Monday, December 8, 2008

Rest In Peace: Forrest J. Ackerman

On December 4th, Forrest J. Ackerman, known to millions of horror and sci-fi fans as "Mr. Science-Fiction" and the creator/editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, died of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 92 years old.

Given my love of this iconic figure of my monster-loving childhood and my limitless respect for all he has done for the genres of horror, science-fiction, and suspense, it would have seemed natural for me to have rushed to my keyboard upon learning the news of his death and written a tribute blog right there on the spot. But I didn't. Here it is nearly four days later and, finally, I am sitting here, expressing my feelings in the face of this great loss. I reckon that I was a little sad and depressed over his passing. Even fans need time to grieve... especially a world of adopted nephews and neices of our beloved "Uncle Forry".

This isn't the first blog I've written concerning Mr. Ackerman and his wonderful periodical. Scroll down to my October entries and you will find a heart-felt salute to Forry and Famous Monsters. I'd like to say I wrote it mainly because it was the Halloween season and because of a nostalgic journey into my childhood. But it was something more. Even before I discovered through the internet that Forrest J. Ackerman was ailing and on the point of death, I had him on my mind. I don't know why... I just did. I'd be writing a grisly tale of horror and some creepy/crazy pun he wrote in some distant page of FM would spring into mind, or an image of his mustachioed face with the upper portion of Frankenstein's clamp and bolt-laden forehead artfully added above his brow. I found myself digging out old issues of Famous Monsters and reading them, from cover to gruesome cover. It wasn't necessarily a conscious act on my part, at least I don't feel that it was. Instead, it was almost as though I sensed that something of great importance was about to happen... something that concerned Forry and my favorite monster magazine of all time.

Then, when I heard that Forry was dying, a melancholy feeling of grim understanding and acceptance came over me. Perhaps I had been immersing myself in Famous Monsters and the man who was responsible for it for a good reason. Perhaps I had been subconciously preparing myself for a loss that would rival the death of a very dear and well-loved blood relative. Whether I actually knew it or not, I was bracing myself for the loss of the best friend a monster-loving boy had during that memorable "Monster Boom" of my childhood.

There was something else that caused me to delay in writing this blog. More bad news. Other iconic figures from that significant period of the 50's and 60's were falling in rapid succession. Actress Beverly Garland, who was popularly known for her character on the old My Three Sons TV show, had passed away. Besides her extensive television career, whe was also a certified "scream queen" in dozens of old monster movies... many a Roger Corman classic such as Swamp Woman, It Conquered the World, and Not of this Earth, as well as other horror films like The Alligator People. And another great from that era, the incredible Bettie Page, was reported to have suffered a heart attack and was in a coma. That beautiful "girl-next-door" with the raven black bangs (and a Tennessee gal to boot) was no longer a vivacious vixen, but a frail lady of 85 and in grave health. It seemed like last week was a crucial time for surviving icons of that period of entertainmant history. Two had passed away, leaving one behind, struggling for life. And that was terribly sad and sobering... especially for a fan of all three.

But it was the death of Forry Ackerman that effected me the most. Although I almost felt that I had lost a vital link to my childhood, he still lives on... inside every kid who ran down to the corner drugstore or newstand to pick up the latest copy of Famous Monsters... the same kids who grew up to be horror writers and movie directors of science fiction and fantasy. Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg are among them. And, in my own small way, so am I.

Most of you know me and my opinion of the certainty of the hereafter. While I grieve the loss of Uncle Forry, I can't help but believe that he has moved on to a much better place than his native planet Earth. I can just imagine him now, walking arm-in-arm with those horror giants who have gone on before him -- Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, and Price -- strolling through the hallways of that great Acker-Mansion in the sky.

1 comment:

KentAllard said...

Great post. I grew up with FM myself, and his unabashed love of monster movies (and terrible puns) were a big part of my childhood. Although my mother would throw them away as soon as she found them, I couldn't resist buying a new one each month (or so). R.I.P.