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Forry Ackerman – a class act

May 23, 2011

Was looking through my old posts and found this one…

about Forry Ackerman answering a parent concerned about his child reading Famous Monsters of Filmland. Now, courtesy of this website

I can now reproduce the letter (from issue #130) and response in their entirety…emphasis and comments in the text by yours truly will be noted.

PUBLISHER’S STATEMENT:

In 18 years of publishing and 130 issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS, this is the most disturbing, one of the saddest Letters to the Editor we have ever received. We publish it in whole, nothing changed or deleted, and I have asked my Editor to respond to it. – James Warren

Famous Monsters of Filmland is the WORST magazine ever sold. And so are all other horror movie magazines. How can you people worship such trash?! I am the father of a 15-year-old monster freak. And as head of the house, I have finally put my foot down and made a rule which I should have made years ago. NO HORROR MOVIES, MAGAZINES, OR SUCH GARBAGE IN THE HOUSE AT ANY TIME!!! I am appalled with the trash my son started taking into the house since age seven. Why does he pay money for something he can get at the city dump? He’s been buying your monthly refuse heap since issue #49 and he has bought all back issues (God knows why!) ever since number 26! 125 issues is 125 issues too many!!! The world doesn’t need your junk. It’s bad enough to start with. Unfortunately Robbie never misses an issue. He keeps telling me how much those things are, but to me it’s all the same – bird cage liner. When he brings home an issue I tear my hair to shreds! And finally to top it all off, his room is literally covered with monster posters, models, books and stills! He mights as well sleep under the house!! Don’t try to convince me with that article in issue #123 because it didn’t. Anyone who has to do with horror movies MUST be mentally deranged!!! Don’t give me your psychology crap!! No matter what you try to shove down my throat, horror movies warp people’s minds!! What about those gruesome murderings going on today? And you know the cause of it? Horror movies!! What do you see in them? Horror is not an art form! It’s claptrap, just a cheap scheme to make a dollar. Don’t say they’re good for children!! What made me put my foot down just a few days ago was Robbie’s attitude toward his 7-year-old sister, Fanny. He laid out all his stupid magazines in mint condition (what does it matter – trash is trash in all forms), to show them to his cousin. Well, Fanny went into his room, and Robbie took one magazine and held it up to her face, and began to growl. My poor little girl ran to her room screaming and sobbing. And that was the straw!! For eight years I put up with his trash, so I ended it all that day! As I recall, from that article in #123, there was a small fictionalized account of a boy and his burnt collection of magazines. What a nice little idea! So, I took all his posters, stills, books, models, and best of all his cruddy bunch of Famous Monsters, took them to the fireplace, and began the sacred burning. What a crybaby he was!! I also took away his weekly allowance. Whenever I see a monster article in his room or in his hands, I quickly confiscate it for burning. I know he hates me for it, But I know what I’m doing is good and best. Someday he’ll thank me for this. I have forbidden him to see any movies at any cinema, but you warped his mind so much, he doesn’t listen to me. I know what’s good for him and the sooner he appreciates the Bach, Chopin and opera music I have brought into the house, and the sooner he appreciates and studies Hemingway, Shakespeare, and good poetry, the sooner he gets his allowance back. I’m buying him National Geographic and Reader’s Digest, periodicals worth reading. I’m trying my best to mold him into a well-cultured person, like the rest of the family. So I’m throwing out his rock-n-roll trash, and I’m giving him a decent haircut. I’m telling you, you’re the cause of all this, and I’m glad I finally took action. This is all for his own good. I want him to be the person I want him to be like (Emphasis supplied – ed). So far I’m failing, and it’s your fault. I hope you print this letter because it may finally change the minds of all the sick parents who read your cheap, good-for-nothing garbage, but I know you won’t because you’re afraid you’ll receive more letters agreeing with me. If I had my way, I would have you and your kind lynched and your junky museum and publishing company burned along with the celluloid horror trash. When will you ever see the light? I hope your company goes bankrupt. Why can’t all of you people be decent, and appreciate decent things? What an editor you are, clogging up your worthless magazine on every single page with your begging for handouts for a useless museum. Why don’t you go out on the streets of L.A.? I’m sure you’ll get a lot more money. I hope my son Robbie never sees you, you greedy old coot. I’ll bet you $500 that you’re afraid that you know I’m right and you’re wrong. I don’t care what anyone says, not you, Robbie, your disciples and worshippers or anyone as a matter of fact. At least I know I’m right and you’re wrong. I’m leaving my address out, because I don’t feel like being marauded and bombarded with indignant letters by you, your disciples and worshippers. I have better time than to fool around with your crap. And I’ll bet you $500 that you won’t print this letter because you’re stark raving scared. Just proves everything I said in this letter is right. – RON LEEDS SANTA ANA, CALIF.

That was probably written in the same block of text I present it as.  The odd thing is, he seems to be trying to be cool for the first part of the letter to my now-adult eyes.  Exposing his kid to Shakespeare and Chopin. The point he loses me for good is the “be the person I want you to be” line.  And also good to know the “double dog dare you to print this” got its start way back in print forms.

Forry responds: (Forry had clear paragraph structure – so I reproduced that.)

First of all, Mr. Leeds, you obviously owe me $500, since I was not stark raving scared to publish your letter.

I’ll make a bet of my own: I’ll bet you’ll never make good your bet.

I’ll bet you $500 you’ll never send me the $500.

Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse.

You prove me a liar by sending me $500 – and you get your money back!

There’s only one catch: the $500 you owe me, I don’t want to give it to you, I want to give it to your son. For whom I feel so sorry. I think your letter has made me feel sadder than any amongst the thousands and thousands I’ve received since I started editing this magazine when I was about 42 years old.

I’ll deposit the check in my Savings Account and when your son is 18 and old enough to make his own decisions as to what he wants to read and how he wants to spend his money, I’ll send him the $500 plus the interest.

Fair enough?

Oh, you say you wouldn’t trust a money-grubbing old coot like me farther than you could throw a Grayhound bus. I can see from your standpoint that’s perfectly logical. Alright, you’re obviously an honorable man: I’ll simply trust you. You can keep control of the $500 you owe me. When your son is of age, I’ll expect you to give it to him. Along with the interest. And no strings attached. His to spend as he pleases.

I hope young Leeds will drop me a line to let me know his dad kept his word.

Otherwise, I have nothing much to say to you. I learned a long time ago that “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” So I’m not going to give you any psychological crap.

I’d like to make a little money for myself, tho (SIC – ed.). Rather, my worthless museum. You say I “clog up the worthless magazine on every single page with begging for handouts for a useless museum.” I challenge that statement. It is easily susceptible to proof. Take any issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS (oh, I forgot – you burned them); well, check a secondhand store, it will be worth your while; and in the most offensive issue you can find, where I whine for a handout on every page, underline the requests for financial assistance and for every page I promise to pay you $100. The only catch is what I expect in return: for every page in the same issue that does not contain a request for money for my rotten museum, you pay me $100. Actually you have nothing to lose if it is true, as you say, that I beg for handouts on every single page. I’ll even pay off on every other page! I’ll pay off on a ratio of 1 page in 10! One in TWENTY-FIVE! Could anything be fairer than that?

You want your son to read Hemingway. I must confess I never read a word by the author. I know his literary reputation; he may be the world’s greatest wordsmith: but as a human being I think of him as the epitome of the macho “sportsman,” the man who liked to hunt wild game in Africa, pull gasping fish he had no need to eat from the sea, applaud toreadors in the bloody bullring. Such a man I would not wish a son of mine to admire or emulate.

Since you have discovered the horrible truth that criminologists have been seeking for ages, namely that Horror movies are responsible for today’s gruesome murderings, can you enlighten us by revealing what prompted Jack the Ripper and all the hideous murderers of the 19th century to commit their crimes before there were horror movies?

Horror movies (and I suppose books, magazines, comics, TV films, plays, etc.) lead to murder, you inform us, but Poe, Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, Lovecraft managed to get thru (SIC – ed.) life without killing anyone and so far Robert “Psycho” Bloch and other modern authors in the horror genre have managed to manage their lives without resorting to murder. Karloff, Lugosi, the Chaneys, Raines – even the heinous filmic child murderer Peter Lorre of “M” fame – lived and died without killing anyone. i must have seen more horror films than any other person on Earth and while, like every other normal human being, there have been a few times in my life when I have wished that some particularly annoying individual would “drop dead,” I have yet to assist anyone to their demise. yet you, who have a deliberately led a horror-free life and chosen Bach, Chopin, and opera music; Shakespeare, good poetry and the National Geographic; you see nothing ironic, inconsistent, in plainly stating: “If I had my way, I would have you and your kind lynched, and your junky museum and publishing company burnt along with the celluloid horror trash?” Civilized men & women have long regarded lynching as one of the lowest forms of murder and Adolph Hitler didn’t win many brownie points with most of the world by burning books.

My final words are to your son.

Robbie, I say to you what I say to all young people in their formative years: Life is monstrous enough without making matters worse for yourself. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dope, don’t be prejudiced, don’t kill for sport. And in your case I’ll add: don’t despair. Being underage is something you’ll outgrow.

Sincerely, Forry Ackerman

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