Forrest J Ackerman, who influenced a generation of young horror movie fans with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing what has been called the world’s largest personal collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia, has died. He was 92.
Ackerman, a writer, editor and literary agent who has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s, died Thursday of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles, Kevin Burns, head of Prometheus Entertainment and a trustee of Ackerman’s estate, told the Associated Press.As editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Ackerman wrote most of the articles in the photo-laden magazine launched in 1958 as a forum for past and present horror films.
"It was the first movie monster magazine," Tony Timpone, editor of Fangoria, a horror movie magazine founded in 1979, told The Times in 2002.
Timpone, who began reading Famous Monsters as a young boy in the early ’70s, remembers it as "a black-and-white magazine with cheap paper but great painted [color] covers. It really turned people on to the magic of horror movies."
Primarily targeted to late pre-adolescents and young teenagers, Famous Monsters of Filmland featured synopses of horror films, interviews with actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price, and articles on makeup and special effects.
"He put a lot of his personality into the magazine," said Timpone, who later became friends with Ackerman. "It was a pretty juvenile approach to genre journalism, but as kids, that’s all we had."
One of our sister blogs, The Daily Mirror, has dug up a 2002 profile by Hilary E. MacGregor, one of my former colleagues here in the featrues sections of the Los Angeles Times. An excerpt:
Even here amid his diminished collection, it becomes apparent that the greatest part of Ackerman’s collection is the man himself. He is full of tales of the birth of horror in Hollywood. He saw movies that have been lost forever. He attended Bela Lugosi’s funeral. He attended not just the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City in 1939, but nearly every convention since. As a teenager, he corresponded with the president of Universal Studios, Carl Laemmle, 62 times, until Laemmle wrote on his president’s stationery, "Give this kid anything he wants." Fifteen-year-old Forrie Ackerman chose the sound discs to some of the greats of early cinema like "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "Frankenstein."
(More from the 2002 Los Angeles Times feature on the late Forrest J Ackerman…)
Born and raised in Hollywood, Forrie is the ultimate fan. He is still an eager 12-year-old boy trapped in a gangly, 86-year-old man’s body. He delights in bad puns and very silly jokes. He points to a casket covered in embroidered pillows in the front of his living room. "That’s my coffin table," he says with a wink. "Room for one more … "
He is well-spoken and a master storyteller. He has an encyclopedic mind that holds data like a computer. He can rattle off obscure movie titles, forgotten movie stars, esoteric movie lore. His stories are what make his objects, much of which look like junk in an adolescent’s bedroom, come alive.
There is Bela Lugosi’s cape in the corner, from the 1932 stage performance of "Dracula" in San Francisco. And there, over the dining room doorway, are the seven great faces of horror cinema in life-size 3-D molds: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Tor Johnson, Glenn Strange, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.
Where others display china, Forrie displays models of dinosaurs, monster heads and a skull holding a serving bowl. Where others might hang paintings, Ackerman hangs a wall-size comic strip of Vampirella, which he created in 1958.
He walks back toward the bedroom with a mischievous look.
"You are over 21," he flirts, arching an eyebrow. "You can come into my ‘badroom.’"
That whole article is well worth reading, and again, you can find it right here. I’ll be posting more on Ackerman as the news ripples out.
– Geoff Boucher
Top photo : Forrest J Ackerman at his home in 1969. Credit: Jack Carrick / Los Angeles Times. Lower photo: Ackerman in 2002. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.