Hey folks, Harry here... Peter Jackson wrote a lengthy piece about his love for Forrest Ackerman, and sent in a personal photo, from quite some time ago now. Peter and I became friends initially through our passion for the original KING KONG, however I can't even begin to tell you how often we've discussed our mutual admiration for all things Ackerman. He sent this in today and wanted me to share it with all of you. Here's Peter...
Forry's death was not unexpected. Thanks to Harry, we had a few weeks to prepare ourselves, and I've found myself thinking about Forry a lot recently. Telling people about him, finding old photographs like this one.
Forry was such a strong part of my growing up and becoming a film maker. I dreamt of making movies one day - and giving Forry some of my props for his collection. I dreamt of getting Forry to do a cameo in one of my films. His magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, became an obsession. I wanted to collect every issue.
He united a generation - more than one generation actually, and that's obvious because whenever you read anybody's tribute to Forry, you only have to substitute names and locations and it pretty much becomes your story.
I was at the tail end. I remember standing in a bookstore on holiday with my parents reading the FM issue with the Seventh Voyage skeleton fight on the cover. It was in the early "100's". I found a single bookstore back home that sold FM ... # 115 was one of the first I bought.
You couldn't separate Famous Monsters from Forry. People sometimes criticize him for that today, saying he was on some kind of ego trip, featuring photos and stories about himself in every issue. But what fun! We were all very fond of Forry and his silly puns, but behind it you recognized a deep love and respect for the genre and people who devoted their lives to entertaining others.
When FM was reborn a few years ago without Forry, it wasn't the same. Not even close - what was the point? Forry became the Uncle we all wanted. The wise adult who whispered to us kids that it was ok to love Dracula and Frankenstein. But Forry's self-deprecating humour also told us not to take it too seriously ... in fact very little in life should be taken seriously. Good lessons for kids.
My favourite part of the magazine was the "Captain Company" classified ads. Just as the magazine celebrated fantasy, I would actually fill in the forms to buy every amazing mask and Super 8 movie I wanted. These forms never got ripped out, or sent - I had no money, but I loved writing down the lists and pretending I was going to order them! My old issues are full of young teen Peter's dream shopping lists.
I did get good marks in one school exam, and my Mum and Dad bought me a set of four Seventh Voyage Super 8 films as reward. Another time, I saved up and got the Jason skeleton fight film reel. I cried when I ripped that Captain Company envelope open (it took about 6 months to deliver anything to New Zealand).
My parents took me to England for 3 months when I was 12 years old. It was the first time I ever flew, and I had to write out my "last will and testament" before leaving. I never told my parents, but I left everything to Forry. At that stage, my worldly goods amounted to several Tintin books and a pencil case - but Forry meant so much to me, it was all going to him if the Jumbo Jet had gone down.
I remember a turning point in 1977, when Star Wars arrived. That movie has been responsible for inspiring huge numbers of kids into making careers in genre entertainment - the most inspirational film since the original King Kong, but I always feel it was the beginning of the end of Famous Monsters magazine. I used to look forward to each issue and it's wonderful Gogos (or Gogos-inspired) cover painting. When Star Wars arrived, the paintings gave way to colour photographs. A flood of genre magazines hit the news stands and FM took a wrong turn - trying to compete with them all, instead of hanging on to what made it unique. It was never quite the same again.
The first time I saw Forry, I was too scared to meet him. I went to an LA Sci-Fi convention with a friend from NZ, and saw Forry signing autographs. I was too shy to say hello, because I somehow didn't know what to say. How much he'd meant to me? How I'd once willed him everything I owned? It was too big a moment for me and I froze.
A few years later, he came down to New Zealand as the main guest of a Wellington Sci-Fi Convention. In my home town! I was able to give him a mask from Bad Taste, and a puppet from Meet the Feebles for his collection. I'm sure he'd never seen the movies, but he received them with enthusiasm. One dream fulfilled!
He was only in Wellington for a few days, and I was hoping to make Braindead (Dead Alive) a few months later. I had no budget and no script, but knew one scene would take place at the zoo. So I asked Forry to do a cameo and took him up to the zoo in my car, along with my 16mm Bolex camera. I gave him a 1950's hat and coat to wear, and he supplied a copy of FM#1, which he seemed to carry around where ever he went. The movie was set in 1957, so it was perfect! I shot a few angles of him reading the magazine, then "reacting with horror" to whatever we would shoot months later. It was all cut short in the most embarrassing way - a zoo official came charging up, demanding to know what we were doing, and I tried to calm him down. He was pretty angry and I felt myself turning bright red as Forry looked on.
We scuttled away, but I had enough footage in the can to get a genuine Forry Ackerman cameo out of it!
Later he came to my house, and posed for the dream photo I include here - Forry in my house, holding an issue of FM featuring the Kong Pterodactyl, with me holding the actual Pterodactyl model from Forry's collection. It's real headspinning geekout stuff! I cringe a little now, when I realise how carried away I was, asking Forry to sign my issues of Famous Monsters ... all of them. I can still see the rather helpless smile on his face when I showed up with the great stack of magazines.
A couple of years later, I visited him in LA and got to have a tour of the old Ackermansion. I was glad I did, because Forry went through hard times soon after that. He starting selling his stuff. Hopefully it found good homes. I bought some of the Kong armatures I'd worshipped for nearly 40 years. I didn't haggle with Forry - I just paid whatever he asked for them, happy to be looking after them for a while, and happy to be helping Forry in his older years. I'm hoping to get them on display in the not-to-distant future. Treasures like those need to be available for people to enjoy - that was a lesson from Forry.
Forry was a product of his time - a unique blend of the individual and world in which he lived. It could never happen again quite like that, and all of us who grew up with him share a very special experience that's hard to describe. Forry's own account of his death makes for somber reading - but I for one don't quite buy into all his theories. He hasn't disappeared into an endless nothingness. He's up to mischief of some sort, wherever he is.
Hey folks, Harry here... The following letter comes from a fan of Forry's. A fan, who was once pictured in the magazine with the phrase, "More Fans Like This One!" - he has come to tell you his tale of the Ackermonster...
Harry, I know you have had hundreds of readers' emails sent to you about how Forrest J. Ackerman influenced their lives and even their careers. I am not a special effects wizard or an academy award winning director but I am someone who was personally influenced by the man known as the Ackermonster. Growing up during the sixties, I had always felt like an outsider as a child. While my older brother was into building model cars, I only wanted Aurora kits featuring the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula and so on. My parents wondered what was going on with a child that wanted to only watch and play with things that scared him half the time and gave him nightmares quite often. I was fortunate enough to have a local grocery store nearby that sold Famous Monsters of Filmland so that at the age of six in 1962, I was able to be scared silly by this magazine. I wrote letters to Forrest J. Ackerman when I was a child wanting to tell him how I could relate to the Frankenstein monster or Larry Talbot. They were people who had no control over being different from others and yet they did their best to overcome the odds against them. With all the letters and requests that Mr. Ackerman was receiving from around the world, he took the time to write me a letter back telling me he was impressed by how I felt about the monsters and my perception of their plight. We began a yearly correspondence from 1962 through 1970 in which he published many of the letters I would send into Famous Monsters complimenting him on his articles. I was even fortunate enough to have my picture printed in one of the issues with the byline: "we need more fans like him". I have to tell you, I was in seventh heaven when that magazine was purchased. It was like winning the Nobel Peace Prize having Uncle Forry choose me as an example of an FM fan. When I became a teenager, I drifted away from the magazine and writing letters to Mr. Ackerman. I still was in love with horror films but other interests took up much of my time. Throughout the years, I always swore that I would visit the Ackermansion and of course I never did for a very long time. Finally, during the 1990's, I was in a position to make that pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Horror. In 1994, I had my first visit to Forrest J. Ackerman's home. It was on a Saturday and I was there at 11:00 a.m. on the spot to be greeted by the man himself. It was an unbelievable experience to meet Mr. Ackerman and be led throughout the different levels of his home filled to the brim with everything involving horror, science fiction and fantasy. I was amazed that people from places as far as Japan and France were their that day to to see Mr. Ackerman. Once inside, Mr. Ackerman gave us a guided tour of the volumes of science fiction books and magazines he had collected throughout the years , many of which were first editions. I walked among science fiction and horror props scattered everywhere. I saw dinosaurs from King Kong, flying saucers from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, even sheet music from James Bernard of the original score for Horror of Dracula. After we toured the house, Mr. Ackereman took us into his den and started reminiscing about all the actors, writers and directors that had visited his mansion. All of us were like children listening to our favorite uncle telling us our favorite bedtime stories. For the next six years, I came back to visit that wonderful magical mansion. I found out memorable tidbits during those visits including that fact that John Landis is afraid of the Chucky doll and would ask Mr. Ackerman to put the doll away when he would visit. I aslo found out that the hated rivalry between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff shown in the film Ed Wood was just Hollywood gossip concocted by the screenwriters. When Mr. Ackerman spoke about details like this, I really felt like an insider to his world which made me feel fantastic. But as all of you who met this man will know, he made everyone feel important and special in his home. He never took his readers for granted and was never cavalier about all he had done. He was a humble man and anyone who says differently from that never met him. The last time I saw him in 2000, I had brought my son to visit for the first time. Our flight had arrived late on that special Saturday. I knew that the tour that day was over so since it was almost evening, I just dropped by the Ackermansion in hopes that my son would get to say a quick hello. I buzzed Mr. Ackerman on his intercom and he answered right away. I explained my plight and said I only wanted my son to meet him and shake his hand. (The hand of the man who had influenced my taste in books, movies and television) This influence in turn had been passed onto my son. Well, Mr. Ackerman was actually packing his suitcases since he was going out of the country the next day. I apologized for inconveniencing him and said we would leave right away. Mr. Ackerman said we didn't have to leave and that he would make time to show my son around his mansion. I told him that I could just tell him about the mansion in general so Forry could finish his packing. And then the surprise came. Forry stated that since I had been to his mansion many times before, it would be alright for me to give my son a tour of the mansion. I have to tell you that there are no words to describe the glee I felt in being trusted by Mr. Ackerman to take me son throughout his mansion and guide him through all the artifacts. It's an experience that my son and I always talk about especially when we go to horror conventions. To top it off, I saw the magazine rack where old issues of Famous Monsters could be bought from Mr. Ackerman. On the top rack was a watch case, which when opened contained an Ackermonster wrist watch in mint condition. I told Mr. Ackerman that I would pay anythimng he wanted for it but that I really had to have it. And as you probably guessed, he told me to take it as a gift for being such a loyal fan of his magazine. I am looking at that watch right now and my eyes are tearing up. He was and will always be my Uncle Forry. I was able to reach him by phone three weeks ago and tell him what he meant to me, my son and my daughter. I so wanted him to meet my daughter. She also loves horror, science fiction and fantasy because of Mr. Ackerman. My son is a dad now and his five year old son loves horror films. I know I have been rambling here but this is a person who has influenced a whole generation of my family from me, to my son, to my daughter and to my grandson. I have pictures and videos of the Ackermansion in all its glory and the man himself. I just watched a video of him I took where he said Ed Wood Jr. would call him at three in the morning with a great idea for a new film. All Mr. Ackerman had to do was lend him three thousand dollars and he could get started on it. The next image is of Forrest J. Ackerman laughing about the outcome of his story. I miss him know and will always remember him. I just wish all these directors that were influenced by him had done something to keep Forrest from losing the Ackermansion and selling many of his prized possessions. I know he will be buried with Bele Lugosi's ring from Dracula, as it should be. He shall not be forgotten and the world is a little less fun and scary without his presence. Thank you for taking the time to read this. DRP Nashville