Blues and Bruce

Blues and Bruce share the same word in Japanese: ブルース (this is pronounced Burūsu). The cover of this article is the cover of a 1991 Guns ‘n’ Roses album titled Use Your Illusion II. One of GNR’s influences is Aerosmith, a band who had a major comeback in the `80s when they were produced by Bruce Fairbairn for Permanent Vacation (1987) and Pump (1989). GNR were the perfect band for him with their blunk style i.e. blunk being a portmanteau of blues and punk. Ironically, GNR never got the chance to work with Bruce but they do have a few things in common with another Bruce – Mr. Lee.

Bruce Lee had a fondness for Royal Jelly. I initially assumed that he was taking it for exercise purposes but reading a quote from GNR drummer, Steven Adler, makes me think that there was another reason: “Builds up cum in your balls!”

That was related to U.K. journalist Paul Elliott in a Texan dressing room on July 23, 1988. As to how this relates to Bruce Lee, even Fred Weintraub shyly admitted that Bruce was a womanizer “to a degree” (as he said for a 2001 BBC documentary titled I Love Kung Fu). There are no quotes attributed to Bruce drinking Royal Jelly for sexual purposes but there are enough quotes to make you wonder how that could go amiss in Bruce’s sex life. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recalled that Bruce would frequently open one of the little vials and and consume its contents during the filming of Game of Death. Herb Jackson remembered Bruce once telling him: “Whenever I have to do a demonstration, I take a little Royal Jelly beforehand and Voom! My energy levels are perfect.”

According to his widow, Linda: “Bruce believed that the Royal Jelly and the ginseng both added to his energy stores and kept his activity levels up. He really appreciated the 4,000-plus years of Chinese experimentation with herbs and teas – and so he felt that if something had worked effectively for so many people for so many thousands of years that they were probably onto something that was very healthful.”

For so many years, Bruce Lee was well known for taking cannabis. Despite it being found in his body when he died in July 1973, it didn’t tarnish his image. For decades now, he has been seen as the ultimate health guru. While his lifestyle wasn’t as decadent as Guns ‘n’ Roses, he was the closest thing to a traditional rock star in Hong Kong. GNR bassist Duff McKagan comes from Seattle, where Bruce spent a considerable amount of his youth in. In an interview for Classic Rock magazine, Duff said something that reminded me of Bruce: “Round about 1983, there was so much heroin coming into Seattle. It’s a port city so there’s just this constant influx of drugs.”

I’m reminded for two reasons – there is a 1974 Don Atyeo book, The King of Kung Fu, where a passage states: “Within days of the funeral, the mosquito press was busy informing its credulous readers that Lee had died in Betty Ting’s apartment from an overdose of 707 – a potent concoction which is the local equivalent of Spanish Fly. Besides 707, the mosquitos also had Lee addicted to a warehouse of drugs ranging from vitamin pills to LSD and heroin. From superhero, Lee suddenly became superstud – the lover of a dozen different women.”

In the same book, a colleague of Bruce’s Golden Harvest studio by the name of Andre Morgan was quoted as saying: “The stories were rampant, stories about him dying from an overdose of drugs, dying from screwing too much, dying with an erection, dying from being hacked to death by young thugs, poisoned by his servant.”

Back to the heroin connection, there is a 1986 Chinese movie called Kung Fu Kids which begins with narration about how several Chinese film stars died. Bruce was alleged to have died from a heroin overdose. Ironically, none of the guys in GNR died during the peak of their excess. Last year, Bruce’s letters to Bob Baker were revealed for the first time and they exposed Bruce’s hardcore drug use. Bruce liked to use codes when referring to drugs (presumably in case Bob’s children got their hands on the letters), as did GNR – who referred to cocaine as krell (as did many other bands).

If there was one member of GNR that Bruce would be compared to, it would be Axl Rose. Journalist Mick Wall received a death threat from Axl like how Hong Kong film director Lo Wei was deathly threatened by Bruce. I’m also reminded of Bruce when Mick described Axl as follows: “Axl on an ill-tempered bender was a crazy man, capable of almost anything.”

Like Axl, Bruce thought nothing of waging war against the press in person. In the aforementioned 1974 book which was co-authored by Felix Dennis, it was reported: “Distrust between star and newsmen was further aggravated after as Hong Kong evening daily, The Star, ran an article quoting a student of Yip Man who claimed he had seen Lee knocked down by an opponent during training. Lee, his invincible reputation threatened, took out a writ against the paper. Star owner and editor Graham Jenkins, a tough, hard-bitten Australian who has been bossing newspapers up and down the Far East for decades, maintains that Lee had threatened the Star’s informant and had forced him to change his story.”

In the same book, Bruce’s elder brother (Peter) was referring to 1973 when he said: “When Bruce came back to Hong Kong, he had lots of enemies in the newspaper world.”

When Linda Lee was interviewed by the police following her husband’s death, she claimed that he had no enemies. In Robert Clouse’s 1988 biography about Bruce, Linda contradicted herself by saying: “We once had a lawsuit with a magazine that printed the most outrageous story about Bruce. They invented something new every day. They criticized him in every possible way. They said he really wasn’t a martial artist and never really trained with Yip Man. They also criticized him for not going to Yip Man’s funeral.”

Axl was just as confrontational as Bruce when it came to wanting payback. Like how Bruce once visited a H.K. press office to make his rebuttal, Axl did the same thing with the rest of GNR in tow circa the early afternoon of Wednesday, June 24, 1987. A writer named Andy Ross had written not the most positive of reviews under the alias Andy Hurt. In an issue of Sounds, Andy Ross stated that the band were good but their singer sounded like a hamster with its balls trapped in a door. Axl walked into the Sounds office asking for Andy, but he was absent. Before GNR left, Axl took a pen and a piece of paper to scrawl a note for Andy which he handed to the office’s secretary. It read simply: “You’re a dead man.”

A few years later, Mick Wall received a phone call from Axl after Kerrang magazine published Mick’s article about what he witnessed when GNR were in Rio. Axl said: “Hey, Mick, this is Axl. I just wanna say I’m sitting here reading the new Kerrang, and I just wanted to say one thing – See you in court, buddy!”

Bruce was well known for being increasingly paranoid towards the end of his life; he even began carrying a gun. GNR guitarist Izzy Stradlin had this to say about Axl: “Maybe it was just the stress and pressure of being him. I mean, he had people threatening to kill him constantly. So that’s got to be hard to deal with.”

Like how Bruce complained to business partner Raymond Chow about not getting enough income through his Concord company, Izzy was freaking out about a missing million-dollar advance from a merchandising company: “I’m at the fax machine and I’ve got like a hundred faxes strung across this room. And I’ve got a pistol on the desk cos I kept hearing people walking on my roof, right? So I’m snorting coke, faxes keep coming, snorting more coke. And I’m reading through this stuff, trying to just grasp what had happened to us. The call that really sent me off my rocker was one of the attorneys. I said There was a million-dollar advance, where is it? And he goes, Well, Izzy, I don’t really know right now. I was just like Aaarrrgggghhhhhh!! It was just the last thing and I snapped completely.”


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