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Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 1973

So, there's an obvious choice that I COULD make for today's Throwback Thursday posting.  But, I decided that I would choose another topic instead because it would challenge myself - and because thousands of other bloggers are probably reminiscing about the first time that a man walked on the surface of the moon.

Well, the ones who focus on historical events, anyway.

So, we know what topic I avoided...and yes, you'll see it on this list as well as other things that happened throughout history on July 20.

1738 - Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Verendrye (try saying THAT name five times fast) reaches the western shore of Lake Michigan

1848 - The first Women's Rights Convention concludes in Seneca Falls, New York

1864 - The Battle of Peachtree Creek takes place during the American Civil War

1871 - British Columbia officially becomes the sixth Canadian province

1917 - The Corfu Declaration is signed

1919 - Sir Edmund Hillary (d. 2008) - the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest - is born in Auckland, New Zealand

1934 - During the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934, police open fire upon striking truck drivers, leaving two dead and sixty-seven wounded

1935 - Thirteen people lose their lives when a Royal Dutch Airlines flight enroute to Frankfurt, Germany crashes into the Swiss Alps

1938 - Actress Natalie Wood (d. 1981) is born in San Francisco, California

1940 - The first California freeway - The Arroyo Seco Parkway - is opened

1943 - British actress Wendy Richard (d. 2009) is born in Middlesbrough, England

1950 - Harry Gold pleads guilty to spying for the Soviet Union by passing secrets from Klaus Fuchs

1964 - Singer Chris Cornell (d. 2017) is born in Seattle, Washington

1968 - The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Chicago's Soldier Field

1969 - Apollo 11's crew makes the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men in the universe to walk on the surface

1977 - The CIA releases documents under the Freedom of Information Act that proves that it had engaged in mind-control experiments

1982 - The Provisional IRA detonates two bombs in Hyde Park and Regent Park in London, leaving eight soldiers and seven horses dead, and countless others injured

1991 - EMF's "Unbelievable" tops the Billboard Charts

1997 - The USS Constitution - a Navy frigate - celebrates its two hundredth birthday by setting sail for the first time in over one hundred years

2007 - Singer/television personality Tammy Faye Messner dies at the age of 65

2012 - Twelve people are killed and seventy others wounded when a man starts shooting inside of a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado

And for celebrity birthdays, the following people are turning one year older today; Heather Chasen, Mike Ilitch, Sally Ann Howes, Cormac McCarthy, Diana Rigg, Kim Carnes, Carlos Santana, Jeff Rawle, Marcia Hines, Moira Harris, Radney Foster, Frank Whaley, Terri Irwin, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Josh Holloway, Sandra Oh, Colleen "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick, Omar Epps, Judy Greer, Erica Hill, Elliott Yamin, Charlotte Hatherley, Gisele Bundchen, John Francis Daley, and Julianne Hough!

I think it's great to see so many celebs celebrating a birthday.  Unfortunately, some people have also died on this date in history, and I plan on writing a tribute to him right here.  He passed away on this date in history forty-four years later.  July 20, 1973.

Before I get into that, I want to tell you a little bit of a story regarding my own personal memories.  And, has very little to do with today's date.  I wasn't even born then. 

What I can tell you is that when I was younger, we had a little Chinese food place in town where my family frequented a lot.  It was run by a guy named Ming, and I have so many memories of going to that place as a kid.  The decor was dated, but very befitting for a Chinese place, there was a retro style jukebox that hadn't been updated since 1984 but still worked, and every time we paid a visit, he'd always give all of us kids a free package of Wrigley's gum. 

(I was always partial to Juicy Fruit.)

Now, most of the time we ordered out...but on the rare occasion we dined in, the television set inside the restaurant was always playing some kung fu type movie.  You know, the ones with lots of punches and kicks, and HI-YAH's?  Turns out that Ming loved movies like that, and often featured films that had one of the greatest actors and martial artists that ever lived.

And I'm not talking about Chuck Norris either.  He's still alive.

No, I'm talking about Bruce Lee.  The San Francisco born/Hong Kong raised actor was one of the biggest pop culture icons of the 20th century, and he is responsible for influencing many people all over the world to learn many forms of self-defense, whether it be judo, karate, tae kwon do, or Jeet Kune Do - the form of martial arts that he founded! 

Many of his movies became huge box office smashes.  "Enter the Dragon", "Fist of Fury", "The Big Boss", and "Way of the Dragon".  I suppose that the dragon would be a creature that would best be linked with Bruce Lee though.  He was born on November 27, 1940 - during not only the Year of the Dragon, but the hour of the Dragon as well.  In ancient Chinese customs, that signified a strong and fortuitous omen.  It meant that Bruce Lee was destined to achieve greatness in everything that he did.

Of course, it didn't quite start out that way.  When Lee's family settled in Hong Kong, it wasn't the easiest time for Lee.  Although he excelled in the studies of martial arts and became quite skilled in a variety of techniques, he often used it for the wrong reasons and was frequently getting into trouble at school for fighting.  The decision was made to send Lee back to America in hopes that he would build a better life for himself and so he would stay out of trouble.  He returned to San Francisco in 1958, and a few months later relocated to Seattle where he enrolled as a student at the University of Washington.  While there, he fell in love with another student, Linda Emery.  They married in 1964 and had two children together, Brandon and Shannon.

Everything seemed to be going his way...until 1973.

1973 was supposed to be a big year for Bruce Lee.  He had just completed the filming for the movie "Enter the Dragon", and was scheduled to begin the dubbing for that film on May 10, 1973.  But the session was interrupted when Lee suddenly collapsed at the dub studio.  He had been complaining of headaches, and was experiencing seizures, and he was immediately taken to hospital for examination.  The doctors at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital ruled that Lee was suffering from cerebral edema - a swelling of the brain.  Through the use of mannitol, the doctors were able to reduce the swelling of his brain, and he was discharged some time later.  However, this was merely a warning sign of what was to come, and by July, time was about to run out.

The afternoon of July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong for a dinner meeting with actor George Lazenby to discuss the possibility of working together on a future film project.  At two o'clock, Lee met with producer Raymond Chow to talk about the making of the film "Game of Death", and worked together until four.  At that time, Lee and Chow drove to the home of Lee's colleague Betty Ting Pei, who was a Taiwan-born actress.  They had a look at the script for a couple of hours before Chow had to depart for a dinner meeting.

Shortly after Chow left, Lee began complaining of a headache again, and Ting gave him a drug that contained both aspirin and a tranquilizer known as meprobamate.  At 7:30, he decided that he would try to sleep off the pain and took a nap in the bedroom.  But when Lee didn't show up for the dinner meeting, Raymond Chow went to check on him and found Lee unresponsive.  He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in hopes that he could be revived, but by then it was too late.

Bruce Lee had died.  He was just thirty-two years old.

It would take a while to determine the cause of death, but when Lee's body went in for autopsy, it was discovered that his brain had swelled considerably and the weight of the brain increased by 13%.  It was later determined that the painkiller that Betty Ting Pei had given him was the likely reason that he died, as unbeknownst to everybody including Lee, he had a severe allergy to the meprobamate that was inside.  It was labeled a "death by misadventure", but really it was just a tragic accident.

Of course, this didn't stop some people from trying to speculate what really happened to Lee, and some of the theories that were thrown about ranged from slightly possible to completely off base.  These theories ranged from Lee dying from a cannabis overdose, to a curse being implement on his family, to a dangerous gang from Hong Kong orchestrating his demise.  But the sad truth is that Bruce Lee went out with a whimper...not a bang.  And perhaps the greatest tragedy is that he died when the entire world seemed to be aligning with him.

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