years ago ads in Craig’s List selling Pulps. i reached out a few times but never got the chance to make the connection. I once pulled the location up on Google maps and the seller was in Ridgewood. The guy, in our communications told me he had a lot more pulps than what he had listed in the ad.

    This must have been him! Too bad we never met.

  2. Nice piece, Ed. Mark was one of the first people I met at my first Pulpcon (22?) in Dayton. I remember him being very talkative, friendly and perspiring. I wss pleased to be “making contact” with someone, as I was a newbie. Always exchanged friendly greetings with him in the years since, and I was shocked to hear of his death, not having been familiar with his health issues. RIP, Mark…

  3. Since I handled registrations for PulpFest I was the one who received his checks and other info. Always included in his mail was a reminder to try and supply him with a Diet A&W Root Beer. He received it, more often than not. PulpFest will miss him.

  4. Wonderful piece,Ed. I’m personally gonna miss the big guy. He the diehard Yankees fan and me a loyal Red Sox follower. He’d never miss a chance to rib me when we’d hook up at cons. Damn, but he always had a funny story to tell.

  5. When I was still attending cons I would always make a point of stopping at Mark’s table. I bought mostly t-shirts and bs about this and that. A very nice guy. So sad he passed alone.

  6. I posted this on pulpmagazines group earlier.

    I don’t think Mark made it to 2019 Pulpfest. He’d been a fixture there as long as I can remember, with his table of pulp cover CDs. He once told me the money he made from the sales covered his attendance expenses.

    Mark said that after 2011 Tropical Storm Irene, he went to his rental storage unit to find it partly underwater and many of his comics and pulps stored there ruined.

    He said he used to go walking every day, health permitting, with others in his NYC neighborhood. One day he mentioned his interest in pulps and a woman whose husband had recently died said her husband had had a collection of sf magazines and did he want them? Free. Mark went to her house to find boxes and boxes of early Astounding issues. He was very happy about that.

    A sad event. Mark will be missed.

  7. I have known Mark since the early 90s when I started attending PulpCon.

    Being a “New Yorker”, especially if said with the accent, Mark felt he had no need for a car.

    I drove Mark to several PulpCons and PulpFests. (For most of the past 25+ trips to Pulp(Con|Fest) I have gone with somebody; Fred Brouette, Rich Harvey, Al Tonik, and Mark.)

    I got to see the non-convention side of Mark on these trips. All of his aspects fit together seamlessly. He wasn’t shallow, it was when you heard about some other part of him that you were not surprised he thought that way.

  8. Good to put a face to the name. I used to go to the pulp meetings when they were down in that library near Houston Street, but haven’t attended for a long time.

    I sent the notice of his death to several people and such news blogs as File770.com .

  9. Thanks for your fine tribute, Ed. I did not know Mark well but I always enjoyed chatting with him at pulp shows. He always seemed genuinely pleased when I would find something at his table. I always appreciated his enthusiasm. RIP, Mark.

  10. Excellent post on Mark. I can’t remember when I actually met him, but it had to be at Pulpcon. He was a very nice person and I’m sorry to hear of his passing. He was rightfully proud of the organization that he founded — the Gotham Pulp Collectors Club. I hope it lives on for many years to come.

  11. Thanks for publishing this.
    I met Mark in the mid 1970s. We were part of a weekly poker game. he was a very smart guy, with a power below the surface that was very rarely discernible. He was a computer expert who had a good client base for a while. And he was my go-to guy for computer advice. Before he got into pulps, he had collected a full run of Batman comics, starting with issue #1, and he kept it current. Despite his failing health, he came out to see a staged reading of something I had written.
    Old friend, you’ve hopefully found peace now.

  12. Mark was my friend. We visited for years, and I will miss him. Nobody pronounced my somewhat unusual first name like Mark. I loved who he was, his sincere friendship, and his New York City voice. Good man, smart man, big-hearted man. God’s Speed, Brother. Garyn

  13. One more Mark story: As was earlier mentioned, Mark used to create cds with all kinds of pulp cover scans. For years, I used these in my college classes—especially classes in Science Fiction, Detective Fiction, and the like. Students used to really enjoy these images.

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