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Goodbye, Forrest Ackerman, collector of sci-fi

December 5, 2008 |  4:07 pm

Forrestackerman

I was one of the many science fiction fans who made the pilgrimage to Forrest J Ackerman's house in Los Feliz to look at his mad wonderful overabundant collection of all things sci-fi. Ackerman told many people that he coined the term "sci-fi," and I was inclined to believe him, standing in his basement, among the crowded bookshelves, the comic books and paperbacks, the magazines and masks and posters and models and lobby cards and plastic brains. My pictures, which appear here, do not do it justice.

Ackerman, who edited Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine for many years, has died; he was 92. He had sought a home for his collection in its entirety, but recently had sold off much of it. He had also moved out of the "Ackermansion," which I visited, into a smaller home nearby.

It was 1994, I think, when I took the above picture of Ackerman, with my very tall friend Jeanette, who was the driving force behind our visit. If you spot Marlene Dietrich, it's only a cardboard stand-up. Below, some of Ackerman's many, many bookshelves, with a poster for the film "Fahrenheit 451." It was hard not to think that an errant spark might have sent his whole collection into flame.

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More photos of Ackerman's collection after the jump.

Here you can see how he'd mix stuff altogether -- there was just so much of it. Books and magazines on bookshelves; movie masks, including an original from "Planet of the Apes" and a Star Wars Ewok, on flat surfaces; and behind, in a glass case, a model of the sexy female robot from "Metropolis." Below, a close-up of some of his scarier masks.

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Let me apologize for the wacky angle of the next photo. Sort of sliding off the bottom of the frame is Ackerman's desk, piled with papers, including, I can see in my version, some pages of the L.A. Times. How much is that King Kong poster worth, do you think? Maybe it's a reissue. Maybe not.

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The above picture is further to the left of his desk. Ackerman had an equal fondness for truly cheesy, sometimes cheesecake imagery (the posters on one wall are too racy for these pages) as well as for brilliant and adventurous science fiction. Upstairs, in his regular living space, there was a glass case with some of his more precious items, including a copy of "Dracula" that had been signed by Bram Stoker. And then by Bela Lugosi! And, I think others who played Dracula, too. Ackerman had been friends with Bela Lugosi, and told us Lugosi stories, which made me realize that Lugosi had been a pretty odd guy.

But the really wonderful thing Forrest Ackerman shared with us that day was glee. I mean, seriously, he was gleeful. He loved all his stuff, he loved showing it to people. We could have stayed longer, much longer than we did. If there is a heaven for each of us, I hope Forrest Ackerman's is filled with heavenly versions of his entire collection, and an endless line of people eager for tours.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credits: Carolyn Kellogg

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