(CNN) Bruce Lee was training a friend one day when he did something unexpected.
The star of the classic movie “Enter the Dragon” was already known for his fanatical fitness regime. He did not smoke or drink; he devoured vitamin supplements and drank raw mixed hamburger meat. He turned into an agile fighter who could do two-finger push-ups and send burly men to fly with his famous one-inch blow.
But Lee ended training at his house on that particular day with a different type of success. He lit the joint and began to blow. It came from a box marijuana cigarettes he had in his garage. Lee later switched to hashish, carried it in small bags and tasted it like food.
“It raises consciousness,” Lee explained when another martial artist asked him why he got so high.
This is not the type of story one usually hears about Lee. Since he died at the age of 32, his legend has grown to such a mythological level that one martial artist calls him “kung fu Jesus.” However, the new biography dispels some of the most popular myths about this man.
Bruce Lee’s role as “Kato” in the television series “The Green Hornet” made him a star in Hong Kong.
“Bruce Lee: A Life” by Matthew Polly is the first in-depth account of Lee’s journey from a street fight to a world icon. The book, published on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Lee’s death, contains interviews from everyone from his childhood classmates to friends who saw him smoking to the woman who last saw him alive. Lee’s charisma, ambition and relentless appetite for battle are popping up. In some of the liveliest sections, you can practically hear his cat screams.
If you think you know Lee, this book may shock you.
Among his surprises:
- Lee was a “kinetic genius” who quickly mastered any martial arts martial arts style. But he never learned to ride a bike and was declared unfit for the draft after failing in physics.
- He was portrayed as an impoverished immigrant who came to America to assert himself, but in fact grew up in a wealthy Hong Kong family with his own driver and two residents.
- He is seen as a Chinese superhero with a statue in Hong Kong, but was also partially Jewish.
Polly, who interviewed at least 100 of Lee’s friends and family, says people often forget that Lee was virtually unknown in the United States when he died. His groundbreaking film “Enter the Dragon” was released less than a month after his mysterious death in Hong Kong in July 1973.
Lee is the only great Western icon whose fame is completely posthumous, says Polly, who, as a skinny, bullied child, was inspired by Lee’s films to later move to China and study kung fu at a Shaolin temple. Lee wasn’t just an entertainer; he was an evangelist. Millions of people have started martial arts because of it, says Polly. “No other celebrity has changed people’s lives this way,” says Polly. “No one watched Steve McQueen’s movie and took something. People study martial arts because of Lee and it changed their lives for the better. Bruce Lee has a place in the hearts of many fans as a demigod, or as I say a kung fu patron. He had a missionary effect. . “