Bruce Lee’s marijuana use has been recently well documented, mostly thanks to Matthew Polly’s 2018 biography on the martial arts icon that had him interview at least a hundred of his friends, family, and colleagues. Lee was said to have enjoyed smoking weed and ingesting hashish because “it raises the consciousness level,” but did the actor have a more serious drug habit?
Enter Robert Baker, who started out as a volunteer for the iconic “one inch punch” demonstration in 1964, and would eventually become Lee’s close friend and confidant.
Baker would be known for his role in Lee’s 1972 film Fists of Fury, but according to Polly, he was also “long rumored to be Bruce’s dealer.” The author of Bruce Lee: A Life stated that it was “assumed by many” that Bob, as he was called, simply supplied the actor with marijuana.
Recently released private letters between the two seem to suggest that it was much more than that.
Heritage Auctions has since authenticated and put up various memorabilia from Bob Baker’s Bruce Lee collection on sale, which includes over 50 letters that Bruce and his wife, Linda sent him through the years. Most of them were handwritten, and many used Lee’s personal Jeet Kune Do letterhead stationeries.
These personal correspondence discussed various topics such as their developing friendship, plans for their film careers, and Lee’s back injuries. Perhaps more striking, it also contains numerous references to drugs, including marijuana as well as cocaine.
The handwritten letters allegedly document different instances of Lee trying Baker’s “holy stuff,” recovering from their get togethers, and having nights out with “little recollection of what had happened.”
There was also a letter with a short-lived attempt at quitting.
“I told Linda to call you to forget about the ‘stuff’ because I really don’t need them in my training,” a letter from 1970 read. “I feel that I have ‘gained’ in trying them, but excessive indulgence of them just isn’t in my road in Jeet Kune Do.”
By 1972, as Lee left the US and moved to Hong Kong, the letters included requests to Baker for “advice on the possibility of shipping some coke to me.”
Hong Kong had very strict drug laws, but he supposedly proposed a plan on shipping drugs to an address under the name “Wu Ngan,” and hiding the contraband inside books and clothes. Wu Ngan was one of Lee’s friends, who had a role in his 1972 movie, The Way of the Dragon.
In one letter authenticated by Heritage Auctions to be from Lee, the writer ordered “COKE (in large amount),” “ACID (in fair amount)” and “HASH OR GRASS,” before also inquiring about procuring “psilocybin” — commonly known as magic mushrooms — after supposedly reading about it in a book.
In the same note, the writer also asked for “more goodies ready for shipping” including a “very classy derringer” firearm and a “cowboy holster.”
Later in the year, a supposedly “stoned as hell” Lee wrote a less legible letter to Baker about needing “some coke” to “help in the formation” of a character he was working on.
In various other letters, there were repeated orders of “C,” “coke” and “Coca-Cola.” There were also references to other substances, which he called the “holy stuff,” “super duper,” “M pills”, “H oil” and others.
Other letters signed by Linda appear to discuss follow ups on drug shipments and money orders. It was also stated that she bought a scale and would be inspecting the cocaine that would be sent.
“Enclosed you will find the $500 for the amount of C you quote that Bruce can get. I’ll measure it but the quality (that goes without saying) plus the quantity Bruce himself will have to judge,” the letter from 1973 read. “I hope you will send him the mostest along with the one oz of H. oil and/or whatever.”
Two letters also appear to have Linda thanking Bob’s wife, Bev for “past favors” and for “taking the risk and sending the last shipment to Bruce.”
In another note following up a new shipment of “C,” Baker was assured that Bruce had things under control.
“Don’t worry about Bruce using the C — he is not going overboard,” a letter signed by Linda in 1973 read.
Apart from details on drugs, one correspondence also revealed what Polly calls “a previously unknown mistress named Teresa,” as Lee seemingly tried to plan a secret meet up without their family knowing.
They discussed various topics through the years, but below are a few of the more notable snippets from the letters addressed to Baker.
Bruce’s only typewritten letter to Baker from this collection. Sent from Los Angeles, December 15, 1969:
A personal letter to thank you for bringing me the stuffs, especially the pipe and the painting.
It was a brief but definitely enjoyable get together. Thank you again for that “holy stuff”
... By the way, wouldn’t mind going in with you for some of those “holy stuff” before leaving for H.K.
I’m planning to leave for H.K. on April 1st, and definitely would like to store up on some “Holy stuff” to bring over there. See if you can come up with something good.
The paper that I had “taste” kind of sweet and that definitely adds to it. So see if you can get some “good tasting” paper.
Though I have little recollection of what had happened - - - - - - - - - - anyway I know that I enjoyed your stay and am looking forward for another visit from you. Thank you for that stuffs and do take care and have fun.
Love, Peace, Brotherhood,
P.S. I can’t think of the six items, but I think you have a better memory - - - - -
Ordering and planning on sharing “M” pills with friend and actor James Coburn, who would eventually win an Academy Award in 1997. From April 22, 1970:
A quick letter to thank you personally for the “wonderful gifts.” I enjoyed them very much. By the way, when and if you should come down again, do get more 1-inch boards plus the same “M” pills. They do give me tremendous experience. Coburn likes some of them. I’ll give some to him when I get them.
Cancelling an order and trying to quit, June 17, 1970:
I told Linda to call you to forget about the “stuff” because I really don’t need them in my training. I feel that I have “gained” in trying them, but excessive indulgence of them just isn’t in my road in Jeet Kune Do.
“Again thank you for your generous supply of paper that would seem to last a life time!”
...Anyway, when you go back to work, I need more paper! Plus I can’t remember what - - - - - - anyway, you will remember.
It takes me a day to get back to myself to write this letter to “thank you” once more for everything, particularly “those super duper!” We had some wonderful moments.
“Thank you” Bob
Organizing a secret meet up, June 22, 1971:
I plan to come up — depending when I finished shooting — from July 2 (friday nite) to probably Tues or Wed (7). One thought here: I “might” come up (fly) with Teresa and she probably stays Friday nite (July 2), Sat nite (July 3) and leave Sunday (July 4) afternoon or so. The question is, is it convenient for
BethBev and the kids to spend twoFriday nite, Sat. and Sunday morning at her mother or somewhere and make up some convenient jazz for I don’t want Bev to know about this. Of course it has to be convenient or else forget it. My mother and everybody is at my house now. Let me know, and remember if only it is convenient and flow and everything is cool.
From Thailand, while filming “The Big Boss,” August 3, 1971:
Thailand is full of G but I have very little time for it though. I have to say it is “extremely” good.
From Thailand, August 23, 1971:
...By the way the “G” in Bangkok is holy indeed. I understand Hong Kong is super lousy.
That same later also included a passage stating Baker would be “coming” to Hong Kong and has been cast to star in his next film, Fist of Fury. The movie was shot in Hong Kong late in 1971. Prior to this, Lee dealt with serious back injuries, and previous letters showed that Baker also gave him a loan when he was struggling financially at the time.
After Lee moved to Hong Kong, February 28, 1972:
...Still am in the process of adapting to life here. By the way, what is the advice on the possibility of shipping some coke to me? Drop me a line on that.
Planning the orders and shipment of various drugs, along with a firearm, from late 1972:
(A) Regarding the goods — you can send them in a package addressed to Mr. Wu Ngan c/o Golden Harvest Studio, 1412 Tung Ying Building 100 Nathan Rd.
The goodies list can be (1) COKE (in large amount) (2) ACID (in fair amount) (3) HASH OR GRASS (the former can be more while the latter, even cleaned, has to be carefully packed. As to what you put the above with you know better — inside books? Clothings? —
(B) Also, when I come I would like to have more goodies ready for shipping including finding me a really classy derringer — from shops, collection, or what not. Also, find me a cowboy holster for my 45 fast draw — all these when I come but not for your sending me right away.
So send (A) request right away ... they might open for brief inspection or they might not — but play it safe. As for the total cost, let me know and I’ll send you the money order by air mail right away.
P.S. Do you have access to any PSILOCYBIN. If so send a little together with info on how to take it. Read about it in a book.
From Linda Lee, October 5, 1972:
I just want to check with you about the second shipment. We thought you probably would have sent it already, but it has not arrived. Hope nothing has happened to it in the mail. Please confirm if you have sent it or not. In regards to the money, I’ll send as soon as I can get to the bank to buy a money order.
...One thing you have to do is to air-mail me some fine “C” if you can swing it.
Air-mail me some Coca-Cola — do it the way you and I sincerely feel — in other word, whatever. Be cool about the package. Same procedure, Wu Ngan — “quality! man”
“Cooly” send some Coke — How’s everything? Stoned as hell, but am working on the upcoming character. Some coke would help in the formation and [illegible] I want to create.
Another order after Baker’s “friend” supposedly got “busted” in 1973:
Deep regret for your friend being busted
RUSH the sparkle “quality” LOTS!”
By now you should have received my money order, though I feel that it might be a slight delay because of your friend’s situation. I hope you will send me the “quality” stuff you said you will send (“it has never been from the street”). In the mean time I’m getting a “quality” spoon and [illegible] scale. Do send it “air-mail” like yesterday (ha! ha!)
Just want you to know that Linda had yesterday send the ADDITIONAL money you have requested. I had a hard day, a REAL HARD day. You take good care of yourself and your family. By the way, I’ll be waiting for the 1 oz of H. oil I have ordered from you — send it as soon as you can.
From Linda Lee, March 29, 1973:
Dear Bob and Bev, For past favors and for being a good friend. Hope this small amount helps a little.
From Linda Lee, March 30, 1973:
Received your four letters. Bruce is in the midst of shooting — working very hard.
Well, forget about your making some money out of the last orders. I’ve bought a gram measurer and enclosed you will find the $500 for the amount of C you quote that Bruce can get. I’ll measure it but the quality (that goes without saying) plus the quantity Bruce himself will have to judge. I hope you will send him the mostest along with the one oz of H. oil and/or whatever.
From Linda Lee, April 16, 1973:
Dear Bob, Its been quite a while since you’ve written. I assume you have received the money order for $500 and I am wondering if you have sent the C yet. Please let me know right away because if you did not receive the money order, then I will have to talk to the bank to put a tracer on it.
How are you all doing? We hope things are straightening out for you. Say thanks to Bev for taking the risk and sending the last shipment to Bruce. Don’t worry about Bruce using the C — he is not going overboard.
Write very soon and let us know about the $500 money order and/or when the C is coming.
On May 10, 1973, less than a month after that letter signed by Linda, Bruce Lee collapsed. He suffered seizures and headaches, and was diagnosed with cerebral edema. While the reports and circumstances leading to his death were conflicting, more headaches and brain swelling happened again two months later. Lee passed away on July 20, 1973, at just 32-years-old.
In the years following his death, letters show that Linda still tried to keep in touch with Bev and Bob Baker. The latest from this collection being sold is from January 16, 1975.
“After living with Bruce for so long, I certainly have the strength and determination to keep going, as well as the ability to take life as it comes,” Linda wrote. “Like Bruce used to say — turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones!”
Baker reportedly died by heart attack in 1993, at age 52.