When I began contributing to Dread Central, I was eager to reminisce about the never to be forgotten, Forrest J Ackerman and his astounding legacy. But who has time to look backwards when Ack keeps going “forry-ward” in the here and now? Case in point? In a matter of weeks Profiles In History will hold the greatest genre auction in history, offering prized objects from the collection of the Grand-daddy of all collectors. Gosh! Wow! (Dang)! It’s the Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction!
Over the years, hardcore collectors have snatched up every existing morsel, crumb and Blob of memorabilia associated with our classic genre heritage. Sure, there’s no shortage of Terrorific collectibles in the form of model kits, prop-copies and photos. But just try and find anything “original” from the golden, silver or, hell – even aluminum-foil era of Imagi-movies? Try finding it for less than a Kong’s ransom! It would be easier to dig up a Pterodactyl Ptooth! But all that is about to change with the coming Acker-auction. Well-known relics from the Ackermuseum of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror will be up on the block. Obscure ones too! Something for every fan and collector – mogul or minor. Just think! Anyone will have a chance to possess a piece from Dr. Acula’s “Werehouse!”
I’ve previously spoken of Forry’s last wishes here. Now I’ll interview the players charged with making this auction a success. We’ll also take a covetous (OK, downright drooling) look at key pieces being auctioned as we discuss, with other collectors, friends and fans, the historical significance and provenance of Forry’s life’s work.
First I spoke to the Executor of the FJA estate, Kevin Burns about the auction:
Kevin Burns: When I became the trustee of Forry’s estate, it was clear from the written trust and my conversations with Forry that he had given up on the idea of a permanent home for his collection. He’d decided instead that his collection was best left to his friends and fans to purchase items they wanted with the proceeds going to his beneficiaries. Over the years, Forry had many trusts. I’d talked to him previously when he had a much bigger collection and at one point his trust named upwards of 150 friends! But at the end of his life, he had narrowed the list down to 17 people, each of whom he had a very personal connection to. These people had been very good to him, particularly toward the end of his life. These were also people he felt needed his support, encouragement or charity; as opposed to friends of his who were already well off.
JM: Why did you choose Profiles In History to conduct the Acker-auction?
Kevin Burns: Forry’s first consideration was that we offer his collection to the Museum of Science Fiction in Seattle (who had purchased a significant number of pieces earlier). I did call them, but they intimated that Forry’s collection was too big and expensive for them to make an offer on the entire collection. So, I decided rather than trying to sell the collection to one buyer for one price, we should hold an auction. This way the Sci-Fi Museum would still have an opportunity to buy the items they wanted and the fans would have a shot at items too. I was familiar with Joe Maddalena and his people at Profiles In History. Our appraiser for the estate, Brian Anthony had worked with Profiles before in selling key pieces from the original Ackermansion. I also knew Profiles had the best connection to motion picture memorabilia, could authenticate it more accurately and were located locally in Los Angeles. Profiles also honored our wish to make lots affordable to all fans.
JM: Forry would have loved that all of his fans could participate in his auction.
Joe Maddalena of Profiles In History had this to say about the auction:
Joe Maddalena: I have never held a great horror auction before, as the material is just so rare. When Forry’s legendary Lugosi vampire cape, Dracula ring and The Raven robe became available, it opened up a world of possibilities. In addition, I acquired an original Frankenstein one-sheet poster (1931), an original Dracula poster insert (1931) then all the costumes from the new Friday the 13th (2009) movie and this sale snowballed into THE best horror auction to have EVER taken place. People will be blown away to see what’s in this auction. I’m laying out the catalog as I write this – and I’M blown away!
JM: How many items or “lots” do you plan to offer and could the average fan afford anything?
Joe Maddalena: There are over 1200 lots in this auction (100 lots from Forry’s collection) and I would say that 75% of these lots are estimated at just a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. There is something for everyone in this sale and hobby! That’s why this is the fastest growing hobby in the world. All of this great material is still way under valued. Anyway, all interested fans should attend. The fun of an auction is bidding for stuff you really love. Plus, you never know when the killer deal is going to come!
JM: Can you give us a general primer on how this auction will work? A sort of “how to” for the less experienced fan who might like to participate?
Joe Maddalena: The catalog goes “live” on our website April 2nd. You can download the whole thing at: ProfilesInHistory.com. The auction takes place April 30th and May 1st. That’s right! There are so many treasures we need two days to auction them all! You can buy a hard copy of our deluxe catalog for $30.00 by calling us at 1 (800) 942-8856 (a few lucky readers can take Joe Moe’s coming Acker-Quiz and WIN a free copy)! This is a live auction. You can attend in person, bid over the phone, leave absentee bids, or bid on-line LIVE during the sale at: LiveAuctioneers.com.
JM: If Forry was still with us, he’d be in the front row cheering all the action!
Here’s a list of some of the featured items up for auction and commentary on the importance of Forry’s collection by premiere collectors, hobbyists, historians and fans.
1) The MARIA ROBOT from METROPOLIS. Throughout his career FJA always believed the ultimate collectible would be the “Maria” Robotrix costume worn by Brigitte Helm in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but the original was burned up on screen. In 1976 an accurate and detailed full-size replica of the “false Maria” Robotrix was created by effects artist Bill Malone, who later became a highly successful director (House on Haunted Hill and Fear.com) and Robert Short (E.T, Beetlejuice, Predator), Academy Award-winning effects artist. Thousands of visitors have been proudly photographed with “Maria”; it was so loved by fans and friends that for years, during the holiday season, the figure was brightly decorated with Christmas lights, bulbs and tinsel.
Bob Burns is one of Forry’s oldest and dearest friends and has amassed a collection of his own that was inspired by Forry’s and which has grown to rival it. But there was never a rivalry in spirit. Bob was an inspirational and talented FX man himself and always a proud descendent of Forry’s legacy. Visit him at his official site.
“I knew Forry for 59 years. His collection in the beginning was mostly books. But not just any books – first editions of FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA and more. Later, props started coming his way. He always opened his home to fans every weekend. I spent many weekends there His collection actually helped form the way I live my life. I had the opportunity to start a collection myself. But Forry’s was the prime collection for all who were lucky enough to see it. Some of my favorites pieces are the METROPOLIS “Robotrix” recreation, Lon Chaney’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT beaver hat, the MUMMY ring and the personally autographed photos from just about every Horror star there ever was. Dear Forry is gone but his legacy will live on forever. I know that Forry would be very happy about this auction as he loved to share with his fans and now we have a chance to own a keepsake from the incredible Ackermansion. How cool is that?” – Bob Burns
2) Lon Chaney, Sr. prosthetic teeth appliances from his make-up kit attributed to London After Midnight. These prosthetic teeth were originally created by Chaney as part of his arsenal of disguise. Created out of an early form of resin, the front of the teeth have been painted white over the natural burnt orange color of the resin. When examining high quality stills from London After Midnight it is evident Chaney had used black paint between the teeth to accentuate the effect. In our opinion, the sharp points of the teeth have been filed down. To the best of our knowledge, Chaney did not utilize such a set of teeth with these distinctions for any other film. These prosthetic teeth were displayed at the Ackermuseum next to the London After Midnight beaver top hat.
Kevin Burns is an Emmy Award winning producer, artist, close Forry-friend and executor of the Forrest J Ackerman estate. He is also the foremost collector of “The Munsters” memorabilia as well as other genre treasures (six Famous Monsters of Filmland cover paintings). Visit him online at PrometheusEntertainment.com.
“Forry created a value for collecting. Before him, not many were preserving this material. I remember as a kid reading that Forrest J Ackerman had 50 different editions of Frankenstein in paperback. I then went to buyin’ em’ and now must have 100 editions myself! I started collecting because of Forry Ackerman. Pictures of the Ackermanison got me started. I like to think that today there are hundreds of us collectors stimulated by Forry. Through the coming auction, all of us could have a piece of the experience of Forry. Maybe some items aren’t valuable monetarily. But it might be that one piece a fan remembers from a visit to the Ackermuseum. They might be able to possess that piece for a while. I say “for a while” because, when we’re gone we’ll pass it on to a new generation. After all, none of us can truly “own” any of this stuff. We are just caretakers of it for our lifetimes.” – Kevin Burns
3) Bela Lugosi’s Dracula ring. This Dracula ring was originally created in 1944 for Universal’s House of Frankenstein and worn by John Carradine in the role of the Count. Carradine again wore the ring in House of Dracula (1945). Three years later Universal signed Lugosi to reprise his role as Dracula (for his second and last time on film) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Lugosi wore the ring in this classic comedy and kept it for several years thereafter. Likely to be Forry’s most prized artifact, this ring is depicted in numerous photographs, portraits and artistic renderings of FJA and became intertwined with his persona. Its significance cannot be overstated.
(Note: In the 90’s, Forry thought his famous ring was lost. He retraced his steps. The last place he remembered wearing it was at a parade. He imagined it must have flown off his finger while waving to crowds. Months later, I decided to give the house one more search. Just before giving up for good, I did the old, “If I were a huge-ass Dracula ring, where would I hide?” Instinctively I went to Forry’s sock drawer and rooted around. Before I pulled my hand out, I knew I’d found it! If you’ve ever left loose change on a dresser then absentmindedly swept it into a drawer that’s ajar, well – mystery solved! The ring was never lost. Just misplaced – Joe Moe).
4) Lon Chaney, Sr. signature vampire top hat from London After Midnight. This beaver top hat was worn by Lon Chaney, Sr. in the lost MGM classic. In the film Chaney plays Inspector Burke, who masquerades as a vampire to flush out a murderer. The most iconic surviving images from this film depict Chaney in vampire make-up wearing the top hat with his hypnotic eyes and sharpened teeth. On the inside of the hat lining is sewn a “Metro Goldwyn Mayer” tag handwritten “Lon Chaney P-330 7 3/8 #2” (“330” being the MGM production number for London After Midnight). An incredible piece from this lost silent classic and one of Forry’s prized possessions.
Ronald V. Borst is at the top of his field as a collector, dealer and historian. His beautiful, graphic coffee table book, Graven Images is the end-all book of rare classic movie posters. His personal collection features some of Forry’s greatest pieces. Ron was also a close friend and weekly visitor to Forry for decades. Find out more about Ronald here.
“Forry was the first major sf collector, acknowledged as such by his peers going back to the 30’s, and his home housed the greatest collection I had ever seen. His Ackermansion was beyond belief and always amazing. You could explore closets, drawers and cubbyholes throughout the house and discover the most astounding items stashed away. I remember on one early visit I opened a kitchen drawer full of pots and pans and there among the utensils were two original 1936 FLASH GORDON pressbooks! I always likened it to going into Aladdin’s Cave and seeing endless mountains of treasure. His collection was indeed both magical and one-of-a-kind, but even moreso, was Forry himself.” – Ronald V. Borst
5) Bela Lugosi’s vampire cape. The black wool long-coat with integral cape and satin lapels has an interior “Bergman Los Angeles” label with typewritten “Bela Lugosi. 3-29-32”. This iconic piece of wardrobe was worn by Lugosi over three decades in films such as The Whispering Shadow (1933), The Raven (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1944) and in his final performance in Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) as well as numerous stage performances. Without question, the finest Lugosi wardrobe piece to ever reach the auction block, embodying his performances spanning the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Pam Keesey is a horror writer, anthologist and historian. She enjoyed a close relationship with Forry and was one of his most treasured friends and houseguests on the occasions she came to “Lugosiangeles” to visit. Pam on Facebook.
“To me, Forry’s collection is an extension of Forry himself. There was a little bit of him in every piece that he owned. He was so generous with his collection, too. I remember the first time I visited him and he, knowing my love of classic Hollywood movie stars, encouraged me to put on a pair of shoes once worn by Marlene Dietrich. Or the time he and I had our photographs taken together, in which he had me wear Bela Lugosi’s cape and ring. This is the closest I would ever come to meeting those icons myself, and it was Forry who made this world so much bigger, an experience that transcended time and space and put me, quite literally, in Marlene Dietrich’s shoes.” – Pam Keesey
6) Frankenstein signed by Mary Shelley. Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: The Modern Man-Demon. London; Milner and Company, no date [circa 1870]. 16mo, 319 pages plus 32 pages of advertisements. Original dark blue cloth, spine stamped in black and gilt. Small 1X2 in. card tipped to the front pastedown endpaper, “Ever truly yours, Mary Shelley, 41 Park W”. Forry bought this book ca. 1950s and placed two leaves cut from Shelley’s garden in the book. Joints split, binding shaken. A wonderful association piece from the creator of one of Forry’s most favorite monsters.
Robert J. Taylor has been a teacher, librarian, fan and collector for over 30 years. He is also a good friend of Forry’s (affectionately called “Bobbo”). Aside from gems from the original Ackermansion, Robert owns nearly 2000 pieces of sheet music and regrettably, “more books than I’ll ever be able to read!.” Visit Robert’s Facebook page.
“For me, the collecting bug bit when I was very young. I was always fascinated with museums and with making my own museum in my room. I identified with the Ackermonster completely. One of my prized possessions is a Forry project I based on the old saying, “Shake the hand of the man who shook the hand of Lincoln.” I asked Forry to trace his hand and write around the edge of it the names of notable people he’d shaken hands with. This turned into a series of color scans of his hand (Joe Moe’s wonderful idea) accompanied by more than 600 names and a dozen pages of reminiscences! And one of the names, I’m pleased to say, is mine. Forry’s influence on my life? I just ran the data through Robby the Robot and he says, “Incalculable!” – Robert Taylor
7) Bela Lugosi handwritten Count Dracula calling card. This calling card signed “Count Dracula” in Bela Lugosi’s hand is unique in that Lugosi signed the character name of “Dracula” rather than his own name. According to FJA: “Lugosi was appearing in-person at a theater in San Francisco, in the early 1930’s, and I wrote to him in care of the theater, and asked him to send me an autograph but to sign it “Count Dracula”. About a week later I received the autograph in the mail”. A wonderful Lugosi piece with fantastic association between Lugosi and Forry.
Phil Kim is the LEGAL owner of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. New to the genre, it didn’t take long for Phil to realize that in FM he had more than just a nostalgic title. He had a responsibility to a great legacy that needed to be protected and perpetuated. Forry called Phil, “Kim Kong” and knew FM would be safe in his hands. Visit Famous Monsters of Filmland online!
“I think the collection represents a piece of fandom’s childhood. Now Forry’s collection is a part of our permanent history. No one can equal his accomplishment. Only aspire to approach it. I don’t think most heroes get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “I’m gonna be a hero today.” But Forry woke up every morning and said, “I’m going to share the source of my inspiration.” In this way he was a hero to many who were inspired by him and his collection. I think everything Forry’s done represents a historical preservation. Forry started his collection in a vacuum and grew it into a worldwide hobby. It’s an honor for me to help carry his torch through my revival of FM magazine. I’m sure many fans feel honored by the prospect of carrying his torch in the form of a piece from his collection.” – Phil Kim
8) First American Edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Christopher Lee, and others. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York; Doubleday & McClure Co., 1899. First American Edition. Octavo, 378 pages. Original pictorial beige cloth stamped in blue and gilt. Inscribed on the front free endpaper by Bram Stoker, “Harry Powers, from Bram Stoker, 16 May 1900”. Forry purchased the book in the early 1950s and throughout the years had actors who had portrayed vampires, as well as other members of the horror genre, sign the book. Inscribed in blue ink, “To my friend, Forrest Ackerman, in remembrance, Bela Lugosi”, and signed again in green ink by Lugosi. It includes the additional signatures of many legends of horror cinema including Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Bill Obbagy, Ingrid Pitt, Karl Freund, Donald A. Reed, Barry Atwater, Maila Nurmi “Vampira”, Forrest J. Ackerman, Carla Laemmle, Carroll Borland “Luna”, John Carradine, Raymond McNally, Ferdy Mayne, Paul Naschy, Barbara Leigh and the director of Castle Bran in Transylvania. Cloth worn, spine cloth and hinges repaired, front hinge cracked at title page. An incredible relic of horror, signed by the icons of the genre. Truly, an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind piece.
Daniel Roebuck is a familiar face on the movie screen, stage and TV. In addition to being an accomplished actor, Dan is a genre fixture who can be found at every event that hints at Monsterdom. Dan is also a world-class collector whose treasure trove of objects includes life-sized wax museum figures of his (anti) heroes. Visit Dan online at DanRoebuck.com.
“Forry Ackerman redefined what it means to be a collector. He reminded us that owning what we love wasn’t as important as sharing what we love with others. I have often said, ” I don’t collect monsters, I collect friends who love monsters!” I know in my heart that it was through Forry’s gracious example that my hobby became the foundation for the strongest friendships of my life. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Daniel Roebuck – Dr. Shocker’s House of Horror
Other auction items include: Bela Lugosi’s signature “Dr. Richard Vollin” robe worn in The Raven, Boris Karloff “Im-Ho-Tep” mummy cloth from The Mummy, Forry’s Mummy ring, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis monocle, other Lugosi items, Chaney garments, paintings, books, paper, autographs, stills, posters and props.
Let’s hope the auctioned pieces will be the seeds for many new collections. Think of it? All those gems spread to the four corners of the globe, taking root as centerpieces in an explosion of genre interest. It is to the benefit of fandom everywhere to treat these relics with the value and respect that Forry instilled in them. It is doubly important that the pieces continue to be shared with fans that love them. As long as new generations are inspired to listen to and tell classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror stories, the genre will grow and thrive for us all.
And with that, Mr. Renfield, “I bid you – bid vell!”
– Joe Moe
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