- July 23, 2000 - Comic Con International - San Diego, CA
- Mention anything to do with archival Sci-Fi, horror, or fantasy and the name Forrest Ackerman is most likely to pop up sometime during the conversation. As the person who coined the phrase "Sci-Fi," Forrest has become the leading historian and guardian of all things celluloid and otherwise concerning anything remotely to do with the above-mentioned genres.
As an elder statesman with plenty of history to talk of, in person, one can't help but be reminded of how much Forrest looks like the late 1950s comedian Ernie Kovacs might have looked today. Glasses, a pin-stripe moustache, and cheap suits always adorn Forrest in a film-noir style. As a person, he is quite a gentleman, always eager to chat with anyone about any topic. When it comes to anything science-fiction, horror, or fantasy related, Forrest almost beams throughout discussions of the subject.
Forrest is the caretaker of his home, known as the Ackermansion, in which he gives weekly tours - by appointment - on Saturdays. These tours take visitors through quite a few rooms, all filled with memorabilia of days gone by. Though there are too many things to mention, amongst the collection are original film posters, costumes, film set pieces, archival footage, and so much more. He almost could be considered the godfather, if not the distant uncle, to the Sci-Fi/Horror film genre.
Aside from being ever the collector, Forrest is also an author and has made cameo appearances in many films. Having had met him quite a few times before, we thought we would finally sit down with the legend himself to have a proper chat and see what is new and what was old with him. The Comic Con International in San Diego (summer 2000) was closing up. Ever the gracious host, even while everyone was being booted out around us from the closed convention hall, he spared a few minutes to share a few words.
K2K: What is Forrest doing today?
- FA: I'm doing three or four anthologies of the Golden Age of Science Fiction and Weird Fiction. Also a book that is a collection of articles that I have written about H.G. Wells, Stanley Weinbaum, and so forth. In the end of September I'm being flown over to Berlin. They're opening their Fantasy Film Museum. They will have 21 pieces from my collection on display and a number of animated models by [film director legend] Ray Harryhausen. I just had 35 people visit me on Saturday. All together, 50,000 fans have visited me since 1951. Every weekend that I'm home I have an open house. It's free. No charge. Cameras OK.
K2K: What movies are you doing a cameo in?
- FA: I was in Alabama and they simply asked me to do my cameo. They didn't have a name for the movie yet, so I don't know.
K2K: Do you know of any movies coming up with your cameos?
- FA: Let's see. Universal is making a movie called "House Of 1,000 Corpses" (Rob Zombie's film - Ed.) and they're using 25 pieces from my collection, to be featured in the film. I'm coming up in something called "Skinned Deep." I have a death scene in that. The director liked me so well that he had me die six times of a heart attack, so I can handle it when the real thing comes along.
K2K: Who is putting that out?
- FA: Nobody in particular. Just a group.
K2K: What last major films have you done cameos in?
- FA: "Innocent Blood." "Amazon Women On The Moon." I got to play the President of the United States in that. The next step, I graduated and became the President of the World in "Turkeys In Outer Space." Then I was out of a job and all that I could get was the judge in "Nudist Colony Of The Dead." Quite a come down from being President of the World. (laughs)
K2K: How many cameos have you done total?
- FA: 92.
K2K: Any particular favorites?
- FA: Well, "Amazon Women On The Moon," where I was President of the United States. "Time Travelers." Then an android factory. Then one film where I was the curator of the last museum on Earth after World War III destroyed civilization. That was a film called "Aftermath."
K2K: Did you ever do any Twilight Zones?
- FA: No.
K2K: What's your personal favorite movie?
- FA: Well, I've seen one 91 times. I'm trying to make up my mind. I guess my favorite film is "Metropolis." It's the story of 100 years in the future. I have seen the female robot burned up 91 times at the end of the film. I employed two young chaps to spend a year and a half and 200 hours to reconstruct the robot lady for me. She's in my front room.
K2K: I've never seen the film. I just got the DVD the other day and was going to watch it. Thanks for telling me the ending though.
- FA: (laughs)
K2K: What is your favorite book?
- FA: "The World Below" by S. Fowler Wright. A British author. I think it came out around 1930.
K2K: Outside of science fiction, what do you like?
- FA: Well, I have 2,200 video cassettes, most of them 8 hours a piece. That means that there are four films on each cassette. I love films like "Casablanca" and "Somewhere In Time." "History Is Made At Night." "The African Queen."
K2K: Classics, basically. Do you like comedies?
- FA: Oh yes. Very much.
K2K: Is that true that you coined the phrase "Sci-Fi?"
- FA: In 1954, I was riding around in the automobile and had the radio on. Some mention was made of "Hi Fi." Since science fiction had been on the tip of my tongue since 1929, I looked in the rear view mirror and stuck out my tongue. There, attached to the end of my tongue was "Sci-Fi."
K2K: So on the Sci-Fi Channel's commercials, it should really be you saying "I am Sci-Fi."
- FA: Sure should.
K2K: What do you do for hobbies?
- FA: Oh, I haven't got time to have hobbies. (laughs)
K2K: If you had the time, what would you do? (Forrest sits stupefied for a couple of moments) I stumped you, didn't I.
- FA: I've never been asked that question before. It's not within the realm of potential reality.
K2K: Do you golf?
- FA: Nope. No sports. I don't even care to watch basketball, baseball, football or anything. No, my life just revolves around science-fiction and fantasy and writing about it. Also a university wanted my memoirs. A lady librarian came around once a week with 2 hours of tape. I thought I must be very systematic. I'll go through the alphabet - A is for Asimov... At the end of 34 hours of dictation and 2 million words, I wasn't even through the B's yet.
K2K: How did you come to liking science fiction? What was the original attraction?
- FA: Well, when I was 9 years old, I had just seen my first circus. I was amazed by the varieties of life - the long-necked giraffe, the serpents, the hippopotami and elephants, and all these different life forms. On the October 1926 issue of Amazing Stories, there was some kind of an imaginary creature, about three times the size of a bat. I wondered where in the world this creature was. I didn't see it in the circus. So I bought the magazine and was introduced to H. G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, Jules Verne, and I didn't even know what a magazine was in those days. I didn't know that next month there would be another. I thought that this was once in a lifetime. Three or four months went by when I saw the same Amazing Stories but with different covers. After that I realized that I could have Sci-Fi fix every four weeks. After three years, my mother was quite concerned. She said, "Son. Do you realize how many of these magazines you have? Why you have 27. By the time you're a grown man you might have 100." My mother lived until she was 94, in my home with 50,000 books. I never even bothered to count how many magazines. It was virtually everything.
K2K: Do you keep everything?
- FA: I sure do.
K2K: Are you a pack rat?
- FA: I have letters that go back to the 1930s from people who are now prominent.
K2K: Have you ever had any accolades from anyone like a President?
- FA: I have from the Mayor of Los Angeles, a nice accolade. When I hit 100 I'll get one from the President.
K2K: What is your most memorable moment from everything that you've done or what is the most important impact.
- FA: Number one was shaking hands with H. G. Wells. Another was receiving the first Hugo. It was like getting the first Oscar. In 1929, from over 200 kids, winning a contest. My story out of 200 was called "The Trip To Mars."
K2K: How old are you now?
- FA: 84.
K2K: What are your plans for your 100th birthday?
- FA: I think to rent the Hollywood Bowl, to accommodate all my friends. In my past birthdays, I've had over 365 fans. It keeps growing.
K2K: You have quite a few friends though. That would be a two-day event.
- FA: Probably a three-day. Some years ago, I had a smaller home than I have now. It just had 13 rooms. At most I could only pack 65 people at one time in there. I had so many friends, in order to celebrate my birthday, I had to have five birthdays. Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, Sunday matinee, Sunday night.
K2K: How sick of cake did you get?
- FA: Well, I had a friend and I told her exactly my dream cake and the icing and everything, so she made it for me.
K2K: What kind of cake was that?
- FA: A nice vanilla white cake with chocolate icing on it. The next layer was banana cake with nuts on it. Probably then was a Boston creme pie that had vanilla sauce on it and whip cream.
By this time, the security guards had emptied the room and it was our time to go as well. We will undoubtedly chat some more with Forrest when we take the tour of his home and see the decades of memorabilia collected therein.
Written by Philip Anderson