I have to establish the history before I get to the motive. It was stated back in 1973 (the year of his death) by none other than James Coburn (who wanted Bruce to film The Silent Flute for 20th Century Fox) that Lee said to him (when they were in Hong Kong):
“If Paramount can give Brando a million bucks, the Shaws can do the same for me.”
It was a vengeful ploy to make a prestigious Kung Fu film with the biggest studio in Southeast Asia on his terms. R.R. Shaw had already sent a correspondent to name his price. Various writers begun preparing scripts, and names of directors began to get tossed about. Chor Yuen (楚原) was said to have the uppermost advantage because of his acquaintanceship with Bruce, who was to be directed by Cheng Kang (程剛) instead of Chang Cheh (張徹).
Ray Chow (a former Shaw Brothers employee who can be found on Google as 鄒文懷) was well aware of the Shaws tampering with Golden Harvest’s biggest cash cow, and really didn’t sit well with the idea. At every level inside the production of Enter the Dragon, Run Run also had people who reported information on the project (i.e. spies working on a spy movie). R.R. believed that it may not finish due to the difficulties between the oddly-coupled H.K. and U.S. studios.
Working for S.B. at a production cost and a pay-rate that G.H. could not match would’ve meant the end for Ray. Not to mention the truly tremendous loss of face, being that it was he who gave Lee his shot. A Shaw production would’ve been more lavish than the Hollywood glamour that Enter the Dragon (龍爭虎鬥) was meant to be. Before getting into the film industry, Ray worked for Taiwan’s equivalent to the C.I.A. – National Security Bureau (meaning he could cover his tracks).
Naysayers will say that the truth would’ve come out by now, but you have to account for the mysterious absences of Richey Edwards and Jimmy Hoffa. Some people know what happened to their bodies, but that doesn’t mean they are going to come out with the truth – even if they are on their deathbeds (therefore taking it with them to their graves). Ray initially didn’t want Bruce to do Enter the Dragon because he didn’t want to lose him to the U.S. studios.
All the contacts which Lee had made at Warner Brothers had paid off after his Western concept hadn’t took off (a memo stated that he was too Oriental to play the lead role in what would be later re-titled as Kung Fu). Because of the “now or never” nature of the Americans, the shooting of Game of Death (死亡遊戲) was postponed so that Enter the Dragon could begin. Ray was now working with the Americans, with possibilities seeming more endless than what Shaw had (although The Way of the Dragon inspired S.B. to collaborate with Italian film production companies).
If he could develop strong ties with W.B. then he would never have to worry about S.B. again. This was a way of using Bruce to make a name for himself overseas. Ray began giving interviews to the H.K. press, stating that Bruce was like a stupid child who owed his success to Ray’s fatherly advice. Ray said that he was the puppet master to Bruce’s senseless puppet, but this backfired. A violent encounter ensued as can be read in the below timeline.
Chaplin Chang recalled that Lee had a tendency to hurl mother-prefixed insults at Ray’s face. W.B. were only interested in Lee and not Ray’s “G.H.” company (which was still something of an upstart than a major global player), making Lee feel betrayed by his cohort (even though they weren’t cohesive). Lee intended for his G.H. offshoot company (Concord) to co-produce with S.B. (even going as far to pose for costume test shots in more guises than what is shown in this article’s featured image of a G.H. brick wall).
Before he could defect, Bruce died after the post-production of Enter the Dragon came to an end. In a posthumous interview, Ray stated that he didn’t view the Game of Death footage for a long time because he was too upset. That’s odd, considering that he sent a camera crew around to film his dead friend’s home for a documentary titled Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend. They also filmed the grieving Lee family, the funeral services, Bruce’s body and Ray escorting Linda to the airport.
These cinematic grave-robbers even returned to film more shots of Lee’s house as the removal men stripped the place. In a matter of months, this alleged tribute to the late Lee was being shown in H.K. cinemas. Ray still harbored hopes of breaking into the U.S. scene (Game of Death was the key to the Stateside gate). Lee’s script was disregarded with indecent haste and replaced with a dim scenario which would hopefully convince the U.S. market that Ray could produce films just as tawdry as their own.
There is even a character named Marshall (named after Bruce’s attorney whose forename was Adrian). In fact, there are many details based on Bruce’s life. The initials of the character – Billy Lo. He has a Mercedes and an impulsive temper. His disguise consists of Ray Bans, Italian fashions and a beard. He has a Caucasian girlfriend. There’s the suspicious inclusion of on-set accidents like falling set lights.
This mimics the train wreck of a production that Enter the Dragon was. The only element missing was marijuana due to the implausibility of a stoned fighter who is not defective. What should be a memorial becomes an incriminating exposé that serves no helpful purpose other than warning stars of the dangers incurred from resisting the services of syndicates. Lo Wei (羅維) wanted Jackie Chan (成龙) to lose blood for refusing to finish Fearless Hyena II, whose lack of completion made it hackneyed.
With Lee alive, the incomplete Game of Death would always come second to what else would’ve been lined up. It would’ve been another Lee project as opposed to some magnum opus. Lee’s plan was to have his own company in the U.S. Lam Ching-Ying (林正英) claimed that he wanted to emigrate the best of the H.K. stunt community to America, thereby cleaning house to the extent that many H.K. film producers were standing in the shallow end of the talent pool (if not a complete wasteland). One man who accepted his invitation was Bolo Yeung (楊斯).
Ray never worried about Jackie abandoning G.H. after making The Big Brawl. This was because he was a virtual unknown, so success would be as limited as his English. Linda Lee would attest to Bruce having a foul temper that went well beyond the verbal scale (which he admitted in a 1971 interview). Even in the Linda-authorized Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, he goes into a blind rage (it’s fitting that there is a B-grade movie titled Blind Fists of Bruce Lee).
One offer that he considered was to be a lead voice actor for a Hanna-Barbera TV series (which foreshadowed Jackie Chan Adventures). I never bought into the story about Ray working with him on the script for Game of Death on the day that Lee died. It was already finalized (as was complexly detailed in a 2001 John Little book titled The Warrior’s Journey), so Ray has always been obscuring the fact because he needed an alibi to avoid prosecution!
I have a hard time believing that a single tablet of Equagesic caused Lee’s demise when, a few months prior, he collapsed with the same symptoms and he had not taken the drug. Ray was present on both occasions. The headache excuse for his passing is hogwash. Here’s why – the medication that he took for his headache at Betty Ting’s apartment, Beverly Heights, was essentially the same meds that he was taking for his back pain.
It was Ray who stated that Bruce collapsed at home while walking in his garden with Linda (which was partially reconstructed for the documentary so that people could imagine it). He retracted by stating that he was saving Linda from the swirl of gossip, despite there already being tabloids concerning Betty before he died (they had an affair because she resembled a Japanese ex-girlfriend named Amy Sanbo). It was Ray who introduced Bruce to the actress known as Ting-Pei (a.k.a. 丁珮). Ray played Cupid because Bruce’s two picture deal was coming to an end in early 1972.
Like how Jackie was lampooned by Wong Jing (王晶) in High Risk (鼠膽龍威) as being something of a womanizer, Lee was a philosophical philanderer. The endlessly sterling Stirling Silliphant (R.I.P.) claimed that Lee bragged to him that he had got it on with two women on the night after Silliphant had turned down his invitation to go out with them. John Saxon claimed that Lee recommended that they go out with some of the Chinese women.
Bob Wall claimed that Bruce collected issues of Playboy (the irony wouldn’t be lost on Bob that there would be an issue featuring Bruce 40 years down the line). In his last month, he pushed Ray over a couch. Wu Ngan (affectionately known as Ngan Jai) was there to witness it. Bruce confided to his youngest brother, Robert, about it. Bruce was paranoid about people contaminating his food and drinks in the last months of his life (there are Enter the Dragon production pics of himself holding a Thermos flask). Ahna Capri saw a stuntman near his flask, Bruce freaked out, so the kid was fired.
It has been suggested that the real cause of his downfall was Nepalese hashish. It made sense except that people tend to calm down when ingesting it. A circulated allegation is that he removed his sweat glands. With Lee being a health nut, I doubt that he would’ve put his body in a mode where it can’t remove toxins. Also, sweat makes the muscles more defined. He was equally brainy and brawny. He was such a devout reader that he was an uncompromising researcher.
If a man can be paranoid about enemies then he can certainly be paranoid about his health. One of the side effects of excessive hash intake is severe paranoia, especially if it’s been laced. Although he didn’t want to live as an elderly man (similar to how Kurt Cobain felt), he didn’t want to die yet. The fact that Bruce didn’t flee H.K. to film overseas (such as a Caribbean island) shows that he was too self-assured to be totally paranoid. Consider this – you’re Bruce, you’re slowly being poisoned by someone who has access to you and what you eat, drink or wear.
Imagine that you only trust your meek butler. One of the symptoms of consuming Nitrophenolic and Nitrocresolic herbicides (or pesticides) is thirst. Charles Lowe witnessed Lee drink copious amounts of saké. Anorexia was another symptom. His overtraining is seldom blamed, but he told Dan Inosanto that having a film career didn’t allow much time for training. Mitoshi Uyehara confirmed this in a 1988 book titled Bruce Lee: The Incomparable Fighter.
If weed is laced, the drug-taker can be prone to acts of violence akin to roid rage. The question is whether Bruce was given laced weed so as to trigger a tantrum that would allow for an excuse to end him. When he was pronounced dead, Linda asked Betty if she could back up the story that he died at home. It was only after this that Linda had his stuntmen over for a banquet to celebrate his life. The guys were saying how he was slain. She reprimanded in a hysterical tone – If I do not want to know how he really died, then why should you?
The sneaking suspicion was backed up by Peter Lee (oldest brother) about Ngan (a childhood pal and butler that had his own family live with him at Bruce’s final home). Bruce’s assets were in Ngan’s name (Bruce was a tax scammer), so the latter received a large sum of money from Linda’s lawyer to sort this out after Bruce died. He quickly returned to England. In 1974, two insurance companies only paid half because they were unable to obtain a copy of the autopsy report, not because of what it included but what was missing pointed to something much more.
Lee had bruises on his face which were consistent with someone who had been attacked. His forehead appears to be branded by an iron which was then used to singe Lee’s left eyebrow so that onlookers got the hint from the angle. The left side of his neck was swollen – an indication of strangulation or a crowbar. Either way, Lee was the victim of intense intent. Nancy Kwan (who Lee choreographed for The Wrecking Crew) had a friend who oversaw the investigation, and he claims that there was one shoe missing. This made some believe that Lee was taken to Betty’s apartment with one shoe.
The message was wait until the other shoe drops. Basically, the police were told that he died in Betty’s bedroom whereas the press were told that he died at Linda’s house. I suspect that there was domestic abuse which could only be resolved by gangsters suppressing him, otherwise he could easily oppress a martial artist. Ed Khmara (writer) and Jason Scott Lee wanted Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story to be the Chinese answer to Raging Bull, but the powers that be forbade that.
In 1976, Betty married an actor/gangster named Charles Heung (向華強). Another such guy was a friend of Bruce named Michael Chan Wai-Man (陳惠敏), who spoke of how the police and crooks of the ’70s were interchangeable. Before Bruce left H.K. at the age of 18, he unwittingly beaten up the lowlife son of a high-ranking police officer. It’s been reported that Michael was the one who told Ray that Bruce was dead. Ray allegedly asked who else met their ends.
According to Dr. Peter Wu, his use of hashish was the only possible reason for his collapse in May. Peter demanded him to stop using it. Lee was inhaling cannabis since the late 60’s, so he knew his limitations. He was also eating hash brownies, so he knew the outcome of that as well. Without lacing, hash addicts can still have dilated pupils and loss of memory or consciousness. Very rarely does someone die from a fatal reaction to cannabis intake. An antigen (or foreign substance) was added to what he ingested without his knowledge.
Many addicts take drugs that have been laced with an antigen which gives them a sickly reaction. The result can be either a death-bed or a sick-bed. Bruce should’ve changed his supplier. Bruce was quoted as telling Uyehara about marijuana in The Incomparable Fighter:
“You notice everything more sharply. You become aware of everything. Awareness is what we’re trying to reach in martial arts, but in a more natural way.”
Chuck Norris claimed in Against All Odds (a memoir which is his sixth book) that Bruce’s steroid experimentation was well known in his social circle. You should ruminate for a bit that Lee was only sick in H.K. and not in the U.S. He almost dies and comes to the U.S. for a check-up by the top doctor of neurology at U.C.L.A. who happened to be the doctor of Paul Heller (one of Lee’s producers). They found no cause for Bruce almost passing in the previous fortnight. Bob Wall laments that M.R.I. scans weren’t commonplace back then.
If you go into a coma, almost die, get very sick, have pale skin, spend the duration of a week not talking without slurring like you’ve had a stroke, you come back to the States to be checked out by a top doctor, have numerous tests on top of that, and there is nothing found, then that means something is happening to you in the other place where you live. Think about it; if the cause of himself passing out and almost passing away is serious then, for sure, they would’ve found something wrong at the top clinic.
The cause could very well have been asbestos (Brittany Murphy also met her maker by this at the age of 32). David Tadman interviewed two policemen who were on the force at that time and they say that it was a cover-up. Furthermore, Mang Hoi (孟海), Sammo Hung (洪金寶), Yuen Wah (元華), Peter Chan Lung (陳龍) and many others will tell you that foul play was afoot. Lam Ching-Ying didn’t have to go on the lam because he kept his cards close due to Triads having as much influence in H.K. as Jews in Hollywood.
Even George Lee (a Jeet Kune Do student) claimed that, in the last month before he deceased, Bruce admitted that H.K. was getting nasty and he wanted out. James DeMile (who was his first student) was so convinced that Bruce had been murdered that he mounted an investigation. He came to the conclusion that he was poisoned by people who he antagonized in the H.K. film industry. I will present a timeline…
Monday, January 1, 1973 – Michael Allin (the writer of Enter the Dragon) goes to the Hyatt Regency hotel in H.K. so as to dine with Robert Clouse (the director) and Fred Weintraub (the main producer). Fred tells Michael that Bruce walked out in anger over the script. According to Clouse, he was so angry that he took a swing at Linda.
Thursday, January 25 – The first week of filming begins. According to Paul Heller (in a 2004 issue of Jade Screen magazine), Bruce was absent all week for many reasons besides being nervous about starring in his first U.S. film. Paul didn’t want to elaborate other than describing Bruce as a great strategist.
Thursday, February 1 – Lee starts filming on his son’s 8th birthday. Chinese people regard 8 as a lucky number. Ahna Capri wants to try some of the local delights (drugs). He tells her not to go around looking for these things in H.K. as you never know who will spike your goods. Ahna agrees not to. Ray insures his life under a Singaporean company called American International Assurance.
Friday, February 2 – At 2 in the morning, capricious Capri gets a knock on her door, she opens it and finds a box of goodies for her. No one is there. The next day on set, she sees Bruce and he gives her a big smile. Linda begins to bring hash brownies to the set. This helps to ease the tension given that many of the extras were Triads – some of whom had challenged Bruce as well as each other. In The Incomparable Fighter, the author recounted Bruce telling him that one challenger who lost against him ended up being stabbed to death the next day by one or more guys who may have been fans. Bruce observed that it’s not uncommon to be killed for the slightest antagonism.
Thursday, March 1 – He wants to sue the Sing Hoi (Star Sea) Motion Picture Company after they use his image in Fists of Unicorn (which he choreographed when it was originally going to be called The Unicorn Palm). His death prevented the lawsuit from happening. What’s intriguing is that this company produced a 1974 movie (Chinese Godfather) starring Betty opposite Chan Wai-Man, who was at the Fists of Unicorn press conference (in the summer of 1972) with Lee and Fan Mei-Sheng (the latter planned Chinese Godfather). It speaks volumes about his budding friendship with Lee that Jackie had been invited by him to appear in Fists of Unicorn (麒麟掌).
Friday, March 2 – Ray confirmed to the media that G.H. was trying to bring together Bruce and former co-star Siu Fong-Fong (蕭芳芳) a.k.a. Josephine Siao, who is primarily known to Westerners as playing Jet Li’s feisty mother in the Fong Sai Yuk duology that was released to avid fanfare and critical adulation in March, 1993. 20 years earlier, she was returning to the limelight after studying at Seton Hall University in New Jersey (she got an honours degree in Communications). According to Ray, preliminary talks between both sides had so far turned out favourable.
Sunday, April 1 – When filming a new opening scene of Enter the Dragon (a cold open or a prologue instead of a replacement), Sammo (the portly partner in the sparring session) notices that Lee’s pupils are dilated. According to Clouse’s book about Enter the Dragon, Lee tried to dissuade an old friend from using drugs. He spent some time trying to send the man to a rehabilitation center but failed. He got a doctor to visit his friend and continued paying for medicine until he found out that the guy was selling the vitamins to raise cash for more drugs. The irony isn’t that Lee was a drug addict but that he didn’t get the munchies after taking reefer.
Back to Mr. Hung, it’s fascinating that some of Bruce’s friends became his (namely Wu Fung and Zebra Pan). Sammo asked Bruce why he lost weight, to which the latter responded that he was experimenting to see how quick that he could be with less fat. This has turned out to be a matter of pride. In actual fact, Bruce told Peter Lee (eldest brother) that he was very concerned with his weight loss and did not know why it was happening. My theory is that Bruce’s lower back pain was so immense that his constant cortisone injections caused muscle atrophy.
Monday, April 30 – Linda places insurance on Bruce’s life through a company called Lloyds of London for over a million U.S. dollars. What incriminates her more is that he listed his total earnings on his federal income tax as a mere 17,000 $.
Saturday, May 5 – The insurance policies had come into place. This is creepily reminiscent of The Chinese Stuntman (a 1981 drama starring Bruce Li a.k.a. James Ho). It was planned because he didn’t dance to the tune of the Triads. The Chinese Stuntman is a Bruceploitation movie without people knowing it (it’s not merely a case of “in name only” in terms of the lead’s stage name). In 1971, he had to be restrained from wailing on rival hustlers when Lo Wei paid to film the park scene in Fist of Fury (精武門). Linda was all too aware that his refusal could hamper the welfare of their two kids. The Big Boss (唐山大兄) was filmed in Thailand for a reason.
Thursday, May 10 – He nearly dies during a break in the dubbing session of Enter the Dragon at the G.H. studio. He collapses in the men’s room and pretends that he is looking for his glasses. A studio assistant helps him walk to the dubbing room, but Lee collapses and convulses. Ray calls Baptist Hospital with the intent of asking to talk with his own physician instead of phoning the paramedics. When Lee wakes up, his eyes are spinning. The doctors presume that he is poisoned because of a combination of kidney failure and brain swelling. The drug that saved his life was Mannitol because it tends to be used to flush out a lethal excess of sodium. Near the end of his life, he was existing on a diet of carrot and apple juice. Therefore, his drug stash was tainted.
Friday, May 25 – Bruce goes to L.A. for the check-up and is told by a physician that he’s got a body that is akin to that of an 18-year-old. A neurologist gives him medication for the management of epilepsy. Bob Wall, like Maria Yi (衣依) and Nora Miao (苗可秀) before him, notices that Bruce repeats himself like he’s telling an anecdote for the first time. Van Williams (the star of The Green Hornet) was told by Bruce that the reason for the migraines was that he had pinched a nerve in his neck.
Tuesday, May 29 – Lee meets the Japanese author of The Incomparable Fighter for the final time. The man whose name is often abbreviated to M. had observed that Lee was emaciated. His waist only measured 26 inches. Lee tried to get out of it by saying that the camera adds 10 pounds, so his 120 lbs frame would be 130 lbs in front of a lens. Lee proved to M. that he was more powerful than ever when getting him to hold a cushion so that Lee could deliver a punch that was 6 inches away. The cushion landed at the far corner of the room.
Thursday, June 28 – Despite the fact that Lee has assured Ray that he is still a G.H. affiliate by making daily visits to the set of Taekwondo Heroes (which Ray spearheaded at Lee’s suggestion), Ray is aghast when reading an issue of The China Mail which states that Lee has scooped a superstar salary. This was for the role of Lieutenant Hip in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Ray could imagine the headline had Bruce went from being in talks to actually signing: From Golden Harvest to Golden Gun. Bruce had already scared him with the S.B. photoshoot in the first week of June. The old devil should’ve gleaned the last detail that Bruce imparted:
“It gives me security in the years ahead and makes taxation much easier. Besides, it doesn’t bar me from working with any other studio.”
Tuesday, July 10 – Lo Wei (who also directed The Big Boss) claims that Bruce threatened him with a knife in a G.H. screening room. Bruce counteracts that he wouldn’t need to kill Lo with a weapon. His ownership of it indicates a wary awareness that his physical condition was too weakened to intimidate. The cops never found it because Linda had hid it. This day also marks the final televised interview that Bruce gave. In the last and lost TVB interview with Ivan Ho, he indirectly chastises Lo. Wei had ties to the mob as Jackie attested in his 1998 book, which spilled the beans on Lo being a top member of the Sun Yee On Triad (which was headed by the dad of Charles Heung). They rule a New Territories town, Tuen Mun, where Bruce filmed the first scenes of Enter the Dragon. Ouch!
Thursday, July 12 – Lee demands Ray to invite Wong Ak-Chung, who was the editor of Galaxy Pictorial Magazine (a G.H. publication). Lee was livid about an article written by Wong. Ray tried to assure Lee that he bore no ill will. When Wong arrived, Lee told him to sit down. Lee then drew out his small knife from his belt and placed it on his neck. He rebukes him by making a metaphor about his knife being similar to a pen before rebuking him for claiming that Ray groomed him. His anger gradually subsided after Ray helped Wong to put in a good word. After the misunderstanding was cleared, Lee shook hands with a visibly shaken Wong.
Saturday, July 14 – Jackie claimed that the bowling anecdote took place 6 days before Bruce died. What’s fascinating to note is that Bruce didn’t bowl despite wanting to go with Jackie. From the latter’s point-of-view, Bruce was brooding in a way that suggested he was plotting his next move (as mentioned in a book titled Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan). Meanwhile, many of the bowlers were bowled over by the fact that he was there. In an interview with Jackie, John Little learned that Jackie liked to go to the bowling alleys because the Triads never frequented there. He stopped going to the pool halls because that’s where the Triads would congregate.
Tuesday, July 17 – Wong sees Lee at the G.H. studio, he decides to walk away but Lee sees him and engages him in conversation. After a while of chatting, Lee tells him that some people in H.K. are not friendly with him. Wong doesn’t understand who he is referring to. Afterwards, Lee declares that he will return to Seattle. This was the day that he was supposed to have got Ray to sign George Lazenby to G.H. If true, Lee intended Lazenby to be his successor so that Ray wouldn’t be so clingy. If false, Ray was the one who anointed Lazenby for the press to anoint as Golden Harvest’s golden boy. I find it to be dubious that there has never been photos of the two stars to highlight such a momentous occasion. For those who care to differ…
Thursday, July 19 – There is a vitriolic argument at night. Bruce and Ray argue over the accounts of Concord.Tom Bleecker claimed that the box office receipt of The Way of the Dragon (猛龍過江) was falsely inflated (foreboding how Ip Man 3 was reported for having a fraudulent earning). This was to hide the fact that protection money was being laundered to the Triads.
Jhoon Rhee mentioned that Lee told him in a phone call (on the day before he met his maker) that he quarrelled with Huang Feng (a director) because Lee wanted Rhee to get top billing for what was now going to be known in English as When Taekwondo Strikes (跆拳震九州). It should be noted that, when it got released in September, Angela Mao got top billing. Rhee thinks that Lee tended to treat Ray like a servant.
Friday, July 20 – It’s interesting that he died on this date given that 20th Century Fox wanted him to return to the passion project that was The Silent Flute. This was also the same day when Fist of Fury was released in the U.K. Ray knew damn well that Bruce was on the verge of death, but dragged out the time so that the ambulance wouldn’t reach him in time. It’s too convenient of Ray to use George as an alibi. The excuse was that the trio were to discuss Game of Death at the Gum Tin Jung restaurant within the Miramar hotel (George claims that the Japanese made Bruce’s favourite food). This was a droll way for Ray to exonerate himself from being involved in the matter.
Andre Morgan (G.H. producer) claimed that the trio had a morning meeting at his office. Lee ate hash (almost a semi-literal smoking gun), complained of a headache and asked Andre for codeine but he didn’t have any. Lazenby claimed to have lunch with Lee after the meeting. According to Matthew Polly’s Chasing the Dragon article for Playboy, Lee and Ray went straight to Betty’s home instead of Lee’s house. Maybe Lee would still have been alive if he focused on casting Irene Ryder instead.
There has been hearsay about whether Bruce really did write to his attorney, Adrian Marshall, on this day. After all, his service was dismissed in the previous year for a reason which hasn’t been satisfactory. Considering that Adrian went on to have a decade-spanning relationship with Linda after the death, it’s patently clear that the letter was a fabrication so as to make sure that she could control Bruce’s estate. It becomes clearer when reading the following sentence from the letter:
“I would like to meet with you first before meeting with Raymond Chow and then both of us will hear him out.”
13:00 – In what I call the thirteenth hour, Linda claims to have said goodbye to Bruce so that she could have lunch with Rebu Hui – the wife of a singer named Samuel (許冠傑). She didn’t say that it happened at 1 p.m. on the dot; it was just sometime in that hour. As an aside, I should point out that “thirteenth stroke of the clock” is a phrase to indicate that the previous events must be called into question.
14:00 – Ray supposedly visited Bruce’s home, Crane’s Nest, to plan the pagoda picture. Both were alone. It’s eerie that everyone was gone on the day that he died, because the Lee residence usually had the hustle and bustle that you would expect if two families lived under the same roof of a house that wasn’t semi-detached (it was more busy than a Chinese restaurant). To this very day, Linda can’t recount the whereabouts of Ngan (胡奀) and his family. A probable scenario is that Ray hinted about the Triads not being pleased by the way which Bruce brushed them off. He also most likely hinted that it was a bad idea for him to leave H.K. for good.
Bruce went ballistic and told Ray that the Triads had no sway over him. Ray went back to the Triads and informed them that Bruce wouldn’t play ball. Needless to say, the Triads wanted his head to be dead as a form of enough was enough. The Triads and Ray knew that they would be screwed financially if Bruce stayed in Hollywood – more box office competition. Despite being a top fighter, he wasn’t expecting to encounter a group of mobsters equipped with an assortment of blades. While some thugs may have encountered an untimely end, Bruce gets mortally wounded.
15:00 – According to the doorman, Bruce and Ray arrived at Beverly Heights. At the inquest, Ray was asked about this to which he heatedly denied it by explaining that it wasn’t possible because they were studying a new draft. It’s more likely that Betty was being used to talk sense to Bruce.
16:00 – Linda missed Bruce by a hair’s breadth because Ray claimed to have driven him to Betty so that they could discuss Game of Death. The doorman claimed that Ray left Beverly Heights at this time. What happened there from 16:00 to 22:00 is anyone’s guess. Bruce was more likely fatally stabbed. His bare torso was never photographed by the medical examiner or even the coroner. It was enough time to get rid of him and clean up any blood residue (this was before ultraviolet lights were invented to detect blood splatter). A female employee, Ma Cheh, reported that she heard Bruce shouting crazily and banging on the door in the evening.
19:30 – The official story of his decay starts at this moment. Bruce complains of a headache, so he takes an aspirin. Lazenby claimed that Bruce called him at the restaurant to complain about the headache. Lazenby told him that they could cancel dinner, but Bruce insisted that he wouldn’t bail out. You would think that Bruce would be self-medicating while waiting for a taxi. If the ex-Bond is telling the truth, this would mean that Bruce called after telling Betty about it. If he’s lying, this means that Ray happened upon the discovery that citing extortion would make Lazenby’s hastily-arranged contract go from bribery to blackmail.
21:00 – Betty was either awakened by Bruce convulsing or she awoke on her own to discover he had lapsed into what she believed was a coma. Ray called her to find out why Bruce and herself weren’t at the meeting in the Japan-themed restaurant. Ray and Betty have a fair chance of saving his life. He undergoes the same medical problem in May. Either one can call an ambulance and have him transported to Baptist where doctors familiar with his previous collapse will administer Mannitol, thus relieving him of the cerebral-spinal fluid pressure in his brain. Neither one promptly reports. I find it to be suspect that Linda never filed charges for gross negligence.
21:20 – Ray has spent 20 minutes driving over to Beverly Heights through a typhoon.
21:30 – Ray has slapped Bruce around and shaken him violently for 10 minutes! I’m sure that someone with a bleak streak of humour will say that it symbolizes how Ray’s misconduct was a slap in the face. Failing to awaken him, he calls Betty’s personal physician. The line is busy, but Ray keeps trying and finally gets through. It’s too bad that Bruce didn’t have his entourage with him.
21:50 – Dr. Eugene Chu has driven over to Betty’s place.
22:00 – He has slapped Bruce around for 10 minutes and, at some point, begins to have difficulty finding a pulse! Eugene decides to have Bruce transported to a hospital. Baptist is just a few short blocks away. Does Eugene order Bruce rushed to Baptist? No. He has the ambulance driver transport him clear across the city to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (who weren’t familiar with his medical history). Ray calls Linda to tell her to arrive at the latter hospital. Incidentally, it is nearest to Bruce’s home. She recalled (in the I am Bruce Lee doc) that she was at the hospital way before he arrived. The receptionist didn’t even know about him being sent to the hospital.
22:15 – The ambulance arrives. Over the years, people speculated that the reason why it took so long for Bruce to be taken to the hospital is because he was naked. In recent years, Betty confirmed that they did have an affair. It doesn’t help matters that Betty teaching BDSM has been conjectured as to why he had experienced submucosal hemorrhages in the rectum. To be fair, he did say that he was receiving a revelation of cleverness from her during the time frame of The Way of the Dragon. Still, I can’t imagine him subjecting himself to autoerotic asphyxiation like David Carradine (who filled in for Bruce when The Silent Flute was adapted as Circle of Iron).
23:00 – Ray announces to the press that Bruce is dead. Ngan (who had appeared in The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon) alongside Bob Baker (who was the Russian mobster in Fist of Fury) absconded as they were paid to leave H.K. shortly after Bruce died. To offer a brief respite from this heavy article, I would like to point out the Yin-Yang symbolism of the socks and shoes seen below.
Bob was paid 10,000 H.K. dollars; whereas Ngan was paid 55,000 U.S. dollars. If they were just paid for their pre-mortem services then it would’ve been severance payment. They didn’t even stay to help Linda move back to Seattle (this implies an avoidance of DNA analysis and questioning). Ngan’s involvement in the poisoning plot reminds me of what Eliza Dushku (as Veronica Dawson) said in the series finale of Banshee:
“The butler did it?!”
Patrick Wang Sai-Yuk, photographer, was disallowed to snap anything in the morgue other than Bruce’s head for the Kam Yeh Pao newspaper. David Chiang (姜大衛) spent all day trying to find Bruce because the latter agreed that he would let his house be used for his directorial début (A Mad World of Fools).
According to Linda, Bob was his drug courier and bodyguard. He also smuggled guns for Bruce’s safety (even Jim Kelly claimed that Bruce carried a gun). Bruce philosophized that you should either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard. It’s strange for a bodyguard to be paid less than a butler whose figure isn’t a tidy sum like 50 or 60 grand. After these shifty out-of-bank transactions, Linda begged Ray to give her some money. This suggests that they were allies instead of enemies. There is a Chinese proverb that philosophizes:
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
A pressman called Nora to inform her of the news of Bruce’s passing. She called Bruce’s home number but the person who picked up the phone was Ray. She asked him whether it was true. He confirmed it.
When noting the similarities of ganja ingestion and cerebral edema to the May 10 collapse, Bey Logan had quoted Arthur Conan Doyle’s catchphrase (for a 2002 interview on The Divine Wind):
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Saturday, July 21 – After midnight, Ray calls Donald Langford – Bruce’s own physician who saved him on May 10. Bruce having Don’s card on him indicates that his service wasn’t dismissed after all. Don and his wife lived in the same suburb as Bruce. When Ray called, he informed Don that he was leaving the hospital with Linda. He then asked if they could stop by Don’s house.
1:00 – Ray and Linda arrive at the house. She didn’t know what to tell the press. In the living room, she asked Don if he knew about any of Bruce’s relationships with other women. He told her that he didn’t know of any.
Thursday, July 26 – The day after the H.K. funeral. Linda dubiously informs the press that she holds no people or person to be responsible, despite the awaiting verdict being anyone’s guess. Why else should she dismiss the notion that foul play had occurred? She seems petrified during the Kai Tak airport interview. If he was put down against her wishes then she would’ve confessed once she was safe and sound in Seattle. A coffin photo shows that he has a scar on his left cheek. En route to Seattle, the coffin had to be replaced because of a leak from the make-up that obscured his injuries.
Other reports in the press were translated for a 1994 documentary titled Curse of the Dragon. China Post: Police Hunt for Lee Drug Source (警方追捕李某毒源). Hong Kong Star: Bruce Lee Murdered (李小龍被謀殺). In a 1993 interview for Inside Kung Fu, Rob Lee admitted that his family believe that Bruce was bumped off. Peter Lee observed that he had a small bruise on his neck. Funeral workers stated that his hands and feet were blackened (a common side effect of arsenic poisoning). Other notations include moderate bruises on his fingertips of both hands and a groin scar. Lau Kar-Leung a.k.a. Liu Chia-Liang (劉家良) cryptically declared that the thing which served Bruce well had failed him.
Monday, July 30 – James Coburn attends Bruce’s Seattle funeral and observes that his face looks like a mask because of the make-up.
August – William Cheung (who inducted Bruce in Wing Chun classes) undertook an investigation. He found that there was a murder conspiracy but hasn’t offered a penny for his thoughts to the H.K. public. Police were called to investigate a brown paper bag which has a message:
“Betty knows the cause of Bruce’s death.”
1974 – Ray decides that producing a movie called Stoner was the best way to prove that Lee was going to act in a movie with Lazenby and Betty. As mentioned in my article about Game of Death, the movie actually passed the midway point of filming (this was relayed by Lam Ching-Ying to Bey). Ray took advantage because Lee kept most of the filming under wraps in the same way that Jackie would later do when Pirate Patrol became known as Project A.
Speak of the devil, his workload was severely cut down in 1974. In I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action, he claims that the death of his acquaintance caused such a dry spell in Kung Fu moviedom that his parents wanted him to live with them in Australia. This ignorantly disregards the many movies which were made between the death and his lead role era. This year was the only time that he exclusively worked for S.B. He worked on 3 movies for them. He was seeking protection.
1975 – The first day of the year is when Lo’s last G.H. movie is released (a horror movie titled The Bedevilled). He started his own production company after he learned that Ray was having an affair with his wife (their marriage only ended when Lo died in 1996).
After he left, Jackie worked on a G.H. comedy (All in the Family) that was released in February. Sammo acted in this but was obviously serving as moral support if not an outright protector. In this year, Jackie worked exclusively for G.H. The fourth and final film was Countdown to Kung Fu (the copyrighted Roman numerals in the title card indicate 1975). Sammo worked on this as an actor and choreographer.
1976 – Jackie is signed to Lo’s company because G.H. wasn’t a haven. He acts in New Fist of Fury, The Killer Meteors and Shaolin Wooden Men. Prior to his signing, he went from working on a G.H. Angela Mao movie to a Taiwanese Mao movie. The Himalayan was made under Sammo’s watchful eye whereas Dance of Death was where Jackie was free from the G.H. studio head and his cronies. It seems that Sammo fulfilled a similar buffer role to Jimmy Wang Yu (an actor who helped sort out Jackie’s Triad problem while he was a refugee in Hollywood).
1977 – Jackie only works on The 36 Crazy Fists and To Kill with Intrigue. The latter was made in South Korea because it was safer there. Before filming, he gains weight and has an operation to have no slant eyes. This made him unrecognizable. The weird thing is that his autobiography suggested that this took place before his collaborations with Lo because Lo wanted Jackie to improve his screen presence.
Coincidentally, this was the year when G.H. completed Game of Death. Jackie was smart enough not to sue the film company who produced The 36 Crazy Fists for doing the same thing to him that Star Sea did to Bruce. Suspiciously, there was a banner at Bruce’s H.K. funeral service which spookily translated to: A star sinks in a sea of art.
Jackie was also smart enough to not behave like a powder keg. For those who are having a hard time swallowing the bitter pill of Jackie fleeing to South Korea, you should remember that his autobiography contained a 1979 anecdote of himself wanting to escape from Lo Wei being the would-be director of Fearless Hyena.
March, 1993 – Lee’s son, Brandon, announced that he was going to have the case reopened and his father’s body exhumed after filming The Crow. Certain people had warned him if he did so. Around this same time, Davis Miller was working as a writer on Curse of the Dragon. One of his research assistants was on the phone with someone from Carolco Studios (who were producing The Crow) so that time could be set for Miller to drive down to Wilmington, North Carolina for the purpose of interviewing Brandon.
During the conversation on the last day of the month, the Carolco woman came on and said there had just been an accident on the set. She would call back as soon as she could. Brandon was shot during the shooting of a death scene. Bruce’s fans are reminded of a scene in Game of Death (the protagonist dies while filming a scene cribbed from Fist of Fury as seen above). Bruce’s death has drawn comparisons to the death of a teacher in Fist of Fury.
April – Bob Baker dies after liver failure caused by alcohol consumption. Astute observers have taken this as a sign that guilt leads to a glut in the gut.
July, 2011 – Tea Money (meaning hush money) is released. It is a novel inspired by Lee’s death, except it’s about a singer whose name is inspired by Andy Lau (劉德華). The novelist is Tom Bleecker, who married Lee’s widow. The novel had been his project for over a decade. In 2001, it went through three edits before being sent to an editor for a fourth time. He even streamlined it for a screenplay. Linda told Tom in confidence that she never believed the autopsy and inquest. For good reason. The autopsy was done 3 days after his death instead of within the usual 24 hour period.
Friday, May 13, 2016 – Ngan dies (7 days before this article was posted). Bleecker once described the circumstances of Bruce’s demise as a Gothic horror story. As such, Friday the 13th is a timely ending of the timeline.
The moral of the story is that Tai Chi should’ve taught Lee the importance of passive-aggression. You can understand Jackie’s repetitive mantra (ad nauseum) about being the exact opposite to Lee, whose death would make for an efficient case study as part of a critical thinking lesson. For those who would like to have as much knowledge as possible about the Triads (especially within the film world), you can purchase a Chu Yiu-Kong book titled The Triads as Business. He received his PhD in Police Studies from the University of Exeter in 1997. He is a Sociology professor at the H.K. University. He is one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Juvenile Delinquency Research Society.