On December 4, 2008, Forrest J Ackerman died from heart failure at his home in Los Angeles. The actor, agent, editor, discoverer of Ray Bradbury, creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the man who was credited with creating the term sci-fi, was 92 years old. His massive collection of science-fiction movie and literary memorabilia once included more than 50,000 books, magazines, and costumes like Bela Lugosi’s cape from the 1931 film Dracula.
Ray Bradbury and Sci-Fi
Ackerman had placed a flyer in a Los Angeles bookstore for a science-fiction club he was founding and a teenage Bradbury showed up. Later, Ackerman gave Bradbury the money to start his own science-fiction magazine, Futuria Fantasia, and paid the author’s way to New York for an authors meeting that Bradbury said helped launch his career. Later, as a literary agent, Ackerman represented Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and numerous other science-fiction writers.
Ackerman said the term “sci-fi” came to him in 1954 when he was listening to a car radio and heard an announcer mention the word “hi-fi.” “My dear wife said, ‘Forget it, Forry, it will never catch on,”‘ he recalled.
Ackerman had bit parts in Queen of Blood, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, Amazon Women on the Moon, Vampirella, Transylvania Twist, The Howling, and the Michael Jackson video for Thriller.
Famous Monsters of Filmland
Ackerman founded Famous Monsters in 1958. It lasted until 1983.
FM was originally conceived by James Warren. The first issue, published in February 1958, was so successful that it required a second printing. FM offered brief articles, publicity stills, and graphic artwork on horror movies from the silent era to the current date of publication. It was geared towards a demographic of late pre-adolescents and young teenagers.
In the pages of FM, Forrest Ackerman promoted the memory of Lon Chaney, Sr., a great influence on his own childhood. The magazine regularly published photos from King Kong (1933), including one from the film’s infamous “spider pit sequence”, featured in Issue #108 (1974) which, until Ackerman discovered a photo of a spider in the cavern setting, had never been proven definitively to have actually been filmed.
In the early 1980s, the magazine folded after Warren became ill and Ackerman resigned as editor. The magazine stopped publication in 1983 after a run of 191 issues. It was resurrected in 1993 by a photographer named Ray Ferry. In an effort to help Ferry finance his full-time efforts on behalf of FM, Ackerman agreed to a reduced editor’s fee of $1500 per issue. But Ferry failed to pay Ackerman for his services on four consecutive issues, continued to reject Ackerman’s contributions, and Ackerman finally quit.
In 1997, Ackerman filed a civil lawsuit against Ferry for libel, breach of contract, and misrepresentation; he was awarded $382,500 in compensatory damages and $342,000 in punitive damages. Later, Ferry filed for bankruptcy.
According to Movie City Indie, some of the auction items from the estate include:
- Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. ($20,000-$30,000)
- Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven. ($15,000-$20,000)
- A cape made for Bela Lugosi in 1932 and used many times for his stage portrayal of Dracula. Lugosi then wore the costume in Plan 9 from Outer Space. ($15,000-$20,000)
- A first edition of the book, Dracula signed by Bram Stoker and inscribed by Bela Lugosi to Forry Ackerman. ($6,000-8,000)
- Fritz Lang’s monocle, which he wore when he directed Metropolis. This was given to Forry by Lang. ($3,000-$5,000)
You can go to Profiles in History to view the items. The auction takes place April 30th and May 1st. LiveAuctioneers will let you bid on them.
Bill G’s Small Famous Monsters Collection
I have six FMs leftover from my childhood. As you can see from the photo, most aren’t in the greatest condition, but I treasure them anyway. Famous Monsters #148 (Oct, 1978) was still on the Star Wars kick, and features an extremely bizarre “sequel” fan-fic (an alternate universe Episode V?) written by someone named Michael Aquino. In the story, Darth Vader kidnaps Luke, Lea, and Han Solo, and explains to them his philosophy of order and reason. It’s amusing in that Vader sounds almost like the Architect from Matrix Reloaded. In this particular story, Ben Kenobi was actually the bad guy, Vader is killed (thus dooming the galaxy – no shit!), and Han Solo hooks up with a female jedi from the planet of the Sith. It was as if George Lucas entrusted the Star Wars universe to Friedrich Nietzsche.