The Mystery of Bruce Lee's
Bruce Lee, dressed in the traditional
Chinese outfit he wore in the movie Enter The Dragon, was laid to rest in Lakeview
Cemetery in Seattle in late July of 1973. But long before Lee's sudden and tragic
death in a Hong Kong apartment at age 32,
rife throughout the Orient that he had been wounded or killed in fights.
"One day, I got a long-distance call
from Hong Kong's largest newspaper," Lee recalled. "They asked me if I was still alive.
'Guess who you are talking to?' I replied." Thus,
when Lee actually did die, speculation abounded as to the cause. The rumors ranged from Lee being killed by Hong
Kong triads (gangsters) because he refused to pay them protection money - -something
that was common for Chinese movie
stars to do at that
time -to his being killed by an angry martial artist's dim mak (death touch) strike. Some people claimed Lee
was cursed-he had just bought a house in Hong Kong that was supposed to be haunted-or
that he had died while making
love to actress Betty Tingpei,
or that he had angered the Chinese martial arts community by teaching foreigners, and that he had
been killed in a challenge match.
Many Chinese believed Lee was the victim of too much
gum Ilk (intensity) in his training, while others cited drug use as the
cause for his sudden demise. Still others believed that Lee's fate was sealed at birth, that it was in the stars.
And, finally, there
are those who think Lee's death was
staged, and that he is merely waiting for the right time to return to society.
The facts of the case are this: Lee died after falling
into a coma. The coroner's report was inconclusive, and medical authorities
came up with five reasons for Lee's untimely death. However, they all agreed that it was caused by a cerebral
swelling of the brain caused by a congestion
of fluid). But what caused the edema became a matter of speculation. For the most
part, the course of events on that fateful July day in 1973 can be pieced together. According to Lee's wife,
Linda, Bruce met
film producer Raymond Chow at 2 p.m.
at home to discuss the making of Game of Death. They worked until 4 p.m., and then
drove together to the home of Betty Tingpei, a Taiwanese actress who was to also have a leading role in the film.
went over the script at Tingpei's home, and
then Chow left to attend a dinner meeting. A
short time later, Lee complained of a headache and Tingpei gave him a tablet of Equagesic-a kind of super sapirin. Apart
from that, Lee reportedly consumed nothing but a couple of
soft drinks. At around 7:30 p.m., Lee lay down for a nap and was
still asleep when Chow called to ask why he and Tingpei had not yet
shown up for dinner as planned. The actress told Chow she could not wake Lee. The ensuing autopsy found traces
in Lee's stomach, but the significance of
this discovery is debatable. Some believe the cannabis caused a chemical reaction that
led to the cerebral edema, but the coroner's inquiry refutes this theory. In fact, one doctor was quoted as saying
cannabis being in Lee's stomach was "no more significant than if Bruce had drunk a cup of tea that day."
Dr. R.R. Lycette of Queen Elizabeth Hospital viewed
Lee's death as a hypersensitivity to one or more of the compounds found
in the headache tablet he consumed that afternoon. Although his skull showed no injury, his brain had swollen
from 1,400 to 1,575 grams. None of the blood vessels were blocked or broken, so the possibility of
a hemorrhage was ruled
out. All of Lee's internal organs
were meticulously examined, and the only "foreign" substance to be found was the Equagesic. Chow came to the apartment and could not wake Lee either. A doctor was summoned, and he spent 10 minutes
revive the martial artist before sending
him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. By the time he reached the hospital, Lee
was dead .
Foul play was immediately suspected as having a role
in Lee's passing. Chow appeared on television to try to settle the public
furor that quickly developed. He explained what happened, omitting only the fact that Lee had not died at home.
soon uncovered the truth, however, and demanded
to know what Chow was trying to cover up. R.D. Teare, a professor of
forensic medicine at the University of London who had overseen more than 90,000 autopsies, was called in and
declared that it
was basically impossible for the cannabis
to be a factor in Lee's death. In Teare's opinion, the edema was caused by
hypersensitivity to either meprobamate or aspirin, or a combination of both. His view was accepted by authorities,
determination of "misadventure" was stamped on
Strangely, an early death was a
conceivability that Lee had contemplated with surprising frequency. According to his wife
Linda, he had no wish to live to a ripe old age because he could not stand the idea of losing the physical abilities
he had strived
so hard to achieve.
"If I should die tomorrow," he
used to say, "I will have no regrets. I did what I wanted to do. You can't expect more from life."