Thursday, November 06, 2008

Forrest J Ackerman is not long for this world...

Edit! I had originally titled this piece, "Forrest J Ackerman has gone to the graveyard..." and followed it up with the first line, "...and he's not planning on digging anyone up" - an attempt at humour that I hope is in line with Forry's own sensibilities. Alas, I had been fooled by an erroneous Wikipedia "Recent Deaths" listing. Forrest J. Ackerman is dying, it seems - a couple of weeks shy of his 92nd birthday - but he's not dead yet. Horror buffs, fans, or anyone who wishes to send him a postcard wishing him love or such can address it to:

4511 Russell Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

...tho' at this point it might well arrive too late, even if Wikipedia is jumping the gun. (Further links to information about his condition can be found here). Tho' I am sad for the world to be deprived of his presence, I am very happy for Forry - that he should have a peaceful death, at age 91, being well taken-care of and knowing he is loved by many seems about as benign a passage into non-being as one could wish for. The remainder of my appreciation I will let stand, written when I thought Mr. Ackerman had passed on.

Ah, Forry: how you corrupted my youth! Before Robert Bloch, before Creepy or Eerie or any of the other Warren magazines, years before the advent of the slasher film, it was Famous Monsters of Filmland that validated and furthered my fascination with horror and weirdness and gleefully twisted my mind. Understand that I had started my experiences with fantastic cinema as a child who, at age four or five, had to be taken out of a screening of The Wizard of Oz - my first theatrical experience ever, cut radically short because the flying monkeys were so terrifying to me; I was crying so wholeheartedly that I was disrupting the audience and my parents feared that I might be traumatized if I remained. As I grew hardier, I took a liking to late night screenings of The Planet of the Apes series on television or the odd badly-dubbed Japanese SF movie (or films with Ray Harryhausen stop-motion, especially the ones that had dinosaurs), but they weren't really dark or scary or sick, just cool; TV alone would not have turned me into the person I now am. And then one day, I was looking through a magazine rack in Maple Ridge somewhere for comic-related material, and found issue #111 of Famous Monsters of Filmland (from 1974, when I was in fact merely six years old - but I might have bought it used, so I might have been a bit older). It stood out, intrigued me, piqued my curiosity - that cover image (of Linda Blair in The Exorcist) was a damn sight darker than anything else on the rack, and WAYY more appealing than Archie, disturbing tho' it may have been. ("Why is her tongue green?") I still freaked out a year later when I convinced my parents to take me to see Food of the Gods at a drive-in based on it being on the cover of Famous Monsters - I couldn't take the giant maggot attack on Ida Lupino - but it was your dark humour and your odd aesthetic that made me want to keep workin' on it until I figured out HOW to watch scary movies; you just made it all seem so FUN! You set the bar, Forry - your infectious fan's devotion was the first model of fandom I was exposed to, and you guided me towards all sorts of experiences I value; you were a formative influence, and I am grateful as all heck to have been able to tell you this while you were still alive. (I had a brief email exchange with 4SJ a few years ago, when I thought - wrongly, it turned out - that I espied him doing a cameo in Peter Jackson's King Kong). I'm glad you were around to see the 21st century get started - I remember your saying that you really wanted to live to see it, back in the 1980's. Hope it didn't disappoint you!

We salute you, Forrest J. Ackerman!
(Say hi to Jack Parsons for us!)

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