Sunday, October 22, 2006
Finding the Inner Werewolf
When I was a kid in the late '50s-early '60s I was just the right age for Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine. It came out at a time when Saturday latenight TV was made up of local horror hosts showing corny old monster movies. The hosts made bad jokes, the sets were bad, the makeup was bad, but to the kids who watched it was all good.
Our local horror host was Roderick, played by Jack Whittaker, who doubled in an afternoon kids' show as Kimbo the Clown. Jack died some years ago and when I saw his obituary I got a pang of nostalgia. When I was 12-years-old he was the guy all of my friends wanted to see. We even went to a theater to see him live and I was in the bathroom when he and his assistant were taking off their makeup. I stood at the urinal while they talked about lugging equipment out to the van. Wow. That was one to tell in gym class the next day.
Jim Warren was the publisher who brought out Famous Monsters, and made a bunch of money selling it to the baby boomers, all of us at just the right age for such nonsense as a magazine devoted to old movie monsters.
Forrest J. Ackerman was the editor. 4SJ, as he sometimes called himself, was full of puns and jokes, using stills and publicity photos from old movies, mostly from his own collection. Ackerman owned a house in Los Angeles he called the Ackermansion, where every room was stuffed floor to ceiling with his collection of science fiction and horror memorabilia, going back decades.
At one point Ackerman announced he'd be driving cross-country. He invited his fans to send him their addresses, and instructions on how to get to their homes, and he'd drop in! I got a feeling…wow! Wouldn't that be great to sit and talk to the Great Man himself? Reality quickly set in. I knew I wouldn't be able to sell Mom on the idea. Mom was barely tolerant of the literature I chose for myself. She probably gave me a bye on the monster magazines (something she wouldn't do with Mad and Cracked magazines) because she grew up going to the same monster movies that were covered in the magazines.
I also knew that people weren't welcome at our house. Mom was someone you didn't visit. She didn't encourage visits, and Lord help me if I ever invited a friend over. She pitched a fit. I thought of inviting Forry Ackerman to my house and knew instantly Mom would put the kibosh on that plan. So I forgot about it.
Recently I was visiting a website and came across a picture of Forrest J. Ackerman with a young man, and according to the guy standing next to Forry it was from that cross-country trip. I'm posting the picture here.After all these years I finally realized that for Forrest J. Ackerman, the real purpose wouldn't be to meet his fans, it was a way to get free meals, and maybe even lodging, on his way back east. Good idea. Better than a Motel 6 every night and finding a Denny's three times a day.
Also, 4E (another of his puns on his own name) has his own website. If my calculations are correct the guy is 90-freakin'-years-old and still making jokes that are damn near as old as he is.
I don't think he ever grew up, or maybe Bela Lugosi bit him years ago and he's one of the undead.
When I wrote the story I posted in my previous blog, I used a character called Prince Harold The Werewolf. The character was based on something I read years ago, two writers discussing what they'd rather be: a werewolf or a vampire. One writer said he'd prefer to be a vampire because he could live in a castle. I guess you could, if you were Dracula. He didn't think he wanted to be a werewolf, out schlepping around in the woods, hanging around with gypsies.
I don't remember what the other writer said. For me the choice would be clear: Werewolf! If I was a vampire I'd have to sleep during the day, get up at night and go do some necking, suck some blood. If I was a werewolf I'd have just those days of the month with the full moon where I could roam around in the woods, biting anyone I didn't like. The other days of the month I could live my normal life with no one the wiser that at times I grew fangs, was covered in fur, and loped about the countryside scaring everyone. Sounds pretty good to me.
Personally, I'd make a list of people who need to be torn apart by wolves and go after them first.
If I was a vampire I'd be worried about things like sunlight, crosses, garlic and wooden stakes. If I was a werewolf I'd know the only thing that would kill me would be a silver bullet, and I haven't seen The Lone Ranger around here lately.
Yep, for me it's werewolf all the way.
My wife and I like the kitschy stuff from the 1950s and '60s. The kind of junk we grew up with, ignored, and then wondered where it went when it was gone. We found this light-up molded plastic ghost in an antique store last year and bought it for about $18.00.Our ghost is nearly three feet tall and occupies a place of honor in our living room. Until Halloween is over, of course, when he'll go downstairs and haunt our basement storage room.
Ciao for now, El Postino