10 more things you probably didn't know about Bruce Lee


Hong Kong martial arts superstar Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940. Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about him.

1. According to Matthew Polly's in-depth biography Bruce Lee: A Life, Lee's nickname at school was "Gorilla".

He acquired this slightly derogatory moniker because, as Hawkins Cheung, his school friend at St Francis Xavier's School, remembered, "he was muscular and walked around with his arms at his sides".

Most of the schoolkids were scared of Lee, but as Cheung was one of his closest friends, he made up his own nickname for him: he called him "Chicken Legs", because of Lee's muscular torso and apparently scrawny legs.

Hawkins said that Lee used to get mad at him when he used this name and would chase him around the schoolyard.

2. Although he came from a middle-class home, the young Lee was a tearaway who loved street-fighting.

"As a kid in Hong Kong, I was a punk and went looking for fights," he told Black Belt magazine.

"We used chains and pens with knives hidden inside. Then, one day, I began to wonder what would happen if I didn't have my gang behind me when I got into a fight."

This revelation was to change the course of his life, as he started thinking about learning martial arts. "I only took up kung fu when I began to feel insecure," he said.

3. One of Lee's early girlfriends was a Japanese-American student named Amy Sanbo.

She initially rebuffed his romantic overtures, but he was persistent. The turning point came when she stepped on a nail in her ballet class and had to walk around on crutches.

When Lee noticed Sanbo struggling to ascend a tall flight of concrete stairs, he picked her up and carried her to the top. The two had an on-off relationship for two years after that.

4. Bruce Lee and I is a 1976 feature film that purports to tell the story of Betty Ting Pei, the woman Lee was with the night he died.

Bizarrely, Ting starred in the film as herself, and is seen cavorting in bed with Danny Lee Sau-yin, who plays Bruce.

"Betty Ting Pei nearly got the chance to act out her real-life drama in Bruce Lee and I, but the director had other ideas the director [Lo Mar] decided to make what happened in her bedroom that night look all part of her imagination," a critic wrote at the time.

5. Lee's on-screen martial arts career didn't get off to a good start on The Green Hornet, the American TV show which gave him his first taste of fame in the West.

It wasn't that he performed badly - he just moved too fast for the cameras.

After shooting a scene in which he was so fast no one could see the moves he was making, resulting in laughter from the show's cast and crew, Lee stormed into his dressing room in a bad mood.

After that he modified his approach. "By god, did he slow it down," said The Green Hornet's star Van Williams. Lee played the Hornet's assistant Kato in the series.

6. Lee really loved cars, but while he was teaching martial arts in the US, he could only afford an unglamorous Chevrolet "Chevy" Nova (the car had a sticker in the back window that read "This car is protected by the Green Hornet").

A friend sometimes let him drive a supercool Shelby Cobra (called the AC Cobra in Britain), but what he really wanted was the sports car his best buddy Steve McQueen owned: a Porsche Targa.

When Lee's mother sent him his share of the proceeds from an apartment she'd sold in Hong Kong, he went straight out to buy the Porsche, even though he couldn't really afford it.

7. Veteran film director Lo Wei, who directed Lee in The Big Boss, made the mistake of telling a newspaper that he taught Bruce how to fight in front of the cameras.

Even worse, he dared to call himself "The Dragon's Mentor". When he found out, an enraged Lee rushed over to where Lo was filming and threatened to beat him up. Lee only calmed down when Lo's wife Gladys intervened.

8. Bruce's younger brother Robert Lee Jun-fai was a famous pop musician in Hong Kong.

He was lead singer of the Thunderbirds, a successful group of the mid-1960s, and sang in English. He released a posthumous tribute to his brother called The Ballad of Bruce Lee in 1974.

9. When Lee's first martial arts film The Big Boss was released in Hong Kong in 1971, it beat the city's box-office record set by a very different kind of film - the musical The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews, which had been released in 1965. The Big Boss was a surprise box-office hit.

10. The 1976 "biopic" Bruce Lee: True Story - one of many shoddy films about the star made after his death - depicted a few completely different versions of how he died.

One of these endings featured the unusual idea that Lee was not actually dead at all, and was planning to re-emerge in the 1980s.

"[The film] means well and is a briskly paced and slickly conceived effort," film trade newspaper Variety said in a review at the time, but noted: "there is very little said about the man and his personal life".

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