This article and its Addenda might seem somewhat strange to include here on my own site, but they do contain some of the journey that eventually led me here, and I have referred to them elsewhere, so having everything in one place makes sense.
I decided I wanted to start writing articles in the spring of 2016. I asked around among my friends and heard that Ghost was the new hotness. And Ghost was pretty good as far as the actual articles. My pal Julius set up a sweet template for me, so everything looked good. And they supported footnotes, which I am a pretty hardcore user of, and which Medium still does not.¹
But by February of this year, the lack of community on Ghost had started to bother me. It might have been because of Facebook. Facebook had by then hit rock bottom, where it still lives: advertisements for stuff I will never want, lame quizzes, clickbait articles, and idiotic political opinions now make up the majority of my feed.²
And those community features that Ghost lacked were ones that Medium offered. When I posted an article, people could like it, highlight passages, and/ or leave responses. Those things were good—like the things you could do on Facebook sort of, but in an environment with just a bit more weight, where 10-minute reads might actually get read.
Community is the wrong word. Facebook provides some sense of that, but it’s designed for relatively superficial exchanges—I don’t mean that as a dig, it just is—and I felt that the things I wanted to talk about were not necessarily appropriate to that forum, and indeed, would alienate some significant portion of my social graph.³
What I was looking for was more what I would term intellectual exchange. Facebook seems more oriented either to validation or to argument. I don’t necessarily want either one of those things; my articles often involve criticism, and I’m happy to take what I dish out. I do a lot of research on many arcane topics, and try to be thorough, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.
Anyway I moved my earlier articles over from Ghost to Medium, and started posting new ones.
There were problems from the start. Some of my Facebook followers’ browsers crashed when they clicked the links to my Medium articles. The way images appeared (or didn’t) in the feeds was a mystery, and Facebook posts also did not play nice with them.⁴
Nonetheless, new people—people I did not know, and so were under no obligation to—began to follow me. There were likes as well, and after a while, became a Top Writer in Culture. Not long after, I also became a Top Writer in History. My follows gained momentum.
But then a funny thing happened. Back in September my follows completely flatlined and have remained flatlined since. This struck me as suspicious because it happened exactly at 1.2K. I checked my profile to see if I’d fallen off the Top Writers lists; I hadn’t. I begrudgingly became a member of Medium hoping that would unblock me; there was zero effect.
Now, I’ll cop to the fact that follows might not be the most important metric to track, and indeed, my recent series on Bruce Lee spiked other stats like reads and applause (the latter a lame recent replacement for likes). Nonetheless, this flatline means to me that Mr. Medium is not a fan of the content I’ve been adding to the site. What they’re trying to “curate” is something else entirely.
Now, I have always—please rest assured—understood that my articles are nobody’s flavor of the month, but there has clearly been a shift in how content is being served to Medium users. It might be some nameless faceless “editors”, but my money’s on AI; an algorithm that spoonfeeds tasty garbage into waiting mouths.
It turns out, that even before I had joined Medium, back in January, there had been a shift in the company, announced by CEO Ev Williams, together with major layoffs. The mission-statementy core of this piece, one that some applauded and others picked apart in the responses, was this:
We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention.
Though I agree wholeheartedly with the last part of this credo, the use of the term rewarded is what jumps out to me. As I’ve already suggested reward, at least in the financial sense that is clearly meant here, was never my aim. Further, there are several implications to their goal:
Rewarding writers really means rewarding Medium—money changes hands and we’ll take our cut.
Medium doesn’t want to do anything crass like have ads, so instead we’ll curate content, and put the stuff we think people will shell out for behind a paywall.
Since paywall content is what drives our revenue, that’s what we’ll promote—everyone else can suck it!
We have no idea what’s good even though we track stats like category Top Writers; everyone likes linkbait listicles, right?
They weren’t even very efficient at ruining their platform for anyone looking for anything enlightening or informative: it took nearly nine months to roll out these exciting changes, but they are definitely in full effect now.
In addition to limiting the discoverability of my content, I’ve also seen it in what they serve me—regardless of the kinds of people I follow, or what I’ve liked, applauded, highlighted, or responded to before, I get Drake. I have nothing against Drake, but neither do I have anything for him.⁵ I vaguely know who he is, and am 100% not intrigued to know any more.
So, the TL; DR is:
Congratulations, Medium; you went from being pretty cool to worse than Facebook in only a few months.
I remain committed to writing these articles, but they need a new home. I wish I had seen Williams’ message before I joined since the red flags it raised were so clear. If you’ve followed me here, I thank you, and I’ll let you know where I land. Maybe I’ll move back to Ghost.
As you can tell from this article. Obviously there are footnotes, but hyperlinking to them and then back to where you were in the article is what’s missing. There is a way to do it in Medium, but it’s impossibly arduous.
Of course some of you are still fighting the good fight on FB, for which I thank you.
The numbers of people following links to my articles bears out this premise.
The way pics in articles are chosen for headlines, focus points selected, etc. in Medium is pretty fussy and arcane. Then Facebook ignores all that, peers into the links you post, and randomly chooses pics. Sometimes they let you choose among them, but typically not.
The “accidental” action star (Mythmaking in the martial arts, Part 3)
Linda Lee Cadwell: When Bruce did the demonstration in 1964, before he had even come back to Oakland, where we lived at the time, I had received a phone call from William Dozier’s office.
Shannon Lee: Jay Sebring, the famous hairstylist, happened to see my father at the Long Beach Internationals and he cut the hair of William Dozier and he said, “Oh my god! You’ve got to see this guy—he’s amazing!”
Cadwell: When Bruce came home, I said to him, “You need to call this guy back: William Dozier. He’s a producer in Hollywood and he wants to see you.” That was the first inkling that, “Wow, I might be able to do something in Hollywood!” He never had any intention of going into show business. His passion was his martial arts, so he had a school in Seattle and a second school in Oakland. His plan was to open many, many schools all over the country.
I Am Bruce Lee is the most recent filmic hagiography of the deceased actor.¹ It’s conveniently available for free viewing on YouTube if you can stomach what’s essentially an hour-and-a-half infomercial for the Lee brand. His daughter and current mogul of his brand, Shannon Lee, was the executive producer, as well as appearing in front of the camera as an ostensible interviewee, along with her mother and co-beneficiary of the estate, Cadwell. Their lines are scripted and well-rehearsed, and as can be seen above, Lee even attests to events that took place some five years prior to her birth.
They want you to believe Bruce Lee becoming an action star was an accident. To do this, forget he had grown up around show folk, including his father. Set aside his appearance in 21 films by 1964, as well as an unknown amount of Chinese opera, the main arena of his father’s fame. Ignore his having starred in The Orphan (人海孤鴻) pretty recently to the above events at the age of 18. Pretend he wasn’t a child star whose body of work some have equated to Mickey Rooney’s.
To be clear, Lee was already a successful actor and if he hadn’t had to leave Hong Kong under threat of arrest, he’d very likely have continued his career there. I’ll relate yet another version of that story: gang challenge fights often took place on rooftops and someone fell off a roof, which may or may not have been Lee’s fault.² If Lee could really have been connected to an actual death, it’s hard to believe he could ever have returned to Hong Kong. Although its standing has no doubt been buoyed by his later fame, The Orphan, Lee’s last non-action film, is ranked among Hong Kong cinema’s top 100 films of all time.
In the US, however, he was not well connected—film had yet to become as transnational as it is today. He knew he would need a gimmick to get noticed. Surveying the pop culture landscape as an astute player, he may have considered using his ability as a dancer, but kung fu (武術) was a much richer vein.
In the US Lee found himself in, direct exposure to Asian martial arts had long since ceased being novel—in fact, it was both mainstream and commonplace. Already in 1945’s Blood on the Sun, James Cagney had played an American reporter working in Japan who, despite uncovering his host country’s sinister plot to conquer the world, has gone native, enjoying the pleasures of the baths (お風呂), as well as being a skilled judoka (柔道家). The Tanaka Memorial (田中上奏文 Tanaka Jōsōbun) around which the film’s plot revolves is actually a thoroughly debunked forgery which nonetheless acted as a casus belli in the vein of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The film climaxes with a three-minute fight scene between Cagney’s Nick Condon and the villainous Captain Oshima (John Halloran) complete with judo throws, karate chops and kicks, and even some of the holds we would eventually see Lee use on screen. Far from a footnote, the film’s box office was $3.4M—a tidy sum for the day—and it also took home an Oscar. More recently, the film has fallen out of favor because of its propagandistically anti-Japanese themes and yellowface portrayal of Asians by Caucasian actors.
Other prominent stars used Asian martial arts on screen throughout the ’40s and ’50s, including Edmund O’Brien and Spencer Tracy. Judo and karate dojos (道場) had sprung up across the US. Finally, Hong Kong’s long-standing wuxia, and emerging kung fu genres of film were slowly finding audiences beyond America’s Chinatowns. Wuxia (武俠), meaning “martial heroes”, being a more fantasy-oriented genre of action film, often employing wire work and visual effects, in contrast to the more “realistic” aesthetic of the kung fu genre.
The Wong Fei-hung (黃飛鴻) serials, in particular, were standbys, established in the late ’40s, they had already run to at least 59 films by the time of Lee’s arrival in the US. There would eventually be 119 films about this Cantonese folk hero, featuring huge stars like Jet Li (李连杰), Jackie Chan (房仕龍), and Sammo Hung (洪金寶) in the role.
And so, when Lee moved to Seattle and worked as a busboy, the revisionists will tell you he taught his coworkers kung fu in the alley behind the restaurant, but the firsthand account of a woman who was one of those coworkers reflects something different:³
“I knew [Bruce Lee],” my mother tells me. “I worked with him in a restaurant when I was in high school.”
“Really?” This is now officially the only cool thing about her. “What was he like?”
“I don’t remember. No one liked him though. All that kung fu stuff; it looked ridiculous. Like a parody.”
Those who worked with Lee were a captive audience to his bid to parlay his showmanship and scant knowledge of martial arts into a career as an action star, but it seems they were not fans.
At Jun Fan Gung Fu (振藩武術; lit. “Bruce Lee Kung Fu”), he emphasized exhibitions and demos, in which he and his students often performed. His purpose was to get noticed—not necessarily to get more students for his kwoon (館—Cantonese for a kung fu school; 馆, guan in Mandarin), but more to gain notoriety—press mentions, photographs, whatever could help him with his real goal. Indeed, it was during one such demonstration at a local high school he met his future wife. That his sights were set on forging a new acting career is evidenced by his concurrently majoring in drama at the University of Washington. That he majored in philosophy is yet another myth.
It’s no accident Lee was discovered at Ed Parker’s tournament; first, Lee and a few of his kwoon buddies had been running up and down the Coast like a kung-fu garage band. Second, Lee and Parker—though the latter initially disliked Lee as a showoff—turned out to be kindred spirits. Never intending to compete, Lee was instead Parker’s special guest. Though Lee’s heirs have tried since to change the narrative, in a 1971 interview, he’s pretty clear about his level of dedication to the martial arts:⁴
Just about the time I discovered that I didn’t really want to teach self-defence for the rest of my life, I went to the Long Beach International Karate Tournament and got myself discovered by Hollywood.
One of Lee’s original students, Leroy Garcia, also confirms this:⁵
[O]nce he found, “God, I can make money doing this”, all the original people [in Lee’s school] just dropped out. Looking back on it, Bruce always had an agenda—he was a product now, not a friend and a teacher.
Let’s diverge for a moment to discuss Parker, who, as I’ve suggested, was cut from much the same cloth as Lee: information about his martial arts training is vague, but he somehow goes from being a brown belt to an instructor at his own school. By the early ’60s he billed himself as a “grandmaster” taking advantage of the American public’s lack of knowledge about martial arts in order to inflate his image.
Though he started teaching kenpo (拳法) in Provo, Utah, he’d opened a branch in Pasadena, and moved there to be close to Hollywood opportunities: high-profile clientele, action choreography, and, ideally, onscreen appearances.
He cashed in his dubious claims to martial arts expertise for a moderately successful Hollywood career, mainly as a stuntman, with notable appearances in Kill the Golden Goose, and a few of Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films. He was still better known as Elvis Presley’s karate teacher and bodyguard.
That his claims were overblown can easily be seen in his appearance on The Lucy Show a year prior to his eponymous tournament: he is repeatedly off balance, his arms flailing and generally lacking coordination. Although the show is a comedy, he is meant to be an impressive, skillful karate instructor, not a buffoon.⁶ Even in later performances, similar features can be seen; in an appearance on Chilean TV in the ’80s, he even falls over during a finishing move.
Furthermore, it is an open secret his 1975 book, Secrets of Chinese Karate, actually comprised the technical knowledge of James Wing Woo, with Parker handling the writing, but which he then seized all credit for. Woo gave up trying to remedy the situation, instead building up a successful school with a dedicated following.⁷
Parker’s First International World Karate Tournament, like much in the shady, nascent martial arts world of the time, was mainly a way of legitimizing and promoting himself. It also took place in Long Beach, a venue conveniently close to Hollywood. Parker also had wide coattails, helping along many martial artists in establishing their own schools, and though Lee’s case was slightly different, he still seemed a willing accomplice. He even lent Lee one of his own students for his demonstrations: Dan Inosanto, who was to become a major player in the creation and perpetuation of the Lee myth.
Many Lee bios conflate his appearance at the 1964 tournament with that at the 1967 one, including I Am Bruce Lee. When Gene LeBell reports in the film, “they treated [Lee] like a god”.⁸ He is clearly referring to his appearance at the latter event, wherein he was something of a conquering hero, already having appeared as Kato on The Green Hornet. In ’64, it would have been more, to quote Chris Rock, “Nobody knows my name; nobody’s glad I came.” The footage is easy to disentangle: the first tournament is the one shot in black and white, while the color footage is from ’67. Again quoting LeBell in the same film:⁹
He did these things so realistically that people didn’t know if it was show business or the real McCoy.
It’s clear which one LeBell thinks it was—I’m honestly surprised his whole interview didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. Another martial artist-stuntman-actor, LeBell knew Lee (and Parker) well, working with him extensively on The Green Hornet. At the tournament, Lee “sparred” with a well-rehearsed Inosanto and performed some spectacular parlor tricks; the one-inch and six-inch punch, again with an accomplice to sell their power by staggering backwards no matter how lightly they were struck (Taky Kimura and James Lee both attended with Lee, but it’s unclear which took part in this demonstration).
Another thing that appears again and again in these films is Lee’s “unstoppable punch”. Even though it’s from the 1967 tournament, let’s look into it: Lee, LLC says there were eight attempts, and the hapless karateka (空手家) on the receiving end failed to block even one.
That karateka was Vic Moore, an authentic martial artist who had already won a world championship in 1966 and would go on to rack up three more in 1968, 1969, and 1970, even defeating legendary Bill “Superfoot” Wallace in the last one, and he tells the story entirely differently.
According to Moore, there were supposed to be only two attempted punches by Lee, directed at his chest. Moore says he easily blocked both, and the footage the films use is from when he is smiling into the crowd after these blocks, and Lee surprises him, going for the head rather than the chest, as well as punching from out of range.
Looking at the footage, it’s easy to verify Moore’s claims: in the first frame, above, Lee’s punch is already at full extension, about a foot and a half shy of Moore’s face. You can also see Moore is looking up and to the left of Lee into the crowd—no one with any experience faces a punch with their chin up like that, and Moore was clearly experienced. In the second frame, Lee has landed on his front foot with his arm already retracted. You can see Moore’s block in motion (and his chin come down) despite being caught off guard as well.
In short, Lee’s punch was never blockable because it was never in range.
Those responsible for polishing Lee’s legacy show this same footage over and over with different levels of zoom and tinting as if it were a series of punches, rather than a single cheap shot that never could have landed. Moore also claims he challenged Lee to attempt to block his punches, and the actor missed on both attempts.¹⁰
In any case, despite Cadwell’s claims, the effect of Lee’s appearance at the 1964 International World Karate Tournament had exactly the effect he had calculated—getting a call from Hollywood. Cadwell contradicts her own statement:¹¹
Bruce insisted it was no real surprise to him. He’d anticipated something like this since appearing at the Long Beach Tournament.
Even without a solid deal, the Lees shuttered the kwoons in Seattle and Oakland—the schools that were supposedly his passion, that he had supposedly fought for and won the right to teach at—and moved to LA. But Bruce Lee the action star was born.
Read subsequent articles in the Mythmaking in the martial arts series
Building the brand of Bruce (Mythmaking in the martial arts, Part 2)
Back in 1995, in the early days of the internet, a guy named Martin Eng created a website with the domain name brucelee.com. The site displayed,¹
[P]hotos of Bruce Lee, a chronology of his life, images of various martial arts paraphernalia used by him, a list of movies that feature him, and text from a book authored by him.
Eng claimed fair use, saying it was a non-commercial site, which included the following disclaimer:²
With due respect to Bruce and his family, and fellow fans. This is a non-profit web site. The fans’ products aren’t for sale if there are any, and I receive no financial benefits before, now and whatsoever.
Eng was a minor local celebrity himself for a time, the owner of the Russian Hill home that provided the setting for MTV’s The Real World in 1994, he also was a candidate in San Francisco’s 1999 mayoral race as part of the “hyena pack” attempting to unseat Willie Brown, the lion in the scenario. A tech-savvy entrepreneur, Eng once owned as many as 1,400 domain names, including asians.com.
Setting his notoriety aside, Eng might seem like a basic domain troll, but his interest in Lee seems to have been genuine; he is listed in the credits as a photo scanner for a series of unauthorized biographies of the film star, written by Sid Campbell and Greglon Lee.³
In 2005, Eng was sued by a company called Concord Moon LP. This entity was described in legal documents thus:⁴
Linda Lee Cadwell, the widow of Bruce Lee, and Shannon Lee Keasler, the daughter of Bruce Lee, are the legitimate heirs of Bruce Lee and the principals of Complainant Concord Moon LP.
The case was a slam dunk as so many others from those days were—it was clear mass registrations such as Eng had performed were specifically intended to usurp the trademarks others had legitimate claims to during the Wild West of the nascent internet, either hoping to be paid off to release them or to profit directly from their use. Eng’s claim his site was “non-commercial” didn’t hold water, since even though he didn’t sell anything on his site, it linked via ads to those that did.⁵
Eng seems not to have been harmed particularly by the loss, nor by the fire that destroyed the massive house on Lombard Street Puck’s roommates booted him out of. His internet domains and real estate holdings rendered him permanently far more than well off. The house has since been rebuilt, as I’m sure you’ll be pleased and relieved to learn. Oh, and Puck ended up doing jail time, much to absolutely no one’s surprise.
Lee’s heirs have engaged in legal disputes with many others. Another of the entities they control, Bruce Lee Enterprises, won a well-publicized suit in 2010 against A.V.E.L.A., Inc. (the Art and Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency), that “licensed” images of Bruce without actual authorization for T-shirts also involving Marc Ecko Enterprises—a “global fashion and lifestyle company”, according to their company profile on Bloomberg, behind such clothing brands as Eckō Unltd., Avirex, and Zoo York—who produced the shirts, and Target and Urban Outfitters, who sold them. The legal wrangling did determine A.V.E.L.A.’s claim the images they were licensing out were of the personas Lee portrayed in films, rather than images of him, per se, held no water.
Bruce Lee began the first of the businesses intended to control his brand in 1971 in partnership with Raymond Chow’s (鄒文懐): Concord Production Inc. (協和電影公司). Although Linda sold Bruce’s share of the company to Chow in 1976, she and her children, Brandon Lee and Shannon Lee (later Keasler) retained all rights to the deceased icon under California code Section 3344.1, as well as continuing to use the “Concord” name. The law confers on the immediate family the rights of a person,
[W]hose name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness has commercial value at the time of his or her death.
Over the years, there has been a hard-to-trace web of entities run by Cadwell, and later by Keasler. Here are those I was able to identify:
Concord Moon, LP
Concord Moon Management, LLC
Bruce Lee Holdings, LLC
Bruce Lee Educational Foundation
The Bruce Lee Family Company
Bruce Lee, LLC
LeeWay Media Group
Bruce Lee Entertainment
Bruce Lee Beverage (Bruce Tea)
Bruce Lee Foundation
Let me put in here I support the rights of Lee’s heirs to profit from his stardom, no matter how ghoulish or crass their efforts—seriously, Bruce Tea? But if you were shocked about my revelations in Part 1, you should know the effort to build up and proliferate the legend of Bruce Lee massive—one that goes far beyond his legitimate heirs, with many people seeing his status as a cultural icon as an opportunity to cash in, including the creation of a new sub-genre of film: Bruceploitation. A portmanteau of Bruce and exploitation, these generally low-budget films starred “Lee-alikes” and were in their heyday 1974–1981.
There have been several biopics over the years, and it’s important to understand these are not thoughtful documentaries executed by disinterested parties, but ways of establishing as fact a great many things that reflect well on Lee but are simply untrue and denying the reverse. Even a quick perusal will turn up many inconsistencies, contradictions, whole-cloth manufacturing of material, and a persistent conflation of Lee’s onscreen personae with reality. This last element is particularly interesting given the gambit the Lees sued A.V.E.L.A. over.
Although Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993) is the clearest example of these, being based on Cadwell’s book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, there is a direct involvement by Lee’s heirs in other efforts, which escalated to the level of media carpet bombing in the early ’90s and shows no signs of letting up.
In the list below, in addition to pointing out work by Cadwell, Keasler, and deceased family member, Brandon Lee, I’ve also noted the involvement of John Little, who seems to have been the group’s go-to writer, Taky Kimura, student, longtime friend, and still board member of the Bruce Lee Foundation, and Dan Inosanto, another longtime student and friend, but who seems to have recently fallen from favor:
Little Dragon (upcoming): Keasler—producer, writer
The Bruce Lee Project (upcoming): Keasler—executive producer
Conspiracy (2015): Little—interviewee as Bruce Lee’s biographer
Bruce Lee: Die Faust Hollywoods (Bruce Lee: the Faust of Hollywood, German documentary, 2015): Inosanto—interviewee
I Am Bruce Lee (2012): Cadwell—interviewee; Keasler—executive producer, interviewee; Lee—archival footage; Inosanto—interviewee
How Bruce Lee Changed the World (2009): Keasler—executive producer, interviewee; Kimura—interviewee
Bruce Lee: In Pursuit of the Dragon (2009): Little—director, producer, interviewee
The Legend of Bruce Lee (2008): Keasler—executive producer
Blood and Steel: Making ‘Enter the Dragon’ (2004): Cadwell—archival footage
The Unbeatable Bruce Lee (2001): Lee—archival footage
Reflections on ‘The Little Dragon’ (2001): Inosanto—archival footage
Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey (2000): Cadwell—interviewee; Little—director, producer, writer, voice; Kimura—interviewee; Inosanto—archival footage
The Story (documentary about Game of Death, 2000): Little—director, producer, narrator; Inosanto—archival footage
The Lees: Action Speaks Louder (1999): Cadwell—interviewee; Keasler—interviewee; Lee —archival footage; Kimura—interviewee; Little—interviewee; Inosanto—interviewee
Bruce Lee: The Legend Lives On (1999): Cadwell—archival footage; Lee—interviewee; Kimura—interviewee
Bruce Lee: In His Own Words (1998): Cadwell—archival footage, special thanks; Keasler—archival footage; Lee—archival footage; Little—director, producer, musical arrangement
Bruce Lee: The Path of the Dragon (1998): Keasler—interviewee; Lee—archival footage; Kimura—interviewee; Inosanto—interviewee
Masters of the Martial Arts Presented by Wesley Snipes (1998): Keasler—interviewee; Little—interviewee
Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (1995): Cadwell—special thanks; Lee—narrator, interviewee; Kimura—interviewee, thanks; Inosanto—narrator, interviewee, special thanks
Bruce Lee—Martial Arts Master (1994): Lee—interviewee; Kimura—interviewee
Bruce Lee: The Immortal Dragon (1994): Cadwell—interviewee, special thanks; Keasler—interviewee, special thanks; Lee—archival footage; Little—interviewee; Kimura—interviewee; Inosanto—interviewee
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993): Keasler—actress, performer: “California Dreamin’”
The Curse of the Dragon (1993): Cadwell—interviewee; Keasler—interviewee; Lee—interviewee; Inosanto—interviewee
Death by Misadventure: The Mysterious Life of Bruce Lee (1993): Lee—interviewee
Bruce Lee, the Legend (1984): Cadwell—interviewee, Keasler—archival footage; Lee—archival footage; Kimura—interviewee; Inosanto—archival footage
Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend (1973): Cadwell—interviewee; Keasler—interviewee; Lee—interviewee; Kimura—interviewee; Inosanto—archival footage
Another person who frequently appears in these docupics is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he seems to do so quite genuinely as a close friend and former student, and only in the role of an interviewee on those topics—after all, he has his own tremendous successes to manage.
On top of all the films, there have been many books penned by the various members of this group, Little was also the longtime Associate Publisher of Bruce Lee Magazine, and Keasler a writer on the recent comic book series Bruce Lee: the Dragon Rises. Most important of the books, apart from Cadwell’s bio, which I’ve already mentioned, are Tao of Jeet Kune Do (1975), which Cadwell and Inosanto also helped to edit, and another Cadwell-backed effort, Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method (1978). Additionally, there is the so-called Bruce Lee Library, all of which Little wrote using a variety of materials from the Lees:
Vol. 1—Words of the Dragon—Interviews, 1958–1973 (1997)
Vol. 2—The Tao of Gung Fu—A Study in the Way of Chinese Martial Arts (1997)
Vol. 3—Jeet Kune Do—Bruce Lee’s Commentaries on the Martial Way (1997)
Vol. 4—The Art of Expressing the Human Body (1997)
Vol. 5—Letters of the Dragon—Correspondence, 1958–1973 (1997)
Bruce Lee Artist of Life (1999)
Bruce Lee Words From A Master (1999)
Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts (1999)
Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey (1999)
In short, there is an almost absurd amount of media about Bruce Lee—the number of authorized works alone is staggering, and there are still more unauthorized ones, especially if Bruceploitation is considered. Compared to this, Lee’s actual body of work was a single, fairly basic and largely plagiarized book (Chinese Gung-Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self Defense, 1963), four and a half films, one season of The Green Hornet, and a few bit parts on other US films and TV shows.
The image of Bruce Lee you have in your mind is a product, a brand. One carefully honed and refined to continue to be relevant and maintain its financial value, so media placements are worth paying for and merchandise continues to be sold. And they’ve done quite well: the Lee brand continues to pull down $5–10M yearly—impressive considering their golden goose has been gone for 45 years.
All this is why what you know about Bruce Lee is what Bruce Lee, LLC wants you to know about Bruce Lee.
Read subsequent articles in the Mythmaking in the martial arts series
National Arbitration Forum, The Heirs of Bruce Lee and Concord Moon LP v. Martin Eng, August 2005.
The series consists of Greglon Lee and Sid Campbell, The Dragon and the Tiger, Volume 1: The Birth of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, 2003; Lee and Campbell, The Dragon and the Tiger, Volume 2: The Untold Story of Jun Fan Gung-fu and James Yimm Lee, 2005; and Lee and Campbell, Remembering the Master: Bruce Lee, James Yimm Lee, and the Creation of Jeet Kune Do, 2006.
The Heirs of Bruce Lee and Concord Moon LP v. Martin Eng, 2005.