Fans who can’t get enough of the late Bruce Lee--who died 20 years ago Tuesday--will soon be able to buy their own piece of the legendary kung fu star’s life when more than 150 items from his estate are put on the auction block in August.
The sale of items ranging from a pair of broken reading glasses (estimated value $6,000) to his 1961 Selective Service Card ($800) comes after a year of both good news and tragedy for the Lee family: In April, Lee received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame coinciding with the release of the movie “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” (Universal). The film, based on a book by Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, has grossed $33.7 million to date.
But in an eerie coincidence that will forever shroud the Lee family in mystery, Lee’s 28-year-old son, Brandon, was killed March 31 in an accidental shooting while filming “The Crow” in North Carolina. Bruce Lee died of a cerebral edema under equally mysterious circumstances.
The Aug. 7 auction by Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills is the first ever authorized by Cadwell, who will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Lou Gehrig Disease Foundation and the Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund.
“In the last 20 years, there have been cycles of great interest in Bruce Lee. When he first passed away, we had no idea that he would become as legendary as he has,” said Cadwell by telephone from Boise, Ida. “In agreement with both of my children, we thought that we could perhaps share (the memorabilia) with other people who might find great value in them.”
Among the more unusual items for sale are the contents of Lee’s 1970 wallet--which includes a signed Social Security card and his Screen Actors Guild membership card--with an estimated value of more than $10,000, according to the auction catalogue. Other items include philosophy essays from Lee’s days at the University of Washington in the early 1960s, his Gucci address book filled with English and Chinese entries, photos, sketches, movie costumes and martial arts equipment.
Perhaps the most intriguing item of the estate is a 1969 declaration, “My Definite Chief Aim,” in which Lee penned his dream for the future:
I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Bruce Lee is this deep philosophical commitment that he had. He’s not just a Hollywood sensation,” said Heather Holmberg, sale curator at Superior Galleries, a division of McNall Sports and Entertainment.
Yet Hollywood is where Lee came to fame, on the big screen in movies like “Enter the Dragon” and as Kato on the television series “The Green Hornet.” Lee also helped develop the TV show “Kung Fu,” and taught martial arts to celebrities including James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.