Posted byat 8th December, 2008
Quick. What did Issac Asimov, Rick Baker, Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, Danny Elfman, Ray Harryhausen, L. Ron Hubbard, Peter Jackson, Stephen King, John Landis, George Lucas, Penn & Teller, Julius Schwartz, Gene Simmons, Steven Spielberg, Billy Bob Thornton, Mort Weisinger, and Ed Wood have in common?
Forrest J. Ackerman played a significant, live-altering role in each of these people’s lives – and, of course, so many more. As a teen-ager, he teamed up with Schwartz and Weisinger and others to create The Time Traveler, one of the earliest science-fiction fanzines. That lead to Forry and his team to represent such legendary writers as Asimov, Beaumont, Bloch, Bradley, and Hubbard and the “discovering” of Ray Bradbury and Ed Wood.
Later, he created Famous Monsters of Filmland for publisher James Warren. This pulpwood folio uncovered – sometimes, literally – some of the great works of the legendary filmmakers such as Harryhausen, James Whale and Fritz Lang. It was full of behind-the-scenes articles that allowed its readers to create their own costumes and makeup and special effects, inspiring an entire generation of baby boom filmmakers. Baker, Burton, Dante, Elfman, Jackson, King, Landis, Lucas, Penn, Simmons, Spielberg, Teller and Thornton are among the many who have credited Forry with such influence.
He collected horror memorabilia and turned his Los Angeles house into a museum of staggering proportions. Often the subject of television feature stories, Forry would often greet his visitors while wearing Bela Lugosi’s cape from Dracula. Oddly, this was one of the less-impressive offerings in his museum.
He might have been the most important white man in our cultural history. He certainly nurtured our inner-12 year-olds, and that is critical for our intellectual development. He was one of the most gracious and gentle men I had ever met.
Forrest J. Ackerman died last week at 92 years, a long and productive life. Anybody who owns a television set, reads fiction, goes to the movies, or pulls the covers over his or her head at night owes Forry a debt of gratitude.