UNM PROFESSOR HELPED AUTHORS
Gus Blaisdell, a popular college lecturer and bookstore owner, was known for "smoothing the pathway" to help dozens of authors get published, a friend said.
Blaisdell died Wednesday after a heart attack on Central Avenue, four days before his 68th birthday. He operated the Living Batch Bookstore, located next to the Frontier Restaurant, for many years before closing in 1995.
A memorial service for Blaisdell, a cinematic studies instructor at the University of New Mexico, will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at the UNM Alumni Chapel.
People on campus were stunned by his death, said Ira Jaffe, retired chairman of the Department of Media Arts.
Jaffe said there was a lot of shock and grief because Blaisdell was "quite popular." He said Blaisdell typically attracted large classes, sometimes more than 100 students.
Tall and lean with a full beard and disheveled hair, Blaisdell was teaching Images of Women in Film and International Horror Film this semester, Jaffe said.
"He loved to perform," Jaffe said. "He had a great theatrical flair, a great presence. People just found him interesting to look at and to be with ..."
Blaisdell was considered an intellectual in a broad sense because he had formally studied and worked in a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, literature and visual arts such as painting and photography, Jaffe said.
"He had a passion for a variety of subject matter," Jaffe said. "He could bring them all to bear on a particular film or body of films."
Jaffe said Blaisdell was extremely articulate and had a remarkable memory, including the ability to remember shot-by-shot sequences of films.
Blaisdell also was a philosopher, writer and poet who cared about people, said Beth Hadas, former director of UNM Press.
"He had a huge influence on publishing in a lot of different ways," Hadas said.
In addition to being an editor at UNM Press, Blaisdell was "a scout" for several publishers and authors and was instrumental in the development of American Indian literature, she said.
Blaisdell was the editor who helped Scott Momaday's book, "The Way to Rainy Mountain," get published.
"It was probably the most important book UNM has ever published," said Hadas, noting that UNM Press has been around for 74 years.
Hadas said Blaisdell used to ask her to read authors' manuscripts, "smoothing the pathway for people's writing to get published."
Born Charles Augustus Blaisdell II in San Diego, he was the only child of a Navy officer, said Elizabeth Blaisdell, his wife of 12 years.
He was a liberal who called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. one of his heroes.
Blaisdell, a graduate of Stanford University, taught at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology before coming to UNM Press.
His wife said he taught at UNM for nearly 25 years and knew "a zillion people."
Blaisdell also was known for his wit, his jokes and a mastery of accents and personas.
"He had friends in every walk of life," she said. "He was interested in what they were saying and thinking. He was a very good listener. He took people seriously ... He respected women's abilities and felt they had just as much to offer (as men)."
In a 1984 Journal story, Blaisdell said education is the biggest investment the state has, but New Mexico has yet to recognize that fact.
"Education is radical because it keeps democracy alive," he said. "As soon as you reach a certain level of ignorance, democracy has had it. The system is pretty flabby now."
Other survivors include his children, Shawn, Luc and Casey Blaisdell, all of Albuquerque, and Nicole Blaisdell-Ivey of Bozeman, Mont.; their mother, Sally Blaisdell, of Albuquerque; and a stepdaughter, Alexandra Freedman-Smith of Albuquerque.
Memorial donations may be made to the UNM Department of Media Arts to establish the Gus Blaisdell Scholarship in Critical Writing, MSC 042570, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001.
Paul Logan, Staff Writer