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Monday, November 3, 2008

FORREST J ACKERMAN -- Everyone's Favorite Uncle

To those of us who grew up in the heyday of monster fandom--stoked by a wealth of monster flicks on TV and big-screen viewings at theaters that still ran the vintage films, and forever absorbed in the latest horror/sci-fi comic, magazine, toy, or Aurora model kit--Forrest J Ackerman has always been our beloved "Uncle Forry."

His number was in the phone book, so any kid could look it up and give him a call anytime, and the genial FJA would discuss King Kong, Karloff, or Robby the Robot with him as though they were old friends. Those lucky enough to be in the vicinity of Hollyweird, Karloffornia could even stop by and visit the fabled Ackermansion, a vast repository (it seemed vast to us, anyway) of priceless collectibles from a lifetime of fandom, where Forry lived with his wife, Wendayne, until her passing in 1990. In 2002, financial woes forced him to relocate to smaller digs and sell much of his invaluable collection.

A prolific author himself, Uncle Forry has amassed an astounding collection of sci-fi books over the decades and served as literary agent for many authors including Ed Wood. Among his hundreds of screen appearances are cameo roles in such films as THE TIME TRAVELERS, DEAD ALIVE, THE HOWLING, AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, and ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD. He can also be seen sitting behind Michael Jackson and his girlfriend in a movie theater during the opening minutes of Jackson's "Thriller" video.
If one couldn't make the pilgrimage to the Ackermansion, there was still "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, probably the Ackermonster's greatest and most influential contribution to the genre. Since 1958, future filmmakers and authors such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Stephen King grew up avidly perusing those wonder-filled pages along with the rest of us, sharing Uncle Forry's love and appreciation for the silent classics of Chaney, Lang, and Veidt, the Golden Age of the 30s and 40s, the sensational sci-fi of the 50s, and the later horrors of Hammer, Amicus, and others.

"Famous Monsters" was a lifeline of information and comradeship back in the days before horror, fantasy, and sci-fi went mainstream, when those who were into such stuff might still be looked down upon by decent folk as "weird." Legal dramas and conflicts over ownership of "Famous Monsters" have occupied much of FJA's time in recent years, but few doubt that he was and has always been the heart and soul of FM and the guiding light of fandom in general for a good part of the 20th century and beyond.

Born in 1916, Forrest J Ackerman was going to science fiction conventions in costume, putting out fanzines, starting fan clubs, writing fantasy fiction, and collecting precious film artifacts before most people had even heard the word "sci-fi." At the ripe old age of 92, he can look back on a marvelous career in which he has promoted and participated in every level of fandom with an undying sense of optimism and enthusiasm, forming scores of lasting friendships with not only the biggest names like Ray Bradbury but also the everyday fans from all walks of life.

Now, as he faces failing health and a precarious battle with pneumonia, those of us who have for so long looked to him as a guiding and inspirational figure may find ourselves pausing to reflect on his importance in our lives, and to offer positive thoughts and best wishes for their one and only Uncle Forry. Anyone who wishes to express such thoughts is urged to do so by sending their words of affection and support to this address:

(address deleted)

You can also discuss FJA and read the words of other likeminded fans at the Classic Horror Film Board by clicking here.


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