I was reading about Forrest J. Ackerman, the late great creator of Famous Monsters magazine and world-famous movie memorabilia collector, and realized that I had never ever told my own personal Forry Story. Let’s correct that oversight, shall we?
It was the late 1980s at the Dragon*Con SF and Fantasy convention in Atlanta, Georgia – I forget the exact year. I was volunteering at the convention doing video production and part of my job was to video reord convention panels. It was a great job for me, because in addition to being a super fanboy, I was also an A/V geek at the time. I was doing the work thanks to my friend Kevin (who was also a super fanboy, as well as a Famous Monsters fan). At one point I was videotaping Uncle Forry (his nickname), who was on stage talking about his history in Hollywood and his many meetings with people like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, etc. and I thought to myself, “Self, you should ask Forry out to lunch.”
(Note: Through my entire life, I have never ever been afraid to approach anyone famous… and because of that I have met a lot of very famous people. I never fawn, I don’t ask for an autograph, I just walk up, say hi, and tell them how much I like their work. I also try and talk to them about work they have done that is NOT what they are the most famous for. For example, when I met Gordon Ramsay just this month I mentioned how much I liked his appetizers… and when I met Edward James Olmos I said I though he had done a good job of directing some episodes of Battlestar Galactica. At any rate, I should stop name-dropping… Bobby DeNiro told me that once…)
When Forry was done, I walked up and said “Hi, I’m Joe, I’m a big fan and I’d love to buy you lunch.”
“Err… well, sure!” He replied, and I’m pretty sure he would have accepted that offer from anybody – I just got there first. “Where are we going?”
“We’ll just grab a table at the restaraunt downstairs.”
“Right! lead on young man!” Forry, who was in his seventies at the time, had this incredible positive energy as he and I left and walked down the hall. I took the long way around, because I had to stop by the movie room that Kevin was running B- to Z- level films in.
I left Forry in the hall and dashed to Kevin and his girlfriend.
“Kevin, I’m taking you to lunch.”
“I’m busy,” he curtly replied.
“No, you are going to lunch. Come here.”
Kevin, a man who was somewhat portly, strugged out of his chair and muttered to himself… and then he saw Forry.
If an adult man could turn into an 8-year-old in an instant, Kevin did it. His face brightened to a wide grin that he kept for the next hour and a half. Needless to say, all four of us went to lunch – I remember Forry had a salad – a lunch that felt like a personal one-on-one with the King of the Monsters… Forry was a master storyteller and incredibly kind man.
We all got to touch the ring he always wore, the ring that was originally worn by Bela Lugosi in a little movie he once did called Dracula (I kissed the ring, myself) We got to hear of Forry’s love of his wife, who had sadly passed away just a few years before, and were all on the verge of tears as he spoke of her. Forry loved an audience, and we loved him.
The food was typical hotel fare, but it was once of the best meals I’ve ever had.
During the meal, Kevin’s girlfriend quietly thanked me for arranging things, but it was nothing… without exception, I am a giver, and have been most of my life. It’s not to make people like me, or to try and fill some Empty Spaces inside myself, I just like doing nice things for people. As a famous philosopher once said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”
I of course paid for the meal, using the brand-new credit card I had just acquired, a sign that I had become all Grown Up. It took some more year after that before I truly got all Grown Up, and later in my stupid youth I did some stupid things that hurt Kevin, and as a result lost him as a friend… a second price I paid, later.
I know many many people have had their own encounters with and their own Forry Stories… and this is mine, now on the record. I wish my memory of that meal was clearer, but time takes as many things away as it gives you… and years ago it took Forry away, too.
So now there will be no more new Forry Stories… And people don’t know what they are missing.