Monday, December 08, 2008

S. Clay Wilson Update!

I just got off the phone with S. Clay Wilson's longtime ol' lady Lorraine Chamberlain and she graciously gave me the latest update on his recovery. The good news is that Wilson was transferred from San Francisco General Hospital to a rehabilitation center last week and at this point he's feeding himself and chatting periodically. The bad news is that he has significant brain injury and can't recall what year it is or where he is or even his own name. He suffers from aphasia, which is an inability to comprehend language or recall correct vocabulary. The frustrating part is that he knows what he's trying to say and understands that he's saying the wrong words. Lorraine said it's like talking to someone on LSD because he speaks in random stream-of-consciousness babble. I like to think the old beatnik in Wilson will appreciate his new "poetic" abilities someday. The most amazing news is that Lorraine brought a sketch pad to his bedside and after refusing to draw in it all week he finally opened it and signed his old signature exactly like he has signed his drawings for more than 40 years! Remember, last week he couldn't even pronounce his own name so this is a huge improvement! He also walked past an easel today and drew a crude face of a woman. This is the first post-coma doodle that he's produced! Just a few weeks ago it was uncertain if he would live, much less ever hold a pencil again. At this point Lorraine is bracing for life after the hospital and they are facing rapidly mounting medical bills. Wilson has medicaid, which covers about 80% of his bills, but Lorraine estimates that their debt is quickly approaching a quarter of a million dollars! She's set up a PO BOX in case people feel inclined to send donations. Checks and money orders can be made out to Lorraine Chamberlain or S. Clay Wilson. Send 'em to the address below:

S. Clay Wilson
po box 14854
San Francisco, CA

S. Clay Wilson circa 1969

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman (R.I.P.)

Every time I log onto the computer these days it seems like I'm burying some childhood icon. This week it is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, Forrest J Ackerman. Mr. Ackerman, or "Forry" as he liked to be called, died of heart failure on December 4th at the ripe old age of 92. Forrest Ackerman was the quintessential fanboy collector and patron of the arts; obsessive, thoughtful, supportive, & financially endowed. He loved horror and science fiction with unrivaled passion and devoted his life to championing and archiving these maligned genres. In fact he is credited with coining the term "sci-fi" and for discovering a young teen writer named Ray Bradbury. He also founded Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1958, which quickly garnered a cult following for its stunning Basil Gogos covers and cornball horror-humor that has influenced bands from the Misfits and the Cramps to Electric Frankenstein and Ghoul. I remember stumbling on my brother's tattered copies of Famous Monsters when I was a kid and I spent hours drawing crayon portraits of the monsters on those yellowing pulp pages. Years later I met him briefly at a horror con when I was a teen and he seemed like some eccentric old grandpa that knew how to have a good time. Nearly every Saturday morning for most of his life Ackerman opened up his Los Angeles home to any pilgrim who traveled to view his legendary personal museum of monster & sci-fi memorabilia. He remarked to the Associated Press on his 85th birthday, "My wife used to say, 'How can you let strangers into our home?' But what's the point of having a collection like this if you can't let people enjoy it?" Ackerman embodied a spirit of generous enthusiasm and sheer joy that sometimes seems lacking in these days of instant gratification and high-turnover pursuits. Where are the great patron saints of horror? Where are all the guffawing stewards of sublime stupidity? To paraphrase the great Canadian speed metal band Razor, who have absolutely nothing to do with any of this, I sure hope some rabid fan steps up to the plate and takes ol' Forry's torch! He's gone but his bad puns are not forgotten.