Was the Martial Arts Superstar Murdered?
Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco on November
27th, 1940, but was raised in Hong Kong, where he embarked on a movie career
at the age of six. Around his early teens, Bruce started to develop an
interest in the martial arts. To harden his fists, he would pound them
on a stool everyday for hours, gradually transforming his hands into ataraxic
He returned to the United States when
he was 18 (to retain his American citizenship) and enrolled as a philosophy
graduate at Washington University. Throughout his studies, Lee taught jeet-kune
do' (a hybrid discipline of kung fu and western pugilism) to provide him
with an income of a few hundred dollars per week. One of his students,
Linda Emery, was fascinated by her tutor, and she married him in 1964.
Lee decided to quit his studies to rekindle his acting career in Hollywood.
He landed a role as Kato in "The Green Hornet" television series, and also
gave martial arts lessons to some of the biggest movie stars in Los Angeles.
For 150 dollars an hour Lee taught some of his skills to James Coburn,
Lee Marvin, James Garner and Steve McQueen.
Around this time, Warner Brothers were
ready to produce
"Kung Fu", a groundbreaking television series
about Kwai Chang Caine, a Buddhist monk trained in karate who flees mainland
China for the West after murdering a nobleman. Lee applied for the part
of Caine, but Warner thought he was too inexperienced to play the role,
which went to actor-dancer David Carradine instead. "Kung Fu" proved to
be a success story in the US and Europe, and is now regarded as a TV cult
classic. Lee had been denied stardom in the land of oppurtunity,
so he returned to Hong Kong, where he struck up a partnership with Raymond
Chow, an innovative
The two men literally became
the new wave of the Hong Kong film industry, and collaborated on some of
the early kung fu blockbusters.
In 1971 Lee starred in his first Chinese
action film "The Big Boss". He played the part of a new boy in an ice factory
who helps striking workers with his breathtaking martial arts talent. The
original cut was deemed to be too violent, and the censors held the film
release date back for a year, then there was more trouble getting it distributed,
but Lee continued to strive for international superstardom. He wrote, produced
and directed "The Way of the Dragon" (1973), and cast himself as Tan Lung,
an out-of-town strongarm who is paid by a Chinese restaurant owner in Rome
to sort out the local Mafia menace.
Warner Brothers learned that the films
were being received well, and were soon beating a path to Lee's door. The
film company offered major finacial support for Lee's next film, "Enter
the Dragon" (1973). The film proved to be the success that had eluded Lee
for so long, but tragically, the rising film star never got to enjoy the
benefits of his achievement.
While dubbing the film in Hong Kong on May 10th, 1973, Bruce Lee collapsed.
He later recovered and experienced respiratory problems. He tried to breathe,
but found it exhausting. He underwent a series of convulsions which were
put down to a swelling of his brain. Lee was given Mannitol, an osmotic
diuretic drug, which seemed to do the trick. A week later, Lee appeared
as fit as ever. At Los Angeles, Dr David Reisbord examined Lee. After a
brain scan, a brain-flow study, a physical checkup, and an EEG analysis,
Dr Reisbord told Lee that he had probably suffered a grand mal seizure
- an indication of epilepsy - yet there were no indications why this was
so. The brain scan showed no abnormalities, and the other tests had confirmed
that Lee was in perfect physical condition, so the sudden collapse and
brain swelling were very unusual.
But Lee began to lose weight, much to
the consternation of his friends, who urged him to see his doctor again.
But Lee seemed too wrapped up in his work. This was the break he had dreamed
of for so long. Two months after his check-up, Lee was working on a script
in the Hong Kong apartment of Betty Ting-pei, his co-star, when he suddenly
complained of a bad headache. The actress offered Lee an Equagesic painkiller
- a two-layer tablet containg aspirin, calcium carbonate, and ethoheptazine
citrate. The drug had been prescribed for Ting-pei by her doctor. Lee took
the tablet and said he was going for a nap in the actress's bed. He never
woke up again. At 9.30 p.m., Raymond Chow arrived at the apartment to pick
the film star up for a dinner engagement. When he found he could not wake
Lee, he called for a doctor, who tried to revive the actor, but his effort
was in vain. At Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bruce Lee was pronounced dead.
The world was rocked by the news.
The circumstances surrounding Lee's death
were interpreted as suspicious by many. Lee had not been taken to the nearest
hospital when he was found unconscious, and traces of cannabis were found
in the dead man. Many wondered how someone regarded as 'the fittest
man in the world' could just die without any apparent cause.
A coroner's inquest was convened on September
3rd, and the findings were: Firstly, the amount of cannabis found in Lee's
body was too small to have contributed to the actor's death. Secondly,
Lee had 'probably' died because of a hypersensitivity to a compound in
the painkiller he took possibly the aspirin component.
The official verdict was 'death by misadventure'.
But several unsavoury facts were bandied
about by the media regarding Lee's behaviour on the eve of his death. It
was learned that Lee had publicly attacked Lo Wei - the man who directed
"The Big Boss" and other kung fu genre films - on the very day before he
died from taking the aspirin. But the incident was quickly put down to
being the climax of a long-standing feud between the two men. There were
rumours of the Chinese Mafia and the Triads having a hand in the actors
demise, and there were exotic theories gleaned from the tales of people
who had been close to the star. It came to light that during the last months
of the actor's life, certain mysterious, nameless individuals approached
Lee and told him he was surrounded by 'bad omens'. Some believed these
'men in black' to be members of an obscure eastern sect who had come to
America to warn Lee about flaunting the closely-guarded secrets
of the ancient fighting arts. These alleged visitors were said to have
killed Lee with the 'death-touch' or "dim mak" as it is known in the Far
East. According to legend, the person who is trained in dim mak can dispose
of his enemy by applying the briefest of pressures on the non-critical
points of the victim's body. The victim does not die immediately, but succumbs
after a length of time has passed. The delay period is governed by the
particular nerve-points that are chosen and the amount of pressure applied
to each point respectively. It is easy to scoff at such a concept of killing
by touch, but there are historical records that state that the art of "dim
mak" was in use during the T'ang Dynasty (AD 618-906), and even today in
Taiwan, the deadly art is still alleged to be employed for 'perfect murders'.
The reports of Lee losing weight shortly
before he died have led some students of the Eastern arts to conclude that
the actor was killed by a lethal technique known as "duann mie", which,
without going into too much esoterical detail - is a way of killing an
enemy by directing a blow against a specific vein, which leads to a wasting
away of the victim through the ensuing disruption of specific blood vessels.
Oddly enough, when Bruce Lee's body was examined by a pathologist, the
blood vessels in the lungs were found to be unaccountably broken
in a way described by the medical expert as 'strange'.
BUT TRUE" BY TOM SLEMEN
ISBN: 0-75252-407-0 (PARRAGON)