A buff, bronze Bruce Lee made a brief appearance in L.A.'s Chinatown this weekend in honor of the neighborhood's 'summer nights' series.
The 7-foot-6 -inch homage to the martial arts legend and Hollywood icon was unveiled Saturday night near the gate to Chinatown's historic Central Plaza.
Chinatown Business Improvement District Executive Director George Yu said it was an instant sensation.
"It was crazy last night. I'm used to a lot of people in Chinatown for our events," Yu said. "But you couldn't even get close to the statue for two hours after the unveiling. I had a little glimpse of when we covered it up on Friday night and I uncovered it to take some photos for our documentation. And I couldn't get the damn veil back on it because there were so many people walking around. Everybody wanted to look at it, to touch it."
Bruce Lee moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s and, while playing Kato in an early TV adaptation of the "Green Hornet," he opened a martial arts studio on College Street in north Chinatown — not far from the proposed permanent statue's location.
Plans for Saturday's unveiling of the statue came together quickly, Yu said. The ownership of Lee's bronze likeness was only transferred to its new owners, the L.A. Chinatown Corporation, last week. Before that, it had been in a warehouse and owned by the Bruce Lee Foundation. Yu said they only managed to get the statue in place late Friday evening.
The statue's backers are hoping to raise $150,000 to permanently install the statue and expand an area of Chinatown that would encompass a garden walkway, a seating area and plaques honoring other Chinese-Americans.
On Monday, the statue will go back into storage, where it's been for the last several years, Yu said. Bruce will reemerge again for the next "Chinatown Summer Nights" event in July.
" We're going to make the permanent base for it," Yu said. "And I hope to have it out again July 20th, which is our second Chinatown Summer Nights and, coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of [Lee's] passing."
Yu said he hopes the statue will reignite Angelenos interest in Chinatown's history and the area's revitalization.
"We want to bring Angelenos back to Chinatown," he said. "It's still the cultural and historic heart of Chinese Americans in Southern California."