Question & Answer with Linda Palmer
Special thanks to DT for arranging and to Linda Palmer for kindly providing her excellent photos and thorough answers. This is well cool so enjoy.....
1/ How did you first meet Bruce Lee and what were your first
Linda Palmer - Screenwriter Stirling Silliphant introduced me. Bruce had the most wonderful smile, and his manners were so gallant. (I was in love with
my husband, or I might have been attracted to him. But Bruce was
happily married, too, so it was easy to be comfortable friends.)
2/ Could you please share with us some of the greatest martial arts
feats that you saw Bruce perform?
Linda Palmer - Bruce could move his hands (toward someone's face) so fast that I barely saw a blurr--and he could stop short of touching the person.
Amazing! Also, I saw him leap and spin and break boards with his hands
and his feet. I don't know what the moves are called, but I will never
forget how dazzling Bruce's martial arts demonstrations were!
3/ Though I didn't know who'd taken them until now, I've enjoyed your
photos of Bruce Lee (the ones I've seen, anyway).
Speaking of photography, I've seen a picture or two of Bruce on the set
of "Enter the Dragon" with some kind of fancy camera (sorry, I don't know much about cameras) of his own. Was photography a hobby of his? Did you share any of your knowledge of the subject with him? Friends & students of his have said Bruce related martial arts to practically everything he did; I'm wondering if photography may've been a peaceful hobby that took his mind off his profession (or was it to strengthen his understanding of cinematography, perhaps?).
Linda Palmer - Bruce was interested in how I photographed him -- in angles and film and what my favorite cameras were, and when I'd choose to use a Nikon
as opposed to a Rolleflex. He did mention that he liked my desire to
"capture moments in time." Bruce was interested in so many things,
especially how someone did a particular thing well -- if he thought
that person did it well. He respected excellence, and someone who took
whatever their craft seriously. He had a great sense of humor, and he
was never "stuffy" about his skills, but he always respected them and
never used them carelessly. He respected people who did the same, in
whatever it was they did.
4/ I've often read that Bruce was percieved even by friends as being
cocky; did he come across that way to you?
Linda Palmer - NO!!!!
b/ If so, how did he manage to not be
Linda Palmer - He was incapable of being "obnoxious" because what he
had was JUSTIFIABLE confidence. NEVER was he "cocky" or a
5/ Did he balance his showoff/ performer side with charm? Was he a likeable
character, fun to be around?
Linda Palmer - Bruce had enormous natural charm, and he was a joy to be around. He had a great sense of humor, but never made fun of anyone. If he told a joke on a person, it was on himself.
6/ Did you maintain any contact with Bruce after he left for Hong Kong
in the early 70s?
Linda Palmer - YES. Frequent phone calls. (Sadly, I talked to him on the phone in Hong Kong -- I was in L.A -- the very morning of the day he died. My
husband and I were going to fly to Hong Kong a couple of days later, to
vacation with Bruce and Linda.
7/ If so, how did he seem to be coping with his fame & growing
Linda Palmer - He was relieved to be making money so that he make his family secure. He was very happy because with fame and stardom came the ability to do
many good things as a performer. Even when Bruce needed money badly
(during tough times in Hollywood) he would NEVER do anything that was
undignified, or that he thought his family might be embarrassed by. He
had great integrity. Quiet integrity -- he never went around talking
about how careful he was. Those of us who knew him, though, were aware
when he turned down sleazy roles or projects.
8/ When was the last time you talked to Bruce and how was he feeling,
what were his plans etc?
Linda Palmer - As I said above, it was the morning of the day he died. The night before, at a special screening, my husband and I had seen "Enter the
Dragon," and were thrilled to tell Bruce how good it was, and how all
of the executives were raving about what a star Bruce was, and planning
more projects to offer him. He was delighted to hear that, and he was
happy that we were coming over to visit in a couple of days. He talked
about places he wanted to show us.
9/ What was it like to do a photo session with Bruce?
Linda Palmer - Bruce totally deferred to anything I wanted him to do, any angle I wanted to shoot when I was taking personal and family photos. When I
photographed him doing martial arts moves, he suggested where I should
stand so that I could capture the moves correctly. He was always
serious about accuracy.
10/ You've taken some great portrait, action and family shots of Bruce.
Would you please give some background information on them, how this came about
and where and when they were taken etc.?
Linda Palmer - I was very fond of Bruce and Linda, and offered to take photos of them for themselves. Many pictures were taken around my home (at the time,
in Holmby Hills, California), and a lot of them taken up at Bruce and
Linda's home, on Roscamere Road at the top of Bel Air.
11/ Cover shot of September 1971 issue of Black Belt magazine (Bruce
executing a sidekick) On my property, on the piece of land where we later built a tennis court.
B/W sparring shots (in the same issue).
Robert Lee standing in background, Bruce in white shorts doing a flying
Linda Palmer - In my side yard.
12/ Beautiful family portrait shots of Bruce with Linda and the children?
Linda Palmer - Some photographs were taken at the front of my home (the ones against the tree). Others in the back yard. Still others up at Bruce and
13/ Did you take the portrait of Bruce kneeling on a tigerskin rug and do you know how many photos were taken that day?
Linda Palmer - No, I didn't take that shot, and I wasn't there that day.
14/ Have you got any unseen or unpublished photos of Bruce?
Linda Palmer - Many, but I can't find them at the moment, because I moved twice since then and packed them away so "safely" that I've yet to discover them.
15/ Ms. Palmer, did you ever take martial arts lessons from Bruce, or
practice martial arts with him? I'm curious because aside from coaching
actresses (Sharon Tate & Nancy Kwan) for a movie I'm not aware of Bruce having any female students after he came to CA from Seattle. If you did, did he seem to be treating you the same as his male students?
How, if at all, was his teaching different for women?
Linda Palmer - Yes, I studied with Bruce at my home -- at his insistence. He wanted me to learn to defend myself. He taught me self defense, and how to break boards with my feet. My husband took a picture of Bruce holding two 1"
boards, and me breaking them with my foot. Bruce refused to teach
women to fight with their hands, because it ruined the look of their
hands. He insisted that women wear shoes when breaking boards because
he didn't want them to injure themselves. He taught men barefoot
fighting and hand-fighting, of course, but Bruce was always gallant
when it came to women.
16/ Did you ever see Bruce full contact sparring with other great
martial artists and what the outcome of such meetings?
Linda Palmer - I saw one demonstration, and Bruce was the best, but I don't remember what event it was.
17/ Do you know how, when and why Sy Weintraub became one of Bruce's
Linda Palmer - Certainly I do: Sy and I were married. He started studying
with Bruce in the late 60s.
18/ Did Sy develop or work on any Hollywood projects with Bruce?
Linda Palmer - Sy was developing a project for Bruce when Bruce died.
19/ In his last letter, he wrote that your former husband Sy Weintraub
had devised a business plan for Bruce. Do you have any further details please?
Linda Palmer - Sy was very, very smart about business. He took pleasure in helping friends save their money, or increase what they had to invest.
20/ Do you know how Bruce got involved with Warners and how he got to
meet and know Ted Ashley?
Linda Palmer - Stirling Silliphant introduced Bruce to Ted, and Ted was greatly impressed with Bruce. Ted thought Bruce could be a movie star.
21/ Did Ted study martial arts under Bruce?
Linda Palmer - NO. Ted had a bad back. (I was married to Ted Ashley before I married Sy, so I can answer that question with absolute accuracy.)
22/ I recall reading in one of Bruce's published letters that he'd
recieved (or was expecting to recieve) different scripts from Warner Bros. (Ted Ashley) for potential projects; do you know if any of these are still around, or ever made it to completion as films (starring someone else)? Do you have any recollection of what kinds of films were being offered to Bruce, any specifics?
Linda Palmer - I don't remember specifics, but Ted was very excited about Bruce. When Bruce died, interest in the projects died, too, because Bruce was
irreplaceable. This wasn't as case of it you couldn't get one star, you
got another. There was no "other" Bruce!
23/ Do you have any private or rare unseen footages of Bruce Lee?
Linda Palmer - No.
24/ It is said that Bruce was a practical joker, did he ever get you
with a practical joke?
Linda Palmer - Bruce might play practical jokes on men, but I doubt he ever did on women. He never played a joke on me, but we shared many, many laughs
over topical events, and Hollywood "craziness."
25/ Can you tell us anything about Bruce's involvement with the
Warner's project 'The Warrior'? (eventually David Carradine secured the role in 'Kung Fu'. Most books that have delved into the history of the show usually
overlook or seem unaware of Bruce's involvement).
Linda Palmer - The idea of "Kung Fu" was inspired by Bruce, and it was intended as a star vehicle for him, but then an executive at the network uttered these immortal -- and disgraceful! -- words: "Who wants to see a 5 foot 6 inch Chinese actor." As you can imagine, I hope that executive has
26/ ENTER THE DRAGON was Bruce's big Hollywood break, Can you give us
some background on its Genesis? How Sequoia got involved etc.?
Linda Palmer - I don't remember. Sorry.
27/ I'd guess that most if not all of Bruce's fans were attracted to
him in large part because of his martial arts skills; outside of his martial
artistry, what did you find appealing about Bruce?
Linda Palmer - His martial arts skills (although fabulous) are the LAST things I think about when I remember Bruce. He was a very loyal friend, a devoted
husband and father. He was gentle with people and animals, and yet
strong in his feelings. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was kind
and generous, and a delightful companion. I will never completely get
over the loss of his presence in my life.
28/ Did you receive any gifts from Bruce?
Linda Palmer - His friendship was the greatest gift. No object could compare to that.
29/ Did you photograph Bruce on any of his tv or film sets?
Linda Palmer - No. (The unions would not have allowed it!)
30 / How did you find out that Bruce had died and what were the initial
rumours (if any) about the circumstances of his death?
Linda Palmer - Ted Ashley telephoned me to tell me of Bruce's death, a few hours after than horrible event. He knew how dear Bruce was to me and (even though we were divorced) Ted didn't want me to hear about Bruce on the news.
I hated some rumors about his death: that it was the result of drugs. I
will NEVER believe that Bruce knowingly took drugs.
31/ Did Bruce ever talk to you about his back injury and what
medication he had to take for it?
Linda Palmer - No. He was stoic.
32/ Do you still keep in contact with any of the Lee family?
Linda Palmer - I've spoken to Linda over the years. In fact, after she remarried (to another man named Bruce) I joked with her that she didn't need to worry about talking in her sleep! She laughed. I tried to write her a note of sympathy when Brandon died so tragically, but the note came back
because Linda had moved.
33/ Do you plan to publish your photos of Bruce in a book project?
Linda Palmer - No, but David Tadman can have any of mine (that I can find) to use as he wishes. I would never profit personally from pictures of Bruce, but
I am very happy when people get to see them.
34/ Finally, what are your fondest memories of Bruce and what do you
miss most about him?
Linda Palmer - MANY fond memories, but one of our funniest experiences was when he insisted on accompanying me to the Los Angeles Coliseum when I had
promised to photograph a wedding proposal that was to take place in the
middle of the grounds. Bruce refused to let me go to that "dangerous
neighborhood" alone, so he drove me there. Then, we crawled around
together on our hands and knees, hiding among the stadium seats -- with
me taking long lens photos of a table, a waiter and the couple in the
middle of the field. We had to stay there, out of sight, until the
scoreboard flashed the message: "Darling Eva, will you marry me?" My
instructions from the groom were, "If she leans over to kiss me, you
can come down for the closeups." She kissed him, Bruce and I stood up,
came down onto the field. I took close up pictures -- and then Bruce
and I were invited to join the two of them for lunch. That couple is
still married, I'm happy to say. Bruce enjoyed that kind of silly
event. Most of all -- and with the greatest pleasure -- I remember the
smile of Bruce's face when he held his children. He adored them, and he
was a wonderful father.
Special Thanks to Everyone who asked questions - Pedro, Tom, Bruce, Ed, Doug & GR.
All Photos owned by Linda Palmer
Compiled by Nick Clarke (November 27th 2005)
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