#22 Linda on Bruce and Brandon
Bruce’s wife and Shannon’s mom Linda Lee Cadwell joins us again and she shares more stories about Bruce, telling of his spirit of generosity and charity. And for the first time she shares stories about their son Brandon Lee.
When Linda first visited Hong Kong in 1965, it was a tough time for many Hong Kong people. There were a lot of very poor people and many would stand on corners asking for donations. Bruce never passed up anyone without giving some coins and saying a kind word. He had great feeling for those who were less fortunate and was always willing to give his possessions and time to those in need. For most of their marriage, Linda and Bruce never had two dimes to rub together, but Bruce was always generous with his money, time and expertise.
At a time when the country was still mired in racial tension, Bruce’s studio was filled with people of all races and backgrounds. He taught movie stars and regular people in the same way, never acknowledging the false status that society placed on them. Bruce himself faced discrimination again and again, so it was of utmost importance to him to see the humanity in all people.
As a child actor, Bruce was surrounded by successful Chinese artists who taught him about the beauty of Chinese culture and how to live gracefully in the face of adversity. This daily immersion with artists influenced his outlook and his identity as an artist. He had many adult mentors in his life including his martial arts teacher Ip Man who taught Bruce much of the philosophy that he later expanded upon. Linda thinks that these early creative and philosophical teachers were critical in helping Bruce stay optimistic and fluid as he faced hardships in his life.
One of the main hardships Bruce faced was his massive back injury. He was in bed for many months recovering. But he used that time studying, writing and researching his own rehabilitation program. They couldn’t afford a full time physical therapist so Bruce took charge of his own recovery. He never accepted the doctors’ diagnosis that he would never walk normally or practice Kung Fu again. During this recovery time Bruce developed his philosophies and his writings. He slowly and scientifically helped himself recover and went on to star in his most famous films including Enter the Dragon.
Brandon shared many similar traits with his dad. He was rebellious, passionate, and his charismatic energy came through the screen. When his father died, Brandon was 8, and it was then that he decided to be an actor. Linda shares that he never wavered in that passion. Brandon was a free spirit, and didn’t always follow the straight and narrow, especially in school, but he was an avid reader and writer. Like his father, Brandon was an artist who did things his own way.
(Awesome Asians and Hapas)
This week our #AAHA is Yuja Wang, a Chinese concert pianist and child prodigy from Beijing. She started studying piano at 6 and studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, later studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She is known for wearing very interesting clothing when she performs, often changing her outfits to reflect the music she is playing. She has become someone who is known for heightening the musical experience through the visual aspect of her performance. Yuja tours the world performing and is doing things her own way. Yuja Wang, we think you’re awesome!
Today we have an email from Sam Litvan:
Hello Shannon and Sharon, Every week I eagerly wait for the next episode to learn something about Bruce Lee I did not know. Because of that, I'd like to say thank you for what you're doing. I grew up in Ukraine and I remember when the wall collapsed, my best friend and I would go to his apartment after school and we would watch American movies which were available for the first time. Being kids, we idolized the stars like Stalone and Schwarzenegger. Above them all was Bruce Lee. I later found out that we didn't actually get the Bruce Lee films, what we saw were the knock-offs: the Bruce Les and Lis. So I didn't realize who Bruce Lee was until I came to United States as a 10 year old. At that age I knew I wanted to learn Kung Fu and I devoured every film and documentary about Bruce Lee. He was a real life super hero who sadly passed before I was born. Even then however, what he said was as important as what he did. I remember how I learned that he wrote, produced and directed his films, this made me realize that there is no one role for any of us. He cleared that idea that being macho doesn't preclude one from being intelligent or funny. Learning he was a Cha-Cha dancer made me realize that all talents are important and excellence must be pursued in all fields. I've had many influences over the course of my life, but what Bruce Lee achieved in his short time motivates me to accomplish as much as I can because what his short life taught me is that none of us know just how much time we have and so we must value every second. What a tragedy would it be if Bruce Lee was a little bit lazy and created one less movie, one less script, if he created one less martial art, wrote one less journal entry, made fewer kicks, read one less book.
My Bruce Lee moment happened while I was in Hong Kong at the end of a five month journey to document Jewish diaspora. Being proud of heritage is a big part of Bruce Lee's philosophy and I felt my people, after years of anti-Semitism, lost sight of the value of their history and culture and I wanted to re-kindle that with my primary talent: photography. While in Hong Kong, I stayed in a hotel in a multi-purpose building on Nathan Road. Because of a conference, all rooms went up in price so I had to find another place to stay. I went down to the street and as I passed the next high rise, a woman caught my arm and said there are rooms in her hotel. I went up to the hostel and after seeing the windowless closet she offered where all walls literally touched all sides of the twin bed at double the rate I paid for a larger room, I said no and decided to leave. As we descended in the elevator, she suggested a hostel on the second floor.
As I exited the elevator, it was bad. The beige hallways were dirty, cans and bottles littered on the ground, smell of garbage was terrible. I should have turned back but something made me go forward. As I turned a corner, I saw a sign at the end of the hall: "Kung Fu". I thought it strange and funny and went further to the desk. There was a man sitting there even though it was late at night. I asked if there was a hostel there, he said yes. I asked if it was part of the Kung Fu school, he said yes. "What strange luck I thought." I decided to stay there even though the room was not much better. This was the end of an around the world trip. I was tired, broke and wondered why I was doing this in the first place when I could have a cushy job in the states. Next night, in a windowless small room, I opened my laptop and looked up Bruce Lee. As I read through the Bruce Lee Hong Kong tour, I noticed something: there was a picture of Bruce Lee at his school. I had a sudden realization that the picture was taken at the same school where I was staying. I realized that on the roof of this building is where he fought the fight that sent him to California. California where I would be in a few days, at the end of the first leg of my journey. That same morning I was at ShangriLa building where a synagogue functions, the building which Bruce Lee often visited and saw his statue on the avenue of Stars. This was a coincidence that invigorated me and my strength. Alone, far from friends and family, even if this was a lost cause, I was having an experience that I could not have had any other way. It was as if I was imbued with the spirit of adventure that is in Bruce Lee. This was my Bruce Lee moment and it helped me complete a project of a lifetime.
Thank you Sharon and Shannon for all that you do. Sam Litvin