Kung-Fu Monthly and the Felix Dennis Legacy
On a recent visit to the in-lawsâ€™ we passed a verge of trees in Warwickshire just west of Leamington Spa that was pointed out to me as â€śFelix Dennisâ€™s forestâ€ť. Most familiar with Felix Dennis as the creator of the magazine Maxim and the first person to say a certain very bad word on British television, I was surprised.
As it turns out, the site belongs to The Heart of England Forest, a charity created to maintain and preserve native woodland, and is the latest chapter in the hugely varied career of this erstwhile counter-culture figurehead, poet and magazine magnate.
Felix Dennis (left) and his Oz co-editors. Image Â© Mirrorpix. Further reproduction prohibited without permission
This surreal arboreal moment prompted me to return to our resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975, which includes issues of the seminal alternative magazine Oz (for which Dennis and his co-editors were put on trial for â€śConspiracy to deprave and corrupt the Morals of the Young of the Realm,â€ť) and material from the Felix Dennis Archives with other publications such as Cozmic Comics and Friends.
But my favourite object from this impressive collection is one of Dennisâ€™ less controversial endeavours. In fact it has been cited as the commercial success that enabled Dennis to build what would become a publishing empire.
When Bruce Lee died in 1973 his popularity was steadily growing in the UK, and so, after the demise of Oz, Dennis decided to launch Kung-Fu Monthly, a celebration of the martial artist and his films. It was a huge hit, syndicated across the globe and translated into 11 languages; it made Dennis and his colleagues â€śrich beyond our wildest dreamsâ€ť.
The front covers of issues 1 and 5 of Kung-Fu Monthly. Images Â© Felix Dennis Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission
The content followed a winning formula of Bruce Lee facts and photos, short features on martial arts and more Bruce Lee photos in what was essentially a large poster folded to create an A4 zine.
Perfect in its simplicity, scrolling through the 60 issues of Kung-Fu Monthly available in Popular Culture you gain a real sense of the power of the zeitgeist and an insight into how the main players in the British underground-press movement made their way into the mainstream. But best (or worst) of all, it gives you some serious sweatshirt envy. Stay hot for Bruce people.
Image Â© Felix Dennis Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission
Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975 sections I and II are available now.