It all started when I visited Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum website and learned about the relaunch of the Museum’s ‘Do You Know Bruce?’ exhibit, which is dedicated to martial arts and entertainment icon Bruce Lee. I had already visited the Hong Kong Heritage Museum’s Bruce Lee exhibit and had been looking for an opportunity to visit the Wing’s showcase as well. Knowing that the Bruce Lee Foundation has been celebrating what would have been Lee’s 75th birthday, I assumed there might be some activity surrounding the Wing’s ‘Do You Know Bruce?’ exhibit.
Upon visiting the Wing’s website on this particular day, I read about the relaunch of their exhibit for it’s second year, called ‘Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers.’ What sealed the deal for me was reading about this year’s focus – Bruce Lee’s life in film and media. I also learned that Bruce’s wife, Linda Lee-Cadwell, would be in attendance, someone I’ve always wanted to meet and photograph for my ongoing martial arts photo essay. Being a huge fan of Lee’s films and television work, I knew this was the chance I’d been waiting for. Having traveled to Hong Kong and the Philipinnes the previous year and not being able to attend the original launch in Seattle, there was no way I was going to miss Year 2. Plus, Seattle is a city I’ve always wanted to visit, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do both.
Having make the mental commitment to attend, I set the plan in motion to make reservations and plan the trip for myself and my wife Tess.
A few days later I spoke to my cousin, spoken word artist Jerry Quickley, by phone and told him about my upcoming trip. I thought he might even be interested in flying in from Los Angeles, being a huge fan of martial arts films himself. I even interviewed Jerry – who’s also a filmmaker – for my upcoming documentary Blvd. Warriors. It was at that time Jerry mentioned that he couldn’t make it because he was preparing for Big Sur, California’s Days & Nights Festival, where he would be performing an opera movement with legendary composer Philip Glass. I thought, he’s preparing to perform with a preemminent classical music composer, that’s sufficient reason not to join me in Seattle. However, I also thought about how supportive he’s been to me over the years, attending many important events in my life. So I knew, based on how close the dates were for the two events, that my plans needed to be amended.
I was now going to fly to Northern California to watch my cousin perform, then journey to Seattle for the Wing’s celebration. But then the art side of my brain took over. That’s the part that thinks I can do anything I want, given a little time and a computer. So I did a little research on Bruce Lee’s life in the U.S., not just in Seattle, but also in California. I already knew he was born in San Francisco, where I would initially arrive.
A few days later and after a few late nights of research, the plan was set! I would not only go to California to see Jerry perform. I would also visit California locations in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, that were a part of Bruce’s life and legacy. That should be a pretty complete trip, right? Not for art brain thinkers like me. Right away, I started thinking about two other people in California to potentially meet. One was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, famed LA Laker, actor and writer. I know, how does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fit into this story, right? Well, there’s two ways a celebrity I have no connection with and have never met, fits into this story actually. First, as a journalist, I get press releases constantly. By complete coincidence, I had recently received a notice that Kareem was about to release a book revealing the untold story of – who else – Sherlock Holmes’s older brother, Mycroft. It turns out that Abdul-Jabbar is a life-long fan of the Sherlock Holmes lexicon. So of course I thought, “what do people do when they publish a book? They do book signings?” I immediately did an online search and there it was . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be hosting a book signing in Los Angeles with his co-author, screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, right in the middle of the time I would be visiting L.A. Perfect!
Now, you still might be asking what this has to do with Bruce Lee or martial arts, right? For those who don’t know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do students while Lee lived in Los Angeles. Abdul-Jabbar also appeared on screen with Bruce in Lee’s Game of Death, which was released postumously in 1978 after Lee’s passing.
So of course I had to add a visit to Barnes & Noble at LA’s The Grove to my plans, in order to meet one of Bruce Lee’s most famous students, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
But there was one other person that I just had to add to my list.
Three years ago I traveled to Los Angeles to do a series of interviews with martial artists and actors that appeared in a number of cult action films from the 1970’s and 1980’s. One of my interviews was with Master Carl Scott, a Black Karate Federation (BKF) member who trained under Sijo Steve Muhammad, Bishop Donnie Williams, and Grandmaster Robert Temple, among others. I thought this trip would be a perfect opportunity to take some photos of Mastr Scott for his official website, a site I had developed for him.
My conversations with Scott led him to agreeing, not just to a rare photo session, but also a demonstration with some of his best students, along with Grandmaster Temple, an Kenpo Karate expert and commuity organizer.
This confluence of events is what led me on a journey that included: Northern California, where I did get to see my cousin perform with Philip Glass; a breathtaking drive down the PCH with my cousin’s friends Olivia Martinez & Danny Freyer, while listening to jazz musician Freyer’s own music; visits to more than 30 locations associated with Bruce Lee’s life and legacy; meeting NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles; and filming a rare public martial arts demonstration by Master Carl Scott, who starred in the cult classic films A Hard Way to Die (1979), Kung Fu Executioners (1981), Soul Brothers of Kung Fu (1977), and appeared in Bruce Lee: The Man, the Myth (1976).
Master Scott’s demonstration of his Warrior Method of martial arts, was assisted by Grandmaster Robert Temple, and Scott’s own son, already a talented fighter, along with Andre Hobson & Sam McDonald, two of Scott’s black belts. The event took place at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica, California.
While in Los Angeles, I also visited the Martial Arts History Museum, where I met that museum’s founder & president Michael Matsuda, who happened to be at the Museum the day I visited. Matsuda’s growing collection pays tribute to a number of martial artists that turned to filmmaking, including of course, Bruce Lee.
After my travels in California, it was on to Seattle, where I had the chance to attend the Wing’s opening celebration and meet Bruce Lee’s wife, Linda Lee-Cadwell. Mrs. Cadwell and her current husband, along with their daughter Shannon, continue to promote Bruce’s goals and legacy through the Bruce Lee Foundation, which sponsored a private tour of the exhibit, which I was fortunate enough to attend.
During my time in Seattle – a city I fell in love with just as my brother did years before – I decided to visit a number of local landmarks, including the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). Their current exhibit, ‘The Legacy of Seattle Hip Hop,’ traces the city’s hip hop roots. In another bit of coincidence, I met the exhibit’s co-curator Jazmyn Scott, who happened to be doing an interview with a local entertainment news show for Seattle’s Channel 5. Jazmyn’s father, Robert L. Scott, was Seattle’s first African American radio DJ. He was also the first Seattle DJ to play the record Rapper’s Delight, while at KYAC (1250 AM), which is credited with starting Seattle’s hip hop movement. Scott also mentioned that Seattle hip hop luminary “Nasty” Nes Rodriguez was hosting the opening of the Wing Luke’s Bruce Lee exhibit.
During the trip, I also had the opportunity to meet several world-class collectors, including Perry Lee & Jeff Chinn – both of whom contributed to the exhibit – along with actor & collector Marc Macaulay, Chris Neel and others from around the world. The Wing’s Bruce Lee exhibit now houses the largest collection of Green Hornet memorabilia anywhere in the world.
Some of the other martial artists I met on the trip include: Hapkido Grandmaster Ji Han Jae, who appeared with Bruce Lee in Game of Death; Sifu John S.S. Leong, whose Seattle Kung Fu Club has been developing students for more than 52 years; Tommy Gong, who is also a Trustee of the Bruce Lee Foundation; Grandmaster Hud Huddleston Sr., who is also a world class chef; and Dr. Gary Amen, who has 30 years of experience teaching forms such as Tang Soo Do, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Aikido. I also met actor and restaurateur Yuji Okumoto from Karate Kid Part 2, who spoke just after Linda Lee-Cadwell during the welcome reception for the Wing exhibit. Okumoto also hosted a screening of the film Awesome Asian Bad Guys, along with producer Phil Yu. I met many other martial artists, including Bruce Lee’s best friend, Guro Taky Kimura, who was also one of Bruce’s earliest students. Kimura attended with his family and some of his top instructors, including Abe Santos and many others. I recognized Santos from the Bruce Lee & Taky Kimura iPhone App, where he and others perform various technique demonstrations.
Other activities during the opening celebration included: a “Collectors’ Corner” with Perry Lee and Jeff Chinn; a martial arts demonstration by Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute of Seattle; a Bruce Lee-inspired stunt demonstration choreographed by veteran Hollywood and TV stuntman Bob Macdougall, along with a speaking program with KING 5 news anchor Sula Kim; Crash Dancers cha-cha flash mob tribute, choreographed by Salsa N Seattle; and ‘Breaking Barriers in Hollywood and Beyond,’ a panel discussion with Parry Shen (General Hospital), Geo Quibuyen (Blue Scholars and chef), Traci Kato-Kiriyama (spoken word artist & actress), and Leilani Nishime (UW), which was moderated by Phil Yu (aka Angry Asian Man). I also found out later that Grandmaster Leo Fong and others attended the continued celebration on Sunday, which I was not able to attend. I truly wish I had the opportunity to meet Grandmaster Fong. The Wing was also presented with a bust of Bruce Lee in tribute to his legacy and the exhibition. (Special thank you to Jeff Chinn’s Facebook gallery and Linda Lemon for this information).
Needless to say, this was one incredible journey, one I’m proud to share, hopefully it will inspire you to take your own journey someplace special to you.
More About Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers
Still rooted in Bruce Lee’s Seattle story, Year 2 of the Wing Luke Museum’s exhibit tackles Lee’s larger than life impact in the media and film industry. From Green Hornet to Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee defied stereotypes, broke barriers and transformed media perceptions by insisting on playing roles of real people rather than Chinese male caricatures.
Some of the rarely seen memorabilia on display include: the largest display ever of The Green Hornet collectibles; personal letters; behind-the-scene photos from The Way of the Dragon & Enter the Dragon; handwritten film notes by Bruce for Game of Death; a rare photo inside his early studio in Seattle’s Chinatown; photos from his apartment in the University District where he launched his early studio and fell in love with wife Linda; and a custom one-inch punch interactive station, developed in partnership with University of Washington.
What impressed me most with the Wing’s exhibit was the video clip archive. One of many notable clips included two Green Hornet screen tests Bruce Lee filmed – one with actor Michael Lipton as Green Hornet, and a second with Jay Murray as the masked vigilante hero.
‘Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers’ is currently on display to the general public and runs through September 4th, 2016, at which time the exhibit will again be updated to focus on Bruce Lee the artist.
The Martial Arts Reference in Mycroft Holmes
According to the author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a main character in the book Mycroft Holmes – Cyrus Douglas, a man of African descent. Douglas is Mycroft’s best friend and a very capable boxer and martial artist. Douglas apparently learned from the local Trinidadian Chinese population in his homeland. He then traveled to Brazil, where he studied the art of Capoeira. In real life, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has studied martial arts for many years, most notably with Bruce Lee during the 1970’s. Bruce and Kareem became great friends, so much so that Lee was able to convince Abdul-Jabbar to drop everything and fly to Hong Kong to shoot scenes for his upcoming film Game of Death.
The image gallery below is in the order of events, as they happened. I will be posting a much more thorough gallery of images – including present day photos of more than 30 locations Bruce Lee lived and worked in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle – in the next few days. For now, I hope you enjoy the gallery below.
You can also view my CNN reports at these links:
- CNN Article Part A & Gallery 1
- CNN Article Part B & Gallery 2
- CNN Gallery 3
- CNN Gallery 4
- CNN Gallery 5
- CNN Gallery 6
- CNN Gallery 7