This was the second half of my previous article about Bruce Lee being murdered. The title is a cheeky way of referencing an unreleased Davis Miller book titled The Last Days of Bruce Lee. The original title of my article was Tracking the Dragon, as a cheekier way of mocking George Tan’s unreleased books. Acting on behalf of the Lee estate, John Little stole the title for his re-release of In Pursuit of the Dragon. Little John (a Robin Hood pun) is the cheekiest of them all. There’s already a Bruce book which adopts the pun of chasing the dragon, and there’s already a Jackie Chan documentary titled Traces of a Dragon – so much for tracing the dragon. Alas, here is my timeline…
Wednesday, January 3, 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 (who had better chances of being his widow than a divorcée).
Friday, January 19 – Golden Harvest’s Raymond Chow insures Bruce’s life under a Singaporean company called American International Assurance. This may be because of issue #178 of The Milky Way Pictorial publicizing the fact that Bruce had done a photo shoot for the Shaw Brothers movie company where he was dressed for a potential period movie project.
Sunday, January 28 – According to Weintraub’s 2011 memoir (Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me), the first week of filming is supposed to begin. According to Paul Heller in a 2004 issue of Jade Screen (Vol. 3, Issue 1), Bruce was absent for many reasons besides being nervous about starring in his first U.S. film. Paul didn’t want to elaborate (due to some personal reasons) other than describing Bruce as a great strategist. One could speculate that Bruce needed the time to put on some weight since he was losing it, hence why the first scenes which he filmed were ones where he was fully clothed.
Thursday, February 1 – Lee avoids filming on his son’s 8th birthday. Chinese people regard 8 as a lucky number. February 1 was the same day when A Man Called Tiger was released. It is notable for Lo Wei having cast Jimmy Wang Yu after Bruce rejected the chance to star. Coincidentally, Bruce’s AIA insurance policy covered a period of five years from 2/1/73 to 1/31/78.
Sunday, February 4 – This was the day after the Chinese new year began. According to his 2011 memoir, Fred is getting increasingly frazzled about the no-show nature of Bruce’s show business. Linda tells him that Bruce is tied up with other business, including working on the fight choreography. The man who played Han in Enter the Dragon (Shek Kin in Cantonese but Shih Kien in Mandarin) claimed that Bruce said something to him some time into the new year. Bruce told him that he considered acting as a side business (directing became his main responsibility).
Thursday, February 8 – The first day of filming on a Chinese movie set consists of lighting incense for good luck (as illustrated in the 1977 Game of Death featurette which was featured in Bruce Lee: The Legend). This was the same day that Fred had Clouse shoot the close-ups of the praying mantis fight scene because of Bruce being A.W.O.L.
Friday, February 16 – Hong Kong newspapers reported something intriguing about Bruce’s Concord company. Bruce had transferred most of his shares to his butler, a childhood friend named Wu Ngan (胡奀). Perhaps Bruce did this so that the Chinese gangsters would come up short when trying to steal money. Having the press announce it would also have been a way for Bruce to see how many people suddenly start to engage Wu in conversation.
Saturday, February 17 – Going by Fred Weintraub’s math (“after almost three weeks”), Lee finally shows up on the same day that Lo Wei’s Back Alley Princess is released. The stars of that movie would show up on the set of The Game of Death. One could surmise that Bruce wanted to make sure that Wei wasn’t ripping him off. According to Fred in Linda’s The Man Only I Knew (a 1975 book), Bruce walked off the set after he found out that Ray Chow tried to pass off Enter the Dragon as a Golden Harvest co-production instead of a Concord one. After he returns, Ahna Capri tells him that she wants to try some of the local delights (drugs). He tells her not to go around looking for these things as you never know who will spike your goods. Ahna agrees. According to Fred, Lee barred Ray from being on the set two weeks later (the first day of March in my timeline will tell you why).
Sunday, February 18 – The day before Betty Ting Pei’s 26th birthday. 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 brings a jar of 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 remembered Bruce recalling how one challenger who lost against him had been stabbed to death the next day by one or more guys who may have been fans. Bruce remarked 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 Fist of Unicorn (麒麟掌), which he partially choreographed when it was originally going to be titled The Unicorn Palm. His death prevented the lawsuit from happening. It speaks volumes about the budding friendship with Lee that Jackie Chan had been invited by him to appear in Fist of Unicorn. Despite what the press conference photos in May `72 imply, Michael Chan Wai-Man did not appear in the film. Instead, he was an affiliate of Sing Hoi.
His affiliation became obvious in the July `73 issue of Cinemart when there was an article about a Sing Hoi movie that was currently in production. The original English title was The Chivalrous Knight but it was released in the West as Chinese Godfather. Betty Ting Pei starred opposite Michael, who was at Unicorn’s press conference with Lee and Fan Mei-Sheng (who visited the set of The Way of the Dragon as can be seen in the above photo). Fan, like Michael, was a member of the 14k Triad. Fan is credited as having planned The Chivalrous Knight.
Friday, March 2 – Raymond Chow tells The China Mail that G.H. is trying to bring together Bruce and former co-star Siu Fong-Fong (蕭芳芳) a.k.a. Josephine Siao. She is primarily known to Westerners as playing Jet Li’s feisty mother in the Fong Sai-Yuk duology, whose first movie was released to avid fanfare and critical adulation in March of 1993. Twenty years earlier, she was returning to the limelight after studying at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. According to Ray, preliminary talks between both sides has so far turned out favourable. A few months later, Siao attended Bruce’s funeral with Wu Fung in tow. Fung was one of Bruce’s actor friends and was photographed inside as well as outside Bruce’s home in the fall of 1972. He can also be seen at Unicorn’s conference.
Sunday, April 15 – When filming a new opening scene (a cold open or a prologue instead of a replacement) for Enter the Dragon, Sammo Hung notices that Lee’s pupils are dilated. According to Robert Chan in Robert 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. The addict’s dealer must have known. Lee 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. Sam asked Bruce why he lost weight, to which the latter responded that he wanted to be faster.
By the middle of the month, the latest issue of Milky Way was already out. The issue reveals that Bruce intends to return to America in May in order to do publicity for Enter the Dragon. Two years later, Bruce’s wife Linda revealed in her first book that August was when he was going to do this. It was a decision that he had made during his American medical trip in late May. The April `73 issue of Milky Way made it clear that Bruce was now a wanted commodity due to the photos of James Coburn visiting him in Hong Kong to discuss rekindling The Silent Flute.
Sunday, April 22 – Bruce sends a letter to Ted Ashley (this Warner Brothers studio chairman was born in 1922). Bruce beats around the bush by hinting that he had a bad experience making a film with a person and organization in H.K. to the extent of describing himself as being burned during that one time. No-one interviewed Ted about Enter the Dragon. It’s too late to interview him because he died in 2002.
Monday, April 30 – The end of the month is the end of Bruce’s tether. In spite of Raymond Chow’s media manipulation which suggests otherwise, they were not on happy terms. Bruce’s brother, Peter, testified to this. Reading Everett L. Shostrom’s Man, the Manipulator, two years prior, made Bruce appear to be ill-advised by comparison. Linda could be accused of being manipulative, since she didn’t like living in H.K. and missed her loved ones. She places insurance on Bruce’s life through a company called Lloyd’s 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. In her first book, Linda claimed that the end of April was when Bruce finally made the decision that he wanted to move back to California with the intention of only going to H.K. twice per year or so to make movies (à la Jackie Chan during his Hollywood heyday).
Saturday, May 5 – The insurance policies had come into place. This is creepily reminiscent of The Chinese Stuntman (a 1981 drama featuring Dan Inosanto). It was planned because he didn’t dance to the tune of the Triads. 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 well-being of their two kids. In Robert Clouse’s 1987 book about Enter the Dragon, his wife (Ann) had this to say about Linda: “Her only problem – or so it seemed at the time – was her fear the children might be kidnapped for ransom, something not uncommon in Hong Kong. It was perhaps the only thing that distracted her from being totally absorbed by Bruce.”
Thursday, May 10 – 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, vomits spaghetti and convulses. After 17:00, Raymond calls Baptist Hospital with the intent of asking to talk with his own physician instead of phoning the paramedics. 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.
This was the same day when Lo Wei’s None But the Brave was released. Cheng Pei-Pei’s first movie for G.H. would’ve received more publicity had Lee died (exit the dragon, enter the phoenix rising through the ashes of the decayed dragon). The events of May 10 were foreshadowed by the calendar in the January 1973 issue of Golden Movie News where Cheng was on the April page while Bruce was on the May page. What makes it even less of a coincidence is that the actress and actor were signed to G.H. in the summer of 1971 by Lo Wei’s wife, Gladys Liu.
Friday, May 25 – Bruce goes to L.A. for the check-up and is told by a physician that he has got a body that is akin to an 18-year-old. A neurologist subscribes him Dilantin, which is used for the management of epilepsy. Bruce is told to take it three times per day. It was only on July 20 that he didn’t take the drug. During his L.A. trip, Bruce called one of his two sisters about wanting her to return to H.K. in July so as to be his manager since he needed help with the accounting. Phoebe Lee was working as an accountant for United Airlines at the time. She said that she would think about it. For 13 years, she dated one of his childhood friends – the aforementioned Robert Chan. Biographer Robert Clouse never specified what argument had ended their relationship.
Thursday, May 31 – Lee meets the Japanese author of The Incomparable Fighter for the final time. The man whose name is often abbreviated to M. Uyehara 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. In actual fact, he did not know why his weight loss was happening. His lower back pain was so immense that his constant cortisone injections caused muscle atrophy. Bruce proved to M. that he was more powerful than ever when getting him to hold a cushion so that Bruce could deliver a punch that was 6 inches away. The cushion landed at the far corner of the room.
Thursday, June 7 – Bruce attends the last of his physicals. He meets Bob Wall for the last time because he will be returning to H.K. on the next day. Like Maria Yi (衣依), Bob notices that Bruce repeats himself like he’s telling an anecdote for the first time. Earlier that week, Bruce sent a letter to Run Run Shaw where he told him that he will reserve a few months (September – November) for a Shaw Brothers project. George Lee (no relation) verified this, and even went as far as making an axe for Bruce to wield in the movie. Bruce sent a letter saying that he liked George’s photo of it, but Bruce never got the chance to receive it because George intended to give it to him for when he moved back to America.
In his 1988 biography about him, Clouse claimed that June was when Bruce finished dubbing some dialogue in Burbank that had been poorly recorded in H.K. One of the questions that has arisen is why didn’t Bruce leave H.K. after the May mishap? H.K. kindergartens finish in June whereas elementary equivalents finish in July. He didn’t want his two children to be behind their peers when resuming their education in America. In the April 1978 issue of Fighting Stars, Van Williams (the star of The Green Hornet) mentioned that he saw Bruce a month before he died. Van said: “He had a lot of problems. The Chinese mafia approached him about certain things. I don’t know what the whole story was. And he had some problems with the press over there.”
Wednesday, June 13 – The H.K. press reported that Lee wasn’t happy about Lo Wei making a movie in Bangkok with “Dragon” in the title, so Lee tried to legally trademark the word since his name in Chinese (Lee Siu-Lung) translates as Lee, Little Dragon. Lo was supposed to have changed the title as a result of Bruce’s outburst but the movie came out in December with Dragon still being in the English (The Tattooed Dragon) and Chinese (龍虎金剛) titles. Likewise, the aforementioned Chinese Godfather was released in Chinese as The Big Scaled Dragon. As much as Bruce would have liked to have threatened Lo Wei in person, he couldn’t. From late May to early July, Lo was directing Jimmy Wang Yu in Thailand. Jimmy’s character was called Yee Chao-Lung. Back to June 13, Lee received a telegram from Ted Ashley about Blood and Steel no longer being the title for what will be henceforth known as Enter the Dragon.
Thursday, June 28 – This was the second anniversary of when Bruce signed his G.H. contract with Bob Baker serving as his witness. Despite Lee assuring Raymond Chow 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 of making a star out of Jhoon Rhee), Ray is aghast when reading an issue of The China Mail which states that Lee has scooped a per annum salary for Warner Brothers. What prompted Bruce’s desire to boastfully reveal the news scoop was the Wednesday Variety review of The Big Boss (唐山大兄), where the reviewer noted the “mindlessness” of it. Whether Lee learned about the review via his youngest brother phoning or faxing (since Robert was studying in the U.S.) remains to be seen.
Lee was a contender for the role of Lieutenant Hip in The Man with the Golden Gun. Had he done the movie, this would have been a way to accentuate his interest in ordering a gold Rolls-Royce. Ray could imagine the headline had Bruce went from being in talks to actually signing: From Golden Harvest to Golden Gun. Jhoon’s Cantonese name is Li Chun-Kau, so Bruce was hoping that Ray wouldn’t lose face if there was a headline that went: From Lee Siu-Lung to Li Chun-Kau.
Thursday, July 5 – Lo Wei (who also directed The Big Boss) claims that Bruce threatened him with a knife in a G.H. screening room where Lo’s wife was present. 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 Lee had hid it, thus no arrest. Five days later marked 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 Chan 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 Charles Heung’s dad). They rule a New Territories town, Tuen Mun, where Bruce filmed the first scenes of Enter the Dragon.
Thursday, July 12 – Lee demands Raymond Chow to invite Wong Nguk-Chung, who was the editor of Galaxy Pictorial Magazine (a G.H. publication). Lee is livid about an article written by Wong. Ray tries to assure Lee that he bore no ill will. When Wong arrives, Lee tells (or rather yells at) him to sit down. Lee draws out his small knife from his belt and places it on Wong’s neck. Lee 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 subsides after Ray helps Wong to put in a good word. After the misunderstanding is cleared, Lee shakes hands with a visibly shaken Wong. In theory, Lee should’ve been murdered on Friday the 13th.
Saturday, July 14 – Jackie claimed that the bowling anecdote took place 6 days before he learned that 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 typed in a book titled Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan). Many of the bowlers were bowled over by the fact that Bruce was there. In an interview, 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.
By this time, Bruce had a reputation for being paranoid and bad-tempered yet Jackie gets an easy ride. In a book called John Woo: Interviews, the titular subject said this about Jackie while discussing a late 1974 production called Countdown to Kung Fu (released in 1976): “I liked him so much. He was pretty quiet but I truly loved his talents. I thought he was not only good in action but he had a good sense of humour and he was pretty tough. He was not afraid. He could fall on rocks with his bare back and he didn’t mind getting cut. Another thing I found was some kind of loneliness; he didn’t talk to other people much. No one had discovered his real talents – that kind of loneliness.”
Monday, July 16 – Lee makes a $200 phone call to Unicorn Chan (小麒麟) because the latter couldn’t be contacted in person due to working on a film in Manila called The Unwanted. H.K. and the Philippines share the same time zone. Lee tells Unicorn that he is getting headaches. After Lee’s death, Unicorn denies this because he could not be seen by Star Sea to be in cahoots with Lee (who he has known since childhood) following the previous announcement of the impending lawsuit. The flip side to the denial is that he can’t be interrogated about a topic which he ostensibly has no awareness of. According to a 1978 Hong Kong book called The Fighting Spirit, Bruce told Unicorn that he intended to go to America in ten days time so that he could get a detailed medical check.
In the May 30, 1983 issue of People Magazine, William Cheung claimed to have got a phone call from Bruce because he had reached some decisions about his career which were going to upset a lot of people. Wanting to bring many H.K. stuntmen with him to Hollywood would appear to be one of them. William said: “You must understand that Bruce’s change of plans and that American trip meant some people would have been ruined if he’d lived. Millions of dollars were involved.”
Another person who claimed to have spoken to Bruce four days before he died was a director named Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun (歐陽俊), who directed Chan Wai-Man in Freedom Strikes a Blow (a March 1973 release which Jackie worked on as a choreographer). Ulysses is also known as Cai Yang-Ming (蔡揚名). As for the Bruce connection, Ulysses claimed that he spoke to him while working at the Shaw Brothers film studio. Ulysses claimed that Bruce’s death made him think about the stories behind everyone, especially gangsters and criminals. In the autumn of 1973, Ulysses directed Bruce’s friend Bob Baker in Taiwan for a Taekwondo movie called Valley of the Double Dragon.
Tuesday, July 17 – When Wong sees Lee at the G.H. studio, he decides to walk away but Lee sees 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. He confided in the wrong man. This was the same day that Lee was supposed to have got Ray to sign George Lazenby to G.H. In reality, 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 a single photo of the two stars to highlight such a momentous occasion.
Wednesday, July 18 – After a phone call with producer Sy Weintraub (not related to Fred Weintraub), Bruce is willing to consider resurrecting his passion project: The Silent Flute. The plan is for Sy and writer Stirling Silliphant to fly out to H.K. on Friday so that they can spend the weekend discussing the film. According to Stirling in the October 1980 issue of Kick Illustrated, Bruce died on the day before they were set to go on the plane. H.K. is 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles. In the Curse of the Dragon (1993) documentary, James Coburn remembered Stirling telling him: “Bruce died this morning.”
Thursday, July 19 – Jhoon Rhee mentioned that Lee told him in an overseas phone call 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). Lee also called Rhee to tell him that the editing was finished and the movie was ready to go. It should be noted that, when it got released in September, Angela Mao got top billing. Jhoon Rhee thinks that Lee treated Ray like a servant. Speaking of servants, Wu Ngan appeared in this movie. Rhee remembered that he last saw Lee on July 6 when it was time to leave H.K. after filming had finished.
Bruce and Ray have a vitriolic argument over the accounts of Concord. Linda’s second husband, Tom Bleecker, claimed that the box office receipt of The Way of the Dragon (猛龍過江) was falsely inflated. This was to hide the flagrant fact that protection money was being laundered to the Triads. Bruce wanted to take Ray to court. According to his interview on the U.S. Death by Misadventure DVD, Charles Lowe (a.k.a. Luk Ching) claimed that this was the day when he last saw Bruce. It was Charles (not Ray) who Bruce was going to have dinner with on the next day. At this juncture, I should note that he ended up being one of the cameramen for Bruce Lee, the Man and the Legend.
Friday, July 20 – It’s interesting that this is his death date given that 20th Century Fox wanted him to return to The Silent Flute. The official story of what happened on this day makes it seem like Raymond Chow knew damn well that Bruce was on the verge of death in Betty Ting Pei’s apartment but dragged out the time so that the ambulance wouldn’t reach him in time. It’s too convenient of Ray to use George Lazenby as an alibi. The excuse was that the trio were to discuss The Game of Death at the Kam Tin Chung restaurant within the Miramar hotel (where the Fist of Unicorn press conference was previously held). This was a droll way for Ray to exonerate himself from being involved in the matter.
Andre Morgan (G.H. producer), who was also in When Taekwondo Strikes, 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. 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. Lee spending time at G.H. on the morning of July 20 has never been in any of the official accounts.
There has been hearsay about whether Bruce really did write to his attorney, Adrian Marshall, on July 20. After all, his service was dismissed in the previous year for an unidentified reason. 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. When talking about future plans, Sy Weintraub is mentioned in the letter but not George Lazenby. Producer Andrew Vajna is referenced, but not the deal with G.H. rival Shaw Brothers.
13:00 – Bruce Lee historian Tom Bleecker claimed that this is when Linda said goodbye to Bruce so that she could have lunch with Rebu Hui – the wife of a singer named Samuel Hui (許冠傑). 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. In this instance, Linda claimed that Bruce spent the morning of July 20 at their house where he was dictating to his secretary in his study. In her own books, Linda claimed that she left around noon. At the inquest in September, she said 12:30.
14:00 – Raymond Chow 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 bustling than a Chinese restaurant). To this very day, Linda can’t recount the whereabouts of Wu Ngan and his family. A probable scenario is that, on July 19, Ray hinted about the Triads not being pleased by the way which Bruce brushed them off.
Bruce should’ve made him a permanent partner. Instead, he went ballistic and told Ray that the Triads had no sway over him. Ray informed the Triads that Bruce wouldn’t play ball. Needless to say, they wanted his head to be dead as a form of enough was enough. They knew that they would be screwed financially if he stayed in Hollywood – more box office competition. He wasn’t expecting to encounter hooligans equipped with an assortment of blades. While some may have encountered an untimely end, Bruce gets mortally wounded because he didn’t know how to simultaneously fight multiple opponents, hence his on-screen group fights. Jackie bests him in that arena.
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 they were still studying a new draft, and they left for Betty’s apartment somewhere between 4 and 5 p.m.
16:00 – Linda claimed to miss Bruce by a hair’s breadth because Ray drove him to Betty so that they could discuss The Game of Death. The doorman claimed that Ray left Beverly Heights at this time. What happened there from 16:00 to 19:30 would have negated the need to have a business dinner with Betty at the Kam Tin Chung restaurant.
18:30 – Earlier on in the hour, the plan was for Lee to meet Charles Lowe at a Japanese restaurant called Kanetanaka. Lee preferred this place because it had a private room. Lee doesn’t turn up as planned, so Lowe phones his home. Someone at the receiving end says that he isn’t there and something happened. Lowe goes to the house. He sees four of Lee’s stuntmen and his son – Brandon. The latter claims (in broken Cantonese) that his dad is working on a movie. The men look so sad. One stuntman says that he doesn’t think Lee will be coming back. Lowe asks which hospital is he based at. The men are really secretive, so he can’t get any more info from them. He leaves and goes home. This reminds me of the scene in Game of Death II (a.k.a. Tower of Death) when the pseudo-Bruce actor is stopped by four corpse guards.
19:30 – The official story of his decay starts at this moment. Bruce complains of a headache, so he takes an aspirin. George Lazenby claimed to be at the Kam Tin Chung restaurant when Bruce called to complain about the headache. Lazenby told him that they could cancel dinner, but Bruce insisted that he wouldn’t bail out. Betty and Ray never corroborated this claim. If true, you would think that Bruce would be self-medicating while waiting for a taxi.
21:00 – Officially, Betty was awake when Bruce lapsed into a coma (“sleeping peacefully”). Ray called her to find out why they weren’t at the Japan-themed restaurant. Ray and Betty have a fair chance of saving his life. Either one can call an ambulance and have him transported to Baptist Hospital 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 several 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 awake him, he calls Betty’s personal physician. The line is busy, but Ray keeps trying and finally gets through. It just so happened that Bruce’s physician couldn’t save him because his daughter was on the phone with her boyfriend.
21:50 – Dr. Eugene Chu has driven over to Betty’s place.
22:00 – After slapping and failing to resuscitate Bruce for several minutes (when a pulse check would’ve sufficed), Eugene decides to have him 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). The excuse is that the facilities over there are more likely to perform miracles despite Eugene later claiming that he didn’t rush Bruce to the hospital because it was obvious that he was dead. Ray calls Linda to tell her to arrive at the latter hospital. Incidentally, it is nearest to Bruce’s home.
22:15 – Linda recalled that she was at the hospital way before the ambulance arrived. The receptionist didn’t even know about him being sent. Over the years, people speculated that it took so long because Bruce was naked. In recent years, Betty confirmed that they did have an affair. It doesn’t help matters that herself teaching BDSM has been conjectured as to why he had experienced submucosal hemorrhages in the rectum. It was more likely because of Spanish Fly. He did say that he was receiving a revelation of cleverness from her during the time frame of The Way of the Dragon. 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).
23:30 – Ray announces to the press that Bruce is dead. Traces of cannabis were still in his stomach and small intestine. This means that not much time had gone by from when he consumed it to when he died. When duly noting the similarities of ganja ingestion and cerebral edema to the May 10 collapse, Bey Logan had paraphrased Arthur Conan Doyle’s catchphrase (for a 2002 interview on The Divine Wind):
“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Patrick Wang Sai-Yuk, photographer, was disallowed to snap anything in the morgue other than Bruce’s head for the Kam Yeh Pao newspaper.
Saturday, July 21 – After midnight, Ray calls Donald Langford – Bruce’s physician who saved him on May 10. He is also Ray’s physician. 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 his house. Ray and Linda arrive. She doesn’t know what to tell the press. In the living room, she asks Don if he knows about any of Bruce’s affairs with other women. He tells her that he doesn’t know of any. This is beginning to feel like an episode of Ray Donovan.
There is another woman in this whole ordeal that doesn’t get mentioned – Ray’s wife: Felicia (née Yuen Hei-Wah). She remarked that the death had occurred just in time to save the last scrap of her husband’s pride. Linda claimed that Felicia picked them up from the hospital, but we never hear any anecdotes of her being at Don’s house.
Thursday, July 26 – H.K. cinemas begin to screen Enter the Dragon, making it the first and only time that a Hollywood film was released in H.K. cinemas before American ones. This is 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 deny that a wrongdoing had occurred? She seems petrified during the Kai Tak airport conference. If he was put down against her wishes then she would’ve confessed once she was safe and sound in Seattle. 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 The 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). Peter Lee observed that he had a small bruise on his neck. Wong Shun Leung (a fellow Wing Chun student) noticed that there were lumps all over his body. Other notations include moderate bruises on his fingertips of both hands. Stirling Silliphant declared that it was Bruce’s martial artistry that failed him instead of protecting him.
Monday, July 30 – U.S. funeral parlour workers stated that his hands and feet were blackened. This is a common side effect of arsenic poisoning (which doesn’t cause cerebral edema) and snake venom powder poisoning (think about the devenomized snake in Enter the Dragon). James Coburn attends Bruce’s Seattle funeral and observes that his face looks like a mask because of the make-up. By this point, Clouse doesn’t know that he will be asked to complete The Game of Death. There are investors who want to be recuperated.
Amazing stuff here but I am somewhat baffled. Did Bruce use to beat Linda? If so does this mean Linda was miserable with Bruce and that their marriage was pretty much over?
Moreover, Lee was a real fighter unlike Jackie so how could he not know how to fight multiple attackers? And how did these attackers end up killing?
If Tom Bleecker’s words are anything to go by, I would say yeah. You should ask him about it. With or without domestic violence, Bruce was insufferable to live with. During their Hong Kong years, he would wake up Linda very early in the morning to fetch him a bowl of Shredded Wheat – a claim that she removed from her second memoir.
Jackie wasn’t an instructor like Bruce or somebody who had the potential to compete professionally, but he was technically a real fighter. In the compilation book containing his Inside Kung Fu interviews, he talks about getting into real fights during his younger years. People like to chide him as being nothing more than an acrobat but he studied various martial arts extensively in the seventies (Chinese arts, Japanese arts, Korean arts and boxing).
For all of the hype that surrounds Bruce as a martial artist, he could never choreograph group fights with the same level of conviction that Jackie could. I think that Bruce’s movies would have endured more had he not been one-dimensional in that aspect. Bruce never spoke about being able to fight three people at once, but Jackie humbly bragged in his first memoir about feeling confident in taking on three thugs who were sent by Lo Wei to pick him up.
Since I wrote this article, I found out from Bey Logan’s Bruce Lee book that Fan Mei-Sheng believes that Bruce was murdered in an outdoor fight at night. The story goes that Bruce was misled into thinking he was meeting Betty Ting Pei in a remote location but was instead ambushed by thugs wielding metal poles. Weirdly, there is a movie called “The Death of Bruce Lee” which contains three ambush scenes where that’s the main weapon of choice.
Interesting that in the last paragraph powdered snake venom is mentioned as an alternative to arsenic poisoning. I say this because in my novel “Tea Money,” it is powdered snake venom that kills the lead male who is the counterpart in the story of Bruce Lee.
Snakes were a recurring theme during the making of Enter the Dragon – Fred Weintraub’s book mentions how Bruce would tease him with the cobra on a regular basis whereas there was this peculiar obsession with snake soup as mentioned in Robert Clouse’s ETD book.
During pre-production, Clouse and Weintraub had received a dinner invitation from Run Run Shaw. The snake soup that Weintraub was given must have traumatized him because Andre Morgan told Clouse for his book: “Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller had been in Hong Kong for maybe two weeks. They were convinced I was going to somehow feed them snake soup. They figured I would order it for them under its Chinese name and they would end up eating it unknowingly. They lived in abject fear of snake soup. At every meal, they would ask, ‘Is this snake soup? Is this snake soup?’ Finally, they had irritated Louis Sit and me enough that we said, ‘Today they get snake soup…just…because it’s time.’ We were going out to Shatin looking for a location and we stopped at this tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant we knew had good snake soup.”
Thanks for the additional information, which is fascinating and new to me.
I’ve finally got round to reading the childhood section of Matthew Polly’s biography, and I was taken aback by the snake references. The first reference: “Grandma Li nicknamed him Tiny Phoenix — the female counterpart to the dragon in Chinese mythology — in order to keep him safe from the ox ghosts and snake spirits, who liked to hurt little boys.”
The second reference: “Bruce wore thick, horn-rim glasses, and his ear was pierced to protect him from boy-stealing snake demons.”