Music for the Eyes

posted by Michael John Simmons

Music for the Eyes

I've loved magazines ever since I discovered the wholesome Highlights in my doctor's waiting room when I was a kid. (Oh, Goofus, will you never learn?) Not long after that I discovered Mad, which was like Highlights' evil twin. Mad led inevitably to comics, or funny books as my mother called them. (Did she mean funny ha-ha or funny strange?) And then I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland  when I was 11. For the next three years I was obsessed with FMoF.  I loved the way that the magazine's founder, Forrest J. Ackerman, wrote about his subjects with affection and humor. He covered new movies and old ones, he was a particular fan of Lon Chaney, Sr., and just generally seemed to have fun putting out his magazine. The Ackermonster, as he sometimes called himself, had a great life.He had cameos in more than 200 movies, amassed an amazing collection of monster movie memorabilia and became friends with people like Bela Lugosi. (Forry, as he was also known, had the cape that Lugosi wore in Plan Nine from Outer Space.)  As I got older I discovered guitars and my youthful monster obsession was displaced by gear lust. Jump ahead to late 2005. Jason Verlinde, Marc Greilsamer and I had just launched The Fretboard Journal. In January 2006 we headed to the NAMM Show to show off our new project. I went down to the show with Patrick Ford, who shot the photos for the Santa Cruz Guitar Company story I wrote for the first issue. Patrick, who has had held on to his youthful passion for monster movies, took a day off from the NAMM show to visit his idol Forry, who would invite fans to home once a week to talk movies. Patrick told Forry about how I used to read FMoF as a boy and brought along a copy of the FJ to show him. Forry looked it over, declared it to be "music for the eyes," and then wrote that phrase on the cover and added his signature. And that's why I happen to have the only copy in the world of The Fretboard Journal signed by Forrest J. Ackerman. Sadly, Forry passed away in late 2008. In an interesting postscript, I moved a couple of years ago and as I was sorting through my junk I discovered that I had managed to save a few back issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland for more than 30 years. I guess you never really forget your first love....