AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD KLEMENSEN, EDITOR & PUBLISHER OF LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS
For nearly 40 (that’s four-oh, kids) years, LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS has been serving up heaping helpings of Hammer Horror to rabid readers all over the globe. Other ‘zines that are currently active and publishing that can hold even a flickering candle to this stunning achievement I can count on . . . say, one finger. If anybody were to get picky and scrutinize the erratic release schedule, this is still one amazing accomplishment, folks. Helmed by the venerable and sagacious Richard Klemensen, LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS has the distinct honor of continuing its role as the sole American genre magazine that covers pretty much exclusively the British horror film. While a recent issue had cover-to-cover coverage of Amicus Films, by and large LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS focuses on Hammer Films. And, why not? Every issue is packed to the staples with text and photos as if there were never enough to say about CURSE OF FRANKENTSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA, or, in its most recent issue, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB.
Dick Klemensen was an absolute prince in offering to answer candidly a number of questions regarding not only his publication, but the health and future of monster ‘zines in general. He was also supremely gracious in sharing a ton of photos that I will be posting throughout this MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD interview series. Now, without further ado, I present the interview!
MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: What was the inspiration behind you creating a U.S.-published movie monster magazine that covers only British horror films? What year did you first start publishing?
DICK KLEMENSEN: I started publishing LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS in 1972. The first issue appeared in June of that year. I had just been discharged from the Army in January and had gone back to college to get my (as it turned out, worthless) BA degree in Art and Education. Oh well, had a lot of fun partying and playing basketball (when I had two good knees). But why did it end up devoted to British horror films?
My background is pretty typical of older fan-boy types. I was born in 1947 in Mason City, Iowa. My dad was a WWII vet, and in our little town we had three movie theaters (occasionally a fourth which seemed to open and close regularly). I loved from the beginning anything to do with monster and fantasy/horror. In those early years, I remember seeing THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and NIGHT CREATURES. I knew they seemed to be something special but I didn’t know what Hammer meant.
In September 1969, just finishing my fourth year of college (and looking at a draft notice immediately after the four years ended!), I had mono that summer and spent a good portion of the time in bed. Finally well enough to go to the drive-in, I saw a triple feature of THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, GODZILLA VS. THE THING and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. The first two were terrific but the Dracula film knocked me out. Luckily for me my mother had drug along my old FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND'S and CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S when we moved from Mason City to Waterloo, Iowa in 1963 where my dad got transferred in his job. Early that morning (with work looking me in the face at 8 am) I dug them out and discovered what a Hammer film was (and discovered fanzines like GORE CREATURES, PHOTON, etc., which had a huge influence on what was to come). I fell in love with both the films and fanzines. Joined the Christopher Lee fan club, wrote a defense of Hammer for their clubzine…and by May 1970 was drafted and headed for Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.
I wanted to publish my own ‘zine, and I kept in contact with people like GORE CREATURES publisher/editor Gary Svehla during my service time. So when I got out, I was ready to become immersed in the world of fanzines, and monster movies.
It was never intended that LSoH would be mainly about British horror, but it seemed to crop up from issue one, and starting with #4 (I got married between #3 and #4 so there was a four year gap – which became pretty common with LSoH until the start of the new century when my new wife, Nancy, supported me in making LSoH a more regular publication). LSoH became mainly Brit oriented. It was my prime interest, and if I was to keep going on this (and I never thought I would. Ending the mag sometime was always in the back of my head. That we are still going after 38 years is mind boggling!) it would have to be about British horror.
MMW: Where you originally determined to make this ‘zine last or have you been surprised by its longevity?
KLEMENSEN: Yeah, I’ve been very surprised that LSoH is still around. As mentioned, there would be big gaps between issues, mainly because of personal upheavals in my life (divorces, moves to other cities, loss of jobs, etc.). But I loved chronicling the history of Hammer (and now the whole classic British horror scene) and something just kept drawing me back. Now we are doing two issues a year, which when you consider that Hammer’s first horror is now 53 years old – and there ain’t many of the original crews left – is pretty surprising.
MMW: I am amazed at the sheer density of text in each edition of LSoH. I always feel like I’ve just finished a novel every time I read an issue. How and where do you come up with all this material?
KLEMENSEN: Coming up with the materials? The basis for any film we decided to cover (or I should say I decide since I’m a one-man band as far as the physical side of the publishing goes) is if I think there is any material out there that is new, never seen before (or at least rarely seen) we go after it. Through the years, I’ve established a pipeline of contributors both in England and in the States. And I’m always getting contacted by long-time readers of the mag who have something they would like to add – like the John Carson interview re: PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES from David Williams, in LSoH #23. I’m always a little surprised, but pleased, when it all comes together. Denis Meikle has been a god-send for LSoH. He contacted me about helping him with a Hammer book, in 1990. I thought he had the ability to do it (not something I’ve felt when contacted by others in the past), so I put him in contact with Hammer people like the late Michael Carreras, producer and one-time owner of the company. Denis has become one of our most consistent contributors, does headers, interior designs, articles, interviews, etc. He just represents a small portion of the talented people who have come forward over the year, or done interviews for me (when you are dealing across the Atlantic, it can be hard to line up someone to conduct the interviews). And Bruce G. ‘gore’ Hallenbeck, since about 1982, has done many if not most of our ‘making of’ features. I supply Bruce with research materials (although he often conducts interviews himself) and ‘gore’ goes to town.