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STYLE & CULTURE

The sci-fi museum that never was

January 06, 2003|Hilary E. MacGregor

For decades, fans said that Forrest Ackerman's collection was unsurpassed, that it should be made into a science-fiction museum, that his vast trove of Hollywood horror memorabilia should be saved for posterity.

It's not that nobody tried.

For five years, former Mayor Tom Bradley negotiated with Ackerman for the city of Los Angeles to take over his collection and make it into a science-fiction museum. Never happened.

Officials from the city of Monterey came to Ackerman, and they said they wanted to buy his collection, but a drought caused a moratorium on all new building. The museum plans dried up too.

A German hotel approached Ackerman to buy his collection and house it in Berlin, but the Wall fell and the country's economy soured.

There was talk of putting his collection on the Queen Mary, at Disneyland, in a Las Vegas hotel.

But in the end, none of the offers ever amounted to anything.

"If I were a vegetarian, I could survive on the giant carrots that have been dangled in front of my nose," Ackerman says.

"Clearly there is a major gap ... [in that] no museum is devoted to this kind of filmmaking," said John Karwin, curator of an exhibit at the Fullerton Museum Center that was inspired by Ackerman's collection.

"It is a huge and tremendously popular genre."

Jerry Weist, an author, science-fiction collector and Sotheby's associate for comic book auctions, believes that there eventually will be an American museum devoted to science fiction. However, as with so many purveyors of science fiction, Ackerman may have just been ahead of his time. "Culturally," said Weist, "we are not there yet."

-- Hilary E. MacGregor

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