Forrest J. Ackerman remembered

Dec. 08, 2008 | 11:59 p.m.


It’s pretty telling that since the death of Forrest K. Ackerman last week, there has been a steady flow of memorial essays singing his praises. The man was clearly beloved.

Carolyn Kellogg, one of my colleagues here at The Times, took the photo above during a 1994 visit to the famed Ackermansion. She’s written a nice piece on her visit that day, and I especially liked her appraisal of her host’s demeanor:

The really wonderful thing Forrest Ackerman shared with us that day was glee. I mean, seriously, he was gleeful. He loved all his stuff, he loved showing it to people. We could have stayed longer, much longer than we did. If there is a heaven for each of us, I hope Forrest Ackerman’s is filled with heavenly versions of his entire collection, and an endless line of people eager for tours.

There are plenty of tributes around the Internet but, the I one I found to be the most earnest and emotional was the piece that Harry Knowles wrote at Ain’t It Cool News:

His influence can not even closely be put into perspective. That so many of us know so much about classic horror, fantasy and sci-fi is due to a large degree to Ackerman. Whether you directly read “Famous Monsters” is irrelevant, that everyone that you have read has read it is true. Be it Starlog, Fangoria, Scarlet Street or any geek publication — the fountain that we have all sipped from sprang from Karloffornia and the home of Forrest Ackerman. Many of the the technicians, special effects masters and filmmakers that work in the realms that Forry loved … do so in no small part based on the childhood passion that Forry gave them. The same can be said of the toy-makers and animators. Ackerman gave us permission to openly love these things and to share our passion of them. I can easily say … without Forrest J Ackerman — you would not be reading Aint It Cool News.

Knowles writes that AICN will be taking some archival steps to preserve some of the great treasures of Ackerman, which is good news indeed.

Did you ever get to hear the Uncle Forry speak? After the jump you can find some video of the late icon that’s quite entertaining, including a montage of his film appearances through the years and his narrated tour of his home from 1986.

— Geoff Boucher

Ackerman showed up in a lot of films through the years, no surprise considering his stature among younger generations of fans-turned-filmmakers. Here’s a fun montage:

Here’s a tour of his mansion from 1986:

And here’s Ackerman delivering a brief history of early sci-fi films:

More in: Uncategorized, Forrest J. Ackerman


29 Responses to Forrest J. Ackerman remembered

  1. Bela says:

    Ackerman said he had 500,000 items of sci-fi memorablia. Where did he get the money to buy all this stuff? He wasn't sponsored by a government grant or museum. He never had a regular job so I assume he was either very wealthy or people gave him all these things for free, which hardly seems possible. I know he was always crying poor, the house he lived in was dirty and he wore the same clothes year after year. He scrounged for food. Anyone know what was his source of income?

  2. Dana says:

    Bela, I think Mr. Ackerman was indeed given many of the things he owned and, like many fans, acquired some things by purchasing them. He worked in films and publishing, and attended many conventions, so I'm sure he had an income, no matter what it may have been. I had the great pleasure to meet him on several occasions and he was witty, gracious and kind. He wore the same clothes, I believe, because he liked them and I doubt he foraged for food. Even if he did, the world we geeks, con-goers and sci-fi lovers live in would never have survived had it not been for Uncle Forry. He will be missed and never replaced…

  3. Ron Waite says:

    People did indeed give him things! As a former Assostant Editor of FM I can attest to that. He was well liked by fans around the world. He did indeed live well in the Hollywood Hills but his home was bought and paid for by the meager money he made from FM and donations and of course Wendy. He literally lived day to day not knowing where his next dollar or meal was coming from. He started collecting at age 9 so in those many years he was able to accumulate quite a collection. He started with befriending biug names in Hollywood at a time when no one else cared. The President of Universal Studios who told the guards to "give the kid anything he wants". He befriended writers and artists, directors and producers, his keen perception of the future assured him a place in history. Without his influence there may have been no Rick Baker, John Landis, and thousands of others who grew up on FM and the awful puns. He made sci fi and horror an adventure which he shared with the world. His like will never be seen again and that is sad. I also regret not mending our differences over some very stupid problems and we fell out of touch for too many years. I miss him, I always will, and tho we knew this day would come no one was prepared for it.

  4. If it hadn't been for Ackerman (4SJ), that stuff would not have been valuable.

  5. James says:

    I read that first comment with a surprise. I had no idea about the man's life. Forrest was imitated often but never could be matched. It is thanks to Forry that the film/fantasy world is still here. Think about that. He was genuinely a man who will be remembered for motivating others to collect and read of filmmakers who liked to scare.
    Forry got shafted by those who took advantage of him. This is what bothers me now.

  6. Curt says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Forry on several occasions and visited his house once. He was gracious, warm and friendly with many wonderful stories, always about people he admired, not about himself. He was remarkably sharp and even in his late 80's he was able to tell us where each piece of his huge collection came from and often had a little story about them.

  7. Robert Spreitzer says:

    When I was about 14 years old, I recall clearly when I rode my bike with my friend to a convenience store to check out the latest Famous Monsters Of Filmland issue, and I will always remember the cover of this one 1978 issue, with a striking color image of the main character in a movie called, The Incredible Melting Man. Never saw the movie, and I don't think it was much of a memorable film, but creepy image of the guy's face melting! Ah, sweet memories of childhood. I kept the issue for a while, but had discarded it since. Would have loved to have kept it, but will certainly expect to have no trouble getting one on ebay.
    Thank you Forrest Ackerman for being instrumental in popularizing sci-fi and horror in your distinctive magazine and you shall be missed, but never forgotten and always loved by so many you never had the chance to meet.
    Rest In Peace.

  8. Alex Paige says:

    It is not true to say, as Bela does in his comment above, that Forrest J Ackerman "never had a regular job". Apart from his almost 20 year stint as editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (which surely counts as as a regular income), he was also managing editor of the Perry Rhodan paperback science-fiction novels which were published monthly Ace Books from 1969-1978 — another regular income. Additionally he was a literary agent for authors including the extremely prolific AE Van Vogt who had numerous science fiction novels in print during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s — etc etc.
    There is no evidence to suggest Mr Ackerman "scrounged for food" and the comments about his house being dirty are discourteous to say the least if not downright disingenuous.

    • John Mayer says:

      “Disingenuous?“ I don’ think that word means what you think it means. It means “calculatingly insincere.” There’s no reason to believe that Bela didn’t honestly FEEL that Forry’s house was dirty. But it was certainly uncalled for. “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.”

      If Bela had had the opportunity to see for himself the condition of the house, then he must have been fortunate enough to have been welcomed there, a privilege I envy him. All the more reason not to dis one who was your gracious host. The man was getting on in years; if you thought his house needed some upkeep, why didn’t you pitch in and help. Thousands of us would have been happy to do that, had we had the chance.

  9. Lance Suarez says:

    Sorry to hear the news that you left us. But you have enriched the minds of almost every little boy in my neighborhood in the late 60's that subscribed to Famous Monsters of Filmland. I also had the great fortune to visit your home with my wife Robin on one of our early dates in LA at the Ackermansion. We will miss you!
    Lance,Robin and Jason

  10. John Justl says:

    I have wonderful memories of Forrest J Ackerman! He was known to many of us as Uncle Forry…which is very fitting because he has been an uncle to many of us who were fans of his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines.
    In 1964, he published parts of a letter I wrote and included a picture of me in his magazine. Below the picture, he wrote that I looked suspiciously like one of the wonder (alien) children from the movie Village of the Damned (1960). I was on cloud number nine over that. I also received a personal invitation from 4E to attend a Sci-Fi convention in the San Francisco Bay Area and there had the opportunity to meet him in person.
    I see him as a kind and generous man who has been very successful in sharing his enthusiasm for old time horror films, particularly those which were produced by Universal Studios. His enthusiasm has helped to accelerate a strong interest in horror genre related films which continues to this day. He will be sorely missed but his legacy and his influence will remain strong for many more years to come!

  11. Michael Grover says:

    I'm very sad to hear of Uncle Forry's passing, although it was something we all knew was coming. I was unaware of his failing health until just a few weeks ago. I had intended to send him a card thanking him for all that he had done throughout his life, but I put it off until it was too late. I credit Famous Monsters of Filmland with making me a more literate individual. In addition to reading each issue from cover to cover, having seen an ad for some H.P. Lovecraft paperbacks in the back of the magazine led me to seek out Lovecraft's work at the library, which in turn contributed to a lifelong love of reading. Thank you, Mr. Ackerman, and rest in peace.

    • John Mayer says:

      I remember two volumes of Lovecraft that appeared in FM’s classifieds for months: first editions of _Beyond the Wall of Sleep_ and _The Outsider and Others_. Naturally no one was biting at the preposterous price of $50 (can’t remember if that was each or for both). Finally, someone with more pence than sense, presumably, bought them since the ads quit running. Now $50 was a lot more money back then, of course, and I didn’t have very much of it, but, if I had it to do over…

  12. Ilanb says:

    I just cant stop crying. This man did so much for us monster lovers who were considered creepy by our peers because we ate slept and talked about all the Universal and Hammer and API movies we so loved. He made monsters cool. My first issue of FMOF was the 1972 issue that had the decapitated arm clutching at the husbands throat.
    I feel like Ive lost an Uncle and Friend, cause thats what he was me and Im sure to millions of others.
    Ive visited the Ackermansion in the past, but how sad for my 13 yo daughters, daddys girl monsters and all, will never get a chance to meet this legend.
    Goodbye Forry and thank you. We will always remember you with love, affection and good thoughts.

  13. Jody Valyou says:

    What can I say, I was greatly saddened, to read the new that, Forry, is gone.
    But I will never forget, what he gave us, to remember him by "FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILM LAND", the greatest monster magazine of all time. A great historian in the world of Sci-Fi & Monster Movie Fandom.
    Lets all raise a test tube, of Dr. Jekyll's secret potion & toast the memory of "FORREST J ACKERMAN" (aka MR. SCI-FI).
    You will be missed.

  14. Linda says:

    It surprises me that most of you don't know that Forry worked as an Agent, & that's how he made his income. The collection was a hobby that outgrew itself. He was making money just fine, otherwise he could never have afforded a house. However, he probably did fall on hard times after awhile.

    • John Mayer says:

      Most old people do, in our country. Ever visit nursing homes? The way we treat our elderly in this country is truly monstrous.

  15. Jim Vernon says:

    I will remember the man as nothing more than a true hero to many of us who were young and interested in the "odd" things of the 60s. I wrote to FMoF in hopes that my letter would make the Fang Mail columns so I could see my name in print for my 13th birthday. Instead, there was a phone call from Forrest J. Ackerman on the evening of my birthday, wishing me a happy birthday. That act alone should indicate that he was a most special person.

  16. Bob McKinney says:

    I just read of the passing of Forrest J. Ackerman in USA Today. To all of us who are fasicinated with fantasy & horror films both past & present, he will always be remembered. I'll never forget my brother, buying me my very first issue of Forry's magazine; Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was issue #60, from December, 1969. On the cover was a striking painting from Basil Gogos of Dorian Gray. I was only 7 years of age. Since that time, I had collected every issue up to #191 from March, 1983, when the publication ceased. I cherish those magazines & am still trying to complete my collection. What was so different about "Famous Monsters" is that every issue seemed to have it's own identity. The great covers helped to achieve this.
    Though, I never had the oppurtunity to meet the man, Forry always seemed to be part of the family. I know that's the way I always felt about him. May he rest in "pieces." Excuse the pun, but I'm sure he would appreciate the humor. Right now, he is probably striking up a conversation with Bela Logosi, Boris Karloff, the Chaneys, Peter Lori, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Jack Pierce, Bud Westmore, Gorge Pal, Willis O'Brien, Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, ect…………….
    Does anyone out there know if FM #191 is actually the last issue printed? The reason I ask is that it always seemed strange to me the way the magazine just stopped. I'm always hoping that there were other issues that were printed, but never released to the public. After all, it was only 9 issues from that magical 200!!!!!! Also, what will become of his collection from the past 80 years? Hopefully, they will be put somewhere that all of us can enjoy. Is Mrs. Ackerman still with us?
    Forry, you will never be forgotten! Thank you for being a part of so many lives & expanding our imaginations!

    • John Mayer says:

      Good news! It is now 2010 and Famous Monsters is being revived. Among the fresh blood helping to reanimate it is that of well-known contributor to Rue Morgue, Scarlet Street, Fangoria and others, April Snellings.

  17. I visited Forrest Ackerman's home many times in the '80s and '90s and it was never dirty, nor did Mr. Ackerman "scrounge for food" or appear unkempt– quite the opposite! He made his money as a magazine editor, author and literary agent for science fiction authors. He was not rich, but far from poor. Most of the movie props he acquired as gifts, and most of his book collection consisted of paperbacks which were inexpensive when bought but increased in value over the years. What does the poster calling himself "Bela" have against Forrest Ackerman that would make him post such untruths?

  18. James Van Hise says:

    Forry not only edited Famous Monsters, acted as an agent (since the 1940s) and edited books, but he would also find forgotten science fiction novels which had fallen into the public domain and send copies of them to Ace Books, who paid him a "finder's fee" of several hundred dollars a book. After Famous Monsters ended, his employment was more sporadic so he quietly sold some of his collectibles, receiving many thousands of dollars each for Margaret Brundage original Weird Tales covers. He also auctioned some items off in the late 1980s and raised $25 thousand there. He sold much more in 2002 and 2003 when he had health problems. But he still retained a great deal (including decades of correspondence with famous people) and how that will be dispersed has not been announced. He donated some key items years ago to the science fiction museum in the Seatlle Space Needle.

  19. Daniel Levitt aka Gr says:

    I had known Forry for 50 years, ever since the first issue of Famous Monsters. We had lunch
    every Thursday. he took me to the Premier of FANTASTIC VOYAGE. He was instrumental in
    getting me my SAG card. He got me a part in the DRAGNET feature film. I had performed for
    him and his friends at his home on Sherbourne. I could go on and on, suffice it to say that
    Forry was more the just a friend. To me he was a Star.

  20. Arye Michael Bender says:

    I knew Forey, first meeting him around 1970 when he lived in the Fairfax District of L.A. He had been a literary agent, as well as founder and publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. While never wealthy, he did have income from those sources.
    His collection was largely acquired and not purchased. As hard as it is to believe now, Hollywood used to throw away props, costumes, and other memorabilia regularly. This was particularly true of the horror/sci-fi genre. For example, Forey found the Black Lagoon Creature suit in a trash bin on the Universal lot.
    Forey did what he did for love. Making money was not something he focused upon. As long as he could maintain the things he loved so dearly around him, he was happy. He also loved sharing what he had. To my knowledge, he never charged to give tours of his collection home.
    He was an amazing man.

  21. Larry Haley says:

    I will always remember Forey with fondness. He was an integral part of my youth. I was always reading FMoF magazine from about 1960 through the 70s. I had the pleasure of doing an interview and photo session on Forey and his collection at Ackermansion in 1996 and I was like a kid again. The true genius of Forey is that he knew how to capture that youthful excitemen in any visitor to his home. He spend the whole day showing me each room of his collection. At one point, he came into the living room wearing Bela Lugosi's Dracula cape and ring. Before long, he placed the cape on my shoulders and it was a real thrill to wear Bela's cape. Then he gave me the ring to try out with the cape. I would never dreamed to ask him to wear these priceless Bela items but somehow Forey knew we all wanted to wear the Dracula cape, each and every one of us kids at heart.
    I have some marvelous memories and some funny photos of that day with Forey. He showed me his basement dungeon where he had assorted mummies and a Dracula dummy in a coffin. He was a national treasure, that's about the only way to describe the man. We'll all miss him. LH

  22. Barbara Naegeli says:

    I knew Uncle Forry very well. My late husband, Bob Juanillo was the artist for some of the ink drawings for the Perry Rhodan serie, and some of the paintings in his collection including "Astarte'. We spent a lot of time with him, personally and at his parties in his "old" museum. He was my husband's mentor and agent and we loved him very much. I especially loved the stories he and Wendy would tell us. The only time I saw him angry was a time when Bob and I ate his eclairs. (Well he wasn't supposed to eat them anway!!!) He is sorely missed.

  23. Bob Napier says:

    I’ve been hoping to find Barb Juanillo for many years. If you read this, Barb, please get in touch with me. Bob’s niece is also interested.

  24. […] and 1940s monster movies made available to local TV stations in 1957. The following February,  Forrest J. Akerman’s “Famous Monsters of Filmland” arrived and would in short order establish itself as the […]

  25. […] and 1940s monster movies made available to local TV stations in 1957. The following February,  Forrest J. Akerman’s “Famous Monsters of Filmland” arrived and would in short order establish itself as the […]

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