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"Sci-Fi is Our High!" -- Forry's Legion of Nieces and Nephews
Vincent Price says a few words about Forry. (Introduction from the Booklet, "Forrest J Ackerman, Famous Monster of Filmland" - 1986 Imagine INC)
Sometime after Forry's Project 6000, I had the pleasure of receiving my own signed glossy photo from him left over from that venture. I was so happy to see his eyes light up when I was able to show him I still had this from the 1960's. He saw it during his 89th Birthday Bash.
[Photo by Tim Panik]
[Photo by Tim Panik]
[Photo by Robert Stoscup]
How can you not think of Forry Ackerman and not be child-like? Forry always reminded us that this universe of our childhood can certainly be expanded upon and not forgotten or completely tossed aside as we enter adulthood. For in that universe we will find the deep roots that make up our foundation.
Famous Monsters, as any follower will tell you, expanded that universe. The reader learned there were books that had been written which so many of the motion pictures we loved were based upon. Famous authors we had not known before wrote these stories. There were many artists of all kinds we did not know about which had come together to produce on celluloid the stories which captivated our imagination. It was Forry who told us their stories.
[Photo by Robert Stoscup]
My heart sank.
I was only 14. My Father had just come through a life threatening situation that involved a kidney transplant. My whole Summer of '74 was spent in a hospital by his side with Mom. My public education was at an end. Detroit schools were dying, the rot setting in, not to mention a teacher strike that had curtailed our graduation until sometime in July of that year. Everything was in a mess, and one thing that set my imagination on fire, something that could take me outside of what was happening was not going to be a probability in my life.
Don't misunderstand. I know I was still a lucky kid. My Dad and Mom were the best any child could ever have in support of his dreams. It is just I knew I couldn't make this dream a reality.
It had been a better year for me. Dad was to the point where he could not only walk again but go back to the work he loved. I'd started High School but my thoughts still longed for the opportunity to be a part of an event such as this.
For now, it was not to be.
Then in 1993 I found FM #200 and fell in love all over again. Forry was back and this time it seemed he was still aiming at his familiar audience only now he realized they had grown up... and FM had grown up too. Forry was progressive. He had finally the platform he'd always wished for. Everything in this issue of Famous Monsters looked the same as the old FM I'd recalled as a kid...but it was still different. Forry was talking to me as an adult. I loved it!
FM #200 sure had promise!
Then I learned there was a 1993 convention that was highlighted in this issue. I'd missed that but then later I learned my opportunity of a lifetime had finally come.
So I found eventually the dream of 1974-75 was surpassed!
It started in Florida down to the Keys, then here in California (where I'd only visited one time previously) and it would go onward up through Washington to Canada then end in Maine.
We never finished it with Maine, but I have been as far Northeast as Boston.
This was my first 'hello' to Ann. Still I can not believe it to this day.
Ann Robinson is truly a wonderful Lady. We talked a little about our favorite home video version of "The War of the Worlds". At the time it was the laserdisc which today still is the only copy I know which boasts of having all the sound effects from the film track in stereo.
I'm almost certain I have the arm of Mr. Bob Burns shown next to the King.
Again, apologies to Mr. Burns for not taking a nice photo of him. I still love having his arm, however, along with the "arm"ature !!
The King himself graces another powerhouse issue of Famous Monsters in what was surely a wonderful 14th birthday present to myself. The artwork was created by the legendary Basil Gogos.
It would be roughly a 30 year wait before a more intense interest beyond the tantalizing photographs and stories that Forry Ackerman shared about Lon Chaney would germinate. Until then the imagination soared in wonderment of what was beyond the initially available 50ft reels of Standard 8mm film containing the unmasking scene from "Phantom of the Opera". I know for years I relished watching what was known as a 'complete' print of the film I was finally able to purchase in the 1970s along with a Super 8mm print from Blackhawk films of "Hunchback of Notre Dame". Beyond that, little was known of the master of makeup, but then in the 1990s more films started to become available in home video formats and Mr. Blake's book "Lon Chaney: The Man Behind The Thousand Faces" was a revelation.
The early morning found myself creeping down to the car to get our luggage. On the way up to my room, there He was!.... GrandPa!!!
There I was. All I could think was, "Here's GrandPa! ... GrandPa!... I look like Crap!"
It didn't help that Al Lewis was in full character, even at 7 am in the morning although it was astonishing. He kept 'punching' my arm all the while saying, "How are ya'?, how are ya?"
Lot's of Love back to you Mr. Lewis!
I wouldn't meet author Rick Atkins at this time, but I've learned many years later that he also attended this convention. Rick is very close to Carla [whom we still enjoy today at age 102!] and not only shares birthday visits with Carla every year [their birthdays being within days of each other] Rick authored Carla's story in his book "Among the Rugged Peaks: An Intimate Biography of Carla Laemmle" which is not only a wonderful insight into Carla's life but her experiences on the Universal lot where she lived during the making of so many iconic motion pictures. I'm proud to have got to know Rick over the past few years and connect with him as a brother.
The motion picture Gort appeared in, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) shown here with Patricia Neal.
Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
Outside during breaks in the schedule of events, one little miracle occurred. I just happened across the 'star' of the person I was named after. I guess I'm a bit of a living tribute to John Charles Thomas.
Even though my own father's name is Robert Charles and mine is John Charles, I was actually named after John Charles Thomas the singer.
Being born at the end of July 1960 and learning that Mr. Thomas died late that same year, we can only assume that somehow I'm a 'sideways' legacy of this famous person.
My mom was born just before her. We just think she's the greatest!
As Uncle Forry always told us: Lon Chaney Shall Not Die!
[Photo by Tim Panik]