An Interview with author Linda Tagliaferro - "Bruce Lee," (A&E Biography)



"Bruce Lee," (A&E Biography) - Buy from Bruce Lee Club has recently interviewed Linda Tagliaferro, the author of  "Bruce Lee,".

Linda has kindly agreed to answer questions put from the fans of Bruce Lee in the UK.


Background Information

I was an artist all my life before I became a writer 10 years ago. I did mostly oil painting, but I also studied Byzantine icon painting, Tibetan thangka painting, medieval manuscript painting and fresco painting. (So I'm eclectic. It's more fun.)

Ten years ago, I started writing, and 5 years ago, I became a regular freelancer for a local section of The New York Times. I'm still writing for them, and have interviewed Long Island, NY locals like Nobel prize winner Dr.James Watson and Michael Allin, the playwright who wrote "Enter the Dragon."

After college (what you call "university" in the UK) I traveled quite a bit.

I lived in Denmark for 6 years, Italy for 6 months and Indonesia for 7 months.

My interest in martial arts unfortunately ended on a bad note. After just months of aikido lessons, I fractured my nose. (It's back in place now, I assure you.)

Linda Tagliaferro (c) Steve Eisenberg

To date, I've written 5 books (4 are out, the last one will be published next fall.) They're on totally different subjects, but I feel that if you work hard and put a lot of energy into your research, you can write almost anything. In the U.S., there's a popular series by Macmillan publishing called "The Complete Idiot's Guides." They're for smart people, actually, who don't have a background in a given subject. I coauthored one called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Decoding Your Genes."

Thanks for the information Linda.

When did you start your writing career?
Ten years ago. I've been an artist all my life and that's what I studied in college. However, I always wrote little stories in my sketchbooks. I didn't realize I was writing.

I finally decided to write some articles and one thing led to another, and 5 years ago, I wrote my first book on genetic engineering. I've written 5 to date, all on mostly different subjects.

Why did you decide to write a book about Bruce?
Actually, I was asked by the publisher to write the book. I had written several books for them before. When they mentioned a list of bios that needed to be written, I remember saying that Bruce Lee sounded very interesting.

Months went by, and then I got a call asking if I'd like to write his biography. I jumped at the chance.

How long did it take for you to research your book on Bruce?
I would've loved to have spent more time, but I was given only 5 months to do research AND write the book. It was a quick turnaround. but I worked very hard. Every writer wants the luxury of a year to do a book, but it doesn't always work out that way.

 I read every book I could find on Bruce, and I also read literally hundreds of articles. Here in New York, there's a wonderful library devoted to celebrities, and I got the chance to hold and read actual newspaper articles from the time that Bruce was alive.

Who was the first and the last person you interviewed?
The first real interview I did was with Taky Kimura in Seattle. On July 20, 1998, I went to Lake View cemetery, where Bruce is buried, for the 25th anniversary of his passing. I took the photo of his gravestone and Brandon's, as well as the photo of Linda Lee Cadwell that you see in my book.

The day before, I interviewed Taky Kimura, who was Bruce's dear friend and the best man at his wedding to Linda. Taky spoke about Bruce in such glowing terms. He was so animated when the memories of his close friend surfaced. He also showed me a photo of himself and Bruce and some friends. 

I've told people over and over again how I got a chill down my spine when I saw it because here was a photo of a real human being in front of me. It wasn't just a photo in a book. Bruce was a real person, not just a star.

Linda Lee Cadwell was the last person I interviewed, and I had to call her several times to double check things. She was kind enough---and extremely generous with her limited time---to review my final manuscript to check for accuracy. I'm very thankful that she did this to ensure that the book contained true facts.

I know you interviewed Linda Lee. What was this experience like?
Linda Lee Cadwell (she has remarried since Bruce's death) is a warm and generous person. She is also a strong person and a loving one. You know that she's come out of her personal tragedies a better person. She has the greatest regard for the memory of Bruce Lee, the man she was married to for many years.

Linda and ShannonShe's also a very truthful person, and very down-to-earth. Linda is very bright, and committed to keeping Bruce's memory alive in the proper way. It's so easy for people to change facts around after someone has passed away, but Linda wants to make sure that people know the genuine human being who was Bruce Lee, and whose memory continues to inspire people around the globe.

Who would you have liked to interview but they refused?
I asked Bruce's sister Agnes, but she said she would prefer not to be interviewed. I respected her decision. Bruce Lee was more than a celebrity. I wouldn't want to bring up painful memories to someone who undoubtedly still mourns the loss of her brother.

Did you meet any of Bruces Hong Kong family, if yes, who did you interview?
Unfortunately, no.


What  was the most interesting story you were told?                                 One of the people I interviewed was James DeMile. He was a young, tough streetfighter when Bruce was giving a demonstration in the late 1950s. Remember that kung fu was virtually unknown in the United States at that time. Some servicemen had brought back karate, but this older Chinese form was not known.

James DeMile watched as the 5'7", 125-pound Bruce Lee demonstrated some martial arts moves at a school in Seattle. DeMile was amused, he told me, because he thought Bruce could never defend himself. Well, of course, Bruce did, and completely astounded DeMile, who later became one of his most ardent students.

I interviewed DeMile when he came to New York on a business trip. We had lunch at a local diner, and there he was....25 years after Bruce's passing...and he got this faraway look in his eye and said to me, "I ALWAYS wanted to punch Bruce...but I never could! He was just too fast for me." I laughed at the intense expression on his face. To think that after all these years, he still remembers what an amazing martial artist Bruce was!

What was it like to meet  Skip Ellsworth and others who were great friends of Bruce?
Skip Ellsworth was one of Bruce's first students, and he gave me a vivid description of Bruce's small room above Ruby Chow's restaurant. I had read about it, but no one described it in such a detailed way before. I quoted him word-for-word in my book.

It really made me feel sorry for the young man who came all the way from Hong Kong, and had to live in a room which Ellsworth said was only about the size of a closet and had one bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling.

Skip and some other former students of Bruce's were nearly in tears at the cemetery on the anniversary of Bruce's death. I was quite impressed that they could lovingly remember a friend after 25 years. Bruce left an impression on all of his friends, and I truly think they're still inspired by his dedication and talent.

Was there anything you found out about Bruce Lee from your research that surprised you? Yes. I never realised just how much he suffered from discrimination. I learned that he was supposed to get the starring role in the TV series "Kung Fu," but was dismissed by decision makers as looking "too Chinese." But as Linda Lee Cadwell explained, Bruce always took things that could not be changed and tried to find a positive side to them.

 As fans know, Bruce went to Hong Kong to star in movies that later catapulted him to stardom internationally.

I also found out to my surprise how much Bruce Lee inspired ---and still inspires--- Asians and Asian-Americans. He showed them through his fine example that people shouldn't be viewed as one race or another, but as human beings. Linda Lee Cadwell explained at the cemetery (reading the same eulogy that she gave for Bruce 25 years ago) that in the same way that light still reaches us from stars in the sky that have died years ago, "so it is with great men who died centuries ago, but still reach us with the radiation of their personality, and so it will be with Bruce..."

She put it so beautifully and accurately. Bruce's extraordinary talents and philosophy continue to inspire people of all ages and countries to this day, and I know that his story will continue to bring about the development of character and self-confidence in many people to come.

Michael Allin and Bruce were known to not have agreed on the script for Enter the Dragon, how did Michael feel about this?
When I interviewed Michael, he said that he really only saw Bruce a few times, and he felt that others had caused trouble between the two of them.

This is contrary to what you'll read in most books about Bruce. Michael said that he was told by the movie makers to stay away from an upcoming meeting, and he couldn't understand why. Then, according to Michael, he was told to "lay low," and when he took a trip on a ferry in Hong Kong, he ran into Bruce. He said Bruce was astounded to see him (apparently, the movie makers had told Bruce that Michael had left Hong Kong.}

So Michael gave me a very different picture of his relationship with Bruce than others. According to the playwright, Bruce may have been told things about him that weren't true. Michael said that he always felt sorry that Linda Lee Cadwell may have heard rumors about him.

He said that once he saw his picture in a Hong Kong paper and it said that he and Bruce Lee didn't get along. The person who translated it for him said that it was common for the tabloids to drum up business by exaggerating the details, and not to pay any attention to the stories.

Do you intend to write a book about Brandon Lee?
Doesn't seem likely.

How many books have been sold worldwide?
I wish I knew! I get royalty statements on books once a year. It's a little early to tell.

Do you intend to write any more books on Bruce Lee?
I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, if ever.

Where can people buy your book from? and definitely carry my book. I don't know if any of the book stores in the U.K. are carrying it (if so, I'd love to know.) There's also a site called that tells you exactly who sells my book, and even compares the prices so you can get the best bargain on it.

Thank you for your time Linda it was a pleasure to talk to you.

Linda can be contacted by email at

All text and graphic are of Linda Tagliaferro and The Bruce Lee Club UK 2000.