Bruce taught me to dissect time into infinite degrees. It’s what he called ‘playing between the keys of the piano.’ It’s the understanding that you actually have worlds of time within seconds to do something unanticipated when your opponent is already committed to his announced [telegraphed] action.”
Sterling Silliphant, Bruce Lee: FIghting Words
In 1971, I was 9 years old. A new TV show came on the air, which my parents decided to watch, called Longstreet.
I was already pre-sold on recurring guest star Bruce Lee, who I’d loved as Kato in The Green Hornet, where he was like the enforcer for the Green Hornet, his “boss.” He gleefully beat up guys nearly every episode, with a style and method unlike anything seen elsewhere at that time on American TV.
I was also pre-sold on the star , James Franciscus, because I had just seen him in a cool TV movie called Night Slaves (about a town of people who are under the control of an alien intelligence at night – -Franciscus’s character is immune from the control because he is a Vietnam vet with a plate in his head from a war injury). I always wondered if Stephen King had seen that movie and it was the seed for his book Tommyknockers.
Anyway, I loved Longstreet.
As a kid who generally felt small and weak and unable to fight, I was always on the alert for information on how to kick some ass. Longstreet did not disappoint. In fact, I trace my lifelong interest in kung fu to this show, particularly the pilot episode, “The Way of the Intercepting Fist.”
In the 3 years (1968-1971) after The Green Hornet but before The Big Boss, Bruce Lee did a few small parts and taught martial arts to a number of Hollywood people for big money (I’ve heard $250 an hour –that’s $1700 in 2015 dollars).
Silliphant was a big deal screenwriter. He won an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night, the movie that made Sidney Poitier a star. He also wrote the 70s blockbuster The Towering Inferno and the classic TV show Route 66, among a lot of other high-qaulity TV and movies.
He was also a big fan of the martial arts. He heard about Bruce’s abilities, then tracked him down and became his student.
He trained with Bruce in that 3 year in-between period and also worked with him on some TV and movie projects. He wrote Bruce a memorable cameo in the James Garner movie Marlowe where Bruce is an enforcer who destroys Marlowe’s office. He wrote also Bruce into Longstreet, a detective show about an insurance investigator. Longstreet is investigating some jewel theives, who set an explosion to kill and silence him. The explosion blinds him and kills his wife.
A key figure in the early shows was Li Tsung, played by Bruce, who helps Longstreet regain his independence, basically by teaching him Wing Chun / Jeet Kune Do.