Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 9 News List

Is Bruce Lee still a legend in Hong Kong?

The city's most famous son had a lot more than just kung fu and almost single-handedly put the Hong Kong film industry on the global map, but attempts to commemorate him have not been going well


"It's basically an old-fashioned tea house," says W. Wong. "They did it up and put in a little gallery, so now you can view Bruce Lee photos and taste some tea as well. From this you can see the Chinese people are very enterprising. They've made good use of the very small connection they had, but the Hong Kong government? Come on! So stupid!"

The SARS fiasco has, however, prompted a government rethink of its tourist strategy, which has resulted in plans for an Avenue of Stars, modelled on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. If the Lee legacy has gone anywhere, though, it is not Hong Kong or China but the US. Lee was, after all, an American citizen. He was born there and is buried there. Most of his martial-arts disciples teach there and most of his relatives live there, including his widow, Linda, and his daughter, Shannon. They help run the Bruce Lee Foundation, an educational charity, and will both be remembering Bruce at "the world's first-ever Bruce Lee convention" this weekend in California, alongside jeet kune do practitioners and unrelated convention veterans such as Bond girl Gloria Hendry and Lorenzo Lamas, star of Renegade.

Robert Lee believes that if Bruce had lived, he would have moved back to the US. "He knew that Hong Kong had done him good, but it was also getting him down. With his training regime and his writing and directing, he was always tired and he complained he never had time for himself. He was mobbed every time he went out. I don't think he could have taken it much longer."

Lee was already mulling over offers from Hollywood at the time of his death. There was even talk of him making a movie with Elvis. To return to the country that slighted him as a fully fledged film star would have been sweet revenge, but he could have blown it. Around the time of his death, he was reported to be paranoid, dictatorial, obsessed with his celebrity and his physique. Whether it was luck or design, he died a martyr rather than a tyrant, just like the ending of Fist of Fury -- freeze-framed in a flying drop-kick into a crowd of foreigners.

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