“The Forrest J Ackerman Scrapbook”
Brian Anthony Interview with BearManor Media
BA – Yes, very well. I was a monster-kid in the 1960s and grew up on “Famous Monsters” magazine. Forry Ackerman was a self-professed agent-editor-lecturer-archivist-researcher-esperantist-anthologist. He really inserted himself into the narrative, along with stories about his house, the “Ackermansion,” which accommodated his collection. I would write to him and he would always write back. In the 1990s I moved to Los Angeles, and began to see Forry on a regular basis.
BA - The photographs came from a variety of sources. Forry kept everything, and there were literally tens of thousands of photos in his archives. When he sold off a large part of his collection in the early 2000s I purchased a number of boxes from his garage--the “Garaj Mahal” as he called it—which contained hundreds of fan photos. Kids would make up as monsters and send them to Forry, and he published many of them in “Famous Monsters.”
Another source of material was the late Kevin Burns, who was the executor of Forry’s estate. In addition to granting access to the archives, Kevin owned a number of Famous Monsters and Aurora model cover paintings, which he allowed me to re-photograph for use in the book.
A third source of material was my own collection of photos. When I began hanging out at the Ackermansion I was determined to photograph as much as possible, and in the best quality. Remember, this was pre-digital. Even though the Ackermansions (there were three over the decades) had been around literally my entire lifetime, there was always an ephemeral quality to them—Forry would acquire treasures, sell others, and sometimes donate or give material away—it was constantly changing—so I wanted to document the collection as it was, at any given moment, while I could.
BA - There were approximately fifty thousand books, plus movie props, posters, lobby cards, photos, original scripts, costumes, toys, models… Forry estimated at one time that there were as many as three hundred thousand items in his collection.
BA - There is a Bela Lugosi cape and the “Dracula” ring that Lugosi owned, a full size recreation of the Robotrix from “Metropolis,” one of Lon Chaney Sr.’s make-up kits, original Famous Monsters and Aurora model cover paintings, the Beaver Top Hat that Lon Chaney Sr. wore in “London after Midnight,” plus props, models… a bit of everything.
When the collection outgrew that house Forry moved to an eighteen room mansion on Glendower Drive in the Hollywood Hills. This is the Ackemansion that most people remember. Every Saturday Forry would hold an open house and people would visit, sometimes from around the world, and he would give his tour, tell his stories and make some awful puns, then invite everyone into his large living room for a sit down and a question and answer session. It was all very informal, and a lot of fun.
When Forry became ill in 2002 he downsized his collection considerably and moved to a smaller house on Russell Avenue, which he dubbed the “Acker Mini Mansion.” One of his main concerns in relocating was that he remained within walking distance of his favorite eatery, The House of Pies! He continued to welcome friends and fans and hold the Saturday tours.
So I tried to format the scrapbook as if we were taking the tours, traveling through each of the mansions. This is followed by sections detailing the animation collection, original art and the artists, posters & lobbies, and friends & fans.
Years ago, I began my career as an animator so the animation material was of special interest to me. Forry owned a number of model miniatures that were given to him by his friend, animator Ray Harryhausen. Forry also had a number of dinosaur models that were built for and used in the original King Kong, dating back to 1933.
When Forry parted with these models in the early 2000s I made a couple of hundred digital photos, all carefully lit and composed. The exterior skins had deteriorated on a number of the models, and you could actually see the interior armatures and their construction. I knew I wouldn’t get another chance, so I documented everything in great detail. A number of these photos appear in the animation section of the scrapbook.
BA - I had a lot of help putting this together. My writing partner Bill Walker is an exceptional graphic artist, and Bill was responsible for creating the design overall of the book. Friends and collectors made valuable contributions. Ben Ohmart at BearManor Media worked with us to make the final volume look as good as possible. My grateful thanks to all.
And then there was Forry, he really did inspire a generation. Stephen King, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg have all cited Forrest J Ackerman as a great influence on their own careers. A sense of fun and wonder permeated everything he did, and if the scrapbook informs and entertains, Forry fashion, I think we will have succeeded.