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Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly

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9 minutes ago, Fist of the Heavenly Sky said:

Well, it's doubtful that other actors besides Bruce were enamored with drugs as much as he were.

I'd say he wasnt alone in his use of of some substances, in early 1970's Hong Kong film industry. Some of those set workers, might have needed something stronger than a coffe, to keep working the hoours they did. This is just theory on my part, I've nothing to back this up.

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1 hour ago, DragonClaws said:

I need to read more on this, but it's odd that a man who was brought up in Hong Kong, would suffer heat stroke. Surely he was accustomed to the weather?, unlike say someone who was not used to the climate. I wonder how Bob Wall and Chuck Norris dealt with the heat there?, during the time they worked with BL.

More credence to the rumor he had his sweat glands removed from his pits, although there is no mention of any scarring there on his post mortem reports.

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Jonathan Eig, the author who's written definitive bios on major cultural & historical figures such as Muhammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, and Al Capone has high praise for Matthew Polly's BruceLee: A Life, out Tuesday!

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From Matthew Polly -

Hey Ho, my book just made The Los Angeles Times "Summer Reading List" as well: "The biggest book I’m suggesting you bring to the beach is 'Bruce Lee: A Life' Sure, it’s 656 pages, but it’s the first authoritative biography of the martial arts movie star."

http://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-summer-books-20180601-story.html?outputType=amp&__twitter_impression=true

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I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Shannon Keasler and Linda Emery Cadwell, but my biography is an independent, not an authorized, release. It is not associated with the Bruce Lee estate. - Matthew Polly

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Gene Ching interviews Matthew Polly:

GC: What's your favorite Bruce Lee movie and why?

MP: ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) is my favorite because it changed my life. It inspired me to take up the martial arts, study at the Shaolin Temple in China for two years, and eventually become a writer.

If I had to pick a second favorite, it would be the last Cantonese movie Bruce made as a teenager in Hong Kong – THE ORPHAN (1960). Bruce plays an emotionally damaged and unbalanced youth unable to escape his past. From purely an acting, as opposed to an action, perspective, it is by far his most interesting performance.

GC: If Bruce were alive today, what do you think he would be doing?

MP: I’ve always joked that if Bruce Lee had been born later he would have been a rapper. He had the swagger, the cocky bravado, the sly wit, and the self-centeredness of a Kanye West or 50 Cent or Eminem.

If Bruce hadn’t died is an entire genre of fiction. I’ve read a number of short stories based on the premise. One thing is for sure; he’d be all over Twitter. He loved short aphorisms and jokes. He was also an anchor baby, so he would hate Trump. Bruce and George Takei would retweet each other constantly.

Bruce wanted to be a bigger star than Steve McQueen, but he modeled his career after Clint Eastwood who went to Italy, just as Bruce went to Hong Kong, to make it in Hollywood. As an artist, Bruce would have followed in Eastwood’s footsteps—acting in movies, trying out different genres besides just action, for about a decade or two, before eventually gravitating behind the camera as a director and producer. Ultimately being in control of his art was more important to Bruce than the adoration and fame that comes from acting.

As a person, Bruce would have continued down his spiritual path, written a number of books about mysticism and self-help, and been a regular guest on Oprah. 

GC: What were some of your favorite discoveries while researching Bruce?

MP: I was amused to discover he was such a terrible driver and yet he only got into one minor accident. People were afraid to drive with him, but somehow out of a combination of luck and reflexes he never crashed his car.

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GC: What discovery of Bruce Lee surprised you the most?

MP: One amusing surprise from my research was the discovery he was a bit of a pothead. In the magazines of my youth, he was always portrayed as almost an ascetic—a martial monk whose body was his temple. I was delighted by this human dimension. James Coburn said, “He’d want to get high and have a ball, listen to music. Blowing Gold was one of his favorite things.” Bruce was a bit of a hippie in the '60s.

GC: You've been in the martial world for years and you know how catty we can be. Are you worried about the reaction the martial community might have to your new book?

MP: My wife wants to unlist our phone number. Personally, I am going to be offended if nobody challenges me to a bareknuckle match. Kidding! But the truth is, if a biographer doesn't offend someone, then he didn't do his job. We are not P.R. agents. Our job is to describe who someone is and what they did over the course of their life as accurately, thoroughly, and fairly as possible. My motto is: "Don't defend or criticize, explain."

GC: There's a lot of revelations in your book that show Bruce in an unfavorable light.  How do you think the fanboys (and fangirls) might react?

MP: More than perhaps any other celebrity Bruce is a revered figure, because he inspired millions to study the martial arts and the study of the martial arts changed their lives for the better. I know, because I am one of those people. I'm sure there will be a few who would rather I had written a whitewashed version of Bruce's life, but I think most will be able to tell that I have real affection and admiration for Bruce Lee, not despite his faults but because of them. If he was perfect, his accomplishments wouldn't be remarkable. It is exactly because of his weaknesses that his achievements are so much more amazing.

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GC: I’ve also interviewed Bruce’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, and his daughter Shannon, but I didn’t approach anything potentially scandalous.  Was that awkward?

MP: In the course of my research, I discovered that Brandon was born 5 1/2 months after Bruce and Linda got married. In her two books, Linda never addressed the issue and no other Bruce Lee biography has ever mentioned it. It seems a rather important detail to skip or miss. I did the math a dozen times to make sure I wasn't mistaken. For weeks before my interview with Linda, I debated how to ask her the question. I was afraid she might end the interview and kick me out of the room. You never know where the lines are until you meet a person. Towards the end of our interview, I just said, "I hope this is not an offensive question, but Brandon was born 5 1/2 months after you and Bruce got married. Was he premature or, you know, were you already pregnant?" She kind of laughed at me, "Brandon wasn't premature." That was it. She wasn't bothered at all. I had fretted over that question needlessly.

GC: In your photos with Betty Ting Pei, she looks fabulous, so fashionably dressed with a sporty car.  How is she doing now?

MP: She was very charming to me. She kept taking me out to very fancy lunches and she wouldn't let me pay. I must have spent fifteen hours with her over a three-day period. She mostly wanted to talk about her Buddhist beliefs. She would get very emotional when I steered her back to Bruce, particularly the circumstances surrounding his death. At one point she yelled at me, "What does it matter? Why do you keep pushing? He's dead! What does it matter?" Interviewing Betty was something of an endurance contest. I probably got an hour of relevant material out of 15 hours of conversation. But it was information she has never told another Western reporter, so it was worth it.

GC: Meeting with Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Bob Wall, and Don "The Dragon" Wilson must have been extraordinary.  How was that for you?

MP: Bob Wall is a classic Irishman. I have uncles like him: expansive personality, very charming when he wants to be, lots of blarney, terrible temper. Benny was super chill and cool. Don "The Dragon" Wilson was like most Hollywood actors: instantly charming, always on the hustle, self-involved—talking about all the big names he knows and the big movie projects he's working on.

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GC: Your book reveals the intense racial prejudice that Lee faced as an Asian in America.  In these racially-charged times, do you think Asian Americans might reject you as a Bruce Lee biographer that’s not Asian?

MP: I doubt it'll be a problem. But if anyone objects, my response will be that they are missing the point of Bruce Lee's life and message. Despite criticism from Ruby Chow and other Chinese chauvinists, he accepted Jesse Glover, an African-American, as his first Kung Fu disciple in America. He taught students of all ethnic backgrounds without prejudice. When asked if he thought of himself as Chinese or American, Bruce said, "I think of myself as a human being, because under the sky, there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different."

It is worth pointing out that Bruce was Eurasian. Growing up in Hong Kong, he faced discrimination for not being fully Chinese. He got it from both sides of the East/West divide.

GC: While uncovering some of Lee’s more scandalous past, did you ever find yourself disillusioned by the legends of Lee?

MP: I don't think anything I uncovered was particularly scandalous or shocking. He was a Hong Konger from a wealthy family working as an actor in 1960s Hollywood. He smoked some pot and had a few affairs. His grandfather had 13 concubines. His father smoked opium. His role model was Steve McQueen who took every drug known to man and slept with every woman in a hundred-mile radius. Bruce never pretended to be perfect. When a journalist asked him about bad behavior in the entertainment industry, Bruce joked, "I'm not as bad as some of them. But I'm definitely not saying I am a saint." The mistake people made over the years was confusing Bruce Lee the man with the character he played in ENTER THE DRAGON, a celibate Shaolin monk.

The only time I got upset with Bruce was when he bought the Porsche 911. His wife was pregnant with their second child, Shannon. They had just bought a house in Bel Air for more money than they could afford. A month later, he runs out and buys a Porsche so he can compete with Steve McQueen. Less than a year later he severely injures his back and his wife has to get a crappy job to support the family because they can't pay the mortgage. When I was researching the Porsche, I was literally yelling at Bruce, "Don't buy it! Don't buy it! You're gunna need the money later!"

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Betty Ting Pei & Matt Polly

 

GC: After being immersed in this book project for the last six years of your life, are you still a Bruce Lee fanboy?

MP: More so than I was before. I never realized just how hard it was for him to become the first Chinese male actor to star in a Hollywood movie. The racism he had to overcome was immense. What he did was so impossible it took another 25 years before another Chinese actor, Jackie Chan, was able to replicate his accomplishment in RUSH HOUR (1998).

GC: After all of your research, do you think Bruce Lee lives up to his legend in terms of his martial mastery?

MP: No one could live up to the legend in some fans' imaginations. To them he is invincible, unstoppable, the greatest fighter to have ever lived. That's silly. There are 7 billion people on the planet—somebody is always better. Bruce was a great martial artist and an excellent fighter, but he was 5'7" and 135 lbs. Anyone who says size doesn't matter has never been in the ring.

GC: So what's your next book?  Don't say a Harlequin romance. 

MP: If I can get out of my NDA with Donald Trump, I'm going to write about our affair. If not, I'm toying with the idea of writing a narrative history of the martial arts.

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I asked someone if Polly brought up Lee's cortisone usage and weight loss & "JKD54" at Nick Clarke's forum, posted this:

In his harsh biography, Unsettled Matters, Tom Bleecker claimed that Bruce Lee abused steroids for years (pp. 85–87). Since his book contains no footnotes or endnotes, I asked him during our interview if he would provide me with evidence for his assertion. He refused. Bleecker’s book fanned long-held suspicions of steroid abuse. During my research for this book, I made a point of asking almost everyone who knew Bruce about it. About half strenuously denied it (Linda said, “Oh God, no. Never.”), and about half started to whisper or asked me to turn off my tape recorder. The latter didn’t have any evidence, but they still believed it and didn’t want to be on the record tarnishing his image.

Polly, Matthew. Bruce Lee: A Life (p. 547). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

59. In Bleecker’s scathing biography, he draws broad, unsubstantiated conclusions from Lee’s cryptorchidism—claiming that one undescended testicle caused Bruce to frequently suffer from impotence, an inability to develop a mature musculature without the aid of anabolic steroids, and “psychosocial immaturity” (pp. 19–20, 38). These claims are absurd. The only two physical risks associated with cryptorchidism are infertility and testicular cancer. It does not cause impotence or stunt muscular development, and there are no proven psychological side effects. Lee fathered two children, had an active sex life, and had the same wiry musculature in his teenage years as his two brothers.

Polly, Matthew. Bruce Lee: A Life (p. 524). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

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2 hours ago, Phantom Dreamer said:

I asked someone if Polly brought up Lee's cortisone usage and weight loss & "JKD54" at Nick Clarke's forum, posted this:

It's a long time sinc I read Bleeker's book, didnt he name a Dr who would give Lee the pain killer to inject?. Like when he left for Thailand to make TBB, and he went to get enough to last for the trip?.

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1 hour ago, DragonClaws said:

It's a long time sinc I read Bleeker's book, didnt he name a Dr who would give Lee the pain killer to inject?. Like when he left for Thailand to make TBB, and he went to get enough to last for the trip?.

From Unsettled Matters:

Meanwhile, in March of 1969 Bruce was admitted to St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica where surgeons removed the undeveloped testicle that had remained undescended since birth and repaired a hernia. A year after Bruce's surgery to correct his cryptorchidism, and in a somewhat camouflaged but related matter, his overly publicized back ailment occurred. 
According to Dr. Lionel Walpin, who examined Lee in September 1970, Bruce's back spasm was triggered during an episode of vigorous sexual intercourse in June 1970. After giving Bruce a complete physical examination and ordering a set of spinal X-rays, Dr. Walpin concluded that there was little wrong with him. After a brief period, and with the help of a Jacuzzi, Bruce straightened out and returned to his usual workouts and running.

Besides Dr. Walpin, Bruce was referred to Dr. Herbert Tanney by director Blake Edwards, who is best known for his string of Pink Panther movies and his marriage to actress/singer Julie Andrews. 
The result of Bruce's meeting with Dr. Tanney was a general work-up, lab tests and spinal X-rays. Although nothing was seriously the matter with Bruce, Tanney, as he had been doing for a substantial time with Edwards, began injecting cortisone into Bruce's spine. Apparently it didnt completely remedy the problem, whatever the problem was, and in December 1970 Tanney referred Bruce to Dr. Ellis Silberman in Century City for another extensive series of X-rays. Silbermans summary: Examination of the lumbosacral spine and pelvis was within normal limits. Bruce wasnt satisfied, and he continued to return to Tanneys office on a semi-regular basis for cortisone (depo-Medrol) injections. 

Edited by Phantom Dreamer

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9 hours ago, Phantom Dreamer said:

From Unsettled Matters:

Meanwhile, in March of 1969 Bruce was admitted to St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica where surgeons removed the undeveloped testicle that had remained undescended since birth and repaired a hernia. A year after Bruce's surgery to correct his cryptorchidism, and in a somewhat camouflaged but related matter, his overly publicized back ailment occurred. 
According to Dr. Lionel Walpin, who examined Lee in September 1970, Bruce's back spasm was triggered during an episode of vigorous sexual intercourse in June 1970. After giving Bruce a complete physical examination and ordering a set of spinal X-rays, Dr. Walpin concluded that there was little wrong with him. After a brief period, and with the help of a Jacuzzi, Bruce straightened out and returned to his usual workouts and running.

Besides Dr. Walpin, Bruce was referred to Dr. Herbert Tanney by director Blake Edwards, who is best known for his string of Pink Panther movies and his marriage to actress/singer Julie Andrews. 
The result of Bruce's meeting with Dr. Tanney was a general work-up, lab tests and spinal X-rays. Although nothing was seriously the matter with Bruce, Tanney, as he had been doing for a substantial time with Edwards, began injecting cortisone into Bruce's spine. Apparently it didnt completely remedy the problem, whatever the problem was, and in December 1970 Tanney referred Bruce to Dr. Ellis Silberman in Century City for another extensive series of X-rays. Silbermans summary: Examination of the lumbosacral spine and pelvis was within normal limits. Bruce wasnt satisfied, and he continued to return to Tanneys office on a semi-regular basis for cortisone (depo-Medrol) injections. 

Thanks for that, the first quote you posted, featuring content from Nick Clarkes BL Lives forum. Still doesnt mention the pain killer, while I cant say for certain, its appears Polly's new book doesnt mention this at all?.

Edited by DragonClaws

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8 hours ago, Fist of the Heavenly Sky said:

I know the "lies" was a misspelling, but I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of it.

It's a good job its not the internet of fifteen years ago, I could have started a forum war with a typo/comment like that.

Post amended.

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When Steve McQueen was just starting out in the 1950s, he hung with Frank Sinatra and saw the private jets, limousines, red carpet events, screaming fans, opened doors and fawning admiration. "I want some of that," McQueen whispered to his wife. In the 1960s, it was Bruce Lee's turn to feel the same way.

What Lee wanted more than anything was a new sports car. He neglected his old Chevy Nova, hardly ever cleaning it. The only thing he liked was the sticker on the back window with the inscription: "This Car Is Protected by the Green Hornet." (Lee made his U.S. debut playing Kato in the 1960s ABC series.)

Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring would let Lee race his Shelby Cobra along Mulholland Drive. Lee admired the Cobra, but what he really desired was a Porsche 911S Targa, because McQueen had one. On Aug. 26, 1968, he visited Bob Smith's Volkswagen-Porsche dealership in Hollywood for a test drive. As soon as he got home, he called up McQueen in Palm Springs. "Steve, I'm going to get a Porsche like yours," Lee declared.

"Look, Bruce, let me take you for a ride in mine when I get back," McQueen cautioned. "It's a hot car, but if you don't know what you are doing you can get into trouble with this thing."

McQueen could have made his living as a Grand Prix driver, while Lee was by all accounts a menace behind the wheel. ("He was just way too fast," says Dan Inosanto, Lee's training partner. "It would scare me.") Lee was expecting a joy ride, but McQueen hoped to frighten Lee out of buying a Porsche.

McQueen picked up Lee and drove up the San Fernando Valley to Mulholland Drive. "OK, Bruce, you ready?" McQueen said. "Yes, I'm all set. Let's go!" McQueen peeled away, grinding through the gears as he twisted and turned along the winding, dangerous path high in the Santa Monica mountains. "What do you think of this power, Bruce?" McQueen shouted over the engine roar. Lee said nothing. "Watch this!" McQueen yelled as he slalomed to the edge of the precipice. "Isn't that great, Bruce? See how it handles. Now watch how I slide it!" McQueen put the Porsche into a tail slide as he went right to the edge. "Isn't that great, Bruce?" No reply.

"Watch this, Bruce. Sucker will do a mean 180," McQueen announced as he geared it up, spun it around, and stopped the car. He looked over: "What do you think, Bruce?" But Lee wasn't in the seat. McQueen looked down and saw Lee huddled in the footwell with his hands over his head. "McQueen, you sonovabitch!" Lee shouted as he pulled himself back into the seat. "McQueen, I'll bloody kill you! I'll kill you, McQueen! I'm gonna kill you!"

McQueen saw the look of rage on Lee's face and it terrified him. He knew how deadly Lee could be when he was angry. So McQueen raced back up Mulholland Drive as fast as he could. "Bruce, calm down!" McQueen shouted.

"Steve, slow down," Lee cried out. "You won't hit me, will you, Bruce?" McQueen pleaded. "No, no," said Lee. "You won't hurt me will you?" McQueen asked again. "No, no!" yelled Lee. "Just stop the car. Stop the car!" McQueen finally pulled over to the side, and Lee said, "I will never drive with you again, McQueen. Never!"

Excerpted from Bruce Lee: A Life © 2018 by Matthew Polly. Published by Simon & Schuster.

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Recall Pat Johnson telling a condensed version of the aboove story about Mcqueen scaring Lee in the car. Only he mentioned Lee got him back with a prank, during a later training session.

Edited by DragonClaws

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9 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Recall Pat Johnson telling a condensed version of the aboove story about Mcqueen scaring Lee in the car. Only he mentioned Le got him back with a prank, during a later training session.

I read the same story in a Steve McQueen biography. I wonder if that's cited in the bibliography. The author of that McQueen book made it a point multiple times that Bruce Lee spoke in "broken English".

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Toronto Star:

When Matthew Polly began research for his biography of the late, great Chinese American martial arts icon Bruce Lee, he made a wish list of people to interview. Near the top was Chuck Norris, who co-starred with Lee in the classic 1972 fight film Way of the Dragon. Polly was offered an introduction to the former Hollywood star, but was cautioned that his request would probably be turned down.

“Chuck won’t talk because he hates the fact that 45 years later Bruce is still more famous than he is, and is sick of answering questions about him,” says Polly, with a laugh. “Wherever he goes, people ask him about Bruce.”

Norris’s reaction only makes Polly’s Bruce Lee: A Life all the more remarkable.

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2018/06/15/bruce-lees-life-still-fascinates-45-years-after-his-death.html

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