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?
Guess what? The late and great Forrest J. Ackerman ("The Ackermonster"), of Karloffornia, USA, who was like a grandfather to me...
(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?
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.
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.