December 6, 2008
I couldn't believe it when I read that Forrest J. Ackerman had passed away. Admittedly, this has not been a good year for entertainers, with obituaries for Paul Newman, Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops), and George Carlin (among others) regularly cropping up - but this is something slightly more devastating, because it's part of the passing of our cultural history.
I am way too young to have experienced the phenomena of Famous Monsters of Filmland firsthand, although I did read it in the late 70s in my young post-Star Wars fannish awakening). However, what Ackerman accomplished is short of phenomenal - in short, he became the 'grandfather' of fandom, promoting horror and science fiction (it was he who coined the term "sci-fi"); collecting a vast array of movie memorabilia; and basically serving as a focal point to promote the idea of what others might call"junk culture" - or "pop culture" as culture. As something worth celebrating, worth pursuing, and most definitely - worth enjoying.
It's hard for me to really blog about Ackerman's impact...mostly because his presence in fandom is like an invisible thread - most people have a sense of who he is, but have little sense of his impact. Looking on my own childhood, growing up in fandom, my favorite Saturday activity - watching b-movies on Son of Svengoolie (now without the "Son of") - would not have existed without Ackerman championing monster movies. Most bloggers - myself included - would probably still live in a plain Web 1.0 mode of fandom if Ackerman hadn't made it "cool" to write about movies that wouldn't normally get a second look. His collection of pulp magazines and movie memorabilia is the stuff of legend.
In both my visits to Los Angeles (back in 1991 and 1995), there are two places I regret not visiting - the Dudley Du-Right Emporium (which has now closed) and Mr. Ackerman's house. Rumor has it (and this is where I may be misremembering), Mr. Ackerman always welcomed fans, and was willing to show off his collection - and talk movies. Right now, I am saddened to hear of his passing not because he had any influence on me directly...but without him, popular culture would look much differently than it does now.
And for that, a belated thanks in memoriam.