Fun With Forrest J. Ackerman, Part 5


Harlan Ellison & "Sci-Fi":
"Harlan Ellison was the Guest of Honor some years ago in San Diego at a WesterCon. At the end of it all they had a raffle of a very fine piece of artwork, a cover from one of the science fiction magazines of the day. Well, I liked it a lot, so I took about 25 chances. What I didn't know at the time I was taking the chances was that it was the first time Harlan had ever had a cover done for one of his own stories. So I learned that before the drawing and I decided, well, what the heck, even if I do win, it's more important for our Guest of Honor to have his own cover than for me to have one more piece or artwork....

"However, he won fair and square: they picked his number because he'd bought about 50 chances. The problem was that you had to produce your half of the ticket within 5 minutes or they would make another choice. Well, his ticket was in his automobile about 5 blocks away. So he picked on the youngest kid who looked like he'd be fleet of foot, and I think he gave him $5 and said, 'Now there's another 5 in this if you get back here with the ticket under the wire.' So with about 15 seconds to spare the kid came back and he's huffing and puffing and, 'Oh, Mr. Ellison, yes, yes, I saw your ticket on the seat of your car, but it was locked. You didn't give me the keys.'
Above: Harlan pontificates at
DragonCon in Atlanta, 1998
"If any of you know anything about Harlan Ellison: if you ever saw Mount Vesuvius explode. Steam was coming out of his ears and his nose and he was cursing his miserable fate, but no help. So they pulled another ticket out, and it was mine. So I took the painting: 'Oh, you wonderful painting! Oh, I love you! Oh, you're gonna look so great on my wall! What a lucky devil. God, I love this painting!' Ellison was over there (inaudible) and on the bottom of the painting there was a rectangular blank space, so I sat down and printed, 'To Harlan Ellison: the hottest firecracker on the Fourth of July. Thanks for being such a great guest. Oh, by the way - hope you enjoy the painting.'

"So while he was over there ranting and raving I jumped up and said (high voice) 'Oh, what's this?! Well, somebody has scribbled something on it! Oh, I don't want this! Harlan, here, do you want this?' Well, if you ever saw a man sort of frozen like a statue, he just didn't know how to....To this day, I've never heard him say , 'Thank you.'

"I guess he wouldn't be liable to because, well, in 1954 I was riding around in the automobile and had the radio on, and somebody mentioned "hi-fi." And since science fiction has been on the tip of my tongue ever since 1926, I stuck out my tongue and looked in the mirror, and there tattooed on the end of my tongue it said, "sci-fi." Well, it was the first time in human history that sound was heard in the world, and my wife, to her eternal embarrassment, said, 'Forget it. It'll never catch on.'

"I've now seen it used in Hungary, and Finland, and Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and on the front cover of a Chinese newspaper....and when Heinlein died, they didn't say 'SF author' because everyone would have thought someone from San Francisco died....But Harlan Ellison has, from 1954 to now, which is 35 years or so, has never given up on trying to denigrate and destroy my innocent little term. My wife once asked him what he had against it. Now, he's settled down now, but in those days he was quite a womanizer. If you were ever introduced to the girl on his arm you didn't bother to memorize her name because you knew it'd be the last time you'd ever see her. So when my wife asked Ellison what he had against my term, he said, 'Well, it's like calling a girl a "chick." And I was astounded because I didn't know Harlan knew the word "girl." I thought it was a 'Hey, Babe' or 'I can't get over a girl like you so get up and answer the phone yourself.' " (note: Harlan has his own web site if you wanna see it)
Ackerman & the Banana Monster:
"The name John Landis is well-known today. I(?) was just in his most recent picture, Oscar. But about 15 years ago, John Landis had absolutely nothing - he was just a 22-year-old kid who'd been given $60,000 by an uncle and said, 'OK, boy, go make a movie - let's see what you can do.'

"Well, I was invited to MGM Studios to see a preview of something called Schlock: the Banana Monster. There was nobody in it I'd ever heard of, and John Landis hadn't done The Blues Brothers, or Into the Night, or Kentucky Fried Movie, or American Werewolf in London. I had to be up at 4:00 in the morning; I was flying over to Europe. So I said, 'Gee(?), I won't get in until 1:00 - do I really need to see Schlock: The Banana Monster?' I'd had this reputation ever since I was 5-and-a-half that I'd go out of my way never to miss a fantasy film. So reluctantly I went.

"Well, after the preview I was walking out in the parking lot, and a lone figure came loping along in the moonlight, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, 'Forrest Ackerman?' I said, 'Yes?' - a little late to deny it now. He said, 'Well, there are just three people whose opinion I would value about my movie - Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and yourself.' Well, I was(?) the low man on the totem pole on a rather impressive billing. So I looked at a young John Landis very severely, and I said, 'Are you responsible for that movie I just saw?' He kind of backed away and said, 'Oh, yes, sir.' I said, 'Well, you'll hear from my lawyer on Monday.' He said, 'Why, what's the problem?