We mentioned earlier that the sixteen worldcons we've attended is not even close to the record. The record-holder is Forry Ackerman (the subject of the following article), and Bucconeer marked the 55th worldcon that he has attended. Several weeks ago (as we write this), Forry celebrated his 82nd birthday. Most of us would have loved to be there to celebrate with him, but then it's always a celebration when Forry is around. No one knows this better than Dave Kyle. Last time Dave talked about Nycon, the first world science fiction convention; this time he shares his friendship with and an appreciation of the extraordinary Forrest J Ackerman.
'A Fan For All Seasons' by Dave Kyle; title illo by 
  Joe Mayhew  There's a very big house that sits on a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. Three stories high, it has eighteen rooms, all of them more or less filled with science fiction and fantasy artifacts. The address is Glendower Avenue and it once was the residence of a famous movie star, Jon Hall.

 This is the home of Forrest J. Ackerman and the site of his Ackermuseum.

 I know the house well, for although I'm an Easterner and the place is in Hollywood, California, I've visited it innumerable times. My wife Ruth and I have been there overnight. For us it was like living in a very special, fascinating museum. On our first night there, we stayed in his own big bedroom. On a bedside table was an autographed picture of Maureen O'Sullivan, as young and as beautiful as she was when she was Jane in the Tarzan movies or earlier as LN-18 (Helen) in the fabulous s-f musical film, Just Imagine. I believe it might have been the same bedroom in which years later Horace Gold, stressed out, his mind going, appeared to a startled Forry and Wendy still abed.

 My children have also frequently visited the Ackermuseum. Forry met my daughter Kerry and my son Arthur (A.C.) when they were babies because they were always with us at worldcons. He treated them with affection and respect, a man who has no children but deserved to have some. In \ a way, however, he has many many children, all part of that very special extended family which he has. Forry is quite naturally "Uncle Forry" to daughter Kerry and son Arthur as he is to thousands of other young people, too, because of the unique picture magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, which he edited for years. He became the center of life for a generation of youngsters with his undeniably distinctive contribution to our current culture. For this, and for Arthur and Kerry, Ruth, and I love Forry.

 Not too remarkably, I have known Forry for most of my life. When I married Ruth Landis, he was present at the wedding in The Little Church Around the Corner. When Ruth and I went on our honeymoon, Forry went along with us -- because we were on our way to London by chartered plane for the first worldcon outside the U.S.A. For a few hours or so when Ruth first appeared on the s-f scene at the Clevention in 1955, Forry knew her better than me. Her favorite book, Roads by Seabury Quinn, was a gift from Forry inscribed to "Mona," his special name for her inspired by her charm and beauty. This thoughtfulness is the essence of Forrest J Ackerman.

 The way our friendship began is a typical old-time science fiction fannish story. He saw my letter in Wonder Stories in 1934 which boasted, "My middle name is Ackerman," and he wrote me a letter in green ink. I was so impressed hearing from the number one fan of the world that I began using purple ink so I could be distinctive, too. This happened only months after Gernsback had started the Science Fiction League, and honored teen-age Forry as a Director. I didn't know he was less than three years older than 15-year-old me. He actually opened up the whole world of fandom unknown to me. We aren't related, but over the years we frequently pretend to be cousins.

 Forry has had an enormous influence on my life. At the very beginning, he was the inspiration which made me a prolific readers' column writer, too, joining other enthusiasts such as Milty Rothman, Bob Tucker, Jack Darrow, Bob Madle and many others. The purple ink led to my use of 'The Purple Bat' as a signature for an anonymous published letter, a name by which Bob Madle still calls me. It was the Californian license plate on his big, flashy Cadillac which led me to obtain the same for myself in Florida -- a souvenir now up over my doorway -- SCI-FI. And he's the one person with whom I can, with no twinge of misgivings, have a non-alcoholic, ice cream binge.

 We didn't personally meet until 1939. That was at Nycon, the first world science fiction convention in New York. He was 22 and I was 20. Among the gathering was this quiet, rather shy fellow from California, conservatively dressed like the rest of us, who showed up along with the other "number one fan in the world," Jack Darrow of Chicago. Young Ackerman was slim and handsome and quietly friendly. Hardly the giant of the correspondence circuit and certainly innocently undeserving of the punch-in-the-stomach jealous greeting from the far younger literary prodigy Cyril Kornbluth. The enthusiasm for science fiction which Forrest had revealed in his letters was to me dramatically demonstrated by his sudden appearance in a futuristic street costume, a cross between H.G.Wells' Cabal and Phil Nolan's Buck Rogers. Emblazoned on his front was the stylized symbol of "4SJ." That was the moment which began the tradition of costumes at worldcons, one of countless fannish contributions which he would make over the next sixty years.

 I didn't come to know him well those first few days. My time was devoted to inadvertently "blowing up" that Nycon with my infamous yellow pamphlet of protest and I didn't hang around him. For all its various exchanges of information through the printed word, fandom then was still fragmented into various national regions. Subsequently, however, by the end of that July 4th weekend, when the Futurians held their "rump convention," we progressed into a relationship of more than just letter buddies.

illo by Joe Mayhew  The following year at the second world convention in Chicago our relationship was solidified. Small as the first con had been, Chicon was even smaller and more personal, much less a gathering of the professionals of the day. Forry again had a costume. This time so did I. I was "Ming the Merciless" and I followed Forry's lead in visiting a newspaper office to beat the drums for our unique activities. My closeness to the California crowd grew with my exciting auto ride back to New York with Elmer Perdue. {{ed. note: see "Chicon Ho!" in Mimosa 7 }}

 With each passing year, the friendship between us grew. We would frequently be up on the con stage together. With such weekends lengthening we came to look forward to our meetings. The longest time we had together since the honeymoon trip was after the convention in Detroit when he and Marty Varno of Hollywood and Ruth drove back east. That was the time late at night in the mountains of New York when Marty stepped out into the darkness for a rest stop and staggered back shocked and bewildered by an unexpected encounter with the electrified wire of a cattle fence when he was most vulnerable. Forry still laughs about it.

illo by Joe Mayhew  There is a wealth of memories connecting the Kyle family with Forry. Some are a bit outlandish, such as taking us to a rather erotic movie about Mr. Teas (with nudity quite shocking for the time) believing Ruth to be the prudish daughter of a minister, a kind of educational process for her benefit. She wasn't offended and doesn't now remember the incident. However, Ruth does remember the time when she and I were staying at his home and in the morning, when she went into the tiny kitchen to prepare breakfast for us, she opened the refrigerator and was startled to find it was actually a repository for books, books, books.

 Forry has also shared some of his many personal friendships with us. There was a day that I remember with much sadness, when we visited Clark Ashton Smith's home near Monterey, California. Smith was then a wizened old man, famous as an early writer of unusual s-f and fantasy, who, economically hard-pressed, kept his dignity even as he displayed his weird handicrafts and sold them to his visitors. Another memorable friend of Forry's, in San Francisco, was Anton Szandor LaVey, the self-styled head of the Church of Satan who was so concerned for Ruth's pregnant condition. The house in which he lived, seemingly so ordinary and typically San Franciscan, was incredible. It had secret passages and hidden rooms and false fireplaces which swung back and a bathroom which was painted black with brilliant red trim. (La Vey himself was kind of incredible, too. For years a friend in the Bay area sent me news clippings about LaVey, and particularly about his pet, domesticated lion which grew from a cub into a neighborhood threat.) In recent times in New York City, I left the spring I-Con weekend on Long Island just to see Forry who had an event in New Jersey and who invited me to Greenwich Village to meet Brother Theodore, an old-time unusual entertainer. We sat together in a tiny theater, a simple, darkened room with foldaway chairs, and afterwards visited Theodore backstage not more than fifty feet away. Another time at Crystal City, south of Washington, D.C., at a Monster Convention, Forry introduced me to all sorts of major and minor celebrities who were there because he was there. That was the last time I saw Bob Bloch, who was in the tender physical condition of his final years, yet still with a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips.

 Forry, 4e, 4SJ, Forrie, the Ackermonster as he is wont to describe himself, inveterate punster as he is, is The Fan for All Seasons. From his early magazine letters, his fanzine publishing, his fan writings, his club foundings (LASFS), the fellow who is the only one to have been to more worldcons than me, with only a halfway-attendance to mar his otherwise perfect record, has made history in an extraordinary life. For his remarkable fannish contributions he received the very first Hugo Award ever presented. In his generosity and good-fellowship he created the now-traditional Big Heart Award to annually honor other fans, given now in conjunction with the Order of St. Fantony in which he is a Knight. He created with me and John Flory the Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Society which gave Star Fire Awards to Fritz Lang and George Pal, an homage to the movie business which is his extra special love and in which he has been a movie actor in scores of sf/fantasy/horror films.

 He was and still is Fan Number One; he is the epitome of Fanac and EgoBoo. What a "shy, introverted tongue-tied kid" (in his own words) he was! Look how he grew up and still remains a child! My hat is off my gray-haired head to you Forrest J Ackerman, Fan for All Seasons.
illo by Joe Mayhew

All illustrations by Joe Mayhew

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