Zillions of rock musicians have appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.
But how many of them can say they have appeared in Rolling Stone and Famous Monsters of Filmland?
Raise your hand, Dwight Twilley. The Tulsa power pop music figure hit the exacta. And, if you want to know the truth, appearing in the monster mag was a bigger thrill.
“Yeah, it was, really,” Twilley said.
Let’s do a fresh dig on this topic since it’s October, the month when monsters crawl out of their holes.
First, let’s get you up to speed on Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Launched in 1958 by publisher James Warren and horror/science fiction connoisseur Forrest J. Ackerman, Famous Monsters of Filmland became the flagship magazine devoted to creature features. If you loved monster movies, you loved the mag.
Now let’s get you background details on Twilley.
Before Twilley made his Billboard debut with the single “I’m on Fire” in 1975, he was a pup who lived in an area of Tulsa that now is home to Promenade Mall.
“As a kid, there were two things I was interested in getting my hands on,” Twilley said.
“The first thing was a Beatles’ single. I had to have that, because they always had the picture sleeve singles and it was the greatest music in the world.”
The other thing? The newest issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Twilley said he walked or rode his bike to a drug store (he thinks it was on Peoria Avenue) where he knew he could count on new issues of the magazine to arrive.
“I would be waiting for it,” he said. “And I would get it and I would put it in a little package to be careful, where I wouldn’t get a wrinkle in it, and get it home and possess it.”
Twilley continued to handle his precious cargo with care at home, turning pages carefully so as not to cause damage.
“It was a magazine that you didn’t really read,” he said. “You read the headline, but you mainly bought it for the cover. The cover art was so cool.” (Basil Gogos, who provided stunning artwork of classic monsters for many Famous Monsters of Filmland covers, died in 2017.)
Twilley has an appreciation for art because he’s an artist himself. About the time Twilley was releasing his second solo album (Scuba Divers) in 1982, the publicity department of his record label thought it would be a good idea to set up a showing of his artwork at the Museum of Rock Art in Hollywood.
“Of course they were inviting all their connections and all that kind of stuff to make a big to-do out of it,” Twilley said.
Twilley was asked if there was anybody he wanted to attend. Just for the fun of it, he said, “Why don’t we invite Forrest J. Ackerman.”
Added Twilley: “They didn’t even know who the hell he was or anything.”
Twilley never expected Ackerman to come but — surprise! — the man behind Famous Monsters of Filmland arrived at the show to meet the rocker. It’s fair to say at least one of them was starstruck.
“I think my husband couldn’t believe Forrest J. Ackerman was at his art show,” Jan Twilley said.
Really, it was an introduction of kindred spirits. A get-to-know-each-other chat led to Ackerman making Twilley an offer he couldn’t refuse: Hey, do you want to come see my house?
The so-called Ackermansion was essentially a museum full of items from genres Ackerman loved.
“It was like a wonderland,” “Twilley said. “He had spaceships from ‘War of the Worlds’ just sitting on his table. Of course he’s wearing Bela Lugosi’s ring on his finger. He had the full-size robot from ‘Metropolis,’ and just countless other things. It was more than you could take in, just looking at it.”
Does visiting the Ackermansion rank among the best days of Twilley’s life? He said it’s right up there. “It was magical, really,” he said.
Twilley didn’t leave empty-handed. He recalls that he paid on-site for a first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
“For me, just to have it was a great honor,” he said.
A second “honor” arrived later.
On the letters page of Famous Monsters of Filmland No. 189, published after the visit to the Ackermansion, was a mug shot of Twilley that was accompanied by these words: “Wanted! More readers like Dwight Twilley.”
“That was a total surprise and I think it was just kindness from him,” Twilley said. “What a dream come true.”
Ackerman died in 2008 at the age of 92. Twilley is still rocking. He and friends will be special guests of Tommy Tutone during a Nov. 10 show at The Venue Shrine.
If you go, know that you’re watching a rocker who is passionate not only about monsters, but Sherlock Holmes and sci-fi (especially “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”) The classic monster movies from Universal Studios will always have a special place in his heart because they were genius-level good. He said those films used the same lighting and backgrounds as Sherlock Holmes flicks.
Twilley still has a big stash of monster mags. If you think about it, a rocker-monster mash-up makes sense. He confirmed that, as a musician, he works vampire hours.
About that visit to the Ackermansion: Can we assume there were no “real” dead bodies or monsters in Ackerman’s home?
Said Twilley: “Well, you don’t really know that for sure, do you?”