Review: REMEMBERING BRUCE LEE AND JON BENN'S OTHER ADVENTURES

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Bruce Lee Jon Benn

What a book title! I mean to say, for those of an age, we will never forget the incomparable Bruce Lee. You didn't even have to live in Bruce's own lifetime to be one of his adoring fans. I was born four months after Bruce's death, yet he's one of my favorite cultural icons. Growing up, I fondly recall school recess periods spent "fighting" over who was Bruce Lee in our playground battles. Seriously, what were those lunch attendants doing while we played at karate? Through the years, Bruce Lee has continued to have an impact on me. I've visited his grave in Seattle, watched his film work repeatedly, read some of his writings, and met gentlemen that worked with him like Bob Wall, the late Jim Kelly, and John Saxon. One other such man I wish for an opportunity to meet is Jon Benn.

Recently, I had the chance to read REMEMBERING BRUCE LEE AND JON BENN'S OTHER ADVENTURES. Let me say, this is an oddly constructed, yet gripping account of the amazing life of wanderlust led by Mr. Benn. Why is it oddly constructed? Well, the first 46-pages are dedicated to the author's time working with Bruce Lee in WAY OF THE DRAGON (RETURN OF THE DRAGON in the U.S.) as the villainous Big Boss. There are some rich backstage reminiscences and a lovely portrait of what Bruce was like outside the public eye. Benn infuses the tale with quite a bit about the icon's legacy, and his eventual proprietorship of the Bruce Lee Cafe in Hong Kong.

That wouldn't make for much of a book, so the next portion details Mr. Benn's other film work through the years. There are some neat bits about working with Bo Derek and seeing the Perfect 10 naked--lucky man--as well as time working as director Terence Young's assistant, and his work with Russell Crowe and Pam Grier on THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. All of this doesn't even get you to page 100, though, and the book is close to 300 pages. As I read, trepidation crept in when the movie magic wrapped up, but I should have known better.

I mentioned wanderlust earlier in the review, which is a wonderful word my wife and I bandy about because of our love of travel. We've driven all over the United States seeing landmarks great and small in nearly every state of the Union. Our journeys have brought us to four continents and many nations in this wonderful world. However, next to Mr. Benn, I'm a homebody stuck in a rut who's never seen his way past the city limits.

 

 

What follows the filmic portions of the book is Jon Benn's gallivanting from one corner of the globe to another. We begin with his humble birth in Long Island, NY and then it's adventures galore. There's his time learning Spanish by living in Mexico, which included climbing a volcano and unearthing a rare Mayan artifact. Then there's a stint in the military working as a cypher in West Germany. That whole experience involves experiences in nearly every country on the continent.

Do you see what I'm getting at about the wanderlust! The narrative is quite engaging, ample photographs support the text, which reads quickly from one adventure to the next. Benn's style reminds me a lot of my grandfather and the stories he wrote down for me about his travels through Europe during World War II. Although it's 300-pages long, some of the stories are a bit short and could been expanded. That's a small quibble, though.

Let me leave you with this: Jon Benn knew Bruce Lee, worked with him on a film, and that's no where near the really exciting part of the story.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0