Sunday, September 27, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 72 - The Life and Afterlife of Bruce Lee

Moment in Oddity - Germany's Weird Rules

Germany had some really weird rules in the distant past. There were clothing laws that made wearing certain items forbidden. Poor Magdalena Schöttlin was wearing a neckerchief when she ran afoul of the law. The reason why was because the handkerchief was too large for her station in life. She was hauled before the court where she explained the item had been a gift. This was her third offense with wearing the neckerchief and she was fine four days' wages. At one time Germany had 1,350 laws dictating what people could and could not wear. Men were supportive of the laws because they didn't have to meet their wives wishes for new clothing items. (Hey you guys out there, don't get any ideas!) The same battle over a neckerchief happened to another woman in 1684. Items made from silk or calico were strictly forbidden. Hannß Jacob Eytel, a weaver’s son, was fined about two weeks’ earnings in 1662 “on account of the very wide trousers he has been wearing, which fashion he is not entitled to” and threatening that “if he should again put on such trousers of this fashion, they shall, by virtue of the Princely Command, be confiscated”. Several couples were fined for inviting more than twelve people to their weddings. Thirty groups of unmarried people were fined for holding dances. One poor woman in 1687 appealed to the court for welfare, but because she and her son had been seen in clothing above their station in life, help was refused to her. The Germany of old, certainly had some laws that were very odd.

This Day in History - Navy Abolishes Flogging

On this day, September 28th, in 1850, the United States Navy abolishes flogging as a form of punishment. It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when flogging was used as discipline for sailors. Whipping was administered via a cat-o-nine-tails, which was a whip formed from nine knotted ropes. It was believed that this kind of punishment was more effective than confinement and got sailors back to work quickly. Congress decided to abolish the punishment. They did not offer alternatives, so the Navy turned to dousing with sea water, jailing sailors in sweatboxes, tattooing, branding, wearing signs of disgrace, lashing with thumbs behind the back, tricing up by the wrists, straight jackets, and locking seaman in irons and providing only bread and water. The Navy believed these punishments were needed because insubordination and desertion rose without the use of flogging. Commodore Matthew C. Perry tried raising morale to instill good behavior. And guess what? It worked. In 1855, Congress followed this path and came up with a system of rewards and punishments that worked much better than flogging and carries over to our modern era.

The Life and Afterlife of Bruce Lee

Just the mere mention of the name Bruce Lee conjures visions of martial arts fighting and movies. Bruce Lee fought discrimination to become the most famous American of Asian descent. He is considered the most influencial martial artist of all time. Fame was elusive and once found, it perhaps was not what Bruce Lee had dreamed it would be. His candle did not burn long as he died at the young age of 32. Some say it was a curse that took his life. A curse that carried over and took the life of his actor son Brandon Lee as well. Could it be the early deaths of these two young men that has led to their spirits being at unrest? Was it a curse that plagued the Lees? Come with us as we explore the life and afterlife of Bruce Lee.

Lee Jun-fan was born in the year and hour of the Dragon on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, California. The timing of his birth was a powerful omen in Chinese Astrology that he would lead a powerful life with much impact. His mother, Grace Ho, was half Chinese and half Caucasian and came from a wealthy family. Her clan was one of the most powerful in Hong Kong. His father was Lee Hoi-Chuen and he was Han Chinese. His career was in the Cantonese Opera and he was one of the leading actors in both that and film at the time. Lee Jun-fan was given his name by his mother and it means "to arouse and make prosperous." Dr. Mary Glover, who was the attending physician, gave Jun-fan the name Bruce. The family would use neither name and they called Bruce by the nickname Sai Fon meaning "little peacock." The Lees used this nickname because they were superstitious and believed the gods would take away a male child if they disapproved of that child. Sai Fon is a girl nickname and perhaps the Lees felt they could fool the gods with that name. The reason they feared losing Bruce is because they had lost their first born son in infancy.

After Bruce was born, the family returned to Hong Kong and Bruce was raised there. The Lee family had been in America on tour with the Opera. He began his career in martial arts in Wing Chung when he was thirteen under Master Yip Man. Bruce referred to his martial art as Gung Fu, which is Cantonese for Kung Fu. Bruce appeared in several films as a child actor and he appeared in twenty films by the time he was eighteen. He loved acting and would jump out of bed at midnight to make a film. But if someone tried to wake him for school, he would just roll over. He also took up dance, which went with his martial art studies. He actually competed in dance and in 1958 won the Hong Kong Cha Cha Championship.

The Lee family had been in America when Bruce was born because they were on tour with the Opera. Because Bruce was born in America, he was able to claim American citizenship and he did that when he was eighteen and boarded a ship bound for San Francisco with only $100 in his pocket. He headed to Washington to attend the University of Washington in Seattle. He decided to start his own Gung Fu school while in Seattle and he opened Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. It met in a very small rented basement room. As the school grew, Bruce was able to rent a larger location on University Way and there was a room in the back big enough to serve as a living space. One of his students was a girl named Linda. The two soon fell in love and married in 1964. Bruce decided that teaching Gung Fu would be his career and he started making plans to open schools around the country. He left his Seattle school to his assistant and good friend, Taky Kimura, and moved with Linda to Oakland where they opened another Gung Fu Institute.

Bruce decided that Gung Fu was not as complete a martial art as it could be and he developed Jeet Kune Do. This decision arose from an incident in his martial arts school. A group of Chinese instructors came and told him they disapproved of him teaching Causcasians their art. They challenged Bruce to a duel of sorts. Bruce won, but he was disappointed that it took him three minutes to pin the main guy. He decided then that he needed to improve his art. As he continued with his art, he was asked to give a demonstration at the First International Karate Tournament. Bruce was charismatic and spectacular and in the audience sat Jay Sebring. You may recognize that name because Sebring was one of the victims of the Manson Family Murders. Sebring was hairstylist to the stars and he told one of his clients who was a Hollywood producer, William Dozier, about Bruce Lee. The producer was looking for someone to play Charlie Chan's son, so he gave Bruce a call.

After an impressive screen test, Dozier was positive he wanted to work with Bruce. Unfortunately, the Chan movie project fell through, but Dozier gave Bruce $1,800 and promised him that if the Batman TV series proved to be successful, he had plans to start a Green Hornet show and Bruce would be given the part of Kato. At this same time, Linda gave birth to the couple's first child, Brandon. After hearing about the new grandchild, Bruce's father died. Bruce decided to use the money Dozier gave him to take the family to Hong Kong, so everyone there could meet Linda and his newborn son. They spent four months there and then flew to Seattle to spend time with Linda's family. They decided to relocate to Los Angeles because Bruce had decided that martial arts might be his passion, but his career choice was acting.

Production of the "Green Hornet" began in 1966. They filmed for six months and though the series was fairly popular, it was not renewed for another season. People loved watching Bruce perform his moves, which he slowed down considerably so the camera could catch them. Fame was elusive and Bruce began to think he made a bad decision. Between 1967 and 1971, he only was able to land a few bit parts on TV and in film. His daughter Shannon was born in 1969. In order to provide better, Bruce took on celebrity clients and taught them Jeet Kune Do. In 1970, he sustained an injury to his back that was so severe he was ordered to bed rest and told he would never do Gung Fu again. He was in bed for six months. He then pursued his own recovery and began walking, working his way back up to full strength. He would live with the pain of the injury the rest of his life.

While he had been stuck in bed, Bruce came up with the idea of a TV series centered around an Eastern monk who traveled throughout the Old West. He pitched the idea to Warner Brothers and the TV series "Kung Fu" was born. Bruce anticipated playing in the starring role, but the part was given to David Carradine and Bruce was left disappointed. No one thought a Chinese man would be bankable. Bruce headed to Hong Kong with Brandon, who was five at the time, to visit family. Bruce was amazed to find that he had become fairly well known there. Everyone referred to him as Kato and Hong Kong filmmakers started approaching him. Bruce decided that this could be his backdoor into Hollywood and he made the movie "Fists of Fury." The film was a huge success.

"Fist of Fury" was the sequel to "Fists of Fury" and it did even better. Bruce had been under contract for those two movies and now he was free. He moved on to his next project, "Return of the Dragon," which he wrote, directed and produced. It proved to be a box office smash and Hollywood started paying attention. In 1972, Bruce was in the middle of "Game of Death" when Warner Brothers approached him about making a movie in collaboration with Hong Kong. This movie would be "Enter the Dragon." Bruce put "Game of Death" on hold. Filming was tough because of language barriers and Bruce was stressed as he wanted this movie to really impress American audiences. They got it finished and it was scheduled to premiere in August of 1973 at the Hollywood Chinese Theater. Bruce would not live to see that premiere and his crowning achievement.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce experienced a headache. It was not severe, but he needed something to dull the pain. A friend gave him Equagesic, which was a prescription painkiller. For a minor headache? Bruce went to lie down and could not be roused later. He was in a coma. He was rushed to the hospital where he died. The coroner who conducted the first autopsy was unable to determine what had happened. The top forensic pathologists were flown in and it was finally determined that Bruce had an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the pill. That allergic reaction caused his brain to swell. No one has been completely satisfied with this answer. There was cannabis found in his stomach, but everyone agreed it had nothing to do with the death. Interestingly, a couple months earlier, Bruce had collapsed with convulsions and swelling of the brain after eating Hashish from Nepal, which was considered to be very pure. At the autopsy, no other drugs were found in Bruce's system other than the painkiller and the cannabis. It should be pointed out that he was terribly unhealthy when he died. He had only 1% body fat and so he was far too thin. He was depressed and would fly into rages. Something was not quite right with him. Was it possible that Bruce was murdered? Some believe the Triad Gang had put a hit on Bruce for multiple reasons. Others thought that a jealous fellow martial artist had given him a death touch strike called a dim mak.

Bruce was laid to rest wearing the traditional Chinese outfit he had donned in the movie "Enter the Dragon." He was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle, Washington. Bruce had not wanted to live a long life. He feared losing his physical abilities. He often told Linda, "If I should die tomorrow. I will have no regrets. I did what I wanted to do. You can't expect more from life."

One of the strangest items in the biography of Bruce Lee are rumors about a family curse.  It's similiar to the Kennedy curse. Bruce once had a premonition after the death of his father. In this premonition, he saw himself dying when he reached half the age his father was when he passed away. His father was 64 at the time of his death. Bruce did indeed die when he was only 32. Bruce described another incident in which a dark shadow came upon him and held him down for several minutes. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get the shadow off of himself. He was drenched in sweat when the entity finally left. Bruce said it was one of the few times he had physically been defeated. Was this death following him? Bruce kept a mirror in his home to ward off evil spirits. That mirror blew away in a typhoon shortly before his death. There has been no real definitive cause of death for Bruce, which leaves the door open for this kind of speculation about what really killed him.

Not only was Bruce's death a part of this curse, but the death of his son Brandon also seems to be linked. We don't believe in coincidences around here, so when we consider that Bruce's character in the movie Game of Death fakes his death in the same way that Brandon died, it makes us wonder. In the movie, Bruce is playing an actor who is shot and dies in a scene and it turns out that he actually has really been shot. He doesn't die, but everyone thinks he has, so he goes with it and comes back to reek revenge. Brandon was killed when pieces of a real bullet flew out of a gun that was suppose to be firing blanks and hit him. The improbabilty of an actor dying on the set from a real gunshot leads to speculation. Perhaps both men just simply passed away from freak causes.

Bruce Lee had a run in with a dark entity once in his life. He worked at Ruby Chow's Restaurant at one time and the place was reportedly haunted by a shadow figure. This figure was seen by a cook and he quit immediately. A buser was jostled by something unseen as she took a tray of dishes into the kitchen. A tea pot on the tray was tipped over and liquid spilled to the ground. She claimed that the liquid formed into a question mark. The owner of the restaurant, Ruby, claimed she saw the shadowy figure and that it pinned her to the ground. The same thing happened to Bruce. He was pinned for several minutes, but he managed to finally give the entity a blow that made it disappear. Bruce told the story often and the incident left him shaken. As if he had fought death itself.

Whether it was their youth or the circumstances of their death, both the spirits of Bruce and Brandon are rumored to still be here in their afterlife. There are many stories of sightings of both men at the place where their graves are located. The above picture was taken some time in 2005 and given to the Ghosts and Critters website. There is a weird lens flare at the bottom that could be explained away, but we pause when we look at the tombstone just to the left of the picture of Bruce. It seems almost as though there is a shadow that is facing in a similiar way as the picture of Bruce on the marker. Could just be the picture taker, but the man in the picture claims that the photographer had long hair. The picture is interesting.

Bruce Lee lived a short life, but he is one of the most famous individuals in the world. Has he returned because of unfinished business? Is his ghost really seen, or are people imagining that his spirit remains? That is for you to decide!

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