This blogger received the news that the star of the classic film Enter The Dragon died, yesterday, Sunday, and after a day spent covering the Pride Parade in San Francisco, via this Twitter tweet at @zennie62:
That was a total shock.
— DPA (@DrPostALot) July 1, 2013
Jim Kelly is not a person one associates with death, let alone how he died – he reportedly had cancer.
What went through my mind was that the last time I saw and talked to Mr. Kelly was last year, and I’d always meant to send an email to check and see how he was doing. But the email he gave me was on a small piece of paper, and I lost it due simply to my occasional disorganization when small pieces of paper are used to record information. I was better off putting in on my iPhone.
When I think of Jim Kelly, I can only think of him as a good person. There’s no other word for that, and it’s because of how he behaved when I met him, and did this interview:
It was WonderCon 2010 in San Francisco, and I had the idea of interviewing the stars from shows that have left an indelible mark on American Culture. There was a good number of celebs on hand in “autograph row:” Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman, Lou Ferrigno from The Incredible Hulk, and Herb Jefferson, Jr., from the original Battlestar Galactica, to name some of them. But I name them not just because they were famous, but more because they did something that Jim Kelly did not do: make me feel stupid for asking to interview them.
Of the three, Herb Jefferson, Jr. was the person who needed the most exposure, and should not have refused an interview, but he was downright hostile about it. So, after my first approach, each time I had to walk past his table I acted as if he wasn’t there – the sad fact is most just walked by Mr. Jefferson’s table because they didn’t know who he was.
Jim Kelly was different.
I introduced myself, and it was obvious that I was a press person because I had my badge on, but after saying he’d like to talk with me, he asked if I could come back later, when the crowds died down. Unlike Herb Jefferson, Jr, Mr. Kelly did have a crowd of people around him, mostly male, and ranging in age from 50 to 20 – no kidding. At times the audience of people waiting to see Jim Kelly was four deep, spilling into the middle of the narrow pathway, making the affair a crowd cluster fuck. So I waited.
During that period of time of waiting I looked up information on Jim Kelly to make sure I didn’t flulb up my interview. I was honestly concerned that I would have nothing to talk about with Jim beyond his movies. For some people that may have been enough, but I wanted to have a conversation I could come back to and enjoy watching myself.
So I had this weird idea of opening the video interview with Jim Kelly punching the air in front of my Flip Video Camera, then actually hitting the device a tick as he finished. When I pitched the idea to him, the man called William in Enter The Dragon loved it, and performed perfectly, as you can see in the video. But what I didn’t know what that Jim had something of a social justice streak in him, and so that made for a great conversation.
As it happened, Jim Kelly had never voted before, and until then-Senator Barack Obama ran for President Of The United States. When I asked him if he’d ever thought America would elect a black man as president, Kelly say “no.” At the time of our first talk, Kelly didn’t expect President Obama to turn against Moammar Khadafy in the Libyan Issue, but he did, and arguably was left with little choice – but that’s another story.
In all, the interview went beyond my expectations and Jim’s too. To date, the video on YouTube.com/zennie62 has been seen over 170,000 times, and has something like 552 comments to date.
The response so pleased Mr. Kelly, we made another video at WonderCon 2011 – this one over 12 minutes long, and just as wide-ranging, and even as it was more focused on President Obama, we managed to talk about John Saxon, his Enter The Dragon co-star:
And, as fate would have it, or my being blessed by The Lord, the third interview featured both Jim Kelly and John Saxon.
But When I think of Jim Kelly, I can only think of him as a good person. Not an icon, or an actor, but a good person. Jim took time to talk to people, and made everyone feel special. That’s not a small thing.
Jim Kelly’s Concern With Lack Of Roles For Black Actors
One of Jim Kelly’s big pet peeves was the lack of good, positive roles for black actors. It’s a problem we talked about on camera and off. In fact just before my second interview with Mr. Kelly, he introduced me to, and insisted that I interview Mike Le, who is from a website called Racebending.com.
Racebending.com’s mission is “an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. We advocate for underrepresented groups in entertainment media. Since our formation in 2009, we have been dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.” And Mike was there at WonderCon in part as a fan, but also as a representative for the website and its mission.
I hope you now understand why I say he’s a good person.