Forry 4-ever: Step through the doors of the House Of Ackerman’ if you dare!

by Mark Burger

Forrest J.Ackerman (1916-2008) was probablythe worst’s foremostcollector of fantasyfilm memorabilia,as well as one of itsmost passionate proponents.It was Ackerman,after all, who coinedthe term “sci-fi ”for science-fi ction, created the Vampirellacomic strip and edited Famous Monsters ofFilmland, unquestionably the most infl uentialpublication of its kind in its time — and, givenits many devotees, perhaps all time.Known to one and all as Forry (or “UncleForry”), Ackerman’s lifelong enthusiasm wasfor all things spooky, scary and fantastic. Andthere was nothing more he enjoyed more thanwelcoming guests into his homes, which hehad basically converted into a museum showcasinghis collection of movie memorabilia.Like many others (including yours truly),Al Astrella and James Greene were longtimeAckerman admirers (“Ackerfans”?“Ackermaniacs”?), and together they teamedup to resurrect those cherished memories ofwhat Ackerman dubbed “the Ackermansion.”Astrella and Greene are the authors of thenew book House of Ackerman, now availablefrom Midnight Marquee Press ( Billed as both “A forbidden lookinside” and “A photographic tour of the legendaryAckermansion,” the book is a fond valentineto Ackerman’s life and career, packedwith photos of his mind-blowing collection ofprops, books, stills, artwork and other ghoulishgoodies.Said collection included the signet ringworn by Bela Lugosi as Dracula in Abbott andCostello Meet Frankenstein, the original theatricalposter for the silent fantasy fi lm Ghostof Slumber Mountain, an entire library ofbooks (many fi rst volumes, many signed), theMartian war machine from the 1953 screenadaptation of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds,closets full of masks and capes, models, postersand more. It was as much a museum as amansion, or even the man’s home!For those who never got to visit thehallowed halls of any incarnation of theAckermansion, the book is the next best thing.“Sadly, Forry didn’t live to see this projectto completion,” said Astrella, “and we hopethat this tome will help to keep the memory ofthe Ackermansion alive for all time.“Forry had a lot of fans,” he added, “and, ofcourse, if we hope to do anything it would beto help carry the torch to the next generationabout the wonders of this legendary home thatonce held one of the largest collections of fantasyin the world.”“Forry had thought of an ‘Ackermansion’book, but had no energy left to do it,” Greenerelated. “He was dealing with legal hassleswith former FM publisher Ray Ferry, and hada recent stroke andinjury from a fall.He was getting ‘longin fang’ as well andcould not type anymore.”Ackerman gave hisfull blessing to theproject, and even dictateda foreward someeight months beforehis death. “Forry wasoverjoyed upon hearingabout our plansand gave us enthusiasticencouragement,”Greene said.Both authorsfi rst encounteredAckerman in thepages of FamousMonsters, the selfexplanatorymagazinethat Ackermanedited for more than20 years and whichinspired legions oflike-minded fantasyfans, includingGeorge Lucas,Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, PeterJackson, Joe Dante and John Landis. Dantecast Ackerman in Hollywood Boulevard andThe Howling, Landis in Beverly Hills Cop IIIand Innocent Blood, Jackson in Dead/Alive,and Ackerman played myriad cameo roles inother fi lms, as well.The magazine was distinguished byAckerman’s unabashed enthusiasm, hisknowledge, and his penchant for puns. “BestWitches,” “Horrorwood, Karloffornia,”“Scary Christmas,” “Forry Get Me Not,”“4-E,” “Ackermonster” and, of course,“Ackermansion.”Together, Astrella and Greene fi rst visitedthe Ackermansion in 1990. By that time,Ackerman had already moved once, fromSouth Sherbourne Drive to GlendowerAvenue in Los Angeles. In later years, followingthe death of his wife Wendayne anddue to fi nancial necessity and declininghealth, Ackerman moved to the “Ackermini-mansion” on Russell Avenue. Eventoward the end, the door was always open.Old school was Forry’s school. He disdainedslasher fi lms and touted the merits ofthe golden oldies until the end. A regular onthe convention circuit, he cut an unmistakablefi gure in his eyeball-scorching leisuresuits, cheerfully greeting fans of all ages,with a particular smile for the pretty ladies.Yours truly met him once at the 2000Chiller Theatre convention in Secaucus,NJ, and enjoyed a brief (but gratifying)interview with him. Despite having nevermet him before, it was like meeting an oldfriend.When ill health curtailed his publicappearances, many friends and fans did theirbest to keep his spirits high until the end,none more so than his trusted assistant JoeMoe. There’s no question that Forry left thisworld a loved man.“Forry’s legacy will be remembered everytime someone opens up a monster magazineor sci-fi novel, every time an old monstermovie is viewed again,” observed Astella.“Forry did it fi rst, caring about those thingswhich most other people thought of as junk,cared enough to collect and keep a recordof the fi lms we love, and to let thousands ofpeople wander through his home.”Both Greene and Estrella possess a fewitems from Ackerman’s collection, and areproud to have known him. Said Greene: “Wewrote this book to further the memory of thisamazingly infl uential man, his generosity andenthusiasm.”