By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Martial artist, movie star, father, husband, cha-cha champion.
Yes, Bruce Lee could do it all, which is exemplified through his title as 1958 Hong Kong Cha-Cha Champion. A new exhibit, entitled “Do You Know Bruce?” at the Wing Luke Art Museum in the International District, features Lee with a specific look at his life in Seattle.
Seattle City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Bruce Harrell donned jumpsuits made famous by Bruce Lee in the movie “Game of Death” to make the proclamation on behalf of Mayor Ed Murray that October 3rd would be known as “Bruce Lee Day” in the city of Seattle. The proclamation was made at the Wing Luke Museum with Lee’s daughter, Shannon, and his former wife, Linda Lee Caldwell, in attendance. Both were pleased with the installation and how it depicted the life of their father and husband.
“His life as an adult began here in Seattle,” said Shannon Lee. Her father developed his martial arts philosophy in Seattle and opened up his first schools in the area before moving to Oakland to start another school.
Shannon Lee continues to promote her father’s legacy as she is active with the Bruce Lee Foundation and runs Bruce Lee Enterprises. She is involved in the licensing and distribution of Bruce Lee’s image and brand, with such organizations as the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). Through the partnerships, she stated that she hopes that people will get to know more about her father. The UFC has touted Bruce Lee as the father of mixed martial arts. She continues the efforts to establish a Bruce Lee Action Museum in Seattle. The museum intends to aspire to continue on his spirit and legacy.
Walking into the exhibit space, you can watch a video that shows people that paid their respects to the gravesite of Lee at the Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle. Taped over the summer, the Bruce Lee fans gave their own personal reflections on what Lee’s life meant to them. The visit to the gravesite has become a sort of pilgrimage for many that have sought inspiration from Lee. In addition to the video are photos, ribbons, and notes from fans that were left at the site.
There is a hallway decorated with over 130 magazines from the personal collection of Bruce Lee collector Perry Lee.
The exhibit features many mementos from Lee’s life in Seattle, including a menu from the Ruby Chow restaurant where Lee worked when he first came to Seattle, the receipt from the tuxedo rental from his wedding, and the letter in which the television studio producing “The Green Hornet” informed him he would play an “Oriental-ish” character. There are also personal handwritten notes regarding his martial arts philosophy. Another video includes two University of Washington professors discussing the mechanics of the famous “one-inch” punch utilized by Lee in a martial arts demonstration at the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1964.
Distinctively northwest, there are four poems Lee wrote regarding the rain. The exhibit also provides for visitors to write their own reflections about what impact Lee’s life had on them.
The personal collections of private individuals reflect how Lee’s life, philosophy, and persona greatly affected people.
“I moved to a neighborhood where I was the only Asian,” said Jeff Chin, an avid collector of everything Bruce Lee. “I was constantly picked on and the only person that got me through it was Bruce Lee,” explained Chin of the inspiration he found in following Lee’s career. “I was proud to be Chinese because of Lee.” Chin salvaged a piece of the hospital in which Lee was born in San Francisco. Chin proudly states that he was born at the same hospital.
“He broke down racial barriers,” said Perry Lee. This is in reference to Bruce Lee’s martial arts schools which did not discriminate, as Lee was open to teaching African Americans. He also was receptive to having women learn from his schools. As is known by many Bruce Lee fans, one of his students was Linda Emery. In a video from the exhibit, Linda recalls that Lee was showing her a takedown and as he took her down, he asked her to go on a date to the Space Needle. It was their first date.
This is the first of three phases of the Bruce Lee experience at the Wing Luke. The next phase will look at breaking barriers in film and TV. The final phase will look at Bruce Lee as the artist. (end)
For more information on the exhibit, please visit wingluke.org.
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.