Bruce Lee: A Life, by Matthew Polly claims to be the first authoritative biography of the star since his death at age 32
Bruce Lee was as talented in bed as he was at martial arts and left one mistress feeling like he ‘took me to the moon and back’, a new book has revealed.
The biography on the kung fu legend claims that actress Sharon Farrell felt that Bruce ‘just turned me inside out’ because he understood her body so well.
Farrell was just one of Bruce’s many conquests even though he was married to wife Linda Emery, the mother of his two children.
But it wasn’t hard to see why the star was such a ladies’ man; Lee had the body of an 18-year-old when he was 32 thanks to his constant training and raw hamburger beef smoothies he drank for their protein.
The inside story of Bruce’s womanizing is revealed in Bruce Lee: A Life, by bestselling author of American Shaolin, Matthew Polly.
The star once admitted he was ‘not a saint’ when it came to his love life.
He would impress women by showing off his kung fu moves and cha-cha dancing and even underwent circumcision to be more like an American.
Despite his reputation for being vain and arrogant, women were drawn to him because of his chiseled abs and for what one blonde West German glamour girl called his ‘indescribable magnetism.’
Bruce died at age 32 in 1973 – just a few weeks before the release of Enter the Dragon, the first big Western-produced kung fu film.
The movie turned him into cultural icon, introduced the world to his Taoist philosophy, and opened the door to martial arts in the West.
But in life Bruce was not as measured as he was on screen and never fully managed his temper and craving for control, behaviors which played out in his treatment of women.
Before Bruce became a film star in his own right he taught kung fu to celebrities in Los Angeles and counted actors James Coburn and Steve McQueen among his clients.
The book, which claims to be the first authoritative biography of Bruce since his death, says that one thing he learned from McQueen was be in charge of everything on the set.
Another was to ‘cut a wide swath through the female production of actresses, groupies..housewives and hatcheck girls’.
In 1969 Bruce was an advisor for the film The Wrecking Crew when he met actress Farrell.
At the time Bruce’s wife had just given birth to their second child, a daughter, Shannon, but he walked up to Farrell in the MGM studio parking and charmed her into bed.
Farrell said: ‘He was the first man I had ever been with who had such a beautiful body.
‘Those abs – his muscles were so defined, it was as if they were chiseled. Bruce was the most incredible lover I’ve ever been with. He was just so knowledgeable about a woman’s body’.
The affair was very much on Bruce’s terms and he would say: ‘I’m coming over’ and ‘drag me into the bedroom’, said Farrell, who eventually ended their fling to be with McQueen.
She said: ‘Bruce took me to the moon and back. He just turned me inside out.
‘But he was married and didn’t have a pot to pee in. Steve was successful – he was my protector. I was in lust with Steve, but Bruce was the love of my life’.
The book says that Bruce also had a ‘fling’ with his co-star on Way of the Dragon, Nora Miao, though she has never confirmed or denied it.
Bruce tenderly held her hand and got food for her, his affection all too apparent, according to the book.
But his most well known mistress was Betty Ting Pei, claims Polly, an actress who met him on the set of Way of the Dragon.
Betty says she was ‘with him all the time at the studio’; while actor Anderson Nelsson confirmed ‘Bruce was engrossed with Betty’.
With Betty, Bruce did not seem to care about getting caught and would take her out in public, once reportedly buying her a new Mercedes Benz as a gift.
When challenged about it by actress Nancy Kwan, one of his students and his friend, Bruce said: ‘Oh, Nancy it doesn’t mean anything.
‘It’s just a fling. I’ll get rid of her. She doesn’t mean anything to me. I have plenty of girls’.
During the 1970s, films Way of the Dragon and Game of Death turned Bruce into the biggest star in Hong Kong and the most famous person in South East Asia.
It also earned him an invitation from Warner Bros to make Enter the Dragon, the first Western kung fu movie.
Bruce would be the star but the most contentious role to cast was Mei Ling, the undercover agent who helps Bruce to infiltrate the island owned by Han, the villain.
Bruce had promised Betty the role since their relationship had ‘grown more serious’ so she rented a room 15 minutes away from his home to see him more easily.
He would later give the part to somebody else sparking a row between the two and ultimately, their break up.
How or why Bruce’s wife Linda put up with his philandering behavior is not entirely clear, but her supporters say that she has never been properly understood.
Born Linda Emery in Seattle, she grew up in a Baptist family who disapproved of mixed marriages and wed Bruce over the objections of her mother and father, though they later came around.
According to the book, Bruce’s younger brother Robert Lee said: ‘As a bachelor, Bruce liked to have affairs with beautiful, flashy girls, but he married a quiet, sensitive girl who knew how to listen and would let him have his way’.
As Bruce told an interviewer in 1966: ‘Linda is more Oriental than some of the Chinese I know. She is quiet, calm and doesn’t yak-yak-yak all the time’.
The book describes Linda, now 73, more diplomatically as ‘the perfect partner for a brilliant, volatile and extroverted man’.
Their friend Taky Kimura said: ‘Nobody has given Linda the credit she deserves. This woman has been one hell of a pillar of strength’.
In fairness, Bruce’s Hollywood friends were never faithful and he was a star in the Mad Men era where a generation of men acted with impunity while their wives were expected to stay home with the kids.
Bruce did address his cheating to Linda – but only in a hypothetical way.
‘If I ever had an affair with a woman, it would be something that happened spontaneously. I would never plan or decide to have a mistress or anything of that nature,’ Bruce told her, but his arrangement with Betty seemed at odds with this.
Bruce said that if Linda ever found out about an affair it would have ‘absolutely no importance at all’.
He said: ‘All that matters to me is you and the children. Infidelity has no real bearing on a marriage. Fleeting attraction for another female has no significance regarding a matter so fundamental as a marriage’.
But Linda grew enraged as Bruce said: ‘Men are like that.’
Bruce Lee was born Lee Jun-fan in San Francisco in 1940. His father Lee Hoi-chuen was a Cantonese opera singer and actor and his mother Grace Ho was a socialite in Hong Kong, where they raised him.
In his youth Bruce formed a gang of schoolmates and got expelled from his posh Catholic school for pulling a knife on a PE instructor.
He also forced another boy to pull down his pants and painted his genitals red with paint he had stolen from a construction site. His antics eventually put him on a police list of delinquents, according to the book.
In his youth Bruce starred in more than a dozen films but his parents but his career on ice due to his poor grades.
Given that he was an American citizen he decided to move to the US to make a new life for himself and in 1959 he set sail for San Francisco, his birthplace.
While working as a dishwasher he taught cha-cha dancing, earning him many female admirers.
He spent his spare time studying martial arts and teaching workshops where he developed his own style he said was superior to classical forms, which he found too rigid.
On June 9, 1967 he gave his method a name: Jeet Kune Do, meaning ‘the way of intercepting fist’.
From boxing Bruce took the footwork, from kung fu its kicks and from fencing the movement.
He also developed the philosophical side and saw Taoism as a way to managing one’s own ego, greed and anger.
Bruce was a fitness innovator and incorporated weightlifting into his routine years before pro athletes did the same.
He used an electrical muscle stimulator machine but he went over the top, cranking it up so high it would curl his hair.
He experimented with his diet and downed raw hamburger meat smoothies for their protein.
Several times a day he drank a beverage made of of Rheo Blair Protein Powder, ice water, powdered milk, eggs, eggshells, bananas, vegetable oil, peanut flower and chocolate ice cream.
His regimen made him bulk out and led to speculation that Bruce used steroids.
And while author Polly says ‘it is possible he tried them, there is no evidence to suggest regular use’; Bruce loved to show off his latest gadgets and inventions and nobody ever recalled him mentioning steroids.
In his first year of college at the University of Washington Bruce fell completely in love with a Japanese-American sophomore called Amy Sanbo, a dancer, and had a ‘tempestuous on-off relationship that lasted two years’.
Sanbo said: ‘When I perform it’s almost orgasmic. It is very sexual and Bruce was like that too. I’m horribly addicted to talent and Bruce was a kinetic genius’.
The problem in their relationship was their different outlooks. Bruce had a 1950s view of gender roles who believed his girlfriend should put him first, but Sanbo was a feminist jazz singer who wanted her own career.
‘Amy loved Bruce but he also drove her crazy. She felt he was suffocating her – always wanting to know where she was going and with whom,’ the book states.
Bruce repeatedly asked Sanbo to marry him but she refused and broke things off in Spring 1963, leaving Bruce ‘devastated’.
He got over it and became so committed to his new life in America that he even got circumcised while on a trip home to Hong Kong.
Bruce explained what he had done to his family by dropping his pants for them to see.
When asked by his brother Robert as to why he did it, Bruce said: ‘It’s what they do in America. I’m American, I want to look the part’.
Bruce moved back to San Francisco where his kung fu exhibitions caught the attention of TV producers who cast him as Kato in the series The Green Hornet.
It was here he met Thordis Brandt, a blonde from West Germany and one of the glamour girls of the 1960s – and had a fling with her.
Brandt said: ‘He had a magnetism that was indescribable. Bruce was very quiet and shy but could be very aggressive if he wanted to be. He was a show-off and always wanted to flaunt his body’.
Their relationship lasted a few months until Brandt’s on and off lover James Arness, the star of the TV series Gunsmoke, found out she was dating Bruce and hired private detectives to investigate him.
They quickly found out he was married and had a young child and told Brandt.
Bruce did not wear a wedding ring and failed to tell her about his marriage.
The Green Hornet was Bruce’s big break and he leveraged it to start teaching celebrity clients like McQueen, who returned the favor by introducing Bruce to marijuana which became a lifelong habit.
Bruce once supposedly kicked a door off its hinges to impress Frank Sinatra, a story that may not have been true but spread throughout Hollywood, making Bruce even more in demand as a martial arts coach and film consultant.
Bruce got more small parts including the TV series Longstreet and in 1970 on a visit home to Hong Kong he was shocked to find reporters waiting for him at the airport.
The Green Hornet had just screened and it was so popular that locals jokingly renamed it ‘The Kato Show’ because they were so proud to see a Chinese national on an American TV series.
The next year Raymond Chow, a top Hong Kong kung fu film producer, signed Bruce to make the two films that would make his name.
When The Big Boss opened it took in HK$1 million in its first three days, beating the record of The Sound of Music.
Bruce had used his knowledge of Hollywood production and his kung fu technique to make his already impressive skills look amazing on screen.
It was the perfect fusion of East and West and the Washington Post said that he had a ‘Cagney-esque cockiness and early Steve McQueen nonchalance’.
The follow up, Fist of Fury, did even better and established Bruce as box office gold in Hong Kong.
When Warner Bros put Enter the Dragon into production, it was everything Bruce had dreamed for: his own project, with an American film company, with him in complete control.
A lesser man would have taken his foot off the gas, but not Bruce, even if it left him exhausted and gaunt.
He had a near miss in May 1973 after collapsing and going into spasms following an editing session in a sweltering dubbing room with no air conditioning.
A doctor diagnosed him with cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, and Bruce admitted that he had eaten some Nepalese hash shortly before the episode.
Bruce’s death two months later became a national scandal in Hong Kong when it emerged he had been at Betty’s house at the time of his death, a fact that his managers tried to cover up.
Once the press discovered the truth they turned the case into a frenzy, even speculating that he died with an erection – reporters bribed their way into the morgue to try and get pictorial evidence.
Other rumors claimed that Bruce’s body had been switched when Linda flew his remains to Seattle where she buried him in a quiet ceremony, a contrast to the public outpouring of thousands in Hong Kong.
The book concludes that Bruce probably died from heat stroke, or hyperthermia, because he had a previous such episode and it was 90 degrees with 84 per cent humidity on the day he died.
Bruce had been in Betty’s apartment acting out scenes from Game of Death meaning that he had worked up a sweat, and he was already exhausted and had lost 20 pounds, leaving him looking gaunt with dark rings under his eyes.
The book argues that Bruce was misdiagnosed during his previous collapse because doctors were not aware of heat stroke in the way they are now.
Enter the Dragon, which cost $850,000 to make, raked in $90 million and would go on to make $350 million over the next 45 years. Only after death did Bruce achieve what he had spent his whole life fighting for.