Friday, December 5, 2008

Goodbye, Uncle Forry: Famous Monsters Speak


Today the sad news was announced that Forrest J Ackerman died late last night at age 92.

I'll be posting my own thoughts on the life of horror/sci-fi film fandom's Uncle Forry, but first I want to share remembrances graciously shared with me by Forry friends and fan favorites Verne Langdon and James Warren.

James Warren
:

This will be one funeral I never wanted to go to.

I always thought he would outlive me.

I thought he would outlive everyone.

And in a way he will.

They're going to remember his name long after we're gone.

A lot of people are saying he was a good man.

He was not a good man.

He was a great man.

His friends adored him.

His fans couldn't get enough of him.

People he never met idolized him.

His enemies hated him because he was a better man than they were.

During those golden years I was his publisher my emotions toward him ran from:

- Irritation
To amazement,
To admiration,
To fondness,
To affection,
To love.
True Love.

I was dazzled by his enthusiasm. Humbled by his abilities. Captivated by his style.
He was so good at what he did.

He was warm.

He was funny.

He was precious.

That's why it's so terribly hard to say goodbye.


In all the years I knew him I never once heard him raise his voice in anger. He always spoke - and sang - in a quiet voice.

He spoke softly. He spoke low. He would always speak low.

Like the song:

"Time is so old,
But life is brief.
Forry was gold,
And time - a thief.
We're late,
It's getting late,
The curtain descends,
Everything ends
Too soon,
Too soon ..."

Now he's with the great Talents he loved.

Al Jolson.
Marlene Dietrich.
Sammy Davis.

To them we say: "Welcome him. Enjoy him."

We did.

For ninety-two years.

Forrest J Ackerman, it's time to get into that space ship and fly.

Fly right over the Horizon. Just like you used to. And while you're up there, look down and see the million lights shining on Planet Earth.

Each one is a young reader you influenced.

Each one is a part of the Legacy you gave to us.

So long, Forry.

Have a good trip.

Have a great trip.

I'll see you later.

- Jim

Verne Langdon, who called FJA "a Man among men," remembers Forry:

On Thurday, October 30, Joe Moe, my wonderful friend and caregiver/protector/compadre/right hand to Forrest J Ackerman -- phoned to tell me he was bringing Forry home from the hospital and that Forry had asked to see me.

I was one of a small group he had either the energy or the desire to see one last time - and I rearranged my business and personal matters and headed down the coast to him, even as another dear friend of equally many years-plus -- James Warren -- was doing the very same, granting Forry's wish and flying a far greater distance than I drove, for the very special time, last time in this lifetime at least, to be near to our dear "EF-JAY". The first day (October 31) I visited him his front lawn had been transformed into a cemetery, complete with headstones and skeletal hands reaching up from the soil.

I was appalled at the sight.

Who could be so callouse as to play such a ghoulish prank? Who? Who, indeed! Forry. That's who. It was Halloween, after all, and he wanted the children to have "the mood" of his favorite holiday. In the living room window some of his most-favorite frightening faces stared out for every trick-'r-treater to see and be spooked by! That's why he'd asked to be brought home from the hospital - so he could watch the kids come up his driveway on Halloween night - past the headstones and famous monsters in his window - to his porch and front door for their treats.

No tricks? Sadly, the "trick" is on all of US, that "trick" being that that was Forry's final Halloween.

You're going to hear a lot from people who have no idea of "what killed Forry": Heart attack.

Stroke.

Etc.

Truth be known, congestive heart failure was his Prince Sirki, along with old age and natural causes.

Plus he was tired of not "being able to taste" his food.

By his own woeful description to me, "I'll never be able to taste a hot dog again." What is life without being able to taste a hot dog? No life at all. And so, his hourglass was on "empty".

On October 31st when I saw him he could barely sign his name. He was kept warm by, of all things, a black blanket with little white dancing skeletons printed all over it. I told him I thought it was sick, and he was absolutely delighted with my sincerely-horrified reaction. Forry was intent on regaling me with stories about him and Jim and their bad-boy "exploits" in the Big Apple and elsewhere. He of course assaulted me with "Baby Face" as only Forry can sing it, and we whiled away the very precious time smiling, laughing (weakly), and more than once my tears rolled freely down my cheeks, as when he made great effort to tell me I was the "best" MC at any of his birthday bashes, "ever".

As I sat there with him, in the battered remnants of his once-massive-now-mini collection of magical monster and moonfan memorabilia, it became increasingly clear to me that for all his collection, Forry's most treasured, nay cherished "possessions" were not possessions at all, but rather accumulated favorite people nearest and dearest to him, his proteges, his Special ones, his feted ones, his Friends. Forry and Jim Warren made magazine history together, and so it is of course fitting that Jim Warren spent much of Forry's final days with him as well. I was with them for most of it as they sang Jolson songs together, laughed easily about times gone by, and loved one-another as always they did. I watched as long as my aching heart could take it, then I quietly stepped from the darkened room and cried like a baby. I was not the only one; Jim was affected the same way, as were others who paid their last living Respects.

FJA's work will survive him for all to see in back issues of his and Jim's magazines, on liner notes of my albums, in the fine script he penned for our "An Evening With Boris Karloff And His Friends" Decca LP album for all to hear, and so much more work elsewhere.


Forrest J Ackerman was a man among men, First in the field of One, an enigma both enigmatic and charismatic at the same moment, and - above ALL else - a true, genuine, bonifide, satisfaction-gay-ron-tee'd COLLECTOR, bigger and better than any other "collector" I've ever known.

In fact, Forrest J Ackerman was the "Grand Daddy" of them all, the prototype where all the other monster and sci-fi collectors actually learned to be "collectors."

Forrest J Ackerman: Once he was ours.

Now he belongs to The Ages.

Aloha, old Friend.




(L-R) JAMES WARREN, VERNE LANGDON, FORREST J ACKERMAN
"THE THREE MUSKETEERS!"

8 comments:

Gary D Macabre said...

On my list of things to do in this life "Buy Uncle Forry lunch" was one near the top of the list for a while, but unfortunately it never worked out to get to Monster Bash as you well know. Sadly that item must now be placed on the things to do in the afterlife list. Goodbye Uncle Forry.

Brian D. Horrorwitz said...

Whew. Incredible words from Jim Warren and Verne Langdon. I am speechless.

Max the drunken severed head said...

Gary, Brian--

The sadness we three feel is shared by many thousands of people, I'm sure.

I never made a trip to the Ackermansion, or to "Karloffornia," but he and Jim Warren always brought it to US, as my friend Richard Olson put it.

I feel much older today.

Robert Taylor said...

Max, I hope you don't mind my putting this here, as I have left it in a couple other places already. When we sang so often with Forry at the Bash in 2006, this song brought from Forry the wistful comment that it had been his beloved grandfather's favorite. It was written in 1915 and more than 90 years later it's running through my head--and through my heart--over and over today. I may have a word wrong here and there, as I've written it down from memory--but it's close:

"Night are growing very lonely,
Days are very long--
I'm a-growin' weary only
Listening for your song--
Old remembrances are thronging
Through my memory!
'Til it seems the world is full of dreams,
Just to call you back to me!

There's a long, long trail a-winding
Up to the land of my dreams--
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams--
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true--
'Til the day when I'll be going
Down that long, long trail with you!"

toyranch said...

Forry lived a long and good life. I'm sad that he's gone, but I'm so happy he was here with us for as long as he was. Always generous with his time and appreciative of the lives he touched. His life is over, but his legacy lives on forever.

Anonymous said...

Powerful words from 2 men who were part of his inner circle. It's been so very touching all of the various posts in various groups and blogs. Hopefully some of the big names will also acknowledge the great man.

Rob Tullo

wich2 said...

Dear Max & gang-

I've been fascinated to see so much outpouring of sentiments like -

"He's with his own heroes, now..."

"God bless him..."

"I hope to see him again..."

Etc.

- expressed about a man who bravely made clear, his entire life, that he did not credit such beliefs.

Not sure what it means, beyond an expression of good wishes from those still here; but it is an interesting phenomenon.

Sincerely,
-Craig W.

quickwatson said...

I was fortunate enough to buy Forry lunch and dinner and his favorite... pie.

He had already repaid me a thousandfold with Famous Monsters, but on those cherished afternoons Forry regaled me with ribald Hollywood "insider" stories that would curl the Wolfman's perm!

Given his taste for pie and puns I don't think he would mind if I quipped, "Uncle Forry finally got his just desserts."

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