Musings & Meditations

Forrest J Ackerman, favorite uncle to monster-loving kids, has passed away

Posted in Friends by Pam Keesey on December 5, 2008

My dear friend, Forry Ackerman, died last night at 11:58 p.m. A sweet, generous, and loving man, he passed away peacefully, and surrounded by friends. An extraordinary man, and an extraordinary life well lived.

It was an amazing gift to be able to spend as much time with him as I did in his final days. Reflecting on my time spent with him, I wrote a little history of my friendship with Forry, which you can read here: A Date with Prince Sirki.

Forrest J Ackerman, aka 4SJ of Karloffornia, the Ackermonster

Forrest J Ackerman, aka 4SJ of Karloffornia, aka the Ackermonster

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  1. roberto said, on December 7, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    we all are sad for the news. herei n the south of the world, we are a bunch of people who remember him and his passin
    hope that prince sirki has treated him well

  2. Mike C said, on December 8, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Hey, Pam! I hope you were able to have some good time with him towards the end. I thank you forever for giving me one of the greatest experiences by taking me to California with you for the FM Convention and staying at the Ackermansion.
    Did you read the post at AICN with the letter from Forry? It really hit me hard to read it.

  3. John Steinle said, on December 14, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Pam: Iread your beautiful tribute to Uncle Forry and couldn’t resist sending one of mine that I sent to an old friend who grew up like me, becalmed in Ohio until liberated by Famous Monsters!

    Sorry to continue this seemingly endless blather about “FJA”, but events of my childhood are coming back to me with such force that I feel impelled to say a few more words about Forry Ackerman and his influence on me. This decision has been strengthened by the hundreds of Internet tributes I have read during the past few days, and by seeing “Uncle Forry” included on the TCM listing of notables who died this year.

    When I say that I eagerly anticipated each issue of Forry’s publication, Famous Monsters of Filmland, I am understating things considerably. I would walk halfway across town to the little newstand on High Street just to get the latest copy. I have to explain that this was decades before VHS tapes, DVD’s, the Internet, Blu-Ray, YouTube, or any of the other devices that now allow us to see almost anything we want on instant demand. To see the classic monster movies we loved, we had to wait until they were on Shock Theater or shown Saturday afternoon on one of the six stations we could get. Otherwise, our only link to the Chaneys, Karloff, Lugosi, Price, Lorre, and all the others was through Famous Monsters.

    My wonderful parents must have been the most indulgent, loving people in the world, along with my other family and friends, to put up with years of my bad imitations of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, and Peter Lorre. Whatever infinitesimal artistic talent I may have had I used incessantly drawing pictures of Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, etc. A friend had one of those projectors that you could use by drawing pictures on a strip of paper and we made up a story for it including my drawings of all our monster buddies. I even felt the urge to become a movie makeup man and spent hours in the basement experimenting with greasepaint, spirit gum, latex, and collodion.

    What a thrill it was for my 11-or-12 year-old self to walk by myself into the tiny Rossville Theater on the west side of Hamilton, Ohio to see a double bill including Curse of the Werewolf with Oliver Reed, and Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee! An even bigger thrill came when my Dad took me to the Ramona drive-in to see a TRIPLE BILL of The Spider, The Fly, and The Bat! And what a triumph when I finally steeled myself to watch ALL of King Kong on TV!

    Along with all of Forry’s awful puns in Famous Monsters, he included a considerable amount of solid information about the films he loved. Entire issues were devoted to analyses of Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, King Kong, etc. These articles were illustrated with many of the rare movie stills from Forry’s collection, including behind-the-scenes production photos and beautiful concept artwork by Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen. He also paid a lot of attention to German silent cinema classics such as Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem, Die Nibelungen, and Fritz Lang’s 1926 science fiction masterpiece, Metropolis, with its eerily beautiful female robot, the “false Maria”. This led many of us from a love of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror films to an appreciation of film history in general, and in my case to writing a biography of D.W. Griffith for the Australian film webzine, Senses of Cinema.

    In contrast to my previous, sloppily sentimental appreciation of Forry, the autobituary he wrote in 2003 reveals that he was an atheist who did not believe in the soul or an afterlife. Here are a few quotes from that document, which I read on the Blogue Macabre web site:

    … On his death bed Al Jolson breathed “I’m going!” I hope kind fate allows me long enough when I feel the end is near to record on tape “Science Fiction”, to die with my lifetime passion on my lips, then close my eyes and wait for my last breath.

    … I’m convinced the colossal Cosmos couldn’t care less about the little specks of life on Earth called human beings.

    When my brain ceases to function and my consciousness evanesces, I will never know there was an individual named Forry Ackerman who loved science fiction with all his heart and nonexistent soul, that he read it, wrote it, collected it, agented it, joined clubs, received awards, attended more World Science Fiction Conventions than anyone else. He will never know he learned Esperanto, traveled all over the globe, welcomed over 50,000 fans into his home. He will never know he was an inhabitant of a planet variously known as Earth, Erde, Terre, Tero and other names in a multitude of languages. He will universe out there with billions of bonfires in the skies called stars. NOTHING will he know.

    … A statue of me may be erected in the museum of the Science Fiction Experience, or better yet an animatronic robot in my form like the one of Abraham Lincoln in Disneyland.

    …Well, that’s about as far as my ego-oriented imagination can take me.

    Soon ring down the imaginary curtain and all aboard for Final Blackout.

    … My maternal grandfather died with a beatific smile on his face as though he were seeing angels or loved ones. Maybe I’ll get lucky and imagine my mother calling, as she did when I was a child, “Forry boy, come and take your nap”.

    My blest wishes for anyone who may care to have them.

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