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PROFESSOR PLASTIK meets THE ACKERMONSTER!


Horrorwood, Karloffornia: July 25th, 2003

I spoke to a legend today. Shook hands with Hollywood history. My Hollywood. The movies and monsters and miracles of my youth. I spent the morning talking to Forrest J. Ackerman, and it was like a jaunt in a time machine. Surrounded by a cast of stellar players, I was transported
back to that place I used to find as a kid on Saturday afternoons, and later as a teen on Late Night, watching all the classic, and not-so-classic sci-fi and horror films. Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney - there is a little bit of them still in the room with this great man and the pieces of his wonderous collection.
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Recent events had taken their toll on both that world- famous collection and it's even more famous collector, and I was curious to know how each was faring. I knew things were alright when my online request for an interview was granted through an email signed, "Dr. Acula." Mr. Ackerman was gracious enough to take some time on a Friday morning, outside of his regular Saturday Open House hour, to chat a bit with me about growing up and working inside the Hollywood Sci-Fi and Horror scene. In his 86 years he has spent more than 80 of them in love with these films and their rich history; and he has been a mover and a shaper of that history. An actor, author, literary agent, magazine editor and major collector of film artifacts, his list of friends, clients and associates is a veritable who-could-know-more-who’s? of the era.
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He met me at the door with a huge smile and a wave. I was a little stunned a first, a bit stiff in my greeting. I took a few pictures of the treasures carefully covering every space on the shelves and walls larger than a handprint. There was a full-size Cylon warrior, the Creature’s foot, the Martian War Machine, Dracula’s cape!
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After I got the kid in me to quit squirming so much, I got down to asking him a few questions. What follows is that conversation. So Horror Fans, make some popcorn, and get comfy, you’re in for a real treat.
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PP: Although you are a bona-fide legend in the Horror, Sci-Fi, and collector’s worlds, perhaps there are one or two newcomers to the scene who could stand a little history lesson. Can you tell us as much as you’d care to about what brought you into this creepy world and some of your accomplishments along the way?
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FJA: Well, I selected the right pair of maternal grandparents. They took me to as many as seven films in a single day. The first movie they ever took me to, I was five and a half years old in 1922, was the now lost film called "One Glorious Day" and it was one glorious night for me because for the first time, I saw a spook on the screen. Shortly thereafter, Lon Chaney began making movies just for me; "The Phantom of the Opera", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", I even saw the lost film "London After Midnight." There was a magazine in the ‘20s called "Ghost Stories" and my dear grandmother read me entire issues, and then read them all over again at my insistence. And I had a grandfather, who was the architect of the legendary Bradbury building featured in "Wolf" , "Blade Runner" and "Demon With a Glass Hand", but I found he could do better things than design incredible buildings. He could draw ghosts and vampires and the devil and dinosaurs, so he drew me about 62 fabulous drawings when I was a youth. So I was really inculcated with fantasy and horror.
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In the early days there was a magazine called "Weird Tales" with Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley and I regularly read those magazines, so it was fore-ordained, I guess, that I should be a horror and fantasy and sci-fi fan. Forty-five years ago I was riding around in the automobile and had the radio on, and there was some mention made of "hi-fi." Since science fiction had been on the tip of my tongue ever since 1929, I stuck out my tongue and looked in the rear-view mirror and there tattooed on the end of my tongue was "Sci-Fi." To her immortal embarrassment, my dear wife said "Forget it, Forry, it will never catch on."
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PP: I read that you had amassed a large collection of photographs and such before Famous Monsters ever happened, and that it was sort of a fluke that you were in the right place at the right time when it all began.
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FJA: I had been in Paris, and picked up a magazine, Cinema 57, about movies that was ordinarily about all sorts of films but it had "The Werewolf of London" on the cover and inside it was all about "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" and "Island of Lost Souls" and "King Kong" and so on. So, of course, I acquired a copy just for my collection. Then I got to New York. As an agent, I had been selling fiction to a chap named James Warren. He had kind of a poor man’s " Playboy" called "After Hours," and I had sold him some science fiction and fantasy for that magazine. We had lunch, and he took a look at this Parisian magazine. He was looking for a "one-shot", some kind of a
  publication that wouldn’t be expected to continue. In his mind’s eye he could
see that French magazine turning into English, and he thought all he had to do was borrow some stills from some Frenchman. Well, it turned out that there were half a dozen fans over in France who owned the stills and they were not about to send them over and lend them to him. So I spoke up and said, "Well, I have 35,000 such stills and I’ve been seeing these movies ever since 1922. I think I could create a satisfactory magazine for you." Well, he didn’t know if I was a "Holly-wooden head" full of hot air or if it was all true, so he came out to Hollywood to check me out. He was too poor to fly from New York, so to impress me (I only learned years later) he took a Greyhound bus as far as Las Vegas and then got on a plane and flew in as the "great publisher from New York." (chuckles)
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Well, he found it was all true, so the next thing I knew I was sitting at a smoking typewriter, smoking so badly I was afraid it was gonna get cancer, and he was holding an imaginary sign in front of me "I am eleven-and-a-half years old, Forrest Ackerman, make me laugh." I’d had no intention of being funny about Frankenstein or anything else, but that’s what he wanted, so I wrote the entire first issue, and described all the stills and so on.
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Eight weeks later, I was in a swimming pool full of people who didn’t know me from the proverbial Adam and one mother was saying to the other, "You wouldn’t believe the magazine that my kid brought home, all full of horrible faces and on one page it said ‘a mummy fell into a swimming pool and became an instant mud pie!’" Everybody in the swimming pool was breaking up, and I though "Jeez, that came out of my fingers eight weeks ago!" Well, the first issue sold 125,000 copies and went back to press for 75,000 more, and I was on my way to doing 190 issues for publisher James Warren.
FMoF #1
FMoF #190
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"...nobody can write fantasy movie features like Forrey Ackerman. Nobody. He is the best specialty writer on the face of the Earth, bar none—a writer who is so head and shoulders above all other writers for our genre, that nobody will compare with him 100 years from now." James Warren, 1998
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You can drop by and visit The Ackermonster in Person on Saturdays from 11-12 noon
just email him at SCIFIBIZ@aol.com for confirmation.
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