Like many Hong Kong aficionados, I feel giddy every time a Bruce Lee movie shows on cable TV. So when I learned of a new memoir by one of Bruce Lee’s costars in Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon as it’s known in the US), I was game!
Remembering Bruce Lee and Jon Benn’s Other Adventures (Blacksmith Books, 2014) is a page-turning account of an American entrepreneur who moves to Asia more than forty years ago and becomes a sought-after supporting actor.
Jon Benn was born eight decades ago in the US and moved around the country quite a bit when he was young. As a college student, he went to study in Mexico City. He ended up earning an undergraduate degree in Mexico before returning to California where he mixed with movie industry bigwigs.
After a stint in the US Army as a Russian language specialist, Benn moved to Hong Kong in 1971. He stayed until 2000 when he moved to Shanghai and has been in the Chinese metropolis ever since.
The best thing about this book is the Forrest Gump-like essence of the story. I didn’t even like that movie much, but Benn mingled with many Hollywood greats and had nearly as many near misses (like almost being at the party where Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family).
I hadn’t realized this, but Benn was in one my favorite Hong Kong movies, Foxbat (1977), which has the most amazing chase scene ever. With his signature cigar, thanks to Bruce Lee, Benn has a small but somewhat pivotal role in the film.
Back to Bruce Lee. Benn fell into Way of the Dragon thanks to a chance meeting with Raymond Chow, the producer who brought Bruce’s movies to the big screen. It’s fascinating to read about Hong Kong and its film industry in the early 70s when Benn was new to the city.