He paved the way for stars like Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal. The first true action star of the silver screen was Martial Arts expert Bruce Lee. The San Francisco native starred in five films in his brilliant but brief career that was tragically cut short at the age of 32.
On Tuesday, September 4, 2012 the San Francisco Giants and the Bruce Lee Foundation, teamed up for a special tribute night to honor Bruce’s legacy. AsianWeek was lucky enough to interview both Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce’s widow who threw out the first pitch, and his daughter Shannon who sang the National Anthem. Here is our exclusive Q&A with both prior to the Giants game.
Asian Week: How did the Foundation get involved with the Giants?
Linda Lee Cadwell: It’s my understanding that the Giants contacted the foundation and thought it would be a great idea because San Francisco and Bruce have a very good connection. Bruce was born here in San Francisco. We lived in Oakland and came to San Francisco often and San Francisco is such a Pan-Asian community. Bruce and San Francisco are well connected.
AW: Obviously, so much has been made of his legacy as an action star but what do you think his legacy might mean? To me it seems he’s almost like the Chinese Jackie Robinson. He really opened doors for people like myself to even consider a different type of profession than you might normally consider.
LLC: Yes I have heard that from many, many people over all the years, how Bruce opened doors for them or otherwise influenced their life to go in a different direction. Because they could see that here there was a young Chinese guy who made his mark in the world and he didn’t always just think of himself as a Chinese young man, he thought of himself as a man who had goals that he wanted to accomplish and he went ahead and did it. And I think that was a great inspiration, to not only Chinese people but to people all over the world. All of the letters that I have received from all over the world prove that fact.
AW: I know you’re seeing more interracial couples now but at the time Bruce married you (in 1964) and it’s still pretty uncommon for Asian men to be with other races. What was that like?
LLC: (laughs) Well you know we didn’t think it was that odd at the time when we got married. I went to a high school in Seattle that was very mixed racially and so I had a lot of friends that were Asian or Black and just didn’t think it was that odd.
AW: And lastly, what do you think Bruce would think of his fame now…as you know, so many people attended his funeral and that was just the start. He was a big star in Hong Kong but he’s really a world wide phenomenon now.
LLC: I think it would be very rewarding to him as it is to me, to see that people have really recognized his true value and can use his writings and his philosophy to guide their own lives.
Asian Week: What does it mean to be involved with a team like the Giants and what the foundation is doing?
Shannon Lee: It’s so amazing to work with the Giants. They’re such a great organization and they’ve been really enthusiastic. It’s not only great that they wanted to pay tribute to my father but they also wanted to help support the Bruce Lee Foundation so that’s going to go a long way towards getting the awareness out about our projects, especially the Bruce Lee Action Museum.
AW: What is the Bruce Lee Foundation’s goal?
SL: The mission of the foundation is to preserve and perpetuate my father’s legacy for generations to come, but it’s primarily done through educational means. We do educational outreach to schools and we have a scholarship program. But our long term goal is to build the Bruce Lee Action Museum. And the idea behind the museum is that it’s not just about memorabilia, it’s about really looking at his legacy of action and all the ways he expressed it in his life, whether it was obviously through action films and martial arts but also socially, culturally, philosophically. We want it to be almost like a living institute where people can come and see some cool stuff but also be very engaged and maybe learn a little bit about what it is to take action.
AW: And what do you think your father would feel would feel about his legacy now. I mean he became, instead of just an action star, he’s a worldwide phenomenon.
SL: He is…I think he would be thrilled (laughs) because I really think he wanted to make an impact and he really wanted to get something out there about the Asian culture and about his own ideas and beliefs and he’s certainly done that.
AW: Thank you so much!
For more information on the Bruce Lee Foundation, please visit www.bruceleefoundation.com
For more about the Giants, visit the team’s official web page at www.sfgiants.com
Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services including ESPN Radio and Sirius XM Radio. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches.
All photos courtesy of Michael Jeong: http://www.michaeljeong.com/