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Bruce Lee's great vanishing act

From CNN Correspondent Andrew Brown

Trademark Lee, here with Chuck Norris during the filming of 'The Way of the Dragon'.
Trademark Lee, here with Chuck Norris during the filming of 'The Way of the Dragon'.

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Hong Kong officials have been slow to honor Bruce Lee as fans prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of the martial-arts hero's death. CNN's Andrew Brown reports. (July 18)
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(CNN) -- They called him Bruce. Martial arts legend Bruce Lee grew up in Hong Kong and local producers there made him famous.

Movies like 'Game of Death' helped crown Lee a modern-day king of kung fu.

His so-called one-inch punch and daring kicks powered his film career and helped him achieve worldwide stardom.

But as Hong Kong prepares to mark the 30th anniversary of Lee's death, there has been little officially to honor the star even though he was once probably the city's most famous resident.

Lee's death in 1973 shocked his fans and the movie community.

In his early thirties at the time, many people regarded him as immortal.

"He's like an unbeatable person. How could he just vanish?" says Salon Films' Charles Wang.

Hong Kong has played a part in Bruce Lee's great vanishing act.

There are no public monuments to him here -- not even in Kowloon Tong where Lee used to live.

Instead, the neighborhood is known for its "love motels", built to accommodate courting couples and businessmen who arrive with mistresses in tow.

Lee home now a 'love motel'

CNN visited Lee's old address, number 41 Cumberland Road -- a place which now goes by the name, Romance Hotel.

The building contains a number of small unpretentious rooms, simple and with a rather hard double bed.

Couples pay about $30 dollars for three hours.

Ting opened the exhibition.  She found Lee unconscious at her apartment thirty years ago.
Ting opened the exhibition. She found Lee unconscious at her apartment thirty years ago.

For that price they get complimentary slippers, a couch which has definitely seen better days, and perhaps the highlight of this hotel, a chance to use a rather gaudy looking 'love tub'.

Romance Hotel management told CNN that Bruce Lee's legend helps boost occupancy.

But Lee's fans say the rooms bear no resemblance to the star's old home. They want the Hong Kong government to buy the Romance Hotel so it can be restored to its former glory and promoted to tourists.

"Transform it, decorate it, let it become a new Bruce Lee museum," says Hew Kuan Yau from the Bruce Lee Club.

Local fans are marking Lee's death with an exhibition of memorabilia.

The event's launch on Friday featured a rare appearance by Bettie Ting -- the woman who found Lee unconscious at her apartment on the evening of July 20th, 1973.

Ting still remains tight lipped about the tragic events that unfolded that evening.

Lee was declared dead on arrival at hospital and officials say he died of a cerebral edema -- or brain swelling -- after taking an aspirin.

"I really, really miss old Bruce," Wang says.

Or young Bruce -- he was just 32 when he passed away. But in his short life he inspired other action heroes like Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan and other Hong Kong martial arts experts who in turn have influenced major Hollywood productions like 'The Matrix'.

Bruce Lee's been dead for three decades, but his legacy is very much alive and kicking.

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