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Updated: Forrest J Ackerman is gone... Dr. Acula has returned to the grave... & the Ackermonster is at peace...

Hey folks, Harry here... Forrest J Ackerman, founder of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, inventor of SCI-FI and creator of Vampirella has slipped quietly away at 11:58pm (PST) in Horrorwood, Karloffornia. He was amongst friends and spent his last month on this Earth saying his farewells. The letters and expressions of well wishes and love that fandom sent his way gave him a lift of excitement and the strength to hold on through his 92nd Birthday. I received a call from his caretaker this morning telling me that Forry had slipped away and then I spent several hours in denial, not wanting to write about it. Uncle Forry as many Ackermaniacs referred to him, was for me, my ghoulish Santa Claus. He didn't live at the North Pole or even the South Pole, but at a magical place called the Ackermansion - and it was my visit there in 1993 changed the direction of my life. My father and I had been life long collectors and fans of all thing cinematic - but it was Forry's FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND issue 2 that forever put my father on the path to all things geeky cool. He found a load of 7500 issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND in San Antonio, that were in their original shipping bundles that the San Antonio PTA pressured the local distributor not to distribute. Well those 7500 issues were stacked against my far bedroom wall as a young child - the lurid photos convinced me that I had to know what the text said and my father would sit with me, reading Famous Monsters of Filmland to me as a child. Once I could read, I read every issue I could get my hands on. BUT it was that encounter at the Ackermansion that stuck with me. All at once I looked and thought... "What a life!" Looking at the ephemera, the mementos... this wasn't a fictional Bat Cave or Fortress of Solitude... this was a truly real location, where I real life character invented wholly by himself created a lair more fantastic than any dreamt of in fiction. I didn't want to live in the Ackermansion, but I wanted to be in a lair of my own construction, surrounded by the sort of things I loved and I wanted to express that passion with the equal level of unabashed love that Forry did. I'm very different from Ackerman, and so not worthy, he is and always will be one of my fondest inspirations. That final conversation I had with Forry is a warm and sad memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. However, I will tell you this... For the past half decade, Father Geek and myself have been buying a great deal of the Ackerman FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND archives and we here at AICN are going to create an Acker-Section to share the files of the vaunted FMOF with our readers. We're working on the backend now - and it will entail a great deal of photography and scanning, but I feel there should be a permanent presence left by Forrest Ackerman on AINT IT COOL. Because he has left a permanent impression upon my family and myself. 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 toymakers 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. The following was written by Phil Tippett:
In the mid to late sixties Forry's Ackermansion was the hub for (all five) stop motion animators, especially when Ray Harryhausen came to town. We'd meet for 8mm (not super 8) film-fests and gawk at the terrific collection of artifacts from Kong, Mighty Joe Young, props and models from Ray H's work. It was pig heaven. Forry kept me going in the lean days by commissioning me to sculpt & fabricate creatures from covers of Sci-fi magazines from the 30's and effigies from H.P. Lovecraft tales. On one occasion I was delivering a plaster sculpture of Cthulhu and took a turn to hard just as I was pulling into the driveway. Cthulhu went over and smashed to bits. Forry looked over the ruins with that bemused detached smile and paid me anyway. I was able to eat that month on the twenty five bucks. I'll never forget Forry's kindness, generosity and inclusiveness. He'd always let you know when something cool or fun was coming up. Like his buddies, the two Rays, he fueled inspiration for a generation of us in a time when there really wasn't much out there. What a great guy. Phil Tippett Berkeley Calif, 2008
Then we have Mick Garris:
Harry-- I'm honored to be able to pay tribute to a man who had so much to do with how my life--and the lives of so many of my peers--has turned out. I don't think it's any secret that most of the people who make films, paint, write, compose, or perform in the horror and fantastic genre grew up mostly outside of the "norm". Whether by selection or defection, those artists I know were always outsiders, never the popular guys at the prom (if they attended at all). As a child of the sixties, I was astounded when I discovered Uncle Forry and FAMOUS MONSTERS on the rack of the local liquor store/market in my humble town of El Cajon, CA. I used to sweep their parking lot, and get paid with a copy of FM and a bag of Fritos. No one I knew shared my interest in the monsters and horrors that were profiled so gleefully in FM, and so I was shocked to see that there were enough people like me to warrant the publication of a magazine devoted to them. I even submitted my customized Aurora MUMMY model to their "Master Monster Makers" contest at the local department store... and won the local First Prize plaque (I suspect to this day that there were no other entrants). When I moved north to Los Angeles in the seventies with my band, one of my first visits was to the Ackermansion, which was amazing and overwhelming. And Forry could not have been more welcoming and accommodating. On my first publicity job on THE FOG, I arranged to have a genre press conference at the Ackermansion, and it was an incredible and memorable affair. I've been lucky enough to spend much time with FSJ over the years, at screenings, at luncheons (usually with his incredibly generous and loyal friend, John Landis), at awards ceremonies, at film festivals. His ever cheerful greetings and passionate discussions (and horrible puns) were never less than a total delight. Seeing his health decline in recent years is painful, but the fact that he has remained a potent and loving force in horror into his nineties, for God's sake, is a testament to the man and his monsters. Mick Garris
This came from Paul Dini:
Before the internet, before Entertainment Weekly and the nightly show biz shows, we fans of the cinema fantastic had no touchstone to that world other than through Forry and FAMOUS MONSTERS. Each month in its pages we would learn of Hollywood's horror lore, of Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney, Sr., and Jr., and of wonders to come -- Star Wars, Superman, Carrie, and hundreds of others. We devoured the articles, we marveled at the photos, we groaned at the puns, we ordered the models and horror masks, and most of all we loved the man who brought it all to us. Here's to you, Forry. And thanks, from me and every kid you held in your spooky, but always thrilling Dracula-like trance each month. Paul Dini
Here's the collected thoughts my father has had on Forry's passing:
Father Geek here... with sad news of the passing of a genre icon... I first became aware of FORREST J. ACKERMAN in 1957 one rainy morning in the instrument room of my Junior High band hall. A Latino friend opened his tenor sax case and a garrish, red magazine fell out on the floor. I picked it up to hand back to him, and I've never been the same since. There on the cover was a beautiful babe in strapless black cocktail attire, buuut more importantly... there was a green faced Frankenstein Monster in a black tuxedo with his arms around her. In a very real sense they called out to me (in your own words, 4E), "Come here little boy, take us home with you." It was issue #1 of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine conceived, written, and edited by Forrest Ackerman (Dr. Acula, Uncle Forry, The Ackermonster, etc). I spent the next 2 weeks haunting every sleazy magazine stand on the southside of San Antonio praying for a copy to fall into my hands. I tore through Humberto Garza's copy repeatedly in study halls, and I subscribed starting with issue #2. You see this was the very first issue of the first ever movie monster mag. At this time there had been NO Starlogs, NO Fangorias, NO Castle Frankensteins, NO Cinefantastques, NO Monster Times, NO Monster Worlds, NO Monsters to Laugh Withs, NO Monsterlands, NO nothing! Annnnnnnd I would be 21 years old and a college senior majoring in Film before Father Geek found a Famous Monsters of Filmland #1 to call my own. I know many of you readers may be at a lost as to why we are covering this... well, more than any other person, FORREST J. ACKERMAN is why this site exists... Pick up a copy of Harry's book and turn to the dedication... Harry says: " To Father Geek, Mother Time, and Forry "...Yes, that is the one and only Forrest J. Ackerman, publisher, historian, effects and makeup man, and a monsteriously fiendish friend to fantasy fans around the world since the late 20's. A major influence on the world of Science Fiction/Fantasy for well over 70 years, 4E Ackerman was also widely considered one of the nicest and most generous individuals on this planet. Since the end of the 1920's he has worked as an agent, actor, editor, lecturer, archivist, researcher, writer, and anthologist. In 1957 Forry began editing the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland", a publication that changed the lives of a generation, or two (including this writer and his children) and provided the seminal push that admittedly drove avid readers like John Carpentar, Joe Dante, John Landis, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg to create motion pictures. 4SJ's efforts spurred young writers like Stephen King to work toward and realize their (and our) dreams in print. 4E's the man who wrote the 1st VAMPIRELLA story for Frank Frazetta to draw, and you still don't know who I'm talking about? Well, he's a lifetime resident of Hollywood. His Grandfather built the beautiful Bradbury Building there. The one used in "THE DEMON WITH THE GLASS HAND" and, that leaking one in the rain from BLADE RUNNER. Forry acted as the agent for a young Robert Heinlien and Isaac Asmov and more old world-famous Science Fiction writers than you can probably name. He was the 1st to put Stephen King on the printed page. He was very very COOL long before there was a word to describe it. He, and boyhood buddies Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen would put on Ray's homemade masks and scare the bejezus out of the other teenagers in the back of dark theaters in the early 30's. They formed the 1st LA Science Fiction club back in their teens. His personal friends have included such genre icons as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Vincent Price, Robert Bloch, Fritz Lang, A. E. van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ed Wood... and of course his 10s of thousands of proxy "nephews & nieces" around the world. Forry's home (3 stunning stories, plus the "Grizzlyland" basement, "GarageMahal", and infamous "Porch of Peril") the ACKERMANSION (located on a cliff in the hills of Horrorwood, Karloffornia overlooking the D. W. Griffith compound), was an ex-post-facto museum devoted to the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Filled with 100's of thousands of vintage books, magazines & fanzines, original paintings & drawings, scripts, toys, sculpture, comics, photos, and tons of motion picture props, the Ackermansion was opened to the public in 1950 well before the creation of FMOF, Monster World, Spacemen, Monsterland and Uncle Forry's other popular mags. For health and personal reasons Forry decided in late 2002 to close the Ackermansion and part with a significant portion of his storied collections. Re-located nearby in a less demanding home, Forry welcomed his fiends, both old and more recently acquired, to the new, if much smaller Ackermuseum. Father Geek back with more... I just realized that I didn't mention any of the wonderful films Forry lent his talents to, like as the writer of the fantastic claymation epic horror fest, 1967's MAD MONSTER PARTY, or his effects expertise as the "Chief Space Ship String Puller" on 1955's classic BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES, or as the Technical Advisor on 1971's SATAN'S BLOODY FREAKS. But Uncle Forry wasn't content to remain a faceless man behind the cameras, Noooooo, he was out in front in over 50 Horror/SciFi/Fantasy films. Movies like: THE TIME TRAVELERS, and THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, and SCHLOCK, and THE HOWLING, and BRAINDEAD, and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2, and INNOCENT BLOOD, and AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON. He even did non genre flicks like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and BEVERLY HILLS COP 3. Yeah his career in front of the camera stretched from the 1940's right to 2001's VAMPIRE HUNTERS CLUB and 2002's ATTACK OF THE B-MOVIE MONSTER. I (Father Geek) count myself lucky to have shared this planet with Forrest J. Ackerman, to have known the man, to have visited his home several times, and met with him scores of times since the late 1960's in cities and towns all over this country; among them Detriot and Tulsa, Houston and Atlanta, San Francisco and San Antonio, Minn-St Paul and Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Baton Rouge, Disneyland and Grizzyland, San Diego and Dallas, Grapevine and Spring, and of course Horrorwood Karloffornia and Austintaious. We've exchanged stories in Homes and Hotels, in Great Olde single screen Theatres and darkened rooms with bedsheets tacked on the walls, at banquets in Grand Ballrooms and in small after hours diners, in hotel hallways and alleys, in bars and even once on the roof of an Austin parking garage. Where ever and when ever they were fun-times, phantastical times, unforgettable times. Thanks 4E for those memories, thanks for inspiring that kid with maybe 50 comics back in 1957 to become that 63 year old kid in 2008 with 20,000+ comics plus 10,000+ movie posters, and a lifetime of coolness acquiring and putting it all together. Annnnnnd thanks for doing your magic for my two children, their lives are far better for you having touched them... You'll be missed here in Austin... greatly! Dankon 4E... Gis revido.
And lastly - in 2003 - Forry sent me a letter contemplating his own impending death that he had asked me to pass on in case he passed away. This is his personal statement and closing thoughts on life that he wished for me to share. Things he wanted to set straight according to his personal beliefs and philosophies. It is especially hard to read today...
IN CONTEMPLATION OF MY INEVITABLE DEMISE Mothers Day 2003 AT MY AGE, 86 going on 87, it is crystal clear to me that I am nearer the end of my life than the beginning and the thought passes my mind more frequently than it used to before I nearly died twice in 2002 that I’m a mortal man. Bob Bloch paved the way for the following ruminations with his remarkable revelatory article in the October 1994 issue of the now defunct prestigious slick paper science fiction oriented periodical, Omni. He stated bluntly: I’m going to die. Soon.—Thus absolving me of Harlan Ellison’s bitter accusation, “Bob was a very private person and he and his wife Elly resented your blabbing about his impending death at the World Science Fiction Convention.” Charles Brown reported that I broke the bad news “in unctuous tones.” Gay Haldeman congratulated me on my “gracious handling of the sad news.” So much for my exoneration. Bloch said: “I think anyone who isn’t afraid of dying is crazy.” So in Bob’s estimation I’m crazy. I wouldn’t be afraid of going to sleep one night, having no dreams and never waking up to know I was dead. On his death bed, Al Jolson breathed “I’m going!” I hope kind fate allows me long enough when I feel the end is near to record on tape “Science Fiction”, to die with my lifetime passion on my lips, then close my eyes and wait for my last breath. Let me turn back the clock a moment and explain something that most of you probably aren’t aware of. When I was a helpless child, unable to protect myself, my well-meaning parents subjected me to 7 different Sunday Schools before I finally rebelled. When I reached the age of reason, at 15 I had an epiphany and became a born again secular humanist before we had an euphemistic term for atheist. I realized in intellectual clarity that “God” only existed in the immature beliefs of inculcated humans, that ALL religions were unworthy, unnecessary crutches, remnants from supernatural times. Time for childhood’s end. Two Star Gods Fought With ax and mace. A spark flew into The womb of space. Space nurtured it And gave it birth. Now men fight on planet Earth. --Alan Moss Peace on Earth. We sing it. We’ve paid a million priests To bring it. After 2000 years Of Psalms We’ve got as far as atom bombs. Touched by the Holocaust, Wendy’s two brothers and sister-in-law gave up on God because He either gave up on them and millions like them or else He wasn’t the benevolent, all-loving, all-powerful Deity that priests and rabbis portrayed him to be. He either turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering and extermination of impotent innocents or He didn’t exist. Same for a Czech friend, whose entire family was slaughtered by Nazis before her very eyes, then she was abducted and forced to be a sex slave for 6 years for Hitler’s henchmen. She bears the numbered tattoo of a concentration camp prisoner in case there are any Doubting Thomases that such things existed. I’m convinced the colossal Cosmos couldn’t care less about the little specks of life on Earth called humanbeings. Nothing has ever occurred in the ensuing 14 lustrums (7 decades, 70 years) to contravene my conviction. Here’s the scenario. Quoting Bloch (I never knew this but suspected it) “The brain is technically alive for 3 or 4 minutes.” By prearrangement, a significant other will kiss my cooling lips and whisper in my ear, “Mi amas vin Kvari’—“I love you, Forry.” I will feel my eyelids being closed, I will hear a sobbing mixture of voices, “He’s gone”, We’ve lost him”, “How can we live without him?”, “Dear Forry, rest in peace”, “I’ll never forget you”, etc. It will be frustrating not to make a movement, utter a sound, but I know this is what I expected. When my brain ceases to function and my consciousness evanesces, I will never know there was an individual named Forry Ackerman who loved science fiction with all his heart and nonexistent soul, that he read it, wrote it, collected it, agented it, joined clubs, received awards, attended more World Science Fiction Conventions than anyone else. He will never know he learned Esperanto, traveled all over the globe, welcomed over 50,000 fans into his home. He will never know he was an inhabitant of a planet variously known as Earth, Erde, Terre, Tero and other names in a multitude of languages. He will universe out there with billions of bonfires in the skies called stars. NOTHING will he know. And what comes afterward among the living? MR. SCIENCE FICTION DIES headline in Locus, various Appreciations. Mundane newspapers give him attention somewhat less than Heinlein’s. Like Wendayne before him, a couple of weekends devoted to friends gathering and reminiscing about him. As time goes by, fans will occasionally visit his crypt and place red carnations in the vases there. He’ll appredciate it while he’s alive but will be unable to see or smell them. He’ll suggest photos be taken and sent to Joe Moe at Forry’s last address, and if his “Guardian Angel” receives enough of them he will print a page and distribute it to whoever may be interested. Forry’s inert body will gradually molder away until nothing is left but bones once clothed with his flesh. Barring an earthquake, bomb or some unforeseen catastrophe , his remains will remain in his coffin beside his wife. A thousand years from now no one will know or care who Forrest Ackerman was. Maybe one day in the far distant future the very cement surrounding the crypts will crumble and his bones will join those of the dinosaurs before him. But more immediately. He can imagine some annual award in his memory. Inclusion in a panoply of postage stamps (probably 50c First Class by then) in a sheet of commemoratives remembering important individuals in the development of Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Hannes Bok, Ray Bradbury, Charles Brown, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Campbell Jr., Arthur C. Clarke, Groff Conklin, Ray Cummings, Gerry de la Ree, Phillip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Virgil Finlay, Hugo Gernsback, H.L. Gold, Martin Greenberg, Robert Heinlein, David H. Keller, Damon Knight, Henry Kuttner, David Kyle, Fritz Lang, Ursula Le Guin, George Lucas, Robert Madle, P. Schuyler Miller, Catherine L. Moore, Sam Moskowitz, George Pal, Raymond Palmer, Frank R. Paul, Julius Schwart, Mary Shelley, Steven Spielberg, Olaf Stapledon, Harry Warner Jr., Stanley Weinbum, H.G. Wells, Donald Wollheim, S. Fowler Wright, Jules Verne and who have I overlooked? Shame on me. Descriptions on the back of each stamp by John L. Coker III. A statue of me may be erected in the museum of the Science Fiction Experience, or better yet an animatronic robot in my form like the one of Abraham Lincoln in Disneyland. A play or movie may be made about me (think of all the roles for Gernsback, Wells, Heinlein, et al, and the challenge for two actors to portray Ellison and Ferry in reel life as mean-spirited toward me as they were in real life. Well, that’s about as far as my ego-orientated imagination can take me. Soon ring down the imaginary curtain and all aboard for Final Blackout. Sorry I won’t be seeing you Bob Bloch, Hugo Gernsback, Sam Moskowitz, Boris Karloff, war-lost brother Alden, Wendy and scores more in Never Never Land, but you won’t miss me. My maternal grandfather died with a beatific smile on his face as though he were seeing angels or loved ones. Maybe I’ll get lucky and imagine my mother calling, as she did when I was a child, “Forry boy, come and take your nap.” My blest wishes for anyone who may care to have them.
As you can tell, Forry did not believe in a here after. I will not insult his beliefs by saying he is in some place he did not believe in, rather that Forry was a peace with the process of dying and that he led a most remarkable life that touched many more than who knew his name. It has been one of the great honors of my life to share conversation and laughs with Forry and that I will hear his voice only in reflection and upon reading his writings... well, that's comfort enough for me. I miss him already. As more remembrances come in, I'll add them below... Here's one from Rick Baker:
What do you say when a man passes away who was instrumental in the course that one's life has taken. I don't know, but I do know that I probably wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for his influence. Uncle Forry and his magazine Famous Monsters showed me that people actually made a living making monsters. I will never forget seeing Famous Monsters for the first time. My mom took me with her to the market, like she did every week, I always hated going but I didn't have a choice. I asked if I could look at the magazines while she shopped. I looked at the rack and there was issue number 3 of FM. What was this? I thought to myself. I anxiously took it off of the rack and proceeded to turn one monster filled page after another. I couldn't believe it. A magazine that was made just for me. I vividly remember in the letters section a photo of a guy with a blob on his back with a caption that said" blob on his back." I also remember an article where some make-up artist that I never herd of before , or since ,making up a kid into a monster, called "Boy into Monster". I was so excited. I asked my mom if I could have it and she said no. I don't think she objected to the subject matter I just think that she didn't have 35 cents to spare. Needless to say I was disappointed ,but let me tell you I happily went to the market with her every week . I saved my allowance so I could buy the next issue. I don't know why, but it took forever before them market had another issue. It was issue # 6. From the back issue department I bought issue # 3 and I still have it today. Famous Monsters was magic. I would memorize every page. Uncle Forry was my hero. I remember seeing an article about the luckiest boy in the world, a kid who lived next door to Forry. I thought to myself boy that is the luckiest kid in the world alright. I finally met Uncle Forry, or Dr Acula or 4e , when I was twenty and was working on John Landis's film Schlock. Forry had a cameo in the film and invited us to the Ackermansion. I was excited but not as excited as I was when an article on Schlock appeared in FM with photos of me in it. Here I was in the magazine that I loved so much. Even more exciting was when Forry did an article on Rick Baker Monster Maker. Now I was in the big time .Here I was in the same magazine that had articles on Jack Pierce ,Dick Smith, Ray Harryhausen. I couldn't believe it. I have had lots of magazine articles written about me since but none of them had the same thrill as reading my own name in Famous Monsters of Filmland. Forry and his magazine inspired so many kids of my generation to get into the film business and I am sure that the state of the art in make-up and effects wouldn't be the same today if FM and that strange uncle that we all had didn't exist. I will forever be thankful to my Uncle Forry for my education in monster mania and for pointing me in the direction that my life has taken. Life will be different without 4SJ but I will never forget him. Rick Baker Monster Maker

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