Musings & Meditations

A Date with Prince Sirki

Posted in Art & Society, Friends, Sexuality and Culture by Pam Keesey on November 22, 2008

Death, the one appointment we all must keep, and for which no time is set.

 — Charlie Chan

Some of you know that I’ve spent the last two and a half weeks in Los Angeles with a dear friend who, soon to be 92, is nearing the end of his life. When I left somewhat unexpectedly, we weren’t sure that he was going to make it through the night. He did, and showed considerable improvement until the following Saturday, when we thought once again we were to be witness to his date with Prince Sirki, the figure of Death as portrayed by Frederic March in Death Takes a Holiday (1934). An atheist since the age of 15, Forry has often spoken of the end of his life as his date with Prince Sirki, and it seems that the time of their rendezvous is fast approaching.

For those of you who are familiar with Forrest J Ackerman, he needs no introduction. For those of you who might not know him, his names are legion: 4SJ, the Ackermonster, Dr. Ackula, Les Angeleno, Weaver Wright, Laurajean Ermayne. While there is no question that Forry was influential in the formation of science fiction and horror film, writing, and fandom, it remains to be seen if the monumental influence of Forrest J Ackerman on the world of speculative film and fiction can be quantified.

Forry, born in 1916, discovered science fiction in 1926 through the magazine Amazing Stories. He was a founding member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, the first of its kind, where he befriended the equally young Ray Harryhausen (Mighty Joe Young, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) and Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451). He later became Ray Bradbury’s first literary agent, at one time represented L. Ron Hubbard and Robert Bloch, as well as many others, and has famously said that he was Ed Wood’s “illiterary” agent. He coined the term “sci-fi,” a term that, I’m told, will soon have an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary citing him as the originator.

Forry is, perhaps, most well known for his monster movie magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, first published in 1958, and as the creator of the sexy vampire alien comic book character, Vampirella, first published in 1969. In his years editing Famous Monsters, Forry became friends with some of the most famous names in the industry, including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Fritz Lang, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price, just to name a few.

I wasn’t the avid Famous Monsters reader growing up that most I’ve met through Forry have been. But I was a fan, and know that it was his influence that helped pave the way for the plethora of monster movies, music, and pop culture that was so formative in my early years. Forry has raised several generations of monster kids, and has been fondly referred to as “Uncle Forry” by innumerable fans, young and old alike.

An extraordinary number of today’s most well known names and faces credit Forry as one of their earliest influences: Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas, John Landis, Rick Baker, Tom Savini, and so many others. Even Gene Simmons has recently written that “Forrest J Ackerman invented Gene Simmons.” In a wonderful line from his tribute to Forry in the magazine Rue Morgue, Gene writes, “I am all I am because Forrest J Ackerman taught me to love and respect the monster/sci-fi genre.” And he isn’t the only one. 

I first met Forry in 1994 at Gaylaxicon after my first book was published. I was invited as a professional guest, and had no idea who the guest of honor was. In fact, I was completely new to the whole science fiction convention phenomenon, this being only the second convention I’d been invited to. I wandered into the main event space, and there was Forrest J Ackerman, sitting in a chair, casually chatting with people who stopped by to have a word or two with him. I joined the fray, thinking that this would be my one opportunity to tell him how much he and his magazine meant to me. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Forry made kids like me — introverts, geeks, misfits — feel like they belonged somewhere. Which is why Forry had been invited to this gathering of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered science fiction, fantasy, and horror aficionados. Little did they know just how much a part of gay culture Forry was. An avid reader, Forry discovered lesbianism in Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. He shared it with a woman friend who was also a science fiction fan, and in those pages, she found herself reflected back. Adopting the pen name Lisa Ben (an anagram of lesbian), she started the first lesbian themed magazine, Vice Versa, which first appeared in 1947. Lisa hoped her friends would contribute to this new endeavor, but afraid of being outed, they chose not to. Lisa turned to Forry and asked him to write for the magazine. Forry enthusiastically agreed and, under the pen name Laurajean Ermayne, wrote lesbian romance and fantasy stories. In Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-century America, Laurajean Ermayne is quoted as a formative figure in the development of lesbian fiction. Forry was also involved with the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in the U.S. formed in 1955, who named him an honorary lesbian for his support for and assistance to the organization.

Forry and I have been good friends since that fateful day in July 1994. Through him I’ve met people that I would never have otherwise had the pleasure to meet; not only Stephen Spielberg, John Landis, Rick Baker, Tom Savini, and Gene Simmons, but also Ray Bradbury, Vampira, Elvira, Hugh Hefner, Martin Landau, Olivia. I’m not even sure I can remember all those I’ve brushed shoulders with because I was by Forry’s side.

Most importantly, there are the lifelong friends I’ve made in L.A. and around the world that I would never have met if it hadn’t been for Forry: Joe, Jessica, Ogre, John, Glen, Lee, and many others. And, of course, there is Forry himself. I’ll never be able to fully express just how much he has touched my life, what an influence he has been, or just how much this dear, sweet man means to me.

And perhaps, whether you are aware of it or not, he has touched your life in some way through his words, his work, and his influence.

I love you, Forry, and I treasure the time I have left with you.

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6 Responses

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  1. James P. Roberts said, on December 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Interesting! According to my journal, I met you for the first time at Minn-Con in October of 1994, so you were still somewhat of a neophyte then? I think I told you of my meeting Forry at the World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis in 2002. Glad you have been able to spend time with him. I miss you so mucho, mucho gracias.

  2. […] A Date with Prince Sirki Tagged with: Grief « A Date with Prince Sirki […]

  3. Curt Rowlett said, on December 5, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for posting this; your mini-biography is nicely done and shows the life of an extraordinary person who gave the rest of us something that was totally unique.

    Rest in peace, Forry. The world is a lesser place without you.

  4. Terry Pace said, on December 7, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Beautiful, Pam!
    We love you,
    Terry Pace

  5. Paula Villegas said, on December 9, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Hello Pam,
    Paula here. Remember me? I lost contact with you years ago
    I am still living in Los Angeles, writing short stories and studying psychology.

    I am so grateful that you remained a friend to Forry and were able to be the wonderful support to him that he at one time told me he viewed as so true, deep and sincere.

    I hope to see you if you are still here in Los Angeles.
    Please email me if you are.
    I asked about you at Dark Delicacies, but they didn’t know how to reach you.

    Paula V.

  6. John C Stoskopf said, on December 22, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Wonderful tribute, Pam.

    You have said it all concerning our beautiful Uncle Forry.


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