The Truth Behind Life and Death of Bruce Lee

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I was personally offended by Alison Dakota Gee’s article about my late husband, Bruce Lee (“Dragon Days,” Calendar, July 20). Purporting to commemorate the flourishing of his legacy 25 years after his death, The Times’ story sank to the depths of tabloid journalism in sensationalizing the life and death of an extraordinarily gifted human being.

Having been married to Bruce for nine years and being the mother of our two children, I am more than qualified to give a correct recital of the facts. Let me pick one glaring falsehood in the story to illustrate my point: Your reporter writes that Bruce died because of taking “too much aspirin.” Besides being false, the tone of the statement smacks of sarcasm and disbelief.

Without going into every detail, let me rebut for those who wish to know the truth: Bruce died from cerebral edema caused by hypersensitivity to an ingredient in a prescription medication called Equagesic. This determination was made after an exhaustive, nine-day coroner’s inquest during which the testimony of forensic pathologists from all over the world, who had studied every tissue in Bruce’s body, was heard.



The question of what caused Bruce’s death is the one I am most frequently asked, and yet the powerful investigative arm of the Los Angeles Times cannot uncover the true facts. You did me and my family no favors.

In addition, a renowned pathologist testifying at the inquest stated that the small amount of cannabis found in Bruce’s stomach had no more effect on the cause of death than if he had “taken a cup of tea” shortly before he died. Yet, The Times’ reporter makes the giant leap to state falsely that Bruce had a “serious addiction to cannabis.”

Your reporter then jumps to the hasty conclusion that because Bruce lay down with a headache at the home of an actress, and subsequently died from the prescription medication she gave him, he was therefore having an extramarital affair. These types of statements, reported as fact, are purely speculative hearsay, the product of a 25-year rumor mill kept alive by the gossip of people who were never there, including your reporter and others quoted in the article.

I have seen and heard every juicy bit of malicious rumor about the life and death of Bruce Lee over the years. But I could not stand by and let this newspaper that used to have standards of integrity and decency stoop to the level of journalistic trash talk.

I am not purporting that Bruce was a perfect human being, only one that did more good than harm in his short time on this Earth. He faced many obstacles in his life--overcoming racist attitudes, surviving dire economic circumstances, surmounting physical injuries--and in so doing distinguished himself as someone to be rightfully admired and emulated.

Throughout these 25 years I have received tens of thousands of testimonials from people who have been positively influenced by Bruce’s example, his teachings, his philosophy and his films. There is so much to say of redeeming social value about Bruce Lee that I am at a loss to understand your motive in choosing to ignore details and facts in favor of a tabloid presentation of unsubstantiated allegations and flat-out falsehoods.



I am shocked and disappointed that a major national newspaper in the city where Bruce lived and worked, where I raised our children and where our daughter still lives, has deliberately abdicated its moral responsibility to society by demeaning the character of a decent and honorable man, husband, father, friend and teacher.

Within only a few miles of the Los Angeles Times building there is a group of friends and students of Bruce Lee, incorporated as a nonprofit organization called Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do, who are actively involved in preserving and perpetuating his art and philosophy in order to benefit as many people in the future as it has for the last 25 years.

A newspaper that truly wants to do justice to the lifework of a man who made a difference in the lives of so many people all over the world would seek out the true story of this universally admired figure.

It saddens me to see how your standards of professionalism have disintegrated. I suppose it was “easier” for your writer to report gossip than to produce what could have been an accurate and truly inspirational piece. You should be ashamed to call yourself a reputable newspaper. Your actions have diminished my respect for your publication.

Linda Lee Cadwell resides in Boise, Idaho.