It had started when packages of Universal Pictures’ horror films were released to TV stations, in those pre-video, pre-cable, pre-digital days. To see something then you had to wait for it to come on. I still remember the excitement we felt.
But, how is it that we were hipped to this particular action, as the Beatniks of the time might say?
One man, the coolest of the cool, really deserves most of the credit.
His name was Forrest J Ackerman. He was the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.
We Monster Kids would haunt the magazine racks of drugstores and convenience stores, hoping to run into a copy of this publication, which had anti-status in the adult world of the time. Teachers would confiscate (and often summarily destroy) copies found in a student’s possession.
Today I’m sure most teachers would be gratified to find kids actually reading anything.
But in those times, what educational philosophy there was abroad in the land centered on cutting down jungles, rather than irrigating deserts, to use pedagogical terms created by C.S. Lewis.
The idea was that children could go wrong by reading the wrong things. Pop Culture and comic books were heavily discouraged, thought to inculcate Juvenile Delinquency, whose black-leather jacketed spectre haunted the guardians of Right and Order.
Anyway, Forrest Ackerman put out Famous Monsters. Its pages were a love letter to the fantasy cinema. The layout was avant-garde and striking. The covers were often magnificent oil paintings by Basil Gogos, the Rembrandt of Monsterdom.
All in all, a heady package. Ackerman wrote using a playful, pun-filled style, but with real love for the subject matter.
He lived, as every Monster kid knew, in Hollywood— as he called it, “Horror-wood, Karloff-ornia.” His house, stuffed with a lifetime collection of Science Fiction and Horror movie memorabilia, was known as the Ackermansion. For Monster Kids it was a Lourdes, a Mecca– a place to make a pilgrimage to, if one was blessed with extraordinary good fortune.
I always wanted to go, but, alas! I lived in far-off Illinois.
However, far later in my own life, after I landed in California, a girlfriend of mine who lived in Los Angeles did me the incomparable favor of taking me to the Ackermansion itself.
I realized that childhood dream.
I followed “Uncle Forry” as he toured the fans through his delicious labyrinth for the umpteenth time, something he devoted a sizeable part of his life to doing.
There my eyes beheld such wonders as the dinosaurs from King Kong, the model lighthouse destroyed by the Rhedosaurus in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (American precursor to Godzilla) and the model of the U.S. Capitol destroyed by the titular vessels in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. I saw the head of the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth (1955).
After all those years, I was in Monster Heaven at last.
And there was more in this place. Acting as private guards, adoring, troll-like monster fans deliberately blocked wandering pilgrims from the doors to some of the “Mansion’s” rooms. But looking over the shoulder of the hulking form of one of them, I scoped out a shrine of another sort, where flickering votive candles and flowers surrounded an altar to Greta Garbo, decorated with many photographs and movie stills.
Oh, Ackerman was passionately devoted to the cinema in all forms. He, a worshipper in the movie-house dark, was the High Priest of an enthusiastic following, an army of acolytes.
An Esperanto-speaking futurist and would-be language reformer, Forrest J helped create our contemprorary cultural landscape. The term “sci-fi,” for example, was his, extrapolated from “hi-fi,” the most au courant music reproducing technology of the day. Also an agent for some working science fiction writers, he had on the site the greatest, most comprehensive collection of Pulp and Science Fiction magazines in the world.
At the very end of his life, he lost it all, house and all, sold to pay medical costs.
But what he did for a generation makes him, in my opinion and that of countless others, one of the architects of today’s living culture.
What would he have made of the New Yorker’s All-Science-Fiction Issue, which came out just last week?
[Silhouette on unrecognizable guest in the doorway of the dark industrial interior, via Shutterstock.com.]
Republican staffer caught spying on Democrats during Judiciary Committee meetings
A Republican staffer from the Ways and Means committee was caught spying on Democrats during their work over the weekend.
According to a Judiciary Committee source, the female staffer was ultimately discovered and ran out of the committee room once it was discovered she was there, tweeted Olivia Beavers, a writer at "The Hill."
"A Judiciary source says the committee, which has been practicing for their Monday impeachment hearing this whole weekend, came across a female GOP Ways and Means staffer in the hearing room today, but that she ran out once discovered," she tweeted.
New York Times editorial board asks Trump if he didn’t do anything wrong — why he won’t let witnesses testify
The New York Times editorial board issued a scathing op-ed Sunday detailing the ways in which President Donald Trump is destroying one of the key branches of the United States government.
While many presidents battle with Congress, Trump has taken his "obvious contempt" to a whole new level. But if he was truly innocent of the accusations he's facing, then why is he hiding so much.
"If Mr. Trump is so clear in his own mind that he didn’t try to pressure the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 election, why won’t he send the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to testify under oath that there was no quid pro quo?" asked The Times. "Instead, he has issued a blanket refusal to allow officials of his administration to testify or submit documents demanded by Congress. His approach is pitting Republican House members’ fealty to him against their respect for their own institution. They are making a fateful choice to diminish the House."
Former Republican Congressman admits he ‘can’t explain’ Ted Cruz: ‘You’d think he’d have more self-respect’
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday to perpetuate the false narrative that Ukraine hacked the 2016 election, a fact that has been disproven by all of the U.S. intelligence agencies. When asked to explain what Cruz could possibly have been thinking, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) confessed he has no idea how to explain Cruz.
"So, Charlie, what's going on here?" asked CNN host Fredricka Whitfield.