The intersection of Franklin and Vermont avenues in Los Angeles, California may soon be known as “Forrest J Ackerman Square,” thanks to an August motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (CD 4). The square would honor Ackerman, arguably the very first “sci-fi” fan owing to his coining the term “sci-fi.”
He was referred to affectionately as “Uncle Forry” by friends and fans. He founded and edited Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that reportedly inspired such greats as Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to become filmmakers. According to Ackerman’s long time friend and business advisor Sean Fernald, del Toro was so inspired by the magazine as a child that he once visited Ackerman at his home to ask if he would adopt him.
Famous Monsters was “a beacon in the dark for horror and science fiction fans,” said Fernald. “Before the Internet, it was the only way for sci-fi nerds to know that others shared their interests.”
One such fan was Paul Davids, who directed The Sci-Fi Boys, a 2006 documentary about the countless contemporary filmmakers who were inspired by Ackerman. Davids first met Ackerman as a teenager, when he won an amateur filmmaking contest sponsored byFamous Monsters. According to Davids, that encounter solidified his interest in filmmaking and spawned a 50-year friendship.
“Forry had a large hand in inspiring and molding all the kids who became our great filmmakers. As one of Los Angeles’s native sons, we should be honoring him,” said Davids.
He was pretty much the touchstone of “first Fandom” for most of the fans who knew him, even though he was a “noob” who joined the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) about 1937, three years after its founding in 1934.
Ackerman had a similar influence on other filmmakers and writers, sowing the seeds of sci-fi fandom and encouraging them to pursue their craft.
The notion of honoring Ackerman with a city square was first brought up at a March meeting of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, where a group called “Concerned Citizens of Los Feliz” tried and failed to gain historic status for a bungalow on Russell Avenue, which Ackerman called home for the final six years of his life.
Ackerman once possessed a possessed a massive movie memorabilia collection, and would open his Glendower Avenue home to the public each Saturday as an unofficial science fiction museum. He continued the tradition with a smaller collection when he moved to Russell Avenue in 2002.
Although the intersection at Hillhurst and Russell avenues was initially suggested as the site for the square, the corner of Franklin and Vermont avenues was deemed more appropriate, both for its higher foot-traffic and its proximity to Ackerman’s favorite restaurant.
If the motion is passed, the designation of the square, along with a public ceremony, is planned for November 24th, to coincide with what would have been Ackerman’s 100th birthday.
Additionally, Ackerman’s hand and foot prints can be seen in front of the Vista Theater on Hillhurst Avenue and Sunset Drive, where he had a lifetime free movie pass.
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