Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fearwell to 4SJ

The Watchdog meets the Ackermonster, 1993.

The news was expected, but I was very sorry to learn that Forrest J Ackerman passed away last night, mere days after his 92nd birthday, and mere minutes before December 4th became December 5th -- the sort of detail I believe would have intrigued him, if he were writing this.
He and I had a modest personal history: I wrote to him for the first time (affectionately) in the pages of Dennis Daniel's book THE FAMOUS MONSTERS CHRONICLES, met him a couple of times at Fanex, was a personal guest at his Ackermansion on a day it was officially closed to the public, and even held hands with him for what seemed like a couple of minutes as Eric Hoffman struggled with my camera to nail this wonderful shot of he and I and his METROPOLIS robotrix all shaking hands together. There were times in my childhood that he seemed like one of the most important people in the world, and he certainly played a major role in the shaping of mine.
It's a natural feeling for those of us whose lives were changed by our introduction to Forry's Warren publications FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, MONSTER WORLD and SPACEMEN to feel as though part of our childhood has died, but you can't close a door that was blasted off its hinges. He made that kind of a difference. Admittedly, he was a controversial figure, beloved by hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) and disliked by others, some of whom had comparably outsized egos or perhaps felt they better deserved to inhabit his place in the epicenter of horror and sf fandom. I'd like to think that a biography will come forth someday that, in the right hands (they will NOT be mine), will show how much in the dark both sides of the argument really dwell. There seems to be very little middleground of opinion where 4SJ was concerned, but I suppose I inhabit it; I spent enough time with, or around, him to see and understand him from both perspectives. I know people who were personally upset and/or offended by things he did, but I don't think there's any question that he did more good, for more people, in his near-century among us than ill. He changed countless lives -- his activities surely helped to increase the production of horror and science fiction film genres in the 1960s, one of their most fertile and rewarding decades -- and, as I've said here and elsewhere before, his example defined the way I've been able to earn my living for almost twenty years.

There is a lot more to say about Forry, but I prefer to pay him the balance of my respects in VIDEO WATCHDOG #146 (our special "JAWS vs. APE" issue -- NOT!) , which I'll be writing tomorrow. Until then, you may find interesting this article, written by Forry in 2003, in contemplation of his own imminent mortality, which someone called "soundstage28" has thoughtfully posted on the Classic Horror Film Boards. It's the eighth posting from the top.

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