It's true he's recovering from a recent stroke. But as you
can see, spirits were high as Forry held his 86th birthday
at the China Inn in Glendale, California, with many of his
closest friends in attendance. That includes famed writer
Ray Bradbury, who was on hand to toast a friendship that started
before the rocket age.
Five-O got the report from director Paul Bunnell, whose horror
film "That Little Monster," newly
released on DVD fyi, includes a cameo appearance from Forry
one of the 106 cameos Ackerman has done since falling
in love with fantastic cinema in the 1920's.
Forry was born and raised in Hollywood. He is locally revered
for being the world's foremost authority on monsters, mummies
and spacemen. He is a self-appointed ambassador between the
worlds of Hollywood, sci-fi publishing, and his own monster
Forry has seen every single movie in his field for over 70
years. As a kid he was pen pals with Carl Laemmle, founder
of Universal and master of its golden age of horror. Later
Ackerman was Ray Bradbury's first writer's agent. L. Ron Hubbard
was another client. While Hubbard founded Dianetics and Scientology,
Forry founded "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine.
In 1958 Ackerman coined the term "sci-fi" and invented
the character Vampirella. Not so very long ago, he was consulted
by monster-fan Michael Jackson for advice on the "Thriller"
video, directed by birthday well-wisher John Landis.
than all that, for decades the evergreen genre-enthusiast
has been known from Echo Park to Malibu as the inspired storyteller
who "gives free tours of his stuff" every Saturday
Doesn't sound so hot? It does if your stuff includes the
Robot Girl from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," Bela
Lugosi's Dracula cape, sound disks from the original "Frankenstein,"
a bewildering array of vibrant 1950's oil paintings featuring
dinosaurs attacking space troopers, and at one time, a master
library containing troves of stills, posters, on-set snap-shots
and 50,000 books representing the finest and rarest imaginative
writing of the space age.
Basically, his dojo is heaven for anyone in a band or from
his dwelling is a shrine to the Unholy 7, the most influential
men in Famous Monsterdom: Karloff, Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr.,
Tor Johnson, Glenn Strange, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.
There are dinos, fantastic art and monster heads galore. He
still has the first awarded Hugo trophy, which he received
at the first World Science Fiction Convention fifty years
ago. You'll also come face to face with the stilt-walking
Martian invasion pod from George Pal's landmark movie "War
of the Worlds" (1953).
Last summer Forry relocated to a "Mini-Ackermansion"
nearby the original in historic Los Feliz. His once-mighty
memorabilia collection (at its peak worth a sum in the millions)
been dismantled to pay healthcare costs and a costly lawsuit
with a former business partner. These misfortunes have meant
the end for what was once the greatest single collection in
its field, one that the owner was dedicated to sharing with
people who feel the same enthusiasm and curiosity he does.
The quest to convince the city of Los Angeles or a private
entity to accept the
collection as a gift and convert it into a museum has been
a painful, difficult failure. "We live in a stupid world,"
Ray Bradbury said earlier this year, adding that he pleaded
with Rocketdyne to accept stewardship of inspirational material
uniquely suited to the company's vocation.
Rocketdyne declined the author's plea. "They didn't
believe in the future," said
Ray. In a related story, recent tests suggest that the corporation
poisoned well water across the Antelope Valley with carcinogenic
In any case, Forry's enthusiasm is undimmed. His positive
attitude has been tested more seriously than this in the past.
About a decade ago he lost his wife of 50 years when the couple
was robbed while on vacation overseas. He still speaks of
When you track down the Acker mini-mansion for a Saturday
tour, no doubt Forry will answer the door wearing Bela Lugosi's
oversized hypno-ring, used to hilarious effect in the Universal
horror-spoof classic "Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein."
Even though his toys are excellent, it's Forry himself who
is the main attraction his encyclopedic recall, his
irrepressible sociability, his soliciting of impromptu co-stars
from his tour groups for ritualistic recreations of scenes
from movies like "The Invisible Man." He's
a people-pleaser. Unlike the dominant stereotype of a sci-fi
fan, Ackerman is socially expansive, unironic and blessedly
unafraid to be corny. Old School New Wave, a pretty good match.
It's all in character for a fellow who lives by the motto,
"Save humanity with science and sanity."
Nate Diamond & Robot John
reporting from Los Feliz