Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bruce Lee - Martial Arts Legend.

It is hard to believe but on Saturday July 20th, it will be 40 years to the day since martial arts movie star and popular culture icon Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong.

Lee Jun-fan was born in Chinatown, San Francisco in November 1940 to parents originating from Hong Kong.

Raised in Kowloon, he was introduced to the movie industry by his father and appeared in numerous films in his early years. 

At the age of 18 he returned to the USA in order further his education and at that time began to teach martial arts. Initially going back to the San Francisco area, he soon moved on to Seattle in 1959, completing High School a year later.

In 1961 he enrolled at the University of Washington, majoring in drama, but also studying philosophy and psychology amongst other subjects. In 1964 he married fellow student Linda Emery and they went on to have 2 children.
Statue of the movie star Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars of Hong Kong

Best remembered for his 5 major feature films, namely The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1973), Lee became an iconic figure throughout the world but predominantly to the Chinese as he portrayed Chinese Nationalism in his work. 

His films sparked a surge of Chinese martial arts popularity throughout the world during the 70s and beyond.

At the height of his popularity, Lee collapsed in May 1973 whilst working on Enter the Dragon at Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest studios. Suffering from seizures and severe headaches, he was rushed to hospital where he received a diagnosis of cerebral edema.

Six weeks later, he was due to have dinner with former James Bond star George Lazenby (remember him?) to discuss a future movie role, when being struck again with another headache. He was given a painkiller and went to lie down and rest at about 7.30 in the evening.

But when not arriving for dinner, film producer Raymond Chow went to his apartment to check on him, but was unable to raise the star. A doctor was summoned who also tried unsuccessfully to revive him and Lee was pronounced dead on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Many conspiracy theories still exist surrounding the death of Bruce Lee, including supposed murder by the Triads and curses placed on his family, but at the time it was ruled as “death by misadventure.”
Laid to rest at Lakeside, now joined alongside by his son Brandon

Laid to rest in Lakeview Cemetery in his adopted home city of Seattle, the pallbearers at his funeral included Steve McQueen, James Coburn and the aforementioned George Lazenby.

Bruce Lee was named by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people of the 20th century and as recently as April 2013, he posthumously received the prestigious Founders Award at the Asian Awards.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Sister Sledge - and I Held Joni's Hand!

Watching footage from Glastonbury this past weekend got me reminiscing back to the days in the 70's, 80's and early 90's when I used to be a regular concertgoer in and around the London area.

I cannot begin to think of some of the artists I've had the pleasure (and displeasure in some cases) to see, along with the many antics I got up to revolved around these concert visits.

One of my favourite concerts and best memories was from around the early 1980's when Sister Sledge played the Fairfield Halls in Croydon.
Sister Sledge

The Sledge sisters from Philadelphia, could certainly go down as one of the original girl groups and they ran up a string of hits around that time including "We are Family", "He's the Greatest Dancer", the appalling "Frankie" (even Blues and Soul magazine refused to make mention of it, claiming it was a sell-out money making attempt at the top 40) and of course my own personal favourite "Lost In Music"

I arrived at the arena along with my friend at the time Baz, ready for what we hoped would be a first class night's entertainment.
Fairfield Halls Croydon

Now, before I go any further, I often wonder whatever became of Baz? He was always something of a "dodgy geezer" and the last I heard of him was that he was being prosecuted for theft of money from numerous car park machines. 

I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that he ended up doing a stretch in the Scrubs or some other penal institution somewhat nearer his Merseyside origins, but who knows?

Anyway, back to the concert. We arrived ready for a good night, me bedecked in my Blues and Soul T-Shirt which in truth had seen better days. Baz was dressed up to the nines, obviously believing that this was to be his night and that he was going to pull some time during the evening.

We took our seats and soon enough, Kim, Debbie, Joni and Kathy aka the wondrous Sledge sisters, took to the stage. 

There were early problems though. Everyone was having a great time dancing in front of their seats, but when anyone tried to move into the aisles or to the front of the arena, the rather large security operatives who suddenly appeared from nowhere, were making a point of roughly pushing everyone back to their own seat row while warning them not to venture out again.

It got to such a state that the girls on stage became somewhat displeased with the way the fans were being treated and soon they became involved in heated exchanges with the security staff, insisting that the audience were allowed to move around the auditorium and enjoy themselves.

Eventually the heavy handed treatment relented and I made my way down to the front of the stage, desperate to get closer to the girls and especially the gorgeous (in my opinion) Joni. 
Joni Sledge

After what seemed like an eternity of holding my hand out, it was taken by one of the band and upon looking up, I could see it was the aforementioned Joni Sledge. I was in heaven, but sadly it ended all too quickly and she let go, moving on to another part of the stage.

The concert came to an end and I was still on Cloud 9, insisting I was never going to wash my hand again. 

What a night! We'd seen Sister Sledge, I'd got to hold Joni's hand, albeit for only a few seconds, and Baz was as jealous as hell!