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Friday, November 14, 2014

Tourism For Locals: San Francisco was Bruce Lee's Native City and There's No Homage to It

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

The Man. The Master. The San Franciscan - BRUCE LEE FOUNDATION
  • Bruce Lee Foundation
  • The Man. The Master. The San Franciscan

San Francisco is a boastful of its famous residents and milestones — past and present — the City erects monuments and dedicates plaques to momentous events like the creation of television and recognizes when it has been the birthplace to the famous. 

But San Francisco is suffering from a case of regional amnesia — one of the greatest heroes of cinema and pop culture has no formal recognition of San Francisco being his hometown.  

We are talking about one of the greats here, one who has been omitted from the collective public memory of S.F. municipal fame — the man, the myth, the martial arts master Bruce Lee

Lee was a catalyst of change, not just in the field of mixed martial arts, but in public perception. In 1959 a short, skinny, bespectacled 18-year-old guy who lived most of his life in Hong Kong traveled back to the United States — a country that was still in the throngs of casting Chinese people in stereotypical roles as house servants and other likeminded supporting roles. But he managed to carve a niche for himself, and became more than just a star — he became an icon of strength: with steely sinew, a threatening stare and a cocky, pointed finger. And these were just some of the traits that not only captivated audiences in the United States, but international audiences as well. Although he died at the extremely young age of 32, his impact remains everlasting. (Ask a teen who Bruce Lee is, he'll know.)

Along with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and other non-S.F. based honors, Lee was named among TIME Magazine '​s 100 Most Important People of the Century (along the likes of Mother Theresa and Albert Einstein) as one of the greatest heroes and icons; and he was recognized as one of the most influential martial artists of the 20th century:
He was the redeemer, not only for the Chinese but for all the geeks and dorks and pimpled teenage masses that washed up at the theaters to see his action movies. He was David, with spin-kicks and flying leaps more captivating than any slingshot.

But here is the question that baffles us: How is it that a figure so mesmerizing on the world stage decades after his death, not have a statue in his hometown of San Francisco? Even Los Angeles, the city we hold as our rival in everything from baseball to mediocre public transit systems, has a 7-foot statue for the larger-than-life legend in their respective Chinatown. And ambitious plans were once under way for a Bruce Lee museum — in Seattle.

Bruce Lee was born here. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • Bruce Lee was born here.

Something is amiss here, and quite frankly, there should be a proper mention of one of the Bay Area's greatest citizens through a piece of public art. Ideally it would be placed in an area where he frequented, but those spots are rapidly disappearing. The location of where Lee’s martial arts school once stood is now home to an auto dealership. The only remaining location would be the hospital of his birth: The Chinese Hospital on Chinatown's Jackson Street. In the lobby there's a tiny plaque, but this is simply not enough. For one of the greatest martial arts masters to not be recognized in the city of his birth (that boasts incessantly about its great residents) Bruce Lee's omission is a slap harder than any thrown by the martial arts master himself.

Where do you think a Bruce Lee S.F. monument should go?
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About The Author

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda is a cultural correspondent with a concentration in tourism, literature, and lifestyle and has been writing for SF Weekly since 2013. As an avid traveler, he enjoys discovering destinations abroad as well as the never-ending hidden gems of San Francisco. #DondeAndaJuanDeAnda?


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