Horrorwood Babbles On: Going Once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten)
Driving past the recently “EX” Ackerminimansion onto the ever-congested Hollywood freeway, I had the feeling you get at the beginning of a nasty flu or on the morning of a newly minted depression. I felt like I was standing over my own shoulder, shaking my head at myself. No matter the spin I put on it, I was motoring toward the final nail in the coffin of an era. A nail called: the Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction. The era that was ending had practically built me. Maybe you too?
In the 45 minutes it took to clear Hollywood and touch the far edge of the San Fernando Valley, I thought a lot about Forry and how he might be feeling if he were sitting next to me on this trip …
4E: Well, pal. Woulda’ liked for the collection to have ended up in a museum. I’ll never understand how the city of Los Angeles couldn’t afford to find a home for it. I offered it all to them for free!
Joe: (a BMW cuts me off) The dead shouldn’t be given driver’s licenses! (to Forry, sheepishly) Sorry, Ack …
A Forry eye-roll followed by a change of subject -
4E: Did you hear about the boy who broke his neck on a first date?
Joe: Uh (cringing), no …
4E: He was giving his girl a goodnight kiss…and she crossed her legs!
Joe: (groaning) Oh, boy. That was ba-a-a-a-d, Ack!
4E: Well, you should have thought of that before you got in a car with ME!
Back to reality. Eyes on the road…
By now, suburban sprawl had turned to green hills as I took the off-ramp heading to the Profiles in History auction house. The Profiles building was located among many commercial buildings tucked into glens in the lushest industrial park you’ll ever see. I parked, grabbed my phonebook-sized, one-pound auction catalog and with trepidation, headed for the entrance.
Profiles President Joe Maddalena greeted me warmly and led me into the display room. There, Joe and Brian Chanes graciously gave me a tour of the pieces on offer. The staff on-hand seemed aware of the unique and emotional nature of this sale and were most compassionate. Bela Lugosi Jr. arrived unexpectedly to pay respects to Forry and to view his dad’s items. There were other prominent collectors I won’t name out of respect for their privacy.
After donuts and coffee, everyone took their seats and the auctioneer assumed his place at the podium. The room held around 50 bidders (mostly lookie-loos) while the perimeter of the room was lined with banks of about 20 phone and Internet agents poised to take absentee bids. The Profiles office phone rang incessantly with calls from collectors wanting to register last minute for the auction. 11AM rolled around and the event began. The auctioneer waited an extra minute while the first phone bidders were contacted. Then we were off!
Most Lots started with absentee bids and the phone banks were brisk. The gavel banged down on lot after lot. There were some close calls as phone bidders interjected just as the gavel struck the podium. Dracula 1st Edition signed sold for: $25,000. The Dracula Crest ring: $40,000. The Plan 9 Lugosi cape: $32,500. London After Midnight Lon Chaney Sr. Teeth: $3,750. London After Midnight Lon Chaney Sr. Top Hat: $27,500. A swatch of Mummy Cloth: $5,500. Lugosi "Count Dracula" signature: $4,250. Marry Shelly's signed Frankenstein (“The Man Demon”): $5,500.
Even reproduction paintings sold for above their estimates. Often, bidders in the room were outdone by phone bidders. For me, some highlights and surprises were; Forry's Metropolis Robot selling for $40,000! Also a 1/4 scale nude statue of Marlene Dietrich, estimated to sell for around $500, sold for over $9,000. Even a sentimental lot - Forry’s living room set was picked up for $1,100. Wonder who got it? Sure would be great to walk into that room again some day.
The following are accounts from bidders who won the lots (or tried to). These folks may come from all walks of life but they share a common bond in their love of the genre and Forrest J Ackerman:
“Dad bought me my first FM in 1977. I was 5. I had to find out more about this Ackermonster! I corresponded with Forry at age 11. He’d send me mags and books as gifts with instructions to pass them down to my grandchildren. I was invited to Forry's New York Guernsey's auction in December of 1987. I was just a teenager and couldn’t make the trip then. I was so glad to be a part of this recent auction. The Lot of Metropolis items I won is important to me because it was Forry's favorite movie and, oddly enough, the lot I won included a one-of-a-kind poster a friend and I sent Forry a decade ago! I plan to share duplicate items with other Ackerfans and to keep some items to enjoy and then pass down, likewise. I carry on Forry’s tradition of collecting by acquiring horror and sci-fi filmbooks in domestic and foreign editions. Forry liked to have a worldwide representation of material too. I’ll keep the memory of Forry alive with my eBay handle "ackerfan" and fans are welcome to contact me at my firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address. I’ve also created a Forry gallery at my website Forry Forry-ever – Dustin Andrew Jablonski
“I bid on the Metropolis paintings because when I visited Forry he talked about Metropolis and the paintings were on display in his home. I also bid on signed books, especially those signed by Ray Bradbury since I have been a fan of his since I was 14 yrs old. Seeing the collection in general brought back so many fond memories. I have a very strong interest in movies because both my father and uncle were assistant directors and as a child I worked as an extra and spent many hours on movie sets. I still see myself on TV when they show "I Married a Witch". I played Veronica Lake and Frederick March's son at the end of the movie. When I was outbid on everything I was interested in, I realized there are still a lot of people out there with a lot of money to spare”. - Doug Mull
“Forry had a huge influence on me as a collector and today I have my own "Ackeroom" of vintage robots, posters, autographs and 16mm prints. While I'm usually eager to add to my collection, the PROFILES auction caused mixed emotions for me. I was sad that Forry would no longer be the caretaker of these things. If I had my way, there would always be a home in the Hollywood Hills where you could go visit Forry and see everything. But I was excited to have a small piece of the Ackermansion to enjoy for years to come and share with others who might have never heard of FAMOUS MONSTERS and its most famous monster; Forrest J Ackerman. In my Lot #728 of Nuetzell paintings, my favorites are the two rocket ships. This is as close to owning an original Nuetzell FM cover as I'll get. In the second Lot there’s an original Frank R. Paul drawing which is important because he was one of Forry's favorite illustrators. I took the day off to attend the auction in person, so I was a "floor bidder." I’ve been to many auctions since I got the collector bug, so no nerves, but I do find that my hand tends to shake a little as I'm lifting that card to bid. I'm off to PROFILES tomorrow morning to pick up my pieces. I'm happy!” – Michael Dean
“Lot 715. That’s it! The one lot that said to me, “Bid on me little boy - you will love me!” These scrapbooks represent Forrest J Ackerman more than all the Dracula rings, robes, lobby cards, one-sheets or even his beloved Robotrix. Not a prop from a famous film, but an actual segment of Forry’s life. Each item in those books meant something to him. To me those scrapbooks held a “micro-mini-Ackermansion”. Maybe just a note reminding him to answer a fan letter? A casual dinner invitation from an old friend? Whatever each scrapbook contained, it was sure to be something Forry kept for a reason known perhaps only to himself. I did not win but suspected from the start I couldn’t come anywhere near the true value of Lot #715 (ultimately $2,250). But I had to try. I understand that the entire collection could never have been preserved and loved as it was before. Because fans didn’t go to see the “stuff." They went to see “Uncle Forry” and his stuff. That’s why other Hollywood Museums have come and gone but the Ackermansion went on for decades. It had a soul. It’s still hard to believe that for a time, in Hollywood, there lived a man who invited any and all people into his home to share with him the artifacts of a genre they enjoyed together. FORREST J ACKERMAN SHALL NOT DIE!” – Bill Shafer
“The coming of the auction made for mixed emotions. To see the last of the house on Russell on the auction block brought the end of the living-dream that was the Ackermuseum. But in MY Forry Collection there is always and ever the feeling that I'm preserving a small corner of the Ackermansion(s). Not having deep pockets, I could only window-shop when looking at the rarest lots - the rings, capes and rare signed pieces. But when I saw Lot #750, I knew that was “my Lot”! My happiest Forry memories involved our mutual love for old music. We corresponded about old songs, played "name that tune”, and we sang. When I saw that Lot #750 featured Jolson music, which we both loved, I set my cap for it. Not horror/sci-fi related at all, this lot, for me, was the sentimental favorite. The music, other Acker-bric-a-brac and photos will feel at home in my Forry shelves. This year, at Wonderfest in Louisville, I'm happy to be sharing a few pieces of my collection for the Forry Tribute display in the UMA classic toy exhibit where the original face and hand of robotrix Maria, a Dorian Gray head and many other small keepsakes from the old Ackermansion will be on display for the convention attendees to see. I think Forry would have liked that.” – Robert Taylor
“It was with sadness and excitement that I participated in Forry’s final auction. I pursued pieces which reminded me that Forry and I bonded over Karloff, Lugosi, Lorre and Metropolis. I came away with Lugosi's robe worn in 1935’s The Raven when he explains to an ardent Edgar Allan Poe fan how he's recreated various torture devices from Poe's tales, concluding, "It's more than a hobby!" How Forry would grin as he repeated Lugosi's phrasing when describing his obsessions! I hope I can pass along his joy at sharing memories and insights to those who visit the cinematic treasures now in my caretaking.” – Ron Magid
There were triumphs and disappointments for bidders at the Profiles auction but overall it was a validation of Forry’s life’s work. Not only had he collected and preserved the items that were sold. He actually created their ultimate value by sharing them and making them the icons they’d become to fandom. I believe he would have been thrilled to hear the numbers percolate and soar in the passionate bidding that went on at the auction. Forry would have been surprised to hear even those who won their lots lamenting his absence and the end of his collection. It’s really saying something when a serious collector, finally getting their hands on a prize, is a bit sad that they get to have it! Every single Lot sold, which I am told is a rarity in the auction biz.
About that “glimmer of hope?”
If you’ve ever started a fire without matches, you know the hardest part isn’t always making a spark. Sometimes the hardest part is fanning the spark into a sustainable flame. The Profiles auction scattered a dandelion of sparks and I for one am excited to see where they land and what spectacular fires blossom as a result. Forry always believed that the risk of loss was worth his ability to give visitors a feeling of closeness to the pieces in his collection. He LOVED trading things – even if there was gross disparity in value between what he was giving and what he was getting. I used to moan when anything gorgeous left his wall. But inevitably, the next day there was something remarkable to take its place. So, the tradition continues. This ever-changing organic mass called “the collection.” Always shifting, growing and metamorphosizing. It’s ALIVE!! And so…
Forrest J Ackerman Shall Not Die!
Next: Uncle Forry still wanders the halls of Wonderfest, Monsterpalooza and the most prestigious award in horror: The Rondos!
- Joe Moe
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