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That's what I'm talking about. Is that probably for you? That I'm sure. Yes. We would probably hear about. Oh, man.
That's you watch any great kung fu movie. And they all make that great, great sound after a good death punch.
Did you ever take kung fu when you were young or any kind of martial arts? No, I'm notoriously have zero interest in martial arts. And my biggest fear is that my daughter is going to want to do it. I. Oh, really? Well, I mean, will you tell her to sweep the leg at a tournament and share it? Yeah, sure. I mean, I want to like to be able to protect yourself. So that sounds like a very selfish thing.
But as far as like go into martial arts tournaments, kind of like just, you know, kill me now what you should get her interested in, like wielding a knife or something.
Oh, maybe really cool.
Or just being a good person so people don't pick fights with her. Yeah, is that how things work? No, not at all. So I'll tell you, somebody who likes to pick fights, not just would get into fights and accept the challenge, but actually pick fights. Mm hmm. And it turns out that person also happens to be the person we're talking about today. One Mr. Bruce Lee.
Yeah, Bruce Lee. I mean, I'm sure like me, you spent the past couple of days watching a lot of Bruce Lee stuff. But my question is, were you into this?
Did you watch Kung Fu movies and Bruce Lee movies only in so far as like the whole 90s, like throwback thing?
You know, I would have them on everyone's wall and watch them, but I was never super into my friends. They were super into them. I remember, of course, I underwent extensive ninja training under Sensei Tommy Roper as a much younger person.
This is in the 80s, but I was never really into kung fu or martial arts movies.
Outside of that.
I will say, though, watching Fists of Fury last night, I was just absolutely blown away like a Japanese thing.
Yeah, the whole thing's I think black belt karate dotcom pirated the movie and put it on YouTube, the whole thing. And it is just really good. Like the fighting in there is astounding and it gives you like a really good appreciation. It's hard not to appreciate what you're seeing with Bruce Lee when you when you watch it.
Yeah, I have still not seen many of those movies, but for a movie Crash episode one of my guest, Stuart Wellington of the Flophouse podcast, one of my favorite other podcasts on movies, he had me watch his favorite movie, which is Ricky O.
Colon, The Story of Ricky. And Dude, you have to see this movie, OK?
It is the gory, over-the-top, crazy martial arts movie to beat all over the top gory, crazy martial arts movies. It is.
When was nuts. When was it made it. Well, 91, but it seems like seventy eight. It's it's amazing.
Is there a shot where some guy jams his fingers into his opponent's testicles and then they cut to a view from inside his scrotum and you see the fingers wiggling? Does that happen because I saw a martial arts movie that had that and I was like, well, there it is. No, but I don't thing I've ever seen. It's got a lot of stuff like that. But I don't think that was from Rocchio. But it's OK. You're on the right track there as far as OK.
You know, it's not for everybody. I got to check it out, man. It's pretty fun. You have me. You're on the right track there. Yeah. So Bruce Lee movies were not nearly as violent, but for the time they were they were exceedingly violent. It seems like Bruce Lee laid the foundation that people said, well, I want to top that. I want to top that. And while maybe Gore, there was plenty of like blood in fists of fury, at least in other movies that he made, but it wasn't anything like what we just heard about.
But the I think the larger point for Bruce Lee is that he he laid this foundation like he introduced the United States in the West to the idea of not just kung fu movies, but of like Asians being heroes, like like protagonists like like tough, you know, because up to that point, not necessarily exactly up to that point, but awfully close to it, especially in the West. The people from China, Japan seemed very docile, cerebral.
I saw not at all like Bruce Lee and Bruce Lee changed all of that basically single handedly, especially as far as America is concerned.
Yeah, with a single one inch punch, basically.
So let's talk a little bit about his early life, because he had a pretty interesting background, pretty interesting genetic family tree, because, you know, we all think of him as Chinese. And he was certainly he certainly was Chinese.
But if you if you poke around his lineage and you will learn that his maternal great grandfather was Dutch Jewish, which is really interesting. He was a merchant. His name was Moses with a Z Hartog Bowsman, and he went to Hong Kong in the 1850 as part of the Dutch East India Company, became the Dutch ambassador to Hong Kong, had six kids with his concubine, and then one of those kids, one of his sons, Hokum Tong. He became a very rich man.
He had a wife, 13 concubines and a British mistress, and then he had a daughter with a British mistress, and that was Bruce Lee's mom.
Yeah, this is more convenient. This is. Yeah. Yeah.
So Bruce Lee was part Jewish, part British and lots of Chinese mixed together. His father was 100 percent Chinese, Han Chinese, and his father was born poor.
But he actually worked his way up to a fairly sizable celebrity in Hong Kong.
Or was it China? I don't remember if if Bruce Lee if Bruce Lee's father lived in Hong Kong or China.
Well, it's kind of both. He was a Cantonese opera star and an actor. And then I think eventually they did settle in Hong Kong.
OK, all right. So it but he was like very well known, like he was in movies. He was on TV like he was a pretty famous guy. He was probably I would like him to, uh.
Who Jerry Orbach, he was the Jerry Orbach of his time and place. Jerry Orbach, singer. No, but he was like everywhere he was in everything from dirty dancing to murder, she wrote, you know, like he was all over the place. And he was multitalented, too. OK, don't try to tell me Jerry Orbach is not multitalented because he is sure.
But he was no opera star. You don't know that. You're right. You're right. I could be I could be a martial arts expert. Jerry Orbach could be an opera star. All right. We can be whatever we want to be in our mind's eye.
But so Bruce Lee's father was the Jerry Orbach of his time and place. That's right.
So he was touring the US when Bruce was born. He was born in San Francisco in 1940, and his parents named him Lesin Fon. And apparently a nurse said you should call him Bruce for his English name.
What what did he say exactly?
Did you hear what we named them originally? Yeah, she's like, yeah, Bruce Lee's You can find Bruce. They moved back to Hong Kong when he was a baby and he grew up there, but he grew up with going to English schools, English language, private schools. Yeah.
So he always kind of had this this I want to say split identity. But his his identity, his sense of self was definitely divided between America and I believe the UK to an extent, and also obviously Hong Kong. And then of course, his ancestry in China, like he he seemed to have not necessarily like felt spread all over the place, but in in a different sense, he was more open to influences wherever he found them. I saw somebody somebody say that Bruce Lee learn from everybody, everyone that he came in contact with, including people who he had to fight, who fought of different styles.
He he was always open to learning something. He didn't. He was very cocky. He was very arrogant by a lot of people's estimations. But he also was humble enough to want to learn wherever he he thought he could learn something new. And I think that that according at least to a guy named Matthew Poly, who's known as one of his better biographers, that that really kind of underscored that, that his personality just kind of being divided among different places around the world and having different influences.
Yeah. So we'll take a little break here and we'll come back and talk about some of the early formative years of young Bruce Lee right after this trial.
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All right, so little Bruce was born not only in the Year of the Dragon, but the day of the Dragon, and his nickname was Little Dragon when he became a child actor.
If you only know Bruce Lee from his martial arts work is kind of short career in martial arts films.
He he was actually on screen as a baby, but his real first kind of role was, I think, when he was like 10 years old. Yeah, he was in a movie called The Kid. Yeah, which I watched some clips of this. I'm sure you did, too. It's you know, it's cute little Bruce Lee. He does. He kind of threw a lot of child abuse in it. Was it really? Yeah.
He's like he offers he has some money, so he offers to help his uncle out and his uncle just basically deafens him in one year.
Well, yeah, I didn't see that clip.
I would call that child abuse check now for two. I didn't see that clip. You're like, yeah, well, I guess if that's your definition of child, then no, not at all. I just didn't see that one. I just saw the one where he was going to. Did that famous Bruce Lee sort of, you know, thumb across the nose and throw a little shirt open.
I know that's crazy that like, he was that young, ten years old and he's already, like, laying the groundwork for the things that were going to make him famous in the future. Yeah.
And he was a little guy. He I think he you know, as a as a full grown adult, he he reached five seven, about one hundred and thirty pounds. He was not very big when he was a kid. He was very small. He was fairly weak because of food rations, because Hong Kong was occupied by imperial Japan at the time and they were rationing food out. There was a cholera epidemic. He had one leg shorter than the other.
He had an undescended testicle which actually ended up keeping him out of Vietnam. So I didn't know that little bit of a silver lining there. He had glasses. He had acne.
I think his biographer said that he and this is the only person I really saw say that he said he'd probably be diagnosed with ADHD today.
I looked for other places to find that no one, I don't think is on record as saying that. But it did seem like that could be possible because he was very active, had trouble with focus, but could also hyper focus.
And like, you know, like you said, you kind of pick fights with people because he was a little kid. And that's a lot of times little kids will do that if they want to. You know, they want to prove that they're strong and have value. They'll pick fights and try and beat people up. Not not the way to do it, though, kids.
No, but I mean, like like he was well known in Hong Kong as being like this kind of local tough who would start fights infrequently won them, but sometimes would lose them too. But there was one fight in particular that he lost around the age of 15 or 16 to a kid who had been studying kung fu style called Wing Chun. Yeah, Wing Chun. And that is where his famous, like one inch punch comes from. That style of fighting.
It's really good for close quarters type fighting where your opponent's right in front of you and coming at you. Wing Chun very good for that. So that was the kind of dude that Bruce Lee was even back when he was a little hot shot. Fifteen year old. He lost the fight to somebody and he wanted to know how that person had beat him. So he went and learned it and that actually formed the basis for his his formal education in martial arts was entering into the Wing Chun school age fifteen.
Yeah. And I looked a little more into Wang Chung to see what it was kind of all about. And apparently there's two sort of main tenants, which is the center line theory, and then stand and guard in the center line theory is basically you draw a line from the center of your body to your opponent's body and that is the quickest route to strike.
So if you've got someone coming at you, like, you know, if you go throw a punch, like American boxing style, like a haymaker, you're going up and around toward the jaw to the side of the jaw.
If you're practicing Wing Chun, you're standing right in front of that person. And as you're throwing your haymaker, you've gotten a very quick straight punch to your solar plexus.
Right. And you like what just happened.
That is basically the essence of Bruce Lee's style. Super Lightning Fast would take advantage of you while you thought you were about to strike him. He used that against you.
Whatever floor there was in what you were doing to to hit or kick him or come at him, he would he would take advantage of it and hit you within that time. And like, if you watch any of his movies, you can see it quite clearly. But he'd been working on that. I didn't realize that that was necessarily Wing Chun. I thought that was his own style. But it would make sense because again, that was Wing Chun is the is the the foundation for his style of kung fu that he ended up coming up with.
So like we said, his dad was fairly famous. Bruce is in the Jerry Orbach level famous. Don't forget Bruce is in this movie when he was ten years old called The Kid. That was a big success. And then they said, hey, let's sign this kid up to do some sequels. And his dad said, no, no, no, no, no, my kid's not going to be an actor. He's going to be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that.
And he's always in trouble in school. So I'm not going to let him be in sign this. Entourage, he ended up being in some movies kind of off and on, I think he ended up being in about 20 different movies that before his kung fu movie days. But it was never like he never turned into the big kid star that they were trying to get him to be with that first contract, I think. Yeah.
Apparently he would have been had his father not directly intervened to make sure that didn't happen, which is pretty interesting. But was 10.
He can't sign a contract without Daddy saying so and mommy saying so.
Well, yeah, you definitely need to have your parents support like that for sure. But so his father, like, stepped in and said, no, you're going to you're going to do something else. And that was at age 10. I don't know.
I think at least 18 at the latest. But at some point, he had kind of gotten like like I said, he had a reputation as like a local tough street fighter in Hong Kong. And I guess he fought another kid and beat him quite badly. And the kid turned out to be the son of a local mob boss.
I don't know if he was a boxer or movie connected mob guy, but a member of the Triad. It does sound like a movie. And that between that and the Hong Kong police basically saying, like, look, your kid is totally on our radar and it's a real problem and he's going to end up in jail or dead if he keeps this stuff up. And by the way, the local the local mob now wants to kill him because he beat up one of the one of the bosses sons.
His father said, you're out of here, you're going to America, which again, this wasn't like a complete out of the blue police to send Bruce Lee. This is the land that he was born. He was he had an American passport. He was American by birth. And he also had family there, too. But this is the first time that he was living on his own. From what I saw, his father gave him eight hundred dollars, which is pretty substantial back then said here are the addresses of some family in the Pacific Northwest head on out to San Francisco.
And he started in San Francisco and ended up in Seattle pretty quickly, I believe.
Yeah, Seattle in the in college, he went to UW and he you know, that money obviously would run out. So he had to get a job. He worked as a busboy in a Chinese restaurant, actually lived in the restaurant and kind of a closet type of deal.
And everyone started hearing about his his martial arts skills and the fact that he was pretty good at this stuff. So he started teaching a little bit on the side in that Wing Chun style, and he met Linda there who would go on to be his wife. She was a fellow student of his. Linda got pregnant and they got married. They were very young. They were still in college and they had little Brandon Lee. Well, we'll talk about him later on.
And then a daughter named Shannon. Yeah.
So all of a sudden, Bruce Lee, who is a busboy at a Chinese restaurant and also teaching kung fu on the side, has a family, a wife, kid thing, kids. And he's got he needs money now more than he ever did before. And he has a pretty good idea. He's going to start opening a franchise of martial arts studios because martial arts was already known in the United States.
But typically it was kept within the whatever Asian community that practiced it. Right. So, like, if it was kung fu, you would find almost entirely Chinese people learning it, you know, immigrants to the country or the children of immigrants. It taekwando it would be like Korean families. And Bruce Lee said, you know, I want to kind of explode that. There's a lot of talk about whether he was the first person in the United States to come along and open up martial arts to anybody who wanted to learn of any race and ethnicity.
Women, men. From what I saw, it's not necessarily true. But that is often credited as is evidence of just kind of how cocky and unconventional and disrespectful, I guess, of norms and traditions just for the fact, you know, or just for norms and traditions sake. And I don't know if he was the first person to teach just anybody who wanted to learn. But it definitely fell within his persona, his outlook of martial arts, which is, you know, I'll take I'll learn whatever I can and put it in to my fighting style so that I survive.
And that would make sense to kind of flip it up on the other way and say, well, you know, I'm going to teach this fighting so that whoever wants to learn it.
Yeah. And it turns out it was just as he ended up learning Wing Chun because of a fight he had early on. He also expanded his fighting style because of another fight, which sounds like it. I mean, I think there are a lot of legends and tall tales around Lee as well. This story, the story sounds a little dubious, but maybe it's true. It is. It's not dubious. It definitely happened.
But it was closed to the public and there were only three eyewitnesses there. And two one gives a conflicting report from the other two to a large degree. But it's been so thoroughly studied and researched by some people like that. Matthew Pawlick, I spent a year just researching this fight alone. There is another guy named Charles Russo who wrote a book called Striking Distance. He spent a decade on that book and he interviewed 100 people just for that for that fight alone, because it's one of the most legendary fights that's ever happened in the history of the world.
And only three people were there to see it besides the fighters.
Yeah, they interviewed 100 people about what they heard, what happened, basically. Yeah. I mean, that's as close as they could get aside from the people who were there who were again saying, you know, this is kind of conflicting. But overall, what seems to be the the ultimate upshot of it is that it was at least a draw. It seems like it was a draw.
Yeah, he thought a man named Wong Jack man. And apparently it was a pretty brutal fight, like you were saying. Very legendary.
And, yeah, conflicting reports. Let's just call it a draw.
Let's be magnanimous here. But at the end of this, you know, the sort of upshot is it was that Bruce was like, I have limits now with Wing Chun and I need to.
Like, I need to be able to to best larger opponents, because I'm a small guy, I need to I need to really kind of ramp up my study if especially if I'm a teacher and and kind of get better, basically. So he came up with his own jam, and that's called Geat Kundu, the way of the intercepting fist. And this was a little bit he was a really, really good boxer. I don't think we've mentioned that yet.
If he had only Boxer and dedicated himself to being a boxer, he probably could have been like a belt holding boxer and like an Olympic champion. So he incorporated elements of boxing. He incorporated all the wing Chun that he had learned and then fencing, which his older brother did, which is, you know, when you're lunging at your opponent, but instead of a foil, he would use his fist.
And if you you know, I mentioned the one inch punch earlier, there was also the six inch punch. There's tons and tons of videos and breakdowns of what that is. But that's what he was really famous for, which is basically and then Tarantino kind of, you know, borrowed for the kill bill movies.
You know, you put your fingers on like the sternum of of a human. And that's how far you punch from like you don't rare back in swing or anything. You just use your hips and your legs and you focus your energy and all your momentum to just very, very quickly punch and push somebody. And and even from one inch, you can knock somebody backwards, like seven feet or so.
And that's super helpful if you can do that. But what that one fight with Wong Jack man taught him Wong Jack man kept moving away from him. And if you're fighting, style is entirely about fighting in close quarters with your opponent coming at you. If your opponent is getting away from you, you're just kind of up the creek and that's what really kind of opened his eyes. They needed to expand it. And so like you said, he incorporated boxing and incorporated fencing.
He also realized that he needed grappling to he didn't have any grappling moves. And apparently that came into focus when he was on set for a TV show that he would end up being on for a season called The Green Hornet.
Yeah, she'll talk about in a second. And apparently on the set of the Green Hornet, he would he was he became quickly known for actually beating up the stunt doubles rather than, you know, pulling his punch and just, you know, not making contact or just barely making contact. He was punching these guys and kicking these guys. And they apparently brought in a ringer named Judo Jean Lobell, who was a very tough stunt man, a two time judoka champion, and brought him in as a stuntman.
In the first day on the set, he picked up Bruce Lee out of nowhere, put him in a fireman, carry like on his shoulder. And Bruce Lee had he couldn't do anything. He was just so mad. But there was nothing he could do to get out of this. And he realized he needed to incorporate grappling. And he ended up training with Gene LaBelle for a year and expanded his fighting style even further. And that firemen carry that meeting.
That fight basically on the set of the Green Hornet is what Quentin Tarantino was recreating in that movie Once upon a Time in Hollywood, when Cliff Robertson, Brad Pitt fights Bruce Lee on the soundstage in the parking lot.
And a lot of people were very upset because he took tremendous liberties with that fight. But it was based on this kernel of history that had a much better outcome than than what what Quentin Tarantino showed.
Yeah. Cliff Booth, by the way, Cliff Robertson.
Cliff was a real actor, was what I thought was the basis for Metallica. Now, that was somebody else, I think.
OK, yeah. I mean, Tarantino, we should kind of talk about that for a sec because he was taken to task by a lot of people, certainly people from Bruce Lee's own family for that scene. And they were like, this is not what Bruce Lee was like. His daughter especially was like, this is not what my dad was like. He was not cocky. He was not arrogant. He was confident and he was a good teacher.
But, you know, Tarantino then fired back in some interviews like he was arrogant and cocky. He was known as this guy. And apparently the people closest to him said he wasn't at all. This is a misconception by white people. And Tarantino took a lot of grief and sort of argued back. And then she finally, in an interview in Variety magazine was like, he should just kind of shut up about this. Yeah. And say I'm making fictionalized movies and not purport to know what my dad was like.
When it's coming from the daughter, it seems like you should probably just shut up for sure. Probably so. And we'll probably get an email from her too, because you said he was cocky and arrogant. Yeah, right.
Yeah. I was thinking back to that flashing back.
And one I guess one thing I saw to kind of that gives weight to the idea that he had a certain amount of arrogance or cockiness or I can understand how some people would take him that way or portray him that way, is he was well known for going around publicly insulting established martial arts schools like one of the first things he did, or he made a name for himself among the martial arts community, especially in the Bay Area that some people say led to that fight between him and Wong Jack man was to insult basically every established martial arts school in America and say that these were they were taught by old tigers with no teeth, basically, if they were misguided and that were they were just wrong and that his way was the right way.
And it wasn't that he had it out for, like the old establishment just because they were the old establishment. But what he had decided with GQ know is that. It was it didn't make any sense to train and train and train to know exactly where your feet are going to go and exactly where to put your fists or that kind of thing, because all that stuff dissolves in a real fight and sort of Bruce Lee in his fighting style. The whole point is to survive the fight.
And so you use whatever you can get your hands on, whatever technique, whatever style is going to work. And that really doesn't jibe with the idea of an established, rigid school. So he certainly ran afoul of of some of the established martial art groups. And I think that that has kind of contributed to this idea that he was cocky in real life.
I'm not his daughter, so I certainly can't say. But, you know, that's that's what I was basing my interpretation on. Yeah.
My read is that he was a business person and that he was trying to make some money because his idea was that he wanted to open up a chain of kung fu schools.
He goes back to L.A. to give a demonstration at a karate tournament to try and, you know, make a little headway there with maybe getting investors or getting people interested. And it worked. He met a TV producer there, and that is how he got the role on the Green Hornet, which, like he said, ran for a single season. And he stayed in Hollywood, though, and he really got the acting bug. I think he was in a few kind of smaller parts over the next few years.
He played Winslow Wong in the movie Marleau in 1969. And then he, like you mentioned, kind of at the beginning, it was he was trying to do something that didn't exist yet, which was become an Asian and at least an Asian-American hero, because they just didn't do that. They were like, you can play this kind of role. You're probably going to come in as the bad guy or something. You're going to show off some of your kung fu skills, but you're not going to be the star of the movie.
And he said, all right, I'll hang around here. I'll start making a ton of money teaching the Hollywood elite my fighting style and ended up making some really, really close friends, notably James Coburn and Steve McQueen ended up being two of his closest friends over the years until his death. There were pallbearers to. Yeah, along with.
Chuck Norris, of course, yeah, he was a pallbearer, I also saw Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were two of his students, too.
Yeah, Roman Polanski tried to. Sleep with him now, he brusquely lost his glasses.
Roman Polanski found some glasses like his at the murder scene, and Roman Polanski was very suspicious of that and apparently went so far as to take Bruce Lee to get a prescription made to replace the glasses that were broken and then wanted to get his hands on that prescription and compare them. And apparently they didn't match. So he, you know, he backed off.
He suspected Bruce Lee in the Manson family murders. He or the Tate La Bianca.
I don't want to I don't want to put any words in Roman Polanski's mouth, but I'm telling you what happened, which is that he found these glasses and had them checked out.
Wow. That's a Hollywood nugget, Chuck, that you just put that jewel in the crown right there.
Well, I didn't discover it. I mean, I just read it. Yeah, but I mean. I mean, it's well known. OK, well, whatever.
You can wear the crowd around me and I'll just be like, totally earned. He got really into health and fitness. This was a time in the nineteen sixties kind of before the big exercise and weight lifting boom and stuff that happened. He was, he was eating protein shakes and lifting weights kind of before a lot of people were. And, you know, he wanted to get his body in the best shape possible. And if you've ever seen Bruce Lee's body and he, you know, he did exactly that.
Yeah. Mission accomplished for sure. And I mean, again, he was a little guy, like he weighed 130 pounds, but he was just as lean as they come and totally chiseled like he he was very, very strong for his his size and stature and just lightning fast, too. But none of this was amounting to anything as far as his film career is concerned. He was going quite far as a martial artist, martial arts instructor for sure.
But clearly, he I don't know if his he felt like his calling was always, you know, the movies or TV. I think so. Or something like that. OK, well, then that would explain it. I had the impression that, you know, he just knew that that was something he could do, which he apparently was starting to accumulate some debt. And at one point to keep his to keep his chain of of martial arts studios open, he decided to go to Hong Kong and do some acting rather quickly and pick up some some fast money.
So I didn't know if he considered that like a step toward stardom or if that was just he knew he could go make some money acting and come back and pour it back into the studios to keep them open.
Do you know I mean, I think the studios were making his living, but I think since he was 10 years old, he was bitten by the acting bug, which is why he went on to be in 20 more movies over the next eight years.
Yeah, true. And I think that was as true. Like, I think the Kung Fu studios in my reading was the means to get to where he wanted to be, which was a big Hollywood superstar.
Well, that actually worked that trip.
Like I was saying, he was just going for some money to keep the studios, has his studios afloat or open, but it turned out to be the greatest move that any actor has ever undertaken, just going to Hong Kong and trying to pick up some parts and and martial arts films. And that's exactly what he did. And he blew up as a result.
That's right. So let's take our final break here and then we'll come back and wrap it up and spank it on the bottom right up to this.
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Uh. All right, so Bruce Lee goes to Hong Kong to make some movies, make a little dough, and he goes to Hong Kong and finds a two picture movie deal with Golden Harvest Studios and signs on for his first movie, a little movie called The Big Boss, which originally in the United States was called Fist of Fury. A little confusing because then there was a movie called Fist of Fury that also had an alternate title.
What's that? The Chinese connection. But the big boss, a.k.a. in America at first Officer Fury or Fists of Fury, was his first sort of foray into those movies. And it was a big, big hit.
It was it's hard to explain what happened that that first movie, The Big Boss, came out and basically made Bruce Lee an overnight sensation in Asia. As far as martial arts is concerned, not just Hong Kong, Asia, he just became an absolute superstar. The big boss shattered the box office record. The previous Hong Kong box office record was held by The Sound of Music, and it had be something like maybe 100000 Hong Kong dollars. The big boss made something like four times that in its box office run.
And then as more Bruce Lee movies came out over the next couple of years, each one shattered the record of the previous Bruce Lee movie. So when something like that happens, you know, you have something once in a lifetime basically on your hands. And he was right smack dab in the in the middle of that once in a lifetime thing. Yeah. And not only were these movies making a lot of money, they were really cheap to make, which was like he was like the golden boy, because I think Fist of Fury, the the second movie cost about one hundred thousand dollars to make and made 100 million.
I think the the way of the Dragon made one hundred and thirty million and cost about one hundred and thirty thousand. So he was making like huge, huge money. I mean not personally, but the studios were making huge money on very little investment. And the thing with Bruce Lee was he was like you said, he was selling these fights better than anyone ever had and his speed was really the key to it. And a lot of if you watch a lot of older kung fu movies and it looks like the action is sped up, it's because it is they would speed up the camera or actually slow down the camera to make the action appear faster to make it more exciting.
But Bruce Lee was so naturally fast, they had to tell him to slow down just so the camera could record stuff accurately. So they there are a few legends that grew up around his speed, one speed and strength, one that he could steal a dime off of your hand. Like if you're holding it in the palm of your hand before you could just close your hand. He could catch a rice grain you would throw at him with chopsticks. And these are all, you know, maybe true or not.
But that's what these legends, what you would use chopsticks to throw a rice grain. And then I know you would throw a rice grain at him and he would catch it with chopsticks. That's way more impressive.
So and then the last one was that he could he could punch a hole through a can of Coke with his finger.
Wow. And I hope these are true because they're so great. Well, if they're not true, that's OK. Like, you're not the first person to fall for some of the exaggerations. Like I saw Matthew Pauly was kind of not called out, but somebody made mention of the fact that this is one of his top biographers, like one of the best biographers of Bruce Lee, still said, you know, somebody got punched and they flew back six feet in the air.
And it's almost certainly not correct. Six feet is probably an exaggeration. But the fact that things like that get repeated and like like smart people like say like this, like this is what he was capable of, like it at the very least goes to underscore his abilities, that they were so mind boggling that this is it's possible that that's true. You know what I mean? Yeah. It's not like, oh, that's ridiculous.
It's like, no, this is Bruce Lee we're talking about.
I think I can explain the six feet thing. If he's it might be an exaggeration that someone literally didn't touch the ground for six feet. But if you look at demonstrations of his of the one finger punch, he can knock someone back six to eight feet very easily until they can, like, regain their composure. Like people are flying back six feet, but not necessarily not touching the ground in between. You know what I mean?
I think this was, quote, flying through the air. Yeah, it sounds like the air. A little writer's flourish. Yeah, maybe.
But I mean, again, it comes like people are like, oh, that's cool. It's crazy because we're talking about Bursley. If, like my biographer said that everyone want be like, stop. Well, well, you've got a biographer I question, I will eventually, I assume, but people would be like I question everything that's in this book now with firstly it's like, yeah, I totally buy that, you know?
So Bruce Lee is made a name for himself now. He is drive around in sports cars. He's wearing fur coats. He is a big, big pothead, which is something that. Yeah, I forgot about that you don't hear about a lot, but apparently after Carl Sagan. Right. Yeah, but after Bruce Lee's training sessions, he would he apparently had this wooden box just full of joints, also smoked hash and got really into the sort of hippie lifestyle, kind of grew his hair long for a little while.
And I think it was wrapped up in this Hollywood hippie thing of the time. Understandable. Yeah. And his career's going along great. And it all culminates with a movie called Enter the Dragon in 1973.
Big movie. Yeah, it was a huge movie. I think he wrote and directed that one. And I think the first one he wrote and directed was Wave the Dragon. But like by this time on his third movie, he was now writing and directing it and certainly by his fourth one, he wrote and directed it. I saw that the Way of the Dragon, a quarter of the script was just a couple of like just a couple of fight scenes.
Choreography took up like a quarter of the script. And it was this was the one that put him on the map as an overnight sensation in the United States, in the West, like the other two. The first two or three. Yes, first three had made him an overnight sensation in Asia. This is the one that taught America what a kung fu movie was because we hadn't heard of it before. And now all of a sudden we couldn't get enough of Bruce Lee.
Unfortunately, Bruce Lee had died a month before. And one of the great ironic tragedies as far as like Hollywood stardom goes, yeah, only 32 years old.
If you look at Bruce Lee death, there's a lot of different stories and theories out there. He was he had a mistress at the time named Betty eating pie. And apparently he had been on and this is the way Chuck Norris told it to.
Apparently, he had been on back medication for a while because of a back injury.
So pain meds for his back came home to his apartment in Hong Kong with his mistress. Mistress complained of a headache. She gave him, I think, a different kind of pain reliever, although Chuck Norris said it was a.
What's I'm blanking now, what's the thing you take to fight an infection and antibiotic antibiotic, which I think he just misspoke because that wouldn't make any sense, but that's what Chuck Norris said. So it took another pain reliever, went down for a nap and died, never woke up. He you know, there are all kinds of speculation about what happened. It seems like it was just a reaction of these medications. Yeah. Some people say, including the biographer, it was also had to do with heat stroke because it had one 10 weeks before, right?
Yeah. And he also a few months before he died, had he used to be very embarrassed about his underarm sweat. So he had the sweat glands removed from his underarms. What?
And so apparently they said that could have contributed to the you know, his body wasn't shedding sweat like it should, and that could have led to a heat stroke.
I had not heard that before that that definitely crosses a couple of Ts that I hadn't otherwise seen.
Maybe, but I think it was like 10 weeks before he died. He collapsed when he was dubbing a movie in a room without air conditioning. It was really hot. Got that heat stroke. And some people are saying this all contributed with these medications to a brain edema.
Yeah, but again, I mean, the fact that he died mysteriously, this guy who's like one of the fittest people on the planet just dies after saying he has a headache and lines down, he wakes up. That's just conspiracy theory fodder for I'm sure it's still going on today. Like apparently that he had a break with the director low away, who directed the first two Bruce Lee films, the first two kung fu films he was in. He pulled the knife on him because the guy, the director had been taunting him and Bruce Lee was there is a legend that, like Lo-, we had had him assassinated by ninja or something like that.
But the upshot of it is, however, he died. He died like a month before he became like world famous and he still world famous today. Like everyone knows, Bruce Lee, one of the most famous people to ever live, and he died a month before that happened, which is, you know, you say that and you read it and you think it it just doesn't quite sink in. And when it does, you're like, that is astounding that that happened.
Just the timing of all of that. Yeah.
And then, you know, many years later, his son, Brandon Lee, would die very tragically on the set of a film because of an accident with a a blank bullet actually shooting a slug out of a gun on set of of the crow, right? Yeah.
Yeah. I think he was twenty eight and his father had died when he was 32. So a lot of people are like, well, there's clearly the Lee family's curse. Right.
Which is nonsense. Yeah. I think she's a tragedy. You should probably just shut up about that. Probably so.
But one of the things that it's hard to overstate, like the cultural legacy that he left, like he introduced the West to a completely different concept of Asian people are like like, oh, they can actually be like stars, action heroes. Like they're not like, you know, valets or servants or whatever. Like it just completely altered Americans understanding of Asian people. Like, it's really hard to understate that. And then the other thing, too, is, you know, we were kind of talking about whether he was, you know, whether he was an actor or a martial artist.
And a lot of people are like, would is Bruce Lee would he actually was a really good fighter or was he like a movie fighter, like Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal, who, like in a real life fight would just be what was, you know, and because Bruce Lee died at such a young age, like there's there's not this we don't know or a lot of people don't know.
But if you talk to the people who trained with him, who worked with him, we were there who actually physically interacted with him, like it seems like completely understandable that he was, as everything you saw in film, he could do for real in real life. And you would never have wanted to fight Bruce Lee. So he wasn't just a fake movie martial artist. He was the real deal. And in a lot of ways largely self-taught, which makes him all the more impressive.
You got anything else about Mr. Bruce Lee, Chuck and got nothing else? Maybe watch the classic 1982 farcical comedy.
They call me Bruce. Oh, yeah, OK, I will check that out. One more thing there, his death, his untimely death led to a whole genre of movies called Bruce Flotation, which was basically fake Bruce Lee movies that trying to cash in on his fame.
Yeah, I think he hit a movie or another movie release after his that through Disney that they compiled like footage and stuff for I believe they were filming it when he died and they didn't release it for another five years.
Game of Death. Yeah. One where he fights Kareem.
That's that's fun to watch, actually. And Chuck Norris is in it to Game of Death.
Yeah. That that fight with Kareem was pretty awesome because to see a man that tall B that lived in that quick was very impressive.
And he was one of Bruce Lee's like genuine students. Yeah. One of his long time students. And he credits Bruce Lee with his his longevity in the NBA totes.
Yeah. So if you want to know more about Bruce Lee, just go out and start watching movies and videos and demonstrations of Bruce Lee. There's a lot worse things you can do with your time and thank us later. And since I said thank you, Slaters, time for listener mail.
Yeah, I'm going to call this return of Noah from Scotland and pretty sure I read this on the air, but I told Noah to write in once a year.
Um, and here's the follow up, because, you know, Sarah, the amazing eleven year old fan, is now probably in college and has long since forgotten about us.
So we miss Sarah. We've been ghosted. We've had been costed years ago.
But this is our new friend, Noah. Hey, it's me, Noah from Scotland.
Uh, you told me to write in once a year. So this is my annual letter. In case you don't remember me, I've been listening since I was four and writing you a letter every year since I was five. I still live in Scotland and for most of the last year my mom's been home schooling me because of the coronavirus. So I was great. But when I'm doing my own topics, I can choose them based on your episodes.
Nice. My favorite was space weather because I didn't know there was weather in space and my favorite fact that I found out was the most powerful northern lights can generate over one trillion watts of power, which is, I think, about three hundred million solar panels.
It was a hard sum, but I think it's right if you're asking us about math and we're just going to say, yes, you got it right.
You just ran a circle around.
I don't want to be an engineer any more. By the way. I really like chemistry now. I think the periodic table is interesting and I want to find a way to stop global warming using science. Me and this kid, I love it. I've asked for your book for my ninth birthday in May and I hope to get it because I think it'll be interesting. I'm glad you're still podcasting Love from Noah. And this was sent through his mom's Rachel's email, of course, as always.
And she added a very sweet note as well. So much love to the to Noah's family there. Yeah.
Thank you very much, Rachel. And knowing the whole fam for writing to us from beloved Scotland, keep us updated. No, we're pretty. Your progress is just fascinating.
Yes, we love it. And happy early birthday too, from Josh and Chuck. If you want to get in touch with us, like nowadays, you can give it your best shot. You can send us an email, send it to Stuff podcast and I heart radio dotcom.
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