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Wednesday, June 25, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fans tell legend of the 'Dragon'

Seattle Times staff reporter

Bruce Lee exhibit


"The Bruce Lee Collectors Exhibit 2003 — The Beginning of a Legend, the Story of a Man," opens tomorrow at 519 Sixth Ave. S. in Seattle's Chinatown International District. The exhibit will be open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through December. Admission is $9 general; $5 for students, seniors (62 and over), and individuals in groups of 10 or more; and free for ages 5 and under.

Bruce Lee side-kicks and elbow-jabs villains into submission on everything from movie posters to board games. A television monitor plays episodes of "The Green Hornet," the popular 1960s series, and an image of Lee gazes out of a mirror.

The Bruce Lee Collectors Exhibit 2003, opening tomorrow in the Chinatown International District, weaves together the life of one of Seattle's most famous sons.

Planners are calling the exhibit "The Beginning of a Legend, the Story of a Man," and aim to show that Lee was more than a martial-arts star. It celebrates Lee as a child, father and philosopher — as well as a role model who shattered Hollywood stereotypes of Asian-American men.

"I think it's important to feel his philosophy, to see how important it still is," said Perry Lee, a fan who contributed almost the entire exhibit from his personal collection. He will keep it on display through December.

Bruce Lee "was a role model to a lot of kids, especially Asian kids. They saw somebody on television who looks like them, but who wasn't bowing to everyone. He wasn't worried about the rules."

The multimedia exhibit transforms the second floor of the old Uwajimaya building at 519 Sixth Ave. S. into a winding path through Lee's life. It's been designed to allow audiences to "walk in the footsteps of the Dragon," a nickname Lee won with his power and cool control — and because he was born in the Year of the Dragon. Born in San Francisco, he was a baby when his family moved to Hong Kong. The show's first room recreates the streets of Hong Kong, where Lee starred in more than 20 films and won everything from cha-cha championships to boxing matches.

It follows him back to the United States, where he studied philosophy at the University of Washington and trained in martial arts at several studios in Seattle. He's buried in Lake View Cemetery on Capitol Hill.

The show winds past a makeup table to film stills and movie posters of his early roles in the U.S. Rooms are devoted to his Hollywood fame, spiritual beliefs and martial-arts training. The final-legacy room describes the events of July 20, 1973, the day he died of cerebral edema at age 32.

It also includes family photos of Lee with his wife, Linda, daughter Shannon and son Brandon. A section of Lee's legacy is devoted to Brandon Lee's movie career and his 1993 death on the set of the action film "The Crow."

The tribute is devoted to Lee, but it also celebrates the Chinatown International District. Perry Lee started collecting memorabilia in 1963 when he was a teenager and saw Bruce Lee perform a martial-arts demonstration at Franklin High School. He is working with Inter*Im, a nonprofit that is working to revitalize the district and other Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the Puget Sound region.

Proceeds from the exhibit will go to Inter*Im — especially for a project being planned at Maynard Avenue South and South Main Street — as well as the nonprofit Bruce Lee Foundation. The low-income housing development will include about 44 units, Inter*Im Executive Director Bob Santos said. He said proceeds from the exhibit and its gift-shop sales will help preserve and restore the Chinatown International District by building a "24-hour-a-day community" there.

The exhibit's on-site manager, Michael Horner, hopes the popularity of Bruce Lee and the rare items in the show will draw international attention. He said, for example, Bruce Lee has been so popular in Asia that "The Green Hornet" is known as "The Kato Show," for the character Lee played.

"This is about increasing the visibility of the district and the famous sons of the city," Horner said. "We have to further the cultural heritage of Seattle that we do have."

Mary Spicuzza:206-454-3192 or mspicuzza@seattletimes.com

Copyright 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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