Saturday, December 6, 2008
So long, Uncle Forry
If anyone reads this, it's pretty obvious I'm a huge fan of classic horror and science fiction films. I grew up dueing the 60's and 70's, right when there was a revival of interest in films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the 50's sci-fi like "Them". Every week I would watch the "Chiller Thriller" movie from Pembina, North Dakota, Saturday at 10:30pm. Anticipating the weekly dose of classic horror was heaven to kids like me; in other words, kids who weren't the popular or athletic kids in school. I was bound to a larger community of like-minded kids across North America by a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland; a fun and pun filled monthly tribute to the films us "monster kids" loved. It was created and edited by a man named Forrest J. Ackerman, or the "Ackermonster" to us kids. Here was an adult who not only loved the same kind of stuff that we did, but was able to communicate in a way that we kids understood an appreciated. I guess looking back, puns like "Horror-wood, Karloffornia" were pretty corny, but we ate it up with two spoons.
"Uncle Forry" passed away Thursday night at the age of 92. An elderly man with the heart of a young boy (he kept it in a jar by his bed.....bada bing!!!-don't worry this isn't disrespectful, Uncle Forry would have loved it!). I feel fortunate to have met him once several years ago, and just a couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to write him a letter to let him know how much I appreciated him and his work. I don't know if he ever saw the letter, but that's ok-I just needed to make it know. So here's the contents of that letter, as my tribute to Uncle Forry.
Dear "Uncle Forry",
This is just another letter from a slightly-greying monster kid who grew up with Famous Monsters magazine, and shares an undying love for the classic monster movies your work and life has so joyfully celebrated. I was able to meet you briefly, once in San Diego, and while we didn't have a long chat, that opportunity to meet you ranks as one of my proudest moments (way ahead of the Master's degree!!).
I suppose everyone has a "Forry Story", and here are a couple of the moments of how you and your passion for the classic monster movies made ME a better man. I clearly remember you publishing a letter from an enraged father, who claimed to have destroyed his son's collection of magazines and models. His letter to you ranted about how you were exploiting kids, pushing your "garbage" on them, and how the world would be better off without "your kind". Reading his letter enraged me the way nothing else had as a kid, almost to the point of tears. The only thing that stopped me from breaking something in my fury was reading your response. I can't remember the exact wording, but your answer was so articulate and respectful in tone, it took my breath away. You not only expressed EXACTLY how I felt about monster fandom, but you did it that was in no way demeaning to the man who so thoroughly berated you in his letter. You showed me how a true gentleman stands up to hatred, not with threats or profanity, but with clarity and civility and courage. You helped me grow up a little that day.
My other story is a few years later, when I was just starting grade 7. I was in a new school, and the typical chubby shy kid. My first two days were horribly awkward, and I started picturing spending the next three years as the outcast of the class. On the third day I took my current issue of Famous Monsters to read over lunch. As soon as the other kids saw that magazine (Vincent Price was on the cover, I forget the number of the issue), the other kids started to ask "what's that?", "where did you get it?" "can I look at it?". PRESTO! Just like that I was the kid who knew all the COOL STUFF about monster movies!! Thanks to Famous Monsters, what could have been a horrible experience in my early adolesence turned into a break-out year, when I started to explore life beyond my little shell!
Now I suppose I'm considered a pretty successful and well-rounded individual. I have a beautiful girlfriend, a wall full of movies and a life full of great memories. To me you have always been the adult who new how to talk to us kids. I have to THANK YOU with all my heart for your work and your presence here on Earth. God bless you, Mr. Ackerman!!!