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Lee, Bruce (1940-1973), Martial Arts Master and Film Maker

HistoryLink.org Essay 3999 : Printer-Friendly Format

Bruce Lee popularized Kung Fu and other Asian martial arts disciplines during a brief but influential career as an instructor and as an actor on television and in feature films. Born in San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong, Bruce moved to Seattle in 1959 to work at Ruby Chow's Chinese restaurant and to attend the University of Washington. In Seattle he began teaching martial arts and established his first studio. He met and married his wife Linda before pursuing his TV and film career in Hollywood and in Hong Kong. His roles in the 1966-1967 television series Green Hornet and the 1973 film Enter the Dragon won international acclaim and made Kung Fu a household word around the globe. Bruce Lee died suddenly on July 20, 1973, while working on the film The Game of Death in Hong Kong. He is buried at Lake View Cemetery on Seattle's Capitol Hill.

Born in the USA

Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940, at the Jackson Street Hospital in San Francisco's Chinatown. His father, Lee Hoi Chuen, an actor on tour with Hong Kong's Cantonese Opera Company, was Chinese. His mother, Grace, a Catholic, was the daughter of a German father and a Chinese mother. The nurse at the hospital suggested the name Bruce -- Grace named him Jun Fan meaning "return again" -- because she felt he would come back to live in America someday. At home he was called Sai Fon, meaning Small Phoenix. "Bruce" was never used as his name until he enrolled at school. Bruce Lee made his acting debut in San Francisco in a movie role as an infant being carried by his father in The Golden Gate Girl, (1940).

A few months after Bruce's birth, the family moved back to China. They had a family home in Kowloon, a suburb of Hong Kong. Living in this two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment were not only Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Bruce and his siblings Phoebe, Agnes, Peter, and later, Robert, but also Mr. Lee's sister-in-law, her five children, servants, the servant's child, and many pets. Following the Chinese custom, Mr. Lee supported his sister-in-law and her family after the death of his brother.

Bruce was a child star in Hong Kong. At age six, he starred in The Birth of Mankind, (1946) billed as Lee Siu Lung, or "Little Dragon." His sister Agnes gave him this nickname. Bruce had been born in the year of the Dragon and in the hour of the Dragon (between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m.). He starred in 20 movies while in Hong Kong, including Kid Chueng,(1950) and The Orphan, (1958). His mother said that Bruce had no problem getting up at two a.m. to get to a movie shoot, but getting up for school was a different matter. She often joked, "By the time Bruce was 10, that was as far as he could count."

At the age of 12 in 1952, Bruce entered La Salle College, a Catholic, English-speaking school. His grades were poor, and he got into many fights. He asked his parents to enroll him in a martial arts school because he was being bullied and wanted to learn to defend himself.

They agreed and in 1953, Bruce began to study under Master Yip Man, head of the school of the Wing Chun style of Kung-Fu. In the October 1967 issue of Blackbelt magazine, Bruce Lee remembered, "I was a punk and went out looking for fights. We used chains and pens with knives hidden inside them." His brothers stated that if Bruce didn't like someone, he told him straight to his face, which meant he had no trouble finding trouble. He was known to the Hong Kong police.

Time for You to Leave

Bruce was much more interested in studying martial arts, dancing (at age 18 in 1958, he won the Hong Kong Cha Cha Championship), and girls than in school work. His defiant attitude towards La Salle's teachers and administrators, his mediocre grades, and his reputation as a fighter and troublemaker led to his expulsion from La Salle.

He enrolled at St Francis Xavier where a teacher encouraged him to enter the inter-school boxing championships. He went through the elimination rounds easily, then faced the three-time champion Gary Elms from the rival British King George V High School. Bruce won by knock out in the third round.

In 1958, after a challenge to the Wing Chun students from Choy Li Fut, a rival martial arts school, a fight was arranged on a rooftop. There were many such rivalries in Hong Kong -- the winner was whoever could force their opponent over a line. In response to an unfair punch, Bruce lashed out and beat the other boy badly, knocking out his tooth. This boy's parents made a complaint to the police, and Bruce's mother had to go down to the police station and sign a form saying she would take full responsibility for Bruce's actions if they released him to her custody. Not mentioning the incident to her husband, she suggested that Bruce should exercise his American citizenship rights and return to his birthplace. Despairing of Bruce's college prospects, his father agreed.

With $100 U.S. in his pocket, Bruce left Hong Kong on a steamship bound for San Francisco in April 1959. In San Francisco, he lived with a friend of his father's and made a little money teaching dance lessons. As a favor to Bruce's father, Ruby Chow offered Bruce a room above her Chinese restaurant in Seattle (1122 Jefferson Street) and a full-time job as a waiter. Bruce moved to Seattle later the same year. He attended Edison Technical College (now Seattle Central Community College) during the day and worked at Ruby Chow's in the evening. He received his high school diploma from Edison and his grades were good enough to be accepted into the University of Washington, where he became a Philosophy major.

Teaching Kung Fu

Bruce didn't like the odd jobs (such as stuffing advertisements into Seattle Times newspapers) he found himself doing to keep himself solvent, so he started teaching kung fu on the side. He taught his first classes in the back alley behind Ruby Chow's. He also taught in parks and, on Sundays, in empty parking garages.

In the fall of 1963, Bruce opened a kung fu studio he named the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute at 4750 University Way in the University District. (Gung Fu is the Cantonese spelling of the Mandarin "Kung Fu.") He lived in a small, windowless room in the back of the studio. He charged $22 a month and $17 for juniors. Bruce met Linda Emery when she became a student of his through her Garfield High School friend, Sue Ann Kay. According to Linda, Bruce's first "Studio" was a basement room in Chinatown with bare lightbulbs.

Bruce's instruction had a strong social aspect. He would go out with the students for lunch at Chinese restaurants after Sunday morning workouts, or take them to a Chinese film in Chinatown. Bruce taught them Chinese culture as well as providing friendship and a social atmosphere. Other students spoke highly of Bruce's individualized training, how he would spend time with each student and learned exactly what their strengths and weaknesses were and what they needed to do to best benefit them in their training and their lives. John Mitsules, one of Bruce's first students in Seattle, writes in his autobiography, St. Ann's Kid: A Seattle Memoir:

"Part of a person's training with Bruce focused on understanding their own value. He told people that they were special and held meaning in this world. I think Bruce was very good at assessing levels of self-confidence and determining what kind of support people required."

Mitsules, who briefly roomed with Bruce, also described Bruce's incredible talent:

"You could not convince a person his feats were real by description only -- he was like watching a deft magician. You always wondered how he could be so graceful, quick, and powerful at the same time. Once people saw him in action they became believers. He would take on four guys effortlessly. You could feel the force in the air when his punches came close to your nose in practice ... To show off, he would do push ups with me laying on his back. I weighed 200 pounds at the time."

Linda, Wife To Be

In 1963, Bruce was attending the University of Washington as a junior when Linda was a freshman. He and his students would often meet at the UW Hub and work out over lunch period. One of their favorite campus spots to practice was the large, grassy "Sylvan Theatre" with the columns from the original University of Washington. It was at one of these practices in October that Bruce first asked Linda out.

"One afternoon, Bruce and I were racing from one end to the other and when we got away from the group he tackled me to the ground. I thought he was going to show me a new maneuver, but instead he held me down and when I stopped laughing, he asked me if I wanted to go to dinner at the Space Needle. I hesitated a moment, thinking that was a pretty expensive place for all of us to go, and I said, "You mean all of us?" And he replied, "No, only you and me." I was speechless, although I must have managed to say, 'Yes!' " (Lee).

A Clandestine Affair goes Public

Linda began seeing Bruce, but she hid their relationship from her mother. When Bruce moved down to Oakland, California, in June 1964 to set up the second branch of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute with his friend James Y. Lee, Linda considered it a possibility that her and Bruce's lives might drift apart, so she didn't bother telling her mother about their relationship. But Bruce wrote her letters all that summer, and when he arrived back in Seattle on August 12, they went down to the King County Courthouse to apply for a marriage license, intent on eloping and telling Linda's family about it later.

She did not know that the names of people who apply for marriage licenses are printed in the paper. Her Aunt Sally read that section and called her mother. A large family meeting was called and all day long her relatives tried to dissuade them from marrying, telling them how difficult their life would be as an interracial couple and that they should wait to examine their feelings. They even told Bruce that Linda couldn't cook, (which was basically true, by her own admission).

Since her family knew nothing about the relationship, they didn't know that Bruce and Linda had already "examined their feelings" for each other and were intent on marrying. On August 17, 1964, Bruce and Linda were married at the Seattle Congregational Church. They immediately moved to Oakland and stayed with friend James Lee and his wife in their home. Bruce closed up the University Way Studio, but left Jun Fan training in the hands of his good friend, student, and assistant instructor Taky Kimura.

Challenge and Change

In Oakland, everything was going well, until James Lee's wife died suddenly. Linda took over the cooking, cleaning, and care of his two children, and though it was a bit overwhelming, the second Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute was covering the bills, and Bruce and Linda were excited about the upcoming birth of their first child.

Then in December 1964, leaders of the Chinese martial arts community who objected to Bruce teaching martial arts to non-Chinese students visited his studio with an ornate scroll stating that if he refused to stop teaching other races, he would have to fight their challenger, Wong Jack Man, a kung fu master recently arrived from China. If he lost, he would have to close down his studio or stop teaching non-Chinese students.

Bruce approached the challenger and asked him if he wanted to do this. Linda, who was there at the time (eight months pregnant with Brandon), says the challenger was apologetic and said, "No, but I'm representing these people," motioning to the community leaders.

Bruce agreed to fight. The leaders hadn't expected him to. The challenger said "No hitting in the face. No kicking in the groin." Bruce refused and said "You've made the challenge -- so I'm making the rules. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's no holds barred. It's all out!" Linda described the fight as follows:

"Within one minute, the men who had accompanied the challenger were trying to stop the fight as Bruce began to achieve the upper hand. James Lee warned them to let the fight go on. A minute later, with Bruce continuing the attack in earnest, his opponent began to backpedal as fast as he could. For an instant, the fight threatened to disintegrate into a farce as he actually turned and ran. When the two men returned to the center of the gym, Bruce's opponent was unable to mount an attack. Bruce quickly brought him to the floor and poised above him with his fist raised. "Is that enough?" "That's enough!" pleaded his adversary. Bruce demanded a second reply to his question to make sure that he understood this was the end of the fight. Still highly incensed, Bruce dragged the man to his feet and then threw the whole bunch off the premises" (Lee).

In James Bishop's Remembering Bruce, Wong Jack Man reports that Bruce offered a supposedly friendly hand and when he accepted it, Bruce turned it into an attempt to gouge out his eyes. "He really wanted to kill me," recalled Wong.

The Way of the Intercepting Fist

This fight was momentous for Bruce Lee. He won, but not as easily as he would have liked. He found himself winded and embarked on more extreme fitness training. This fight marked the beginning of Bruce's concept of Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu -- or, "The Way of No Way." Up until then, Bruce had been basically teaching the form of Wing Chun Kung Fu he had learned from his only master, Yip Man.

Bruce began in earnest reading all he could of other martial arts and all forms of combat, including philosophy, psychology, and motivation books -- anything to help him grow as a martial artist and a human being. Bruce was to amass a library of more than 2,500 books. In Jeet Kune Do, jeet means "to stop or intercept," kune means "fist," and do means "the way or the ultimate reality." His definition of Jeet Kune Do gradually became "The Way of the Intercepting Fist."

Bruce came to believe that most of classical training was not helpful -- that you do what you have to do as quickly as possible in a fight. Jeet Kune Do was actually a minimizing of form, rather than an elaboration. "If somebody attacks you," Bruce said, "your response is not Technique No. 1, Stance No. 2, Section 3, Paragraph 5. Instead, you simply move in like sound and echo, without any deliberation." Or, more concisely, "the proper method is the one that works." Bruce's attitude stepped on a lot of toes in the martial arts community. Bruce's good friend, Jhoon Rhee, known as "the father of American Tae Kwon Do," said "There were a number of people who didn't like Bruce, but when you are as frank as he was, you cannot avoid offending people." Bruce even went so far as to have a tombstone erected in his L.A. Studio that said "In memory of a once fluid man crammed and distorted by the classical mess."

"That describes my attitude perfectly," he said.

Introduction to Hollywood

In 1964, Bruce had given a martial arts demonstration at Ed Parker's karate tournament in Long Beach, California. Ed Parker was the karate master who taught Elvis. As it happened, Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairdresser (who was later murdered by Charles Manson's gang), attended this demonstration. While doing TV producer William Dozier's hair, Sebring mentioned Bruce Lee's performance. Dozier had been looking for an actor to play Charlie Chan's son in a new series in the works, Number-One Son. He viewed Ed Parker's film of the demonstration, contacted Bruce, and brought him down to L.A. for a screen test. The screen test went well, and Dozier paid him $1,800 to put him under "options."

Soon after, Brandon Lee was born (on February 1, 1965). Bruce's father died one week later. Although Bruce had made a quick trip to Hong Kong for the funeral, he decided to use the option money to return to Hong Kong and introduce his wife and new son to his family.

Bruce and Linda stayed with the Lee family in Kowloon for four months. Bruce's family would have preferred him to marry a Chinese woman, but they welcomed Linda and she "did not receive any of the prejudicial reaction Bruce had endured with my family." During this time, Bruce was awaiting word from Dozier. Dozier had decided to scrap Number-One Son and wait to see what kind of reaction his new series Batman would produce. If it went well, he wanted to follow it up with another comic-book-inspired show, The Green Hornet.

The Green Hornet

Bruce and Linda returned to the United States in September 1965, and lived in Seattle with Linda's mother, Vivian Dickinson, for four months. Linda says that her mother "really got to know and love Bruce" during this time. Then they returned to Oakland and lived with James Lee again. The Oakland studio was not doing as well as Bruce would have liked, mostly because he insisted on having only serious students. In March 1966, when Bruce and Linda got the call from Dozier saying The Green Hornet was a "go, " they moved to Los Angeles.

The Green Hornet series went into production that year, and Bruce's take-home pay of $313 a week helped them cover rent and bills. The first show aired September 9, 1966. Most Americans had never seen martial arts before, and Bruce's self-choreographed fight scenes and fast-action disposal of enemies made him the star of the show in the eyes of many of the viewers, especially children. He received the most fan mail on the show, outshining actor Van Williams as the Green Hornet.

Bruce enjoyed the notoriety the role of Kato gave him, and he went on many public appearance trips, happy to meet and sign his autograph for fans. Even though the show enjoyed popularity, it was too campy for most adults, and it was cancelled after 26 episodes on July 14, 1967. Bruce had opened his third Gung Fu Institute in February of that year at 628 College Street in L.A.'s Chinatown, so he was not without income. Friend and student Danny Inosanto became his assistant instructor.

Guest Spots, Fight Choreography, and Private Instruction

Bruce started working with producer Fred Weintraub on a show concept about a mercenary Shaolin priest who fights in the old West entitled The Warrior. Bruce needed an infusion of money after the cancellation, and friendships he had made with producer Sy Weintraub, television writer Sterling Silliphant, and others in Hollywood helped him get guest appearances on Ironside, Blondie, and Here Come the Brides television shows. Bruce waited for word on The Warrior while his guest star roles kept a little money coming in.

Over lunch one day, Green Hornet assistant director Charles Fitzsimon suggested Bruce teach students privately instead of relying on the $22 monthly fee he was still charging at his studio. Bruce began teaching Steve McQueen, Sterling Silliphant, and James Coburn. Roman Polanski flew him to Switzerland for private lessons. Bruce also began teaching karate men Mike Stone, Joe Lewis, and Chuck Norris. During their training with Bruce, they won every karate championship in the United States. Bruce later began teaching Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Blake Edwards, James Garner, and Lee Marvin. Meanwhile, Bruce became a father again on April 19, 1969, when Shannon was born at the Santa Monica General Hospital.

There wasn't much of a market in Hollywood for Chinese actors, even a break-out star like Bruce Lee. Linda writes (in Bruce Lee: Tao of the Dragon, p. 36) "I don't think we experienced a great deal of racism or prejudice, except when it came to Bruce breaking into Hollywood ... They didn't think he was a bankable personality." Bruce refused roles that portrayed Chinese stereotypically in any way.

Sterling Silliphant, who wrote the script for the movie Marlowe, (1969), hired Bruce to play a cameo role in it. In this, his first Hollywood full-length movie, Bruce plays the hired-killer who destroys private eye Marlowe's (James Garner) office with his bare hands in a memorable scene. Bruce was hired to choreograph the fight scene for The Wrecking Crew (1969), and Silliphant hired Bruce to do fight choreography for his next movie, A Walk in Spring Rain, (1970). Silliphant stated that two of the large stunt men on that movie were giving Bruce a hard time. They had difficulty believing that this small Chinese man (5'7," 135 lbs.) was the master they were told he was, and they resented that Bruce had been brought in to do the fight scenes. Silliphant suggested Bruce "give them a little sample" and Bruce handed one of them his air shields and told them to brace for a kick. Silliphant recalls:

"[I told him to] make it really interesting and do it beside the swimming pool ... So with no movement -- no run, nothing, just standing there -- he kicked the guy up into the air and out into the middle of the pool. Then the other guy had to prove himself, too. So he braced really low -- and sshhp ... again! Bruce lifted him off his feet, up into the air and out into the deep end. Well, those guys stumbled out of the pool Christians! And from that moment on, those guys loved Bruce (Lee)."

On August 13, 1970, Bruce injured his back while training at home. Doctors said he had damaged the fourth sacral nerve and he would never fight again. Being a believer in the power of positive thinking, he refused to accept that prognosis, but his injury was severe enough that he spent the next three months in bed and then three months only moving around the house. During this time of enforced rest, he read books from his collection and took personal notes that applied to or helped explain Jeet Kune Do. After his death, Linda took the eight two-inch volumes of Bruce's notes and compiled them into The Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Black Belt Communications, Inc., 1975). After six months, Bruce slowly resumed working out, but his back gave him pain throughout the rest of his life.

The Silent Flute is Silenced

James Coburn and Sterling Silliphant began working with Bruce on a script for the "definitive martial arts movie." Warner Brothers stipulated that the film had to be made in India. (The studio had money their films earned in India that the Indian government wouldn't allow them to take out of the country.) Bruce, Coburn, and Silliphant flew to India to scout locations. The movie was titled The Silent Flute. Warner Brothers gave it a below-par budget and hoped martial artists could be found in India to act in the film. No one there was up to speed, and eventually, Warner Brothers cancelled the project. Years later the film was made starring David Carradine and titled Circle of Iron, (1979). It bore little resemblance to the concept Bruce, Coburn, and Silliphant intended.

Silliphant came through with a guest-star role on the television show he scripted: Longstreet. The first episode was so popular that Bruce was asked to repeat his role and did three more episodes.

Returning to Hong Kong a Super Hero

Before the scheduled filming, Bruce took a trip back to Hong Kong with Brandon to make arrangements for his mother to come back to live in the United States. Upon his arrival, fans mobbed him. He had no idea how famous he had become there. They had been running dubbed re-runs of The Green Hornet shows -- but under the title Kato. The media hounded him for interviews and the films he'd made as a child were being run on the Hong Kong's two television stations. Bruce was the quintessential showman and appeared on TV in demonstrations, telethons, and interview programs.

After he returned to the States, Hong Kong media kept in touch by telephone, and Hong Kong producers offered him many movie roles. Raymond Chow, owner of Golden Harvest Productions in Hong Kong, came through with an offer that Bruce accepted: $15,000 for two movies. In July 1971, Bruce flew to Hong Kong and then to Bangkok to begin filming The Big Boss (1971), (titled Fists of Fury in its US release that same year).

The movie location was in a little village north of Bangkok called Pak Chong. Mosquitoes and cockroaches dominated the terrain and Bruce found it hard to expend energy in the stifling heat with the limited protein that could be found in the village. Golden Harvest Productions set up the family with a home in Hong Kong's Kowloon district during the contract, so Bruce moved his family out from L.A. Brandon started attending La Salle College, the same school his father had been kicked out of years before.

The Big Boss was a smash hit. It broke the previously held box-office record for films in Hong Kong (The Sound of Music), and was a big success throughout Asia. About this time, Bruce got news that The Warrior, the concept he'd come up with, was being made in the United States without him. Studio executives and producers didn't think a Chinese man would be accepted by American audiences and gave the role to David Carradine. The show was renamed "Kung Fu."

The second film for Bruce's two-film contract was titled Fist of Fury (1972), (renamed The Chinese Connection for US release). It was shot in six weeks, and Bruce and the director, Lo Wei, had some differences of opinion during its filming. Lo Wei didn't like Bruce's input, viewing it as impertinent. This film broke the box office records of The Big Boss, and with its completion, made Bruce free to do whatever he wanted. Raymond Chow wanted to hold onto him, but there were offers coming in from all over the world. In talks, Chow agreed to a joint deal where Bruce and he partnered for a new company, Concord Productions. Bruce used his newfound power to immediately announce to the press, "No way, Lo Wei," and said the next film he would direct and write himself. He began working on two scripts for new films, The Way of the Dragon, and The Game of Death.

Game of Death

After the filming of The Way of the Dragon, (renamed Return of the Dragon, [1972] for U.S. release), Bruce began to shoot scenes for his film, The Game of Death. Friend and student, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, told Bruce that he was going to be in Hong Kong, so Bruce met with him and asked him to be in his new movie. He agreed. Bruce was intrigued with shooting a fight scene with an adversary who was almost two feet taller than him. Fight scenes with Jabbar, his friend Dan Inosanto, and hapkido 7th degree blackbelt, Ji Han Jae, were filmed from August to October 1972. Filming was halted in November when talks were held with Warner Brothers to co-produce The Game of Death. It was going to become the first movie the U.S. and the Hong Kong Film industry ever co-produced.

Bruce took a hand in all aspects of the filming, dialog, directing, choreography, editing, and design of both his movies. In Return of the Dragon, he even played percussion in part of the movie soundtrack, and starred his own cat in a close-up in the Coliseum fight scene with Chuck Norris. Banking on future profits from Return of the Dragon, Bruce used money from Concord Productions to move into a house instead of the apartment they were living in. Filming for Enter the Dragon began in January 1973.

Enter the Dragon

Because of Hong Kong's loud street noise, all dialogue in Enter the Dragon outdoor scenes (and those of most other films made in the city) had to be dubbed over. During one such recording session on May 10, 1973, Bruce fainted in the restroom. It was sweltering hot in the studio, and the fans had had to be turned off during the recording. Upon return to the studio, Bruce collapsed again, vomited, and went into convulsions. He was taken to the hospital and given tests. A neurosurgeon gave him Manitol to help reduce brain swelling, which brought him back to consciousness. Another doctor said blood tests showed a possible kidney malfunction.

Bruce flew to L.A. the following week for medical tests. The doctors found absolutely nothing wrong and told him he was as healthy as an 18-year-old. It was decided Bruce had suffered a cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) in Hong Kong with an unexplained grand mal seizure. Bruce made plans to publicize Enter the Dragon on its release, including scheduling an August appearance on the Johnny Carson show to plug the movie, and then returned to Hong Kong.

Exit the Dragon

On July 20, 1973, Bruce was working with Raymond Chow on The Game of Death, and they drove to Betty Ting-Pei's apartment, the actor who would be playing the lead female role in the movie. They discussed the script together, then Chow left. Bruce complained of a headache, and Betty gave him an "Equagesic" pill, a strong prescription aspirin. At 7:30, Bruce said he didn't feel well and lay down in a bedroom. Chow called and asked them why they were late for dinner, and Betty said she couldn't wake Bruce. Chow came back to her apartment and tried to wake Bruce himself, but he could not. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for not being able to wake him. A doctor was called to the apartment, and after 10 minutes of trying to bring him to consciousness, Bruce was taken to the hospital. Despite all efforts to revive him, including heart massage, he died there. Linda agreed to an autopsy.

The only foreign substance found in Bruce's body was the Equagesic, but traces of marijuana were also found in his stomach. Bruce's brain was very swollen, but there were no blocked or broken blood vessels. The autopsy report concluded that the most likely cause of the brain swelling was a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to aspirin, meprobamate (the Equagesic) or both. It stated that to ascribe the death to marijuana would be irrational.

Coming Home to Seattle

A funeral ceremony was held in Hong Kong on July 25, 1973, and 25,000 people crammed the streets and balconies outside the funeral parlor. Bruce Lee's body was displayed in an open coffin covered with glass to prevent anyone from touching him. Linda decided to bury Bruce in Seattle because she intended to live there. Most of Bruce's relatives were living in the United States by this time. She flew with the casket back to Seattle and a second funeral was held at Butterworth's Funeral Home on East Pine Street. Bruce was buried in Lake View Cemetery (1554 15th Avenue E) on July 30, 1973. Bruce's pallbearers were Taky Kimura, Danny Inosanto, Peter Chin, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Bruce's brother, Robert Lee. James Coburn eulogized:

"Farewell, Brother. It has been an honor to share this space in time with you. As a friend and a teacher, you have given to me, have brought my physical, spiritual and psychological selves together. Thank you. May peace be with you" (Lee).

Coburn then removed the white gloves he had worn as the pallbearer and dropped them in the open grave. All the pallbearers did the same.

Linda remained in Seattle for about a year, then returned to Los Angeles, where she worked as an elementary school teacher. Tragically, Brandon Lee died on March 31, 1993, on the set of The Crow (1994), killed by an improperly loaded stunt gun. He is buried next to Bruce at Lake View Cemetery. Bruce's Seattle friend and student, Taky Kimura, maintains the gravesite.

Enter the Dragon premiered on August 24, 1973, at Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. (Game of Death was released by Raymond Chow in 1978 with a badly disguised stand-in for its original star.) With this film, Bruce Lee became the "biggest Chinese star in the world," according to his plan, and he would become an "immortal" legend around the world. Sadly, he did not live to experience it.

Sources:
Linda Lee, The Bruce Lee Story (Santa Clarita: Ohara Publications, 1989); John Mitsules, St. Ann's Kid: A Seattle Memoir (Seattle: King Street Press, 2001); James Bishop, Remembering Bruce (Los Angeles: Cyclone Books, 1999); John Little, Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (J. L. Productions, 2000) (documentary film); Louis Chunovic, Bruce Lee: The Tao of the Dragon (New York: St Martin's Griffin, 1996); Internet Movie Database (www.IMDb.com); The Shrine to Bruce Lee Website (www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~chenj/brucelee/ brucelee.html).
Note: This essay was corrected on December 2, 2013.


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Bruce Lee, photo on book cover, ca. 1972
Courtesy The Tao of Jeet Kune Do (1975)


Bruce Lee's grave at Lake View Cemetery, 1992
Photo by Alan Stein


Bruce Lee tombstone, Lake View Cemetery, 2001
HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long


Bruce (1940-1973) and Brandon Lee (1965-1993) are buried next to each other at Lakeview Cemetery, October 2002
Photo by Alyssa Burrows


Detail of Bruce Lee's Grave, October 2002
Photo by Alyssa Burrows


Bench installed by Linda and Shannon Lee at Bruce and Brandon's Grave, October 2002
Photo by Alyssa Burrows


Ruby Chow's Chinese restaurant once stood on this spot at the corner of Broadway and Jefferson, October 2002
Photo by Alyssa Burrows


 
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