Grace Ho was of Eurasian ancestry. Grace Ho was the adopted daughter of Ho Kom-tong and the half-niece of Sir Robert Ho-tung, both notable Hong Kong businessmen and philanthropists. Bruce Lee was the fourth of five children: Phoebe Lee, Agnes Lee, Peter Lee, and Robert Lee.
Grace’s parentage remains unclear. Linda Lee, in her 1989 biography The Bruce Lee Story, suggests that Grace had a German father and was a Catholic. Bruce Thomas, in his influential 1994 biography Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit, suggests that Grace had a Chinese mother and a German father. Lee’s relative Eric Peter Ho, in his 2010 book Tracing My Children’s Lineage, suggests that Grace was born in Shanghai to a Eurasian woman named Cheung King-sin. Eric Peter Ho said that Grace Lee was the daughter of a mixed race Shanghainese woman and her father was Ho Kom Tong. Grace Lee said her mother was English and her father was Chinese. Fredda Dudley Balling said Grace Lee was 3/4s Chinese and 1/4th British.
However, in his 2018 biography, Bruce Lee; A Life, Matthew Polly identifies Bruce’s Lee’s mother’s grandfather as Moses Hartog Bosman. Born to a Jewish family in Rotterdam, Bosman became a successful businessman in Hong Kong, where he had a Chinese concubine named Sze Tai with whom he had six children, including Lee’s grandfather Ho Kom Tong. Bosman subsequently abandoned his family and immigrated to California. Ho Kom Tong, however, became a wealthy businessman with a wife, 13 concubines, and 30 children, one of whom was °Grace Ho, Lee’s mother.
This is one of the rarest interviews we have ever seen. Bruce Lee’s mother Grace talks about her son’s life. It’s the only time she ever did an interview about her son Bruce.
Geraldo Rivera: No one ever heard of anyone dying from cannabis. Many young people just didn’t buy that explanation. The later autopsy indicated that he had died from a cerebral edema, which I find that as swelling of the brain. Apparently caused by an allergic reaction to some medication he was taking for a painful back injury.
In any case his mom and his brother are with us now to tell us more about the man karate experts are now calling the Galileo of the martial arts. so please welcome Grace and Robert Lee.
Geraldo Rivera: I know that Bruce was born in the United States, but where was he raised ? Where did he grown up?
Grace Ho: Bruce was raised in Hong Kong.
Geraldo Rivera: Is that where he learned the martial arts?
Grace Ho: Yes, when he was 13 years old.
Geraldo Rivera: How did he get started in martial arts?
Grace Ho: He’s got it with Yip Man, Chinese instructor.
Geraldo Rivera: Why did, Robert maybe you can answer why did Bruce get into kung-fu and the martial arts?
Robert Lee: Well uh Bruce kind of grew up as a violent kid. And he was always involved in fights and things like that. And one, he and his buddy were in a restaurant eating. And after the meal, they came out and they were surrounded by a rival gang. Somehow they got into a fight. And luckily at that point in time we had a driver at home that drive them to school and things like that. And he came at the right time, right place. And the gang seeing the car approaching they just fled. And that sort of more less saved Bruce in a way. So after that, Bruce decided that he should protect himself in a better way. Any way. so he talked his friends and at that point in time Wing Chun was the in thing. It’s a Chinese a system of martial arts, Chinese Kung Fu. That believes in economy, straight punches, and things like that. And to him at that point, it was the most logical approach for protection. So he decided to talk to this old gentleman by name of Yip Man who later became his instructor.
Geraldo Rivera: And how old was he then?
Robert Lee: He was about 13-14 around that age.
Geraldo Rivera: When did he start in the movies?
Grace Ho: When he was 6 years old.
Geraldo Rivera: Just six years old? Huh! He was making movies in Hong Kong?
Grace Ho: In Hong Kong.
Geraldo Rivera: But obviously they weren’t these kind of kung fu movies because he didn’t learn until he was 13, so what kind of movies were they?
Grace Ho: He used to play like a rascal.
Geraldo Rivera: Like the Little Rascal? Little Rascal, I know he was he was Kato in the old Green Hornet series on American TV. How do you feel about the fact Robert that he kind of eliminated the old oriental Asian stereotype in American movies and TV? You know, the Charlie Chan, Fu Manchu insidious kind of weak person, who is always doing evil things?
Robert Lee: I’m glad you asked that question, because all along in his life Bruce was you know…I’ve been watching the tube in films and things and seeing that really the Chinese stereotype that you were talking about. And he said, if I ever have a chance to go in a film like that or stage…I would never portray something like that. He said that’s really disgraceful , disgrace to the Chinese culture. And he said, Lord help me, let me bring the Chinese, you know in equality with all the other races. And I’m glad that he did that.
Geraldo Rivera: Why do you think he was so successful? What do you think , that he managed so well dramatically and eloquently to portray Chinese people as, as something other than they had been portrayed. Particularly by you know, American filmmakers in the past why , why did he make it so big?
Robert Lee: Okay, uh my dad, I don’t know if you know about this? He was involved in Cantonese opera for a long time, at least 4 years. And he was one of the best in China, so you can say that Bruce grew up in a show business family. And that’s one aspect, the other one is that he has really a dynamic personality. And he can really project that personality in front of the screen or in front of people. And a third thing is, that he is very sincere in what he’s doing you know? And that really is the most important aspect, as far as I can see.
Geraldo Rivera: Sometimes when you talk about Bruce, you use the present tense? I still do, I always will, why?
Robert Lee: Because I don’t know , it’s something that is in all of us that know him or see him through the film. I feel his presence all the time with me. When I’m maybe playing my guitar or singing or walking down the street. Whatever, he’s always with me and I guess it goes through weverybody that knows him.
Geraldo Rivera: Mrs. Lee why do you think that people identified so closely with your son?
Grace Ho: He’s a very nice person my son. You know, he’s he always helped people. You know, he’s kind, when somebody wants know like, uh like Robert, myself you know? His brother, if anybody tried to bully him or anything like that? You know, you can never do anything to our family, he always protects, is a very nice son.
Geraldo Rivera: He was married himself, wasn’t he?
Grace Ho: Yes, in the United States in Seattle.
Geraldo Rivera: Did he have any kids?
Grace Ho: Yes he has two, a son named Brandon and the daughter Shannon.
Geraldo Rivera: Umm is the son a martial artist?
Grace Lee: Oh yes, he could kick a inch board when he’s five years old.
Robert Lee: Bruce would hold it, like that you know , like come on Brandon do something, you know, so Brandon, okay daddy. And Bruce say, common, I do it with a killing instinct. Yeah you know, you just run right to a side board. I mean to the board and kick it, with side kick and just break it.
Geraldo Rivera: I don’t want to ask a hurtful question now, but are you satisfied with the official reasons given for your brother’s death from…?
Robert Lee: Uh yes and no. I have seen the autopsy report. And officially, he really did die of a you know, a edema of the brain which you just stated. But knowing Hong Kong myself with so many different people, all kinds of weird people. And especially, Bruce’s friends and some of them, I really, it’s just like a mystery to me too in a way.
Geraldo Rivera: Why did he assume such mythical proportions in life and even more so after that?
Robert Lee: Well what he did on screen is something that was new. And is new and nobody has done yet before. And he just played a true sincere martial artist in film. And he really managed to project that image. And I guess when the public saw is just something that they had never seen before. Is something that is really dynamic. And I believe in myself, even though I’m his brother.
Geraldo Rivera: You know, best of luck to you.Thank you for coming on. Now we’ll talk a little bit more about your brother with some of the great masters to champions who will be demonstrating the violent art form that Bruce Lee perfected . That comes right after this. And thank you again.
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