I first learned of Forrest J Ackerman through reading a softcover book that I had seen in a local comic book sometime in the early to mid-1980's. The title was 'Mr.Monster's Movie Gold' by Forrest Ackerman, as well as rare horror, science fiction and fantasy stills all of which came from Ackerman's collection, there were also photos of himself and his vast collection at the Ackermansion in Hollywood. I was fascinated by this man whom had for decades been such a big fan and collector, who was a literary agent for some of the top science fiction authors, had cameos in many genre films, termed the word Sci-Fi, invented Vampirella, was Friends with Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, John Landis, Joe Dante etc and edited the first ever monster film magazine Famous Monsters of filmland;these are just touching on the surface of the achievements of Forrest Ackerman. The photos in Mr.Monster's Movie gold inspired me to become more of a genre fan especially a horror fan, the photos of Forry's collection also made me want to become a collector myself, although of course I knew I would never have anything like the incredible things that he had collected. I should think that most fans had heard about Forry from reading 'Famous Monsters' which he edited for 190 issues from 1958 to 1983. I was aware of the magazine and probably had at the time a few of the later issues, but I didn't really know anything much about it's editor until that book I saw in the comic shop. After buying and reading the book I was determined to try and find out more about Forry and the Ackermansion, mainly through genre books and magazines. Years later I wrote to Forry, just to basically tell him what an inspiration he has been on my interest in horror, science fiction films, books etc. I forget how long it took for me to get a reply but when I did I was over the [full] moon. I think it was sometime during 1990 that I got a reply back. The letter basically stated that he was coming to the UK and will be appearing at the Scala cinema in London, and also would be hoping to visit the final resting places of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.G.Wells etc. He even mentioned what hotel he would be staying at in London. This was fantastic news, I would now have the opportunity to meet the great man himself. As the letter was a little sketchy I had to ring the Scala up for more information regarding the event. A good friend of mine agreed to accompany me to London, we both excited and so looking forward to 'The Famous Monsters of filmland festival'. I had never been to anything like this before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Anyway to cut a long story short, the day had arrived and we turned up at the Scala cinema in King's Cross. The Scala is known for showings of all manner of cult and sleazy classics, as well as Exploitation, horror/sci-fi classics, Hong Kong cinema, grindhouse etc.
Although a Little rough around the edges the cinema was an impressive place and quite large, the roughness kind of added to its charm. Upon entering you climb some stairs that led to a large open lobby adorned with film posters of all kinds. Here in the lobby were a number of stalls selling an assortment of videos, books, magazines etc and on one of the walls were some of the original 'Famous Monsters' cover posters that could be sent for from Famous Monsters mail order company 'Captain Company' the only one I can remember was the Vincent Price 'Madhouse' cover or was it Dr.Phibes? I forget now. The doors opened at 12.30pm and at 12.45 the first of the 5 films was shown, it says in the programme [see above] that 'Return of the Apeman' would be shown in place of 'Bride of Frankenstein', this was not the case in the end as a copy of 'Bride' was shown which really pleased me as it was a firm favorite of mine and to see it on the big screen was amazing. Following this at 2.15pm was 'I was a teenage Frankenstein' and then at 3.45 'The Tomb of Liega' which my friend and I never got to see all of. My friend agreed to loan me some money so that I could buy a copy of the video 'Hooray for Horrorwood' which was on sale in the lobby by Forry's associate and publisher at the time Ray Ferry [For those that don't know Ray Ferry would take over as publisher on the new revived issues of Famous Monsters beginning with issue #200 and Forry was back as editor, unfortunately big disagreements and a bust up ensued between Forry and Ferry and it all ended up in a court battle - read online for the whole story]. Anyway we had to find a cash machine and when we did eventually find one there was scaffolding on the banks wall and tape in front of the cash machine, my friend risked it and went under the tape and lost his card in the machine, so that was that. What a downer and on top of that my camera decided not to work. At 5.15pm 'How to make a monster' was shown followed by a Ray Harryhausen Showreel and at 7.15pm Forry and Ray appeared on stage to a captive audience, I forget what they both spoke about but they basically both spoke of how they both became long time friends and about their interest and careers within the genre.At 8.15pm the Last film of the night was a film that Harryhausen's dynamation effects could be seen to great effect, 'Mysterious Island'. At 10pm Forry and Ray appeared in the cinema's lobby to meet fans and sign what ever fans wanted signing. I didn't realise that it was so late in the day that fans got to meet the two of them until I re-looked at the souvenir programme [as seen above]. Anyway Forry was sat at a table and behind him was a TV showing the 'Horray for Horrorwood' video and next to that was Forry's award from the 'Horror Hall of Fame' that he was presented with that year. While queueing up to meet the great man the chap in front of me was talking to Forry and asking him if he could look at Lugosi's Dracula ring and Karloff's Mummy ring, so I got a chance to see these 2 fantastic iconic items. I never thought to ask myself to see them, so thank goodness someone did. When it was my turn Forry smiled and we shook hands, I placed the things on the table for him to sign which were about 4 books written by Forry as well as the biographical 'Amazing Forries'. He responded by saying "Arrgghh you have all the best books". I forget what else was said to each other but he signed by books and handed me a keyring that said upon it "Remember me with every key...4E 4E 4E 4E 4E" and a badge of Forry's face made up like Dracula. I thanked him and went to meet and get Ray Harryhausen's autograph, for some reason I never said anything really to him [I think I wanted to ask him something different instead of what he probably gets asked alot, but I couldn't think of anything] Ray signed the back of my souvenir programme and for some reason my friend asked him to sign a couple of 'King Kong' comics??? Later before the end of the festival I got to speak with Forry for a little longer and I let him look at a few photos of my tiny horror collection and photos of Bram Stoker's urn at Golder's Green Crematorium, London. I said that if he wanted any of the photos he was quite welcome to them, he just chose one which was of myself taken during the early 1980's. A year or so later I was surprised to discover that Forry had printed my picture on the page 'Wanted more readers like...' in the second issue of 'Monsterama' boy was I pleased. So that was my sketchy memories of 'The Famous Monsters of Filmland festival' in London on march 16th 1991, it was such a memorable experience to me that I shall always look back on it with great fondness. One of my biggest regrets was never getting the opportunity [money more like] to go to Hollywood and see Forry and his collection, still I feel very honoured to have met him.
Contents of the souvenir brochure as seen above are as follows:
Itinerary of the day.
Introduction.'Famous Monsters of filmland story' - re-printed from 'Pure Images' #1vol.2 by Greg Theakson [This is only part of what was a much longer article with more photos and text.
Ray Harryhausen interview - re-printed from 'Imaginator' by Ken Miller.
'The House that Ack built' by Greg Theakson
Adverts for The Festival of Fantastic Films and Psychomania Videos, London.
Picture of Forrest Ackerman and Rayharryhausen [back page]
Later that night, not long after the Famous Monsters festival had finished an all night B-movie Marathon was held at the Scala and hosted by Johnny Legend [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Legend Also www.myspace.com/rockabillyjohnnylegend The event was named 'Johnny Legend's Rock & Roll Outerspace Delinquents All Night Show' Films shown during the night were:
'The Corpsegrinders' (1971)
'I Drink your Blood' (1971)
'Brides of Blood' (1968)
'Monster of the Peidras Blancas' (1959)
'Teenagers from Outer Space' (1959)
Plus rare trailers and surprises
I forget what trailers and surprises there were, but I do remember Johnny Legend on stage with I think the manager of the Scala cinema at some point doing a B-movie quiz, I answered a question about 'The Beast of Yucca Flats' and won a signed photo of Johnny's cameo appearance in 'Re-animator 2' and a 45 single of Johnny singing a song called 'House of Frankenstein' and on the B side was his rendition of a song featured on Hershall Gordon Lewis's '2000 Maniacs' All in all the whole day was fantastic, I just wish I knew some others who also went to the events and took some photos which I could share here.