Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver

November 2009     Web Edition     Issue #3

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Living A Dream

by Jessie Lilley

A hundred years ago, when I was quite young, I used to save my nickels and dimes so I could buy my favorite magazines. They were MAD Magazine and Famous Monsters of Filmland. I would stop at Lazzaras at 11 West Railroad Avenue in Tenafly, NJ on my way home from school and pick up the new issues. Then I would hide them in my book bag, because my mother didn’t think I should be reading either of them.

What did she know, anyway? She thought The Ink Spots were a “pretty hip group” and didn’t grok the magic of The Beatles.

But I did. And I knew in my deepest soul that these two books were my lifeline out of the hell of the NYC suburbs of the 60s. Grasping at the straws of imagination and humor, I devoured them from 1966 on into my teens. It was then that I fell amongst theatricals…

Richard Valley and Jessie Lilley in a publicity still
promoting Scarlet Street: The Magazine of Mystery and Horror

Of all the people I met during those years, one of the larger influences was Richard Valley, with whom I eventually created Scarlet Street: The Magazine of Mystery and Horror. It was Richard who sent me off to the Son of Horror-Thon convention (now known to those in the know simply as Chiller) in NJ, to get an autograph for him from Forrest J Ackerman. Off I went and met one of my idols and quite simply, it changed my life.

Forry and I got on splendidly from the git go. He liked women and I liked brainy punsters so it was a win-win. After gabbing for an extended length of time, I headed back north to deliver the coveted signature and continue publishing SS. Little did I know…

Later on, when Ray Ferry did his thing, one of the “things” he managed to pull off was the FM Convention in Crystal City, VA. He was in Jersey at the time and had hooked up with us at Scarlet Street at the request (I have been told) of Forry J. He wanted “Wonder Woman” involved. He’d taken to calling me that. So involved we became and among other things, we were responsible for Noel Neill’s appearance at the show. Jack Larson would have been there but his long-time partner was dying of cancer and Jack wouldn’t leave his side. I can’t say as I blame him!

At that convention, a couple of interesting things happened, but the pertinent one to this story is what Forry said to me after spending time in a long discussion with Richard, to wit, “You’re a good publisher but you’d be a great editor.” Being startled by this comment, I allowed as how I was really the money behind the project and Publisher was (as Richard regularly pointed out) only an honorary title. Forry said, “Yes, so he told. Several times.”

When Ray and Forry had a parting of the ways, the Cult Movies crowd gave Forry a new outlet in a revival of Spacemen as well as a delightful though short-lived TV show (Cult Movies TV) and I gave him his own column in Scarlet Street. No editing, no assignment—whatever he wanted to talk about, the page was his. He told me (confidentially and under penalty of heinous acts of torture should I ever reveal this) that he’d let me edit him any time but he would not have Mr. Valley touch his prose.

I’ve never forgotten that. Eventually I left SS and Ron Garmon and I got involved in a couple of projects until finally hitting upon Worldly Remains, where I again sat in the Publisher’s chair and Ron sat as Editor-in-Chief. I had a lot more acknowledged input in that book and found myself doing the editing that Ron couldn’t get to due to time constraints. He was only one man and that volume of text required assistance. Ron taught me an extraordinary amount regarding writing and editing. By then we had relocated to LA and I saw Forry on and off. It was also where I had the great pleasure of finding Brad Linaweaver standing in my living room one evening, having been invited there by Ron and our roommate Cris. We’ve been friends ever since.

A Very Forry Birthday. I don't remember which year this was. Circa 2001.

When the Terrible Trio of Ron, Cris and Jessie split up and Worldly Remains went under due to the high cost of printing, I found myself once again at loose ends. I was packing my office in the old apartment and Brad was keeping me company. We were discussing all kinds of things, including, “What are you going to do next, Jessie?” Like I had a clue.

I had a meeting with Mike Copner of Cult Movies—now defunct—and he asked me if I would take the Editor’s chair. As if I wouldn’t. But it didn’t happen. Mike and Buddy were on again off again colleagues and just when it all looked good—it all fell apart again. So that, I figured, was that. But Brad would not let things die.

He came up with the idea for a magazine that was the “best of” Cult Movies and Worldly Remains. Edward Plumb came up with the name Mondo Cult and Buddy Barnett helped with the launch. And so was born something once referred to by a reviewer as “a head-on collision” of the two. The first person I heard from was Forry. “What can I do in Mondo Cult?”

Attending the Nuart in West LA. Forry and Me, May 2004
Yes, Forry is in our first issue. We’ve been doing Mondo for over 10 years now. Holy crap! But it is a sporadic thing. The first website was not very good and the print books came out when we had something to say. There were only two of them when Phil Kim blazed across the horizon streaming the Famous Monsters banner once again. I contacted him to see if he might be looking for writers and he told me to contact Mike Heisler, his Editor-In-Chief. I had told Brad I’d like to do this but wanted to be sure he was cool with it, as after all, he was my publisher now and I was Mondo’s sitting Editor. As you might imagine, he was fine with it and so Heisler gave me the assignment no one else wanted. Write up Resident Evil as a lead in to the new film. I had a wonderful time, but I kept hearing, “cut, Cut, Cut!” What I wrote isn’t what appeared. Shades of things to come…

Along the way, while preparing FM 251, we also had the issue of dealing with the now infamous 250, which had been promised for seeming eons by Ray Ferry but never materialized. Eventually he put something out in PDF format as a download but that was long after Kim’s tribute issue to Forry, which I had the pleasure of putting together, front to back. That was my first Editor’s credit for FM 3.0.

By the time 253 came along, Heisler was gone, Forry was listed as Honorary Editor-In-Chief and I was still Editor, though I was having less and less input. The Retro books were fun. 70 was a hoot and I had gotten Joe Jusko and Martin Powell for 71 but then Phil and I decided to part company. 255 was the last issue I had any real input in and much of what I wanted in there didn’t get in. So, with Phil’s written permission, the work Brad Linaweaver did on Lovecraft, appeared in its entirety in Mondo Cult 3, along with what I wanted to do in 71 with Martin Powell’s Filmbook. The full version of my Resident Evil piece will appear in its entirety, here at Mondo Cult Online in the near future. Something that did get into 255, that I always wanted to see in print, was my shared byline with Brad, on our collaborative piece on the HPLHS production of The Call of Cthulhu.

I am the only woman to have held the Editor’s chair at FM, and the work that I did I am very proud of. Back in Crystal City, almost two decades gone now, Forry lit a little flame under my butt when he sighed, “If I ever get control of FM again, I just might make you Editor.” He never saw it, but the dream I’ve had since that conversation, came true. And if some are to be believed, he just might know anyway.

Happy 100th Birthday Forry J. Long may you wave.

In New York City, June 1995

Read Brad Linaweaver's Birthday Thoughts HERE