Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Forry Ackerman Stole My Name

Identity theft has become the boogey man of the internet age.

Your entire life can be stolen, your bank accounts can be emptied, and your credit can be shot to hell. That's what the radio ads for products like "Life Lock" say, anyway. Even your dog isn't safe from a bestiality chatroom.

It wasn't always like that.

Way back in 1982, before the internet changed the world, a man could sleep soundly at night knowing that his identity was safe. He could close his eyes and rest his head in the knowledge that he'd wake up with his life intact, his bank account unmolested, and his dog answering to its given name. Right?

Wrong!

Very wrong.

Guess what? The late and great Forrest J. Ackerman ("The Ackermonster"), of Karloffornia, USA, who was like a grandfather to me...
Looks like an Aryan get-together at a secret Karloffornia location
(note my lack of identity)

... stole my identity, and never gave it back.

How did he do it?

I'm going to tell you, so you can avoid having your identity stolen by future Ackermonsters.

FM (an abbreviation of Famous Monsters of Filmland) was one of my bibles. It wasn't THE bible to me, but it was one of three or four that competed for my faith. I was the profane type back then (still am), and I tended to bend the commandments to suit my horror-loving needs. "You shall have no other gods before you" was the 1st commandment of the Roman Catholic church. It said nothing about other bibles, so FM got by on a technicality.

Getting your picture into FM's "Fang Mail" section (like the folks below) was a source of reader pride. Appearing under the by-line of WANTED! More Readers Like... made you part of Forry's upholstery, a member of one of the few clubs worth joining in this troubled world.
I submitted my photo in September of '81. I included my name, Detroit address, and phone number.

When the November issue arrived, I searched for my photo.

Did FM want a reader like me?

No, thanks.

When the December issue got stuffed with sacrilegious zeal into the mail slot, I cursed the mailman, then searched again for my photo. Was FM ready for me yet? No way. I could go to hell, it seemed. They wanted my hard-earned dollars, but they didn't want my photo messing with their Lon Chaney masthead.

Damn them!

I felt more deflated than most balloons do after New Year's.

When the January issued arrived, which went on to be known as FM #180, my desire to look for a certain photo was sullied by past disappointments. I opened the mag, thought of flinging it, then turned to the 4th page where Forry's favored readers enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame.

Was I in there? Of course not. Forry had obviously decided that a reader like me sucked.

The WANTED! More Readers Like... section continued near the back of the mag, too. Not that it was worth looking there. Forry had already made his mind up about me. Probably sat down with publisher James Warren and made a point of crushing my photo beneath his Ackershoe while Warren cackled. I knew I should have worn a monster t-shirt in my pic. What had made me think that respectable clothing bought you favors at the Ackermansion.

Putting the past behind me (like fuck!), I flipped to the back of the mag, anyway. Better to face humiliation than hang around waiting it for it to show.

This is the horror that stared back at me:

A man's name is the first port of call when it comes to his identity. Well, dear friends, my name had been stolen, and it had been replaced with that of another.

I was now Patrick Mendoza of Lima, Peru (the home of Paddington Bear!). My real name had been cut, chopped, broken and burnt beyond recognition, by Uncle Forry, and there wasn't a jury in America who would convict him.

In many ways, this was even worse than being snubbed completely. This was like being given a car with no keys, a phone with no number, a girlfriend with no v...... You get the picture.

Forry had insulted me by rejecting my name. Then he'd added injury to his insult by doing it publicly.

Close but no cigar?

No, buddy, this was a case of "Close But Fuck you, Charlie!"

Somewhere out there, probably in Peru, the real Patrick Mendoza is wondering what the hell went down.

His identity remained intact, but his recognition factor must have hit the skids.

I'm happy that I got to appear in an edition of Forry's FM, as opposed to a later incarnation of the mag.

More than twenty years of therapy later, I forgive the guy for his daylight theft of my identity, but I regret the absence of an identity retraction.

As for Mr. Mendoza, he may still be explaining himself to Paddington Bear, his Lady Friend, and the good folk of Peru.

7 comments:

  1. I've only made it through a tiny portion of this wonderful hangout you've created, and I am hooked. Amazing content. Truly.

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  2. Good grief, that top picture of you and Ackerman is awesome. You look like a Nazi super Soldier, waiting for your order to kill.

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  3. I know. It's a very sick pic.

    ***

    Thanks, Trix, I'm glad you're enjoying it.

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  4. Technically speaking, I don't think that's identity theft. More like identity substitution.

    Maybe you were to quick to condemn Mr. Ackerman. Perhaps he was on to something with this Mendoza a.k.a., and had you picked up on it, your life would have spun in a wierd and fabulous direction. For example, thouogh you most likely had a Lady Friend, Patrick had a lady FIEND, and that's one up one you.

    By-gones.

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  5. Also, I'm prety sure Patrick Mendoza would not have worn that collar.

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  6. You're right on both counts, anonymous.

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  7. Wow! I don't know which is worse- the story of the ID theft, or the jarring image from one of the most unpronouncable zombie/cannibal movies in the history of the genre! Although, I must admit, seeing this image reminds me of another masterwork of genre journalism- M. 'Mendoza's axiomatic estimation of 'cannibal holocaust' in the compendium 'Eaten Alive; Italian Cannibal and Zombie Films'. I rave about this article, but I think it, and the book, is a must. If you don't have it, get it.

    Back on message though, is it possible that you might have been a victim- like I was- of idolizing dear old 'Forry' when he was nothing more than a carny spruiking sideshow sheister, of the order of, say, H.G.Lewis, also a maestro of 'overration', as I call it? In my opinion, these guys were brave enough (or perverse enough) to have the moxie to go where few others had gone before, but I think in the best tradition of any street hustler or TV clairvoyant, once you look past the smoke and mirrors, very little of this is about integrity.

    I have just finished watching a doco on the people in Bhopal struggling to eke out a living in the wake of what has become known as the 'Union Carbide Tea Party' and am reminded how so little in genre film making and criticism (among other fields) is about integrity, or honour, and so much is about the buck. I find it hard to think of Ackerman, Lewis, Union Carbide or Nike as anything other than 'dollarsmiths', on the eternal hunt for the big buck. Why would the great unwashed, or their identities, matter to them??

    I remind the author he is one of a very select posse of artists with integrity. Don't forget, to expect integrity from others like the aforementioned is to attempt to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of time, and annoys the pig when all he wants from life is more swill and the occasional fuck.

    Anyway, what is wrong with the name 'Mendoza'?? If you changed the first name to 'Hector', you would sound like a Columbian drug lord, and in the wake of the disastrous Bush Administration (and, by association, Blair and Howard admins- the 'triumvirate of the eternal blindfold') where 'nothing is true and everything is permitted', what could possibly be cooler than to be another P.E.?? On the other hand, Mendoza is achingly close to Mendez- Chico Mendez, my personal hero and an example to all true free thinking, free minded people around the world. You choose. Drug Lord, or Environmental Activists. And let's face it, unless you are one of 'those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat', those two are the only choices, am I right??

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