Fun With Forrest J. Ackerman, Part 4


Conclusion of 1st World Con:
and with a bit of Buck Rogers thrown in so little children on the streets of New York went crying, 'It's Flash Gordon! It's Buck Rogers!' "
Photo at right of Forrest J. Ackerman in his Things to Come/Buck Rogers outfit at the First World SF Convention in New York City in 1939. It was attended by 185 fans.
"But when I got off the train at journey's end there was Donald Wollheim (inaudible) and I think the fan who later became his wife, and as I recall there were 6 or 8 other fans. But among them was a 15-year-old fan with kind of a paunch and held his head down, and he was dribbling cigarette ashes over his tummy. And he looked me up and down (inaudible) and he said, 'So you're the Forrest Ackerman who's been writing all those ridiculous letters to the science fiction magazines!' And Cyril Kornbluth punched me in the stomach, and I thought, 'Welcome to Fun City. For this I came 3000 miles to the first world convention?'
Asimov's Wild Side:
"I was reading Isaac Asimov's first story on the train (going to the first World SF Convention). It was called "Trends," and a few days later I met him and was quite pleasantly impressed with him. Some years later at a World Science Fiction Convention, I believe in Philadelphia - it was a time when I was editing Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that I almost single-handedly wrote almost 190 issues of over a period of nearly 25 years.

"And at the time the publisher was inaugurating a new periodical: a satirical, fun magazine called Help. In order to publicize the magazine he had a very attractive model in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, polka dot bikini wandering around in the lobby with a sign on her back: "If you need Help, follow me." She looked like kind of a comet with a tail of lascivious levarios following her, and eventually she came to a little kiosk where they got a complementary copy of the magazine. Well, I was standing on the ground floor and looking up at the mezzanine and saw Isaac Asimov get out of the elevator. The floor was made of marble. Well, he saw that fair derriere waving in the wind in front of him, and he broke the world record for the 9-yard-dash, and in the final few feet he went down on his knees, sliding like into first base. And this brought his mouth directly behind that behind, and he bit her on the bottom. I imagine that grandmother proudly shows those teeth marks." (I've got 2 pages of Isaac Asimov quotes)

Above: the great Asimov at age 14 outside his parents candy store in New York City (Isaac worked there a lot between SF magazines)

Ackerman Gets
Hell in Holland:
"Some years ago, around midnight, I arrived in Amsterdam. I'd been corresponding with a science fiction fan there, and I expected he would be seeing me, but not necessarily at midnight....But as I got closer and closer to the depot I thought, 'My, there's an awful lot of people out tonight; I'm surprised.' I got a little closer and, 'Wait, a minute! Those aren't people, those are monsters! Look, there's Frankenstein, and Dracula, and the Wolfman.' Well, this fellow had gotten about 50 fans together, and they'd all come down to the station with masks. And they even had a carriage there, a man with a tall black hat and a couple of horses, and I was driven through the streets of Amsterdam at midnight.

"The next day in the hotel, they had about five different newspapers all reporting this. My Dutch friend turned up and he was translating them for me, and he read one thing to me that made my eyebrows fly off. It says, 'This afternoon at 2:00 Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Science Fiction" from America, will appear at the Civic Auditorium and give a lecture on science fiction.' I thought, 'Well, that's no problem, I've just been all over Europe, I've got plenty to say, but in English, you know.' Here I was in Holland and I thought, 'Now how well are these people going to understand?' So I was rather alarmed, and my friend said, 'Oh, Forry, I just put that in. It's really no problem, only 2 or 3 people will turn up. You can chat with them, you know. I just wanted to get a little publicity for science fiction in the newspaper.'

"Well, when I got there it was a giant auditorium, full of adults all obviously expecting an hour-long lecture. Now, in Europe I have kind of a pleasant reputation: they say I'm about the only American they can understand. That's because I make a point of speaking very slowly and using small words. You know, attempting sort of basic English to communicate. So I looked at this vast audience and I thought, 'Oh, my God, I've got to use the old technique here.' Well, at the end of an hour everyone filed out, and the next day a lot more journalists had written about it in the newspaper. And I asked my friend, 'Well, how did it go?' Well, he was obviously rather reluctant to translate it for me, and he said, 'Now, Forry, you know this isn't my opinion, I'm just reading you here what it said.' What it said was that, 'Yesterday in the Civic Auditorium a man billed as "Mr. Science Fiction" from America had come. He must have been a retired professor, about 90 years old. He spoke so slowly. He had no sense of humor. His vocabulary was so miniscule.' It absolutely decimated me, because I was just simply trying to communicate." (Oh no! Just 2 more Forrest J. Ackerman pages to go!)