Forrest J. Ackerman ailing, ‘Wild Wild West’ on DVD and ‘Fanboys’ in Everyday Hero headlines

Nov. 04, 2008 | 6:24 p.m.

Your handpicked headlines from the fanboy universe …

Forrest J. Ackerman

This is the 50th anniversary of the founding of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" by Forrest J. Ackerman, a man who almost single-handedly shaped the very essence of horror and science-fiction fandom. Uncle Forry, as he was affectionately known, was not only a fan, he has been an inspiring figure and friend to several generations of creators (he was Ed Wood’s literary agent, which is just wonderful to consider). Ackerman is now 91 and a beloved figure, and hailed by far-reaching and disparate creators that include  Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Stephen King, Tim Burton and Gene Simmons. Right now, according to Harry Knowles, a lot of those people are reaching out to the Los Angeles native because he is ailing. Knowles writes: "I spoke briefly with Forrest J. Ackerman earlier today, he wasn’t sounding very strong, it hurt to hear his voice knowing that it wouldn’t be here with us much longer. But at the same time, it was nice to say goodbye to one another. Ackerman is one of the founders of my love of cinema. My father is the geek he is, because of his magazine — and I’m the geek I am because of his magazine as well as the influence it had on my father. That magazine was, of course, ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’. In speaking with Uncle Forry’s caretaker, an amazing gentleman named Joe Moe, I was told that Forry was lucid, peaceful and not even on pain medication, but that he was progressively getting worse — and was ready to move on … Many friends of Forry have visited his bedside, hearing one last story, one last pun and to say one last goodbye. Ray Bradbury even flew to his bedside. We here at AICN are preparing a fitting memorial — and something, most likely, permanent to AICN."

Darth Vader logo‘Fanboys’ for life: I ran into filmmaker Kyle Newman at the Spike TV Scream 2008 Awards a few weeks ago and he gave a weary shrug when I asked about his movie "Fanboys," the small-budget, oft-delayed comedy about a group of geeks breaking into Skywalker Ranch. He shot the film in 2006 and so far the only positive thing to come out of it was he fell in love with one of his stars, Jamie King ("Sin City," "The Spirit"), who is now his wife. The movie features a cast that looks like a Comic-Con autograph hall: William Shatner, the ubiquitous Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, Jason Mewes, Ray Park and Sam Huntington. All delays will create an uphill struggle for the movie but the new trailer does have some fun moments. You can see the brand-new, high-quality version of the trailer at Yahoo.

'Wild Wild West' starsJames Bond on Horseback: When I was a kid I was fascinated with reruns of "The Wild Wild West" starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as domestic spies in Reconstruction-era America. Susan King has an interview with the 73-year-old Conrad to discuss the release today of a 27-disc DVD set collecting the entire 1965-1969 show. King writes: "Another hallmark of the show was its villains, none more infamous than the brilliant, demonic Miguelito Loveless — played by Michael Dunn, who was less than 4 feet tall. ‘He stayed at my house when he came to town,’ said Conrad. ‘He came from New York and we were personal friends. On Saturday we had a touch football game. We played different studios and he was the referee. He refereed on a golf cart.’ Dunn even had a drink named after him at a watering hole across the street from the studio. ‘It was real powerful drink,’ said Conrad. ‘He was real proud of it.’ Conrad also remembered Boris Karloff guest-starring. ‘He was an icon. I watched him when I was a little boy and here he was playing one of the bad guys.’ The show also attracted Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. — ‘nobody turned down the show because they all liked it,’ added Conrad." [Los Angeles Times]

– Geoff Boucher

Forrest J. Ackerman at his home in 1969, photographed by Jack Carrick/Los Angeles Times. "The Wild, Wild West" image from the Los Angeles Times archives.

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6 Responses to Forrest J. Ackerman ailing, ‘Wild Wild West’ on DVD and ‘Fanboys’ in Everyday Hero headlines

  1. Reg Hartt says:

    Saying thank you to the Ackermonster
    If someone were to ask, “Which man, outside of your father, was the most important man in your life?” I would have to answer, “Forrest J Ackerman.”
    If I were to be asked, “What is the most important book you have read?” I would have to reply. “It was not a book. It was a magazine called ‘FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.’”
    I am writing this this morning because the best friend of my childhood has but moments, days, at most just a few months before Prince Sirki takes him to join Lon Chaney, father and son, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price Fritz Lang and so many more.
    I grew up in a small town in New Brunswick, Canada, called Chipman.
    There was not much there beyond what nature provided.
    One day two women opened a drug store.
    Now we had a drug store already. It was old, stale (even the sealed bags of potato chips tasted stale) run by an old, stale man. He carried a few magazines and a handful of paperback books.
    These two women had a soda fountain where they offered giant cones of ice cream for 25 cents. People came from miles around for the ice cream.
    They also had a huge rack filled with magazines and newspapers and a huge display of paperback books.
    One day I walked in and saw a magazine that caught my eye at once.
    On the cover was a color picture of Oliver Reed as a werewolf. It was called FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. It was issue number twelve. The year was 1961.
    Inside its pages I discovered fascinating pictures from movies I had never heard of but was sure I had to see.
    I also found the first half of the story, “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell which was the basis for the science fiction film classic, “THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.”
    Part two was to come out in FAMOUS MONSTERS # 3 but that issue did not appear.
    Issue number 14 appeared and all the issues after that. To read the end of the story I had to order issue # 13 from the publisher. I ordered all the back copies as well.
    Mr. Ackerman always put his name as Forrest J Ackerman with no period after the J.
    I started putting my name as Reginald W Hartt with no period after the W.
    My English teacher docked me marks.
    I did not know it then but that was the beginning of becoming my own person, an act for which we always pay a penalty. If we are content to get with the program, go with the flow we don’t get docked but the only fish that go with the flow are the dead ones.
    I always loved to read. Thanks to Forry and FAMOUS MONSTERS my reading accelerated. I began to read modern fantasy, horror and science fiction. I discovered Judith Merril, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, James Blish, Philip K. Dick and a host of others.
    I went to the guy who ran the local movie house and tried to get him to show THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919).
    He looked at me as if I was a one kid Communist plot bent on putting him out of business.
    FAMOUS MONSTERS had ads for all kinds on neat stuff from a place called CAPTAIN COMPANY. This included back issues of the magazine, 8mm digests of movies and the best masks ever.
    In addition to the back issues I ordered the 8mm movies and the masks. I was, in the eyes of everyone but myself, wasting my hard earned newspaper boy money.
    That Halloween Hollywood’s most famous monsters terrorized Chipman, and I mean terrorized.
    It being Halloween I figured everyone would get the gag.
    Well, they did not.
    My friends and I shuffled around the town dressed as Frankenstein’s monster, the wolfman, the mummy, the hunchback, the man with the melted face, and Death .
    We scared the beejeezus out of the town.
    For months afterward all people could talk about was the monsters that had scared the urine out of them. My friends and I had a hard time keeping a straight face.
    Years passed.
    In 1968 some kids came to one of my shows from a place called ROCHDALE COLLEGE. They told me about a woman there named Judith Merril.
    I rushed over to meet her.
    I was skinny, pre-punk punk dressed head to foot in black and, she told me years later, I scared the feces out of her.
    But…
    I had 8mm prints of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, and more.
    Judy sponsored me as a resource person at Rochdale.
    Into my life that year also came Jane Jacobs and her family. They had seen a flyer for a showing of Lon Chaney in THE HUMCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923).
    I knew them for two years before I found out who she was.
    I could go on but the point is simple.
    When I opened the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND that first time I was also opening a door into a new world I had not dreamed existed.
    Forry’s favorite film is Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.
    I am sure he is as excited about seeing the complete version of this film that was discovered I Argentina as much as the rest of us who love this film and who discovered it because Forry told us about it as we are.
    But he may not live to see the official release.
    The people who have it have offered copies to established institutions with a seal.
    Well, I am not one.
    I wrote asking them to send a copy to Forry saying I would cover the cost.
    But they are the dull machine people. They have not replied.
    So somewhere out there there must be a film teacher who has a seal who grew up as I grew up with Forrest J Ackerman as the best friend of our childhood.
    Can you get a copy so that FJA the Ackermonster can view this film his friend Fritz Lang told him no longer exists.
    It does. Let’s get a copy to Forry while he exists.
    –Sincerely, Reg Hartt (416-603-6643)
    http://www.filminstitut.udk-berlin.de/MKF/html/pages/filme/pdf/ME_ORDER_EN.PDF
    http://www.filminstitut.udk-berlin.de/MKF/html/pages/filme/metropolis.html

  2. Lucian Tomes, Louisv says:

    I could fill up dozens of pages with what Forrest Ackerman's meant to me over the years, so I'll try to keep it relatively brief. He inspired my interest in classic horror films and the literature they were based on, he showed me the magic behind special effects and make-up, he nourished my interest in silent film and acting and prehaps most important of all, through his own personal sense of wonderment, he taught me that while one may grow older, that it's still possible to appreciate the magic in the world …
    God bless you, Uncle Forry

  3. James says:

    Reg, I was at the showing you had with Forry about 10+ years ago in Canada.
    I often went to your unique showings in your city. The Forry one was the best one.
    Forry told me he wanted more time on the stage that night, I will remember that night.
    It is just a coincidence that we are both here now.
    Fantastic.
    Forry Ackerman is the best there ever was.
    Sadly missed.

  4. James says:

    Reg, I have to say it is a small world when I can see your comment posted up here. I use to go to your b&w showings a number of years ago. I have moved far from where I use to live. Really far. Overseas.
    I went to your Forry night about 10+ years ago. That was a great night when you showed Nosferatu with special guest Ackerman.The Bela cape and ring were a thrill with Karloff's mummy ring. Thanks Reg.
    I wil be hoest, I was thinking of you today, Reg. I am really surprised to read your comment.
    Me too, I was a fan of Mister Ackerman. A BIG influence on my life.
    I hope his treasures get placed in a museum where they rightfully belong.
    I had wished Forry had seen that happen.
    James

  5. At long last, perhaps Ray Bradbury can now fess up and explain for us all where the way-out legend regards the design of the Bradbury Building at 3rd and Broadway originated.
    Was it his childhood chum who cooked it all up?

  6. [...] establish itself as the beloved crypt keeper of pop culture’s fake blood districts (and the career guidance counselor for several generations of key filmmakers). “Amazing Fantasy” No. [...]

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