Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction

By KIMBERLY COLE
Featured in Autograph April 2009

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman

“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going to go,” Forrest J Ackerman would tell guests touring his collection. But when the man known as Uncle Forry to legions of horror and science fiction fans died in December at 92, he left an amazing collection behind. Thousands of sci-fi and horror related items will be auctioned from April 30 to May 1 by Profiles in History. “This will be the most important sale of horror-related items ever assembled for auction,” said Joe Maddalena, the firm’s CEO.

Jerry Weist, an author, collector and science fiction consultant for Sotheby’s described Ackerman’s collection in 2003: “There was nothing like it anywhere in the world, and there never will be again. The heritage of modern collectors is based in the Ackerman collection. It’s as if one guy in Europe had most of Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Chagalle, as if one person had an overwhelming collection.”

No. 1 Fan

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Ackerman won a special Hugo Award in 1953 for No. 1 Fan Personality. He published 50-plus stories, was literary agent to the likes of Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard and Marion Zimmer Bradley, appeared in more than 200 films, and served as editor and writer of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland for 25 years. But the word most often used to describe him? Fan.

The key to Ackerman’s tremendous influence on the genres of horror and science fiction films and literature was his life-long enthusiasm for the art form and its artists. As a fan, he amassed a collection that, at its peak in the mid-’60s would have been worth about $10 million in today’s market, Weist once speculated.

Unlike many collectors, Ackerman always shared his collection with the public, offering free tours of it at his home every Saturday. The “Ackermansion,” as his 18-room Los Feliz estate was called, became a mecca for science fiction fans and visitors from around the world. Even after the cost of legal troubles and illness forced him to downsize his collection and home, Ackerman continued to greet visitors and give personal tours of the house he dubbed the “Mini-Ackermansion.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1916, Ackerman often recounted the birth of his fascination with science fiction when, in 1926, he bought a copy of Amazing Stories. “Among all the magazines, that one said, ‘Take me home, little boy. You will love me.’”

Three years later, he published his first story in Science Wonder Quarterly and founded The Boys Scientification Club. His dream of bringing together a community of science fiction writers and readers began. In 1938 he published a young Ray Bradbury’s first story and introduced him to science fiction greats Robert Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and others. They were members of his chapter of the Science Fiction Society, which met in L.A.’s Clifton Cafeteria. Years later he bankrolled Bradbury’s fanzine Future Fantasia with $90.

In 1939, Ackerman attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in Manhattan with his friend Myrtle R. Douglas. Both of them dressed in space costumes, setting the stage for the thousands of Trekkies who would follow suit.

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi.” In a story told to the Los Angeles Times, he explained that he was driving with his wife in 1954, when the radio mentioned the term “hi-fi.” “I looked in the rear-view mirror, stuck out my tongue and there, tattooed on the end was ‘sci-fi.’ To her immortal embarrassment, my dear wife said, ‘Forget it, Forry—it’ll never catch on.’”

His connection to the film world grew naturally out of his career as a literary agent, and Ackerman became friends with horror stars such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. But Ackerman also promoted the works of the behind-the-scenes artists who created the magic of the movies, inspiring film director Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, and many others.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

A life-long fan of science fiction B-movies, Ackerman had cameos in more than 200 films, including The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II and the campy Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. More important than his work onscreen was his role in shaping the industry’s understanding of the genre. It was Ackerman who brought attention in the United States to the 1927 German film Metropolis. He called himself Ed Wood’s ‘ill-literary’ agent, and provided feedback to Wood as he wrote and directed Plan 9 from Outer Space.

In 1958, Ackerman launched his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, each issue full of interviews with film monsters Lugosi and Karloff, articles on past and current genre films, comic strip adaptations of classic movies and a letter to the editor’s page called “Fang Mail.” In the Mimosa fanzine, Ackerman explained the Famous Monsters tone: “The publisher sent a sign saying ‘I am 11-and-a-half years old and I am your reader, Forrest Ackerman. Make me laugh.” Ackerman obliged until 1983 when the magazine stopped publication after a run of 191 issues.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

Horror and science fiction may have lost their No. 1 fan, but Ackerman’s legend lives on. In the words of Stephen King, “Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realized that if it was junk, it was magic junk.”

Inside the Ackerman Estate Auction

After the Ackerman estate trustees decided to use Profiles in History to handle the auction, we spoke to Joe Maddalena, who was in the thick of preparing for the sale. In explaining the trustees’ decision, Maddalena said that his company had sold items from Ackerman’s collection over the years to help sustain him financially. “We specialize in the higher end of this field of collecting—science fiction and horror memorabilia. And we have the right market—not only have we got the memorabilia clients, but we have the autograph clients.”

When asked to give a peek into what’s involved in auctioning Ackerman’s collection, Maddalena described the effort of inventorying the contents of the house and storage. “Forry’s house is just full—I mean, thousands and thousands of items. There’s autographs, magazines, newspapers, costumes, toys, art work. We’re inventorying, and then we box it up and bring it to our offices.”

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

Maddalena will go through the entire collection, looking for the items that will stand alone in the auction. The rest will be sorted by genre, personality, or film and sold in lots. “We turn the collection into thematic lots that can be sold in a sensible way. There are a couple of people who were alive at the time Forry was building his collection and they’ve been helping us identify the history and who he got each item from.”

In addition to local resources, Maddalena said that he’s been receiving countless emails from fans who toured the Ackerman estate—more than 50,000 people visited during the many years that Forry opened his house to the public and people are eager to share stories about items in the collection. “It’s a tremendous help in assembling the catalog,” Maddalena said.

The catalog, available for download from the Profiles in History website in early April, should be a major resource for fans of horror and sci-fi who want one last chance to ogle Ackerman’s collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Maddalena provided interesting insights into the challenge of pricing the items. “I like to set starting bids based on what’s reasonable. I believe that these collectibles will find their value at market. For example, we have the Dracula ring listed at $20,000-$30,000. But it’s a unique item. It came from Lugosi to Forry. It’s uninterrupted provenance. Who knows what that’s worth? It could go as high as $100,000, but it’s hard to guess because there’s never been another. Or the costumes—there has never been any Lugosi wardrobe for sale before.”

While popular culturally, horror films were not considered historically significant years ago. “Horror material from the 1930s and ’40s just doesn’t exist,” Maddalena said. “People thought there was no reason to save a Dracula poster. No one thought about saving a costume from Dracula, so this type of material just doesn’t exist. No one has unearthed any Universal horror costumes or costume pieces of significance ever.”

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

No one except Forry Ackerman. Through his friendships with actors, directors, writers, costume and set designers, Ackerman saved what might have been lost.

“Also impacting value is that the items were given to Forry, and his association has an added value,” Maddalena explained. “You not only have an 11×14 beautiful photograph of Marlene Dietrich, but it’s inscribed to Forry Ackerman. Is there a premium associated with that? Is that premium 10 percent? 20 percent? Is someone willing to pay a premium of 100 percent because it’s associated with Forry’s life?”

Here are a few of the items that Maddalena has identified for single sale.

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1948 film Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. In the original 1931 Dracula, Lugosi’s Count is wearing a ring with what appears to be a simple black onyx stone. Because there are no references to the ring, it is assumed to have been a personal possession of Lugosi’s, as was the medallion he wore in that film. Lugosi gave the Abbott and Costello ring with the crest on a carnelian stone to Forry Ackerman. Ackerman later loaned it to Christopher Lee for use in his portrayals of Count Dracula. It’s the single most important Lugosi / Dracula screen-worn piece to ever come to auction.

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935) is reportedly the most important 1930s horror costume to ever come to auction. There’s a classic photo of Lugosi, as the Poe-obsessed Dr. Vollin, wearing the velvet collared robe as he strokes the head of a stuffed raven.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Also available in the auction is the cape made for Bela Lugosi in 1932 and used by him in stage adaptations of Dracula. Lugosi also wore the costume in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lugosi was buried in one of his three Dracula capes, and his son owns the second. This is the third and final cape worn by Lugosi.

The 1899 first American edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker and inscribed by Bela Lugosi to Ackerman (also signed by Christopher Lee, John Carradine and a host of other Dracula-related personalities). The book was originally published in the U.K. in 1897. When Douglas & McClure published the American edition in 1899, they used the original copyright year of 1897. There have been numerous publications of Dracula, but this is the first U.S. edition and should not be confused with the 1927 Grosset & Dunlap edition which was published to coincide with the theatrical opening of Dracula on Broadway.

Autograph asked Maddalena whether the book was of greater interest to autograph or book collectors. “Any real book collector is going to think the Dracula book has been defaced. First American edition signed by Bram Stoker, that in itself is worth $10,000. A book collector is going to get sick when he sees all those other signatures. But an autograph collector is going to be euphoric.”

Fritz Lang’s monocle, which he wore when he directed Metropolis. Ackerman was an ardent fan of the 1927 silent film, and Lang gave his monocle to Forry. Along with Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Metropolis is considered one of the most important science fiction films ever made.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

A copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author.

Also available are hundreds of signed 11×14 photographs of stars like Marlene Deitrich, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Fritz Lang and John Carradine. “These are the most personal autographs,” Maddalena said. “The ones he didn’t want to sell.”

Over the years, a number of individuals suggested that Ackerman’s collection belonged in a museum—that it should become a museum. The failure to do so has enraged some fans. In a 2003 Los Angeles Times article, Ray Bradbury was quoted, “We live in a stupid world.” He had over the years begged executives at a number of companies to help preserve the collection. “I said, ‘A special room with all of that [Ackerman’s collection] will be more fascinating than all that junk you have.’ They didn’t believe in the future. I believe in the future. Forrest Ackerman believed in the future. No one else cared.”

But within hours after news of the auction hit the Internet, horror and sci-fi sites began buzzing with the idea that from the sale of Forry Ackerman’s collection, thousands of fans will find the core of their own collection; a basis from which to build their own celebration of horror and sci-fi films and writing.

And, as Maddalena explained: “Forry’s will divides the proceeds from the sale among his beneficiaries. It’s a chance to help Forry give something to the people who meant the most to him.

“This is a great time to celebrate this man’s career. If collectors have ever wanted something from this genre, Ackerman is probably the single most important person who influenced collecting.”

Autograph asked Maddalena for tips for auction novices. “Decide how much you want to spend,” he said. “And try to understand what you’ll be getting for that money. For example, Forry had the last Vincent Price index card—Price signed the date on it. That card will be in a lot with other Vincent Price-related things. But it’s not just Price, it’s the connection to Forry Ackerman that you’ll be buying, so you’re really getting a lot for your money.”

The auction is a treasure trove for Vincent Price fans. In addition to the last Vincent Price autograph, there’s a handwritten tribute Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

To download the Ackerman Estate auction catalog, go to www.ProfilesInHistory.com. The auction will be held April 30-May 1 at Profiles in History’s offices in Calabasas Hills, Calif.

Character Actors: Clancy Brown

By SCOTT VOISIN

Featured in Autograph March 2009

A headshot of Clancy Brown

Most of us think of movies and television as entertainment, but the reality is that Hollywood is a business, and everything that gets produced is made for one reason: to make money.

No one understands this better than Clancy Brown. For more than 25 years, he has consistently delivered memorable performances in films (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers, The Guardian) and TV (ER, Earth 2, The Practice). While he has mastered the artistic part of his profession, Brown has also learned—mostly the hard way—the business aspects of acting. Although the lessons were difficult to accept, they played a major part in making him one of the most savvy, dependable actors working today.

Brown as The Kurgan in Highlander

One of Brown’s earliest roles was portraying the immortal Kurgan in the 1986 cult classic Highlander. Back then, he was a relative newcomer to the film industry, but he got a first-hand look at just how unscrupulous some people in the business can be. “Highlander was not as smooth of a production as any of the ones I had done before, mostly because of the producers getting in the way,” Brown recalls. “They weren’t very experienced or professional, and they barely said, ‘Thank you’ for helping make the movie that is putting their grandchildren through college. In fact, they still owe me money. They were going to put out this Kurgan sword, and they asked me if I’d promote it. So I said, ‘Yeah, if you pay me and you pay my charity.’ They said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ and they paid me and my charity the first installment. They haven’t paid a dime since, and I know the swords have sold out. They made all their money and ripped off my family’s charity. That’s what they do, that’s the kind of people they are. They’re not very honorable, and they don’t care who they’re ripping off.”

Brown as Captin Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption

Years later, Brown landed pivotal roles in two highly-acclaimed cable series, Breaking News and Carnivale. Although the shows were lauded by critics, they were ultimately cancelled due to low ratings. “The days of executives keeping shows on because they like them are over,” he says. “You’ve gotta deliver the numbers. They both fell victim to the thing we’re all victimized by, which is the commercial structure of this business. You might think the people in charge of the networks give a damn about the artistic content of a show, but they really don’t. They all fancy they do, but their jobs are all about making money the easiest way possible. You sort of learn the hard way that somewhere in the middle of all those producer credits, there’s a line that’s drawn between people who are trying to make a better show and people who only give a damn about the return on the investment. I totally get that, and at least the shows got made. The work is out there.”

These days, Brown has enjoyed great success doing voice-over work, most notably as Mr. Krabs in the animated hit, Sponge Bob Square Pants. It’s a different type of acting that challenges Brown without the added pressure that live-action filming brings. “All you have to worry about is getting the words off the page with your voice,” he explains. “You don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to work out and you do it as many times as it takes to do it right. In film and television, it’s a lot of money to do takes, so you’ve got to have your s—t together right at the beginning. When you walk on a set, you’re walking into a situation where millions of dollars have been spent. There’s never that kind of financial pressure with cartoons. It’s a lot lighter, it’s a lot more fun and I just have a great time doing it.”

Clancy Brown's signature

Looking back at the lessons he’s learned, Brown offers a no-nonsense explanation for his success in Hollywood. “I’ve been very lucky, but after the luck, you have to be able to deliver,” he says. “You have to show up on time and know your lines. When you’re a supporting actor, you have to know your place in the narrative and execute that with some proficiency. That’s what they pay you for.”

Clancy Brown does not sign through the mail. However, he does offer autographed photos for sale on his website, and all of the proceeds are donated to charity. For more information, visit www.clancybrown.com.

Return to Forbidden Planet

By BOBBY REED

Featured in Autograph March 2009

Highly collectible title card

More than 50 years after its original release, Forbidden Planet continues to beckon fans from across the cosmos. The 1956 film has become a cornerstone of the science-fiction genre because of its top-notch production values, futuristic soundtrack and a screenplay partially inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The film’s plot involves the disappearance of a group of scientists on a faraway planet, and the surprising, dangerous powers of the human mind.

The widespread influence of Forbidden Planet is seen throughout the sci-fi universe, from the Star Wars franchise and The Matrix films to several intergalactic TV series, such as Star Trek, Lost in Space and Babylon 5. The film also gave birth to one of the great icons of pop culture—Robby the Robot.

Forbidden Planet

fans were out in full force at the Hollywood Collectors Show, held in Chicago in September, to meet and acquire autographs from three of the film’s cast members: Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn) and Bob Dix (Crewman Grey). Collectors got autographs on a variety of items, including Robby the Robot toy boxes and the cover of the film’s 50th anniversary DVD.

 

Leslie Nielsen

magazines featuring Richard Anderson (left) and Leslie Nielsen (right)

Although these collectors think of Nielsen as the commander of the United Planets C-57D space ship, the general public knows the Canadian-born actor because of his comedic work. Nielsen became a household name due to his roles in numerous spoofs, such as Airplane!, The Naked Gun, Scary Movie 4 and Superhero Movie.

As a young actor, Nielsen mainly had done stage and TV work when he was cast as the leading actor in Forbidden Planet. The film’s established star was Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), who had been nominated for an Oscar twice in the early 1940s.

Nielsen has fond memories of joking around with Pidgeon, who died in 1984. “He was a wonderful man,” Nielsen said. “He was known as the Golden Gentleman, and we had a running, barbed exchange going all the time. I remember playing checkers with him, and he said something, so I made a comment about his shoes being too big. While he was jumping one of my men, he was saying, ‘That was uncalled for, Leslie.’ I realized I had stepped over the bounds. I had gotten too personal with that comment. So I said, ‘You’re quite right, Walter. I apologize.’ He said, ‘Accepted,’ and then he jumped another one of my men. It was like an exchange that would take place between two Englishmen.”

In 1956, audiences marveled at the film’s groundbreaking visual effects, which are still impressive to contemporary viewers. “The incredible thing about those special effects is that they were totally manual,” Nielsen noted. “Today you can do everything by computer. But they had to manufacture all those things and make them work. It was astonishing what they did.”

The picture received an Oscar nomination in the Special Effects category, but it lost to The Ten Commandments, with its classic parting of the Red Sea sequence.

Robert Dix

Robert Dix signing a Forbidden Planet cast photo

In one of the most memorable scenes in Forbidden Planet, the gigantic, orange, glowing “Id Monster” grabs three men, including Crewman Grey, and fatally hurls each of them to the ground. Today, such a fantastic scene would incorporate computer-generated imagery. In the mid-’50s, however, this spectacle was created using animation, combined with some decidedly low-tech methods.

“When I got zapped by the Id, it was with the help of four prop guys pulling me on a rope,” Dix said with a laugh. “They had a harness with a hook in the back. Then they had a spring hooked up to that and a rope. On cue, these four guys gave me a humongous jerk, and I went flying back. I landed in all these gunnysacks full of rags and paper. It was fun.”

Dix was born in Beverly Hills and followed in the footsteps of his famous father. (Richard Dix was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1931’s Cimarron.) At the time Forbidden Planet was made, Dix was a studio player under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His film credits include the western Forty Guns and the James Bond picture Live and Let Die, and he acted in numerous TV series, including Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and Death Valley Days. Affable and generous with his time, Dix is a fan favorite at conventions.

Forbidden Planet was the grandpa of all those other sci-fi movies and TV series that came out after the middle ’50s,” Dix said. “It had a regular run in theaters, but the word-of-mouth on it was what caused it to become a classic. Audiences loved it. They would go back and see it two or three times.”

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson and Robert Dix at the Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show in Chicago. Anderson is holding a box set edition of Forbidden Planet.

Seated at the convention table next to Dix was his colleague Anderson. The two actors met on MGM’s enormous Stage 27 while filming Forbidden Planet, and they remain friends to this day.

“I did 24 movies at MGM over a period of six years,” Anderson reminisced. “I was under contract, and Forbidden Planet started out as a B-movie. It was just another job. The film came out, and it made money, but no one had any idea about the legends that would come out of this movie. It was unique, and it became something that is eternal.”

Many Generation X fans know Anderson for his role as Oscar Goldman, a character who appeared in two ’70s TV series—The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Younger fans also know this character, thanks to 2005’s hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which Steve Carell portrays a collector of vintage toys who cherishes his Oscar Goldman action figure. The gregarious Anderson adorned his convention table with a couple of Oscar Goldman action figures and other memorabilia from the ’70s.

Anderson also played General George Meade in the 1993 film Gettysburg. One fan at the convention, a Civil War buff from Georgia, engaged Anderson in a detailed conversation about military strategy during the war. The fan, who had corresponded with Anderson through the mail, was thrilled to meet the actor in person and add to his collection of items signed by Gettysburg cast members. The entertaining discussion clearly illustrated that Anderson had done extensive research for his role as Meade.

Current and Future Pricing

Toy version of Robby the Robot.

Among the dozens of memorabilia dealers at the convention was Sean Linkenback of the Atlanta-based company Platinum Posters. He offered a Forbidden Planet title card priced at $1,480, and a lobby card for $440. “Demand for that title is always strong, not just from sci-fi collectors, but from movie collectors in general because it’s considered such an important film,” Linkenback said. “The Forbidden Planet one-sheet poster has sold for as high as $10,000, but it usually sells in the $6,000 to $7,000 range.”

Some dealers and collectors are stocking up on memorabilia in anticipation of a new version of the film. A proposed project to remake Forbidden Planet has been bouncing around Hollywood for years. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling) will write the screenplay. One director reportedly interested in the project is James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic). In the 2005 TV documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us, Cameron lauded Forbidden Planet, saying, “It was amazing as a technical accomplishment in its day, just for its scope, just for the scale of its imagination.”

Forbidden Planet signed cast photo.

When the remake finally does arrive in theaters, a new generation of cinema buffs will discover the wonders and horrors of the planet called Altair IV. Increased interest in the original film could result in higher prices for vintage memorabilia and, of course, for signatures from the trailblazing cast members.

Linda Hamilton: Signs Like a Machine

By MARK J. GROSS

— Autograph February 2009

Signed photo of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2

One of the biggest sci-fi films of the ’80s was James Cameron’s blockbuster, The Terminator, in which an ordinary waitress, Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, becomes the assassination target of “The Terminator”—a robot sent from the future to kill Sarah to prevent her unborn son from leading the war against the machines.

Hamilton’s portrayal of Sarah Connor made her a sci-fi fan favorite. From the first film in 1984 to 1991’s sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Hamilton embodied her character, becoming so fit that even an advanced robot could feel threatened—if it had feelings, that is.

Signed publicity still for Beauty and the Beast featuring Hamilton and Ron Perlman

When not fighting Terminators, Hamilton has been seen in countless other films such as King Kong Lives, Mr. Destiny, Dante’s Peak and Children of the Corn, and the TV series Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy).

A native of my home state of Maryland, Hamilton recently attended the Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey, where she took time to chat with me before signing and chatting with a long line of fans.

Mark Gross: How did you start your acting career?

Hamilton is an accommodating signer

Linda Hamilton: I did children’s theater, and I remember my twin sister and I were both cast as the princess in Rumplestilskin, and that was fun. But the second year we did Wind in the Willows, and I got to play Badger, who was a mean scary character, who came out of a pile of leaves to scare the children, and that was when I fell in love. That gave me the bug.

What role has been your favorite so far?

One of the best pieces of work I’ve done, and something that was dear to me, was called A Mothers Prayer—an obscure piece for the USA Network long ago. It was a beautiful story about a Mom, whom I portrayed, who had AIDS, and she became her own adoption agency, finding a home for her son before she passes away.

Is there anything you can tell me about the Terminator films that’s not well known?

I almost didn’t get to play the role of Sarah Connor because three weeks before we began shooting, I broke my ankle, so I was barely walking. The first few weeks of the film I was really limping, and they had to do a medical wrap on my ankle every day of the shoot. In fact there is the scene in the film where I’m running down a hilly street with Michael Biehn, holding him up with the big truck rolling down the road toward us, and Jim Cameron said to us, “If you fall down, roll to the right, because that truck can’t stop in time.” And I really remember at one point during that shot this pain that went shooting through my leg—I would have gone down had I not been warned!

Signed Terminator 2 DVD cover

In the second Terminator film, you really worked out for the role of Sarah Connor.

Yes, I knew what this woman had gone through in the last seven years—because we were using it as a real timeline—so with that, she’s nuts knowing what’s coming over the world. I told Jim, “Make her crazy and get me a trainer!” So that’s what we did.

Tell me about your TV series Beauty and the Beast, and working with Ron Perlman.

Ron is the love of my life. He and I are still close, and really good friends. We had a ball doing that show. Even when the show was tedious for us, I always wound up on his shoulder at the end of those episodes. We had so much fun with it, and with each other. We just kept it very alive and loving the whole time.

How is it, meeting your fans and signing for them?

I think I have always been very fan accessible. It’s not about fans for me; it’s just person to person. I just don’t think of them as the fans, but as people. I want them to walk away thinking I am just another person too.

Hamilton is known to be very personable with her fans

Do you collect autographs?

I make it a point to collect nothing. I mean that—I was a collector for a short while, and fortunately that was in my youth, before I could really afford to keep going. But somehow I got cured of that.

What did you collect before?

I used to collect Santa Clauses—those wonderfully hand carved special things.

What new projects are you working on?

I did an English film that I think is coming out in March, called In Your Dreams, which is adorable. And, I just finished one called Waters Rising, which is another English comedy. I also have a TV series that I’m shooting in Canada that’s called The Line, but it’s called The Weight there. It’s wonderfully written and I play the most extremely whacked-out con artist.

What do you enjoy to do besides acting?

I’m with my children, and that’s great. I also read, garden, and I do a lot of charity work and love to be outdoors.

If you could have an autograph of anyone, whose would you want?

Linda Hamilton and Mark Gross at the Chiller Theater convention in Oct. 2008

I would say Bruce Springsteen. He just meant so much to me. He kept me alive for a couple of summers there with some of his songs—that’s what celebrities do for us. I met him actually, and I didn’t ask him for his autograph. The first time I saw him I was on a plane, and I could not get up the courage to ask him anything. When it’s a hero, it’s a hero!

After the interview, Linda graciously signed two items from her table for me. She thanked me, shook my hand and kissed my cheek before she returned to her patiently waiting fans. She was a true delight, chatting with them like she was at a party and knew them all. Everyone walked away happy from a real genuine, upbeat, friendly and sweet woman.

 

Who Is Lee Correy?

By PATRICK DOUGLAS

— Autograph February 2009

The cover picture of Correy's book Starship through Space

In his memoir the formative years of Model Rocketry 1957-1962, G. Harry Stine wrote the self observation, “It is not often that an aerospace historian has the opportunity to participate in the making of history,” that became quite prophetic to me after receiving a gift.

My interest in Stine’s life took shape about a year ago when my father-in-law gave me an old novel called Starship through Space, written by one Lee Correy.

Because it was printed in the early 1950s, the only thing I initially knew of the book was that it was old and appeared no different than any other used book that you could buy for a buck at a local used bookstore. But then I discovered that it was signed by the author, and the inscription had a personal and possibly historical message written inside:

“1 October 1954—White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, USA, Terra. To Margaret and the rest of the people of White Sands—who are doing the basic groundwork which may make this story come true—Cordially, Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine)”

The message in itself was intriguing, especially after I started researching the author. It turns out the book is an early glimpse at the life of a man who contributed greatly to the fledgling ideals of space exploration, as well as the hobby of model rocketry.

Fresh out of college, Stine, who oftentimes used Lee Correy as his pen name, went to work at White Sands Proving Ground, where he became Chief of the Controls and Instruments section of the Propulsion Branch; he tested liquid and solid propellant rockets for the Army and honed his knowledge of rockets.

According to his memoirs, Stine wrote science fiction in the evenings, which culminated into his first published “boys book,” Starship through Space, the very book I had sitting in my lap. He would go on to write 63 books, including the Star Trek story The Abode of Life.

The price being asked for unsigned copies of Starship through Space online led to more curiosity. On Amazon, a third edition was being sold for $164, while first editions, like the one I have, were going for around $250 or more. One website in particular had a price tag of $400, stating that the book was in “lovely” condition.

With such a high demand, and knowing that my signed copy with its enigmatic message must have a story behind it, I began sending out emails to find out just who Margaret was and if the book belonged in a museum rather than in my autograph collection.

Most of my emails came back with even more unanswered questions, but I did receive an interesting response from Terrie Cornell, curator of the White Sands Missile Range Museum.

A page from Starship through Space signed by the author "Lee Correy" (G. Harry Stine)" and inscribed "To Margaret and the rest of the people of White Sands--"

“I think Margaret was in the White Sands Proving Ground Personnel Office,” said Cornell, adding that she was just giving me an educated guess. “I’ve heard many old-timers say they were hired by Margaret. She must have been quite a person, since everyone remembered her fondly.

“Harry Stine did indeed work out here and is considered the father of model rocketry,” she continued. “Like so many early folks here, he must have been a genius renaissance man. You have a wonderful book there. Treasure it!”

While her message was affirming of its importance, it still left me a bit confused as to the history of my book and the man people referred to as “The Old Rocketeer.”

I visited the website, questaerospace.com, and found documents written by Stine and his wife, Barbara, that painted the man’s legacy as not only a scientist and innovator, but also a humanitarian who wanted to help children have fun and be safe at the same time.

This led to trying to locate Barbara and I set about it nearly a year after receiving the book. After a bit of sleuthing, I found a number and with my fingers crossed, I called her at home.

“The book that he was most proud of was the Handbook of Model Rocketry,” she explained during our conversation. “That really started the whole model rocketry deal. I was secretary treasure for the first seven years and spent at least 40 hours a week running the organization out of our basement.”

Barbara shared stories of Stine, including why he originally went with a pseudonym in his early books. “The pen name was not a secret,” she said. “Everybody knew that when Harry was writing non-fiction, it was G. Harry Stine and when he couldn’t get a point across through the non-fiction area, he would write it as Lee Correy.”

The pseudonym was nixed later when Stine wrote his series of Warbots and Starsea Invaders books.

“His last 15 fiction books were published under the name of G. Harry Stine because the publisher thought that the name was better known than Lee Correy, which is kind of a goofy twist,” said a laughing Barbara.

Harry Stine turned down requests from Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry to write scripts for the show, according to Barbara.

“[Rodenberry] wanted him to write screenplays and he said, ‘No, I write books. That’s what I do. I don’t want to belong to the Screen Writers Guild anyway,’” she recalled. “He wanted the freedom to do what he wanted to do. He was good at writing books.”

As for the book I was researching, Barbara offered up some stories about its creation.

“There was a formula,” she said. “They don’t have that category anymore. This was like something that a young man who read the Boy Scouts’ Boys’ Life would read. There was a definite formula that he had to follow which doesn’t exist anymore. His hero had to be adventurous; sort of the rules don’t apply to him. He couldn’t smoke, he couldn’t drink and he didn’t have a girlfriend. That formula had to be adhered to for those first three books.”

Stine had a mentor in another great science fiction author, Robert Heinlein, whose most popular stories include Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. Heinlein’s book, The Door into Summer, was based on a cat that the Stines gave him.

G. Harry Stine, aka Lee Correy, pictured on the back of his book, Starship through Space

“The cat would sit by the door and complain because it was snowing and he didn’t want to go out in the snow,” she said, adding that the Heinlein book Have Spacesuit—Will Travel was dedicated to her and her husband.

“Bob Heinlein encouraged [Harry] and mentored him when he was in college,” Barbara said.

Stine’s contributions to the world of model rocketry brought it from an idea to a hobby that has spread internationally. His son, Bill Stine, has kept the tradition alive, coaching the United States team in the International Junior Model Rocket competitions, recently traveling to Spain for the event.

“He’s done it for a couple of years,” said Barbara of her son. “They didn’t used to have any competition internationally for the young people.”

As if all of this wasn’t enough for one man’s life accomplishments, Harry Stine is often given credit for coming up with the giving term “pay it forward,” which was made popular in the film of the same name starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.

What started out as an old book being passed from one person to another, turned into an education into a man’s existence and a revelation of value that makes it much more than a common used hardcover novel.

As for the Margaret who was referenced in the signature, her identity was made clearer after talking with Barbara Stine.

“He’s referring to the lady who was head of the physical science lab, where they had a program in which the students worked six months at White Sands and then six months at the lab and had hands on experience,” she said.

I now know that the book might not be something meant for a museum, but it’s certainly worthy of being a huge part of both my book and autograph collections, and I’m proud to have it. Stine died of a stroke on November 2, 1997, at 69 years old.

*The opening Stine memoir excerpt was used with permission from Barbara Stine.