Saturday, December 06, 2008

R.I.P. Uncle Forry - Thanks For Everything

It is no exaggeration to say that Forrest J Ackerman made my life better. He also made it possible for so many science fiction, horror and fantasy stories and movies and television to be created, and for today's online world of fans of all those genres exist thanks to him.

Ackerman passed away Thursday at the age of 92 and there will be many remembrances and salutes and some sadness for weeks to come. He was the First Fan, the man who created the very worlds of Fandom. The Uber Fan Boy. His life's work, his home, his influence stretches across decades. There was simply no one like him - he was more than just a fan, he knew everyone from Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, from Ed Wood and Ray Harryhausen to Rick Baker and George Lucas.

He made a welcome and hearty home for the odd folks like me who are fascinated with tales of the fantastic and the mysteries of monsters. He wasn't just a name - he was Uncle Forry to me (and many others around the world.)

Says Stephen King:

When you think of the size of the business, the dollar amount, that has sprung up out of fantasy, the people who made everything from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Jaws,’ ” Mr. King said, “well, Forry was a part of their growing up. The first time I met Steven Spielberg, we didn’t talk about movies. We talked about monsters and Forry Ackerman."

I was about 9 or 10 years old the first time I saw a copy of Ackerman's magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland", and I bought every issue thereafter I could find. The magazine didn't print Fan Mail, it printed Fang Mail. Living in Los Angeles, he called it Horrorwood, Karloffornia. His humor and his deep admiration for all things fantastic made him an astonishing collector and curator and turned his home, the Ackermansion, into the biggest and most celebrated museum of the fantasy and horror genres ever.

He housed items from the silent film "Metropolis" to Spock's pointy ears, and tens of thousands of books and magazines long since out of print.

He earned the prestigious Hugo Award for Number One Fan in 1953, long before he began to publish Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1958. The magazine celebrated the movies of Dracula and Frankenstein, and anything science fiction (he is credited with coining the abbreviation "sci-fi"). Not only was his magazine the only guide to fantastic films, it showed me how to create the make-up and effects used.

As I was growing up in a small town in middle Tennessee, there was no one who liked this stuff as much as I did - except for Uncle Forry. He let me know my curiosity and fascination was part of a huge world. My room soon became a place for Aurora models of The Creature From the Black Lagoon, life-sized posters of Karloff's Frankenstein, models of rocketships and creatures from the stars, and even today I proudly own movie posters and action figures of all kinds.

He also was literary agent for hundreds of now-famous writers, selling the first Ray Bradbury story in 1938, and was, as he called it, "illiterary agent" for director Ed Wood. He was a prolific writer of the fantastic as well and has appeared in over 200 movies.

And his home, which sadly he was forced to sell, along with over many hundreds of thousands of items he had collected from the movies in order to pay escalating medical bills earlier in this decade, that home was always open to visitors. For years and years, he would open his doors on Saturdays and give any and all comers a personal tour. Here is Forry being interviewed in his home:

And here is one fellow fan's video of a trip to the Ackermansion:

Another interview with Uncle Forry includes another comment from Stephen King which I love:
"Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realised that if it was junk, it was magic junk."

Thanks Unc, for all you did and for your endless enthusiasm. You will always be the best that ever was.

Remembrances from fans and celebrities at
Ain't It Cool News.
A Flickr photo set.
His movie credits.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    no comments yet ? what, nobody else from tennessee knows who forrest j.ackerman is ? maybe it was a big weekend. anyway, thanks joe. this is, sadly, the end of an era.........