Dick Miller, prolific screen actor and B-Movie legend, best known for his role as Murray Futterman in the 1984 classic horror film Gremlins, has died. He was 90.
With a career spanning more than 60 years, Miller has made hundreds of on screen appearances, beginning in the 1950’s with legendary director and producer Roger Corman. It was then that he starred as Walter Paisley – a character the actor would reprise throughout his career – in the cult classic “A Bucket of Blood,” before going on to land roles on projects such as The ‘Burbs, Fame and The Terminator.
Miller also boasts a long history of high-profile director partnerships, working with the likes of James Cameron, Ernest Dickerson, Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and, perhaps most notably, Joe Dante, who used Miller in almost every project he helmed.
In one of Dante’s earlier films, Piranha, Miller played Buck Gardner, a small-time real estate agent opening up a new resort on Lost River Lake. The only catch? A large school of genetically altered piranha have accidentally been released into the resort’s nearby rivers. Next up was a police chief role in the 1979 film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School before reprising the Walter Paisley mantle as an occult bookshop owner in Dante’s 1981 horror film The Howling.
Other notable appearances include the 1986 cult favorite Night of the Creeps, where he shared the screen with Tom Atkins as a police ammunition’s officer named Walt – he supplies Atkins with some necessary firepower in the face of an alien worm-zombie invasion – and a pawnshop owner in James Cameron’s 1984 hit The Terminator; the same year he appeared in yet another of Dante’s films, Gremlins.
Most recently, Miller reprised the role of Walter Paisley for a final time as a rabbi in Eben McGarr’s horror film Hanukkah.
Miller is survived by his wife Lainie, daughter Barbara and granddaughter Autumn.
Dante called him “one of his most treasured collaborators,” writing, “I ‘grew up’ (kinda) watching Dick Miller in movies from the 50’s on and was thrilled to have him in my first movie for Roger Corman.”
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Forrest J. Ackerman (born Forrest James Ackerman; November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was an American collector of science fiction books and movie memorabilia and a science fiction fan; a magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent, a founder of science fiction fandom and possibly the world’s most avid collector of genre books and movie memorabilia. He was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as an actor and producer (Vampirella) from the 1950’s into the 1980’s, and appears in two documentaries related to this period in popular culture: Jason V. Brock’s The AckerMonster Chronicles!, which details his life and career, and Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man. He was, for over seven decades, one of science fiction’s staunchest spokesmen and promoters.
Also called “Forry,” “The Ackermonster,” “4e” and “4SJ,” Ackerman was central to the formation, organization, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his wordplay, he coined the genre nickname “sci-fi”. In 1953, he was voted “#1 Fan Personality” by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, a unique Hugo Award never granted to anyone else.
Ackerman was born Forrest James Ackerman (though he would refer to himself from the early 1930s on as “Forrest J Ackerman” with no period after the middle initial) on November 24, 1916 in Los Angeles, to Carroll and William Schilling Ackerman. He attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year (1934–1935), worked as a movie projectionist, and spent three years in the U.S. Army after enlisting on August 15, 1942.
Ackerman saw his first “imagi-movie” in 1922 (One Glorious Day), purchased his first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, created The Boys’ Scientifiction Club in 1930 (“girl-fans were as rare as unicorn’s horns in those days”). He contributed to both of the first sci-fi fanzines, The Time Traveller, and the Science Fiction Magazine, in 1932, and by 1933 had 127 correspondents around the world.
He attended the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in 1939, where he wore the first “futuristicostume” (designed and created by Myrtle R. Douglas) and sparked fan costuming, the latest incarnation of which is cosplay. He attended every Worldcon but two thereafter during his lifetime. Ackerman invited Ray Bradbury to attend the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League, then meeting weekly at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. Bradbury often attended meetings with his friend Ray Harryhausen; the two Rays had been introduced to each other by Ackerman. With $90 from Ackerman, Bradbury launched a fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, in 1939.
Ackerman amassed an extremely large and complete collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror film memorabilia, which, until 2002, he maintained in a remarkable 18-room home and museum known as the “Son of Ackermansion.” (The original Ackermansion where he lived from the early 1950’s until the mid-1970’s, was at 915 S. Sherbourne Drive in Los Angeles) This second house, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, contained some 300,000 books and pieces of movie and science-fiction memorabilia. From 1951 to 2002, Ackerman entertained some 50,000 fans at open houses.
He knew most of the writers of science fiction in the first half of the twentieth-century. As a literary agent, he represented some 200 writers, and he served as agent of record for many long lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted in anthologies. He was Ed Wood’s “illiterary” agent. He kept all of the stories submitted to his magazine, even the ones he rejected; Stephen King has stated that Ackerman showed up to a King book signing with a copy of a story King had submitted for publication when he was 11.
Through his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958–1983), Ackerman introduced the history of the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres to a generation of young readers. At a time when most movie-related publications glorified the stars in front of the camera, “Uncle Forry”, as he was referred to by many of his fans, promoted the behind-the-scenes artists involved in the magic of movies. In this way, Ackerman provided inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Joe Dante, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Gene Simmons (of the band KISS), Rick Baker, George Lucas, Danny Elfman, Frank Darabont, John Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists and craftsmen.
He was married to teacher and translator Wendayne (Wendy) Wahrman (1912–1990) until her death. Her original first name was Matilda; Forry created “Wendayne” for her. Wendayne suffered a serious head injury when she was violently mugged while on a trip to Europe in 1990, and the injury soon after led to her death.
A lifelong fan of science fiction “B-movies”, Ackerman had cameos in over 210 films, including bit parts in many monster movies and science fiction films (The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II), spoofs and comedies (Amazon Women on the Moon), and at least one major music video (Michael Jackson’s Thriller). Ackerman was fluent in the international language Esperanto.
In 2003, Ackerman said, “I aim at hitting 100 and becoming the George Burns of science fiction”. His health, however, had been failing, and after one final trip to the hospital, informed his best friend and caregiver Joe Moe that he didn’t want to go on. Honouring his wishes, his friends brought him home to hospice care. However, it turned out that in order to get Ackerman home, the hospital had cured his infection with antibiotics. So Forrest went on for a few more weeks holding what he delighted in calling, “a living funeral”. In his final days he saw everyone he wanted to say good-bye to. John Landis recalled that “Although he was extremely ill he told me he could not die until he voted for Obama for President and he did.”
Forrest J Ackerman died on December 4, 2008, at the age of 92. He is interred at Glendale Forest Lawn with his wife Wendayne “Rocket To The Rue Morgue” Ackerman. His plaque simply reads, “Sci-Fi Was My High”.