A private collection of more than 40 never-before-seen handwritten letters by actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee, providing direct and candid insight into the martial arts legend's use of cocaine and psilocybin and pain killers during the height of his stardom, sold for $462,500 at Heritage Auctions
The revelatory letters were offered in a special catalog titled Bruce Lee: The Auction. The collection sold for more than twice than expected, purchased by collectors across the United States and around the world.
"This was the first time the public truly learned the extent of Lee's drug abuse, said Joe Maddalena, Executive Vice President at Heritage Auctions. "Although it was known he used marihuana, these letters show only his closest confidants knew why he depended on cocaine and other drugs to help him develop characters for his films and battle pain caused by stunt work and performing.
Most of the bombshell letters were written to fellow Fist of Fury actor Robert "Bob" Baker and span from 1967 to shortly before Lee's death in 1973, a period when the action star became a household name. These letters span the most important era in Lee's development as a star with references to his work in The Big Boss, The Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury, Enter the Dragon, the posthumous The Game of Death and more. The more than 40 letters were verified by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), a leading authenticator of celebrity autographs.
Initially, letters to Baker included code words referring to the drugs Lee sought, such as requesting "Fine C and "Coca-Cola, in a letter which sold for $16,250.
Lee eventually referred to requesting drugs plainly. In a letter dated late 1972, Lee wrote to Baker for cocaine, and implied it would help him in develop a character for an upcoming movie, in part: "Stoned as hell, but am working on the up-coming character, he wrote. "Some coke would help in the formation of what I want to create. That letter sold for $11,875.
A note written by Lee explaining that he knew his habit was in opposition to his ability to reach his life philosophy sold for $13,750. Lee informed Baker that he was backing away from indulgence, which did not align with his discipline and practice of Jeet Kune Do. "I feel that I have "gained" in tying them, but excessive indulgence of them just isn't in my road in Jeet Kune Do." Jeet Kune Do is Lee's own hybrid philosophy of martial arts, which was heavily influenced by his personal philosophy and experiences. Developed in 1965, Lee's philosophy drew from different combat disciplines and is often credited with paving the way for today's modern mixed martial arts (MMA).
The letters are the first in which Lee acknowledges his drug use as well as his efforts to stop such "excessive indulgence.
While several messages to Baker include a glimpses into Lee's life and personal philosophical ponderings. In a letter which sold for $15,875, the star writes about anticipating Fist of Fury being a hit when released and his excitement over the development of Enter the Dragon and high-end purchases including a surprise for his wife Linda, a new Mercedes 350SL.