Fans Say Farewell to David Carradine

LOS ANGELES: Friends and co-workers came out Sunday to pay their respect and honor the memory of actor David Carradine, who was found hanging from a hotel room closet in Bangkok less than three weeks ago.

Attending the funeral included Edward James Olmos, Kill Bill co-stars Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah, and Jane Seymour. Carradine was buried at the Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills cemetery during the weekend, as Hell’s Angels motorists accompanied a white hearse containing the 72-year-old’s body.

“It was touching, but light-hearted” brother Bruce said to People about the two-hour funeral. “There weren’t a lot of tears, but there was a lot of laughter.”

In the early 1970s, Carradine kicked his way to fame in the television series Kung Fu, which aired on ABC from 1972-75. The show debuted during the height of Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the era of antiheroes like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. However, the show sparked an interest in both religion and philosophy during the period of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and DC Comics’ Superman being known as a Christ-like Man of Steel. Originally, Bruce Lee was set to star in Kung Fu, but ABC executives wanted Carradine, an American actor, for the part, for they believed that TV viewers aren’t ready to accept an Chinese actor as a good guy despite Lee’s fan following as Kato from The Green Hornet (1966-67).

Both Kung Fu and the character Caine broke the mold of westerns. The series chronicles the character traveling throughout the American West in the 19th century, as Caine searches for his brother while avoiding bounty hunters at the same time. During his journey, he stands for the oppressed and downtrodden against the injustices and evils in the world — using his hands and feet. Soft-spoken and humble, Caine is a pacifist seeking harmony and oneness, and is willing to solve problems without resorting to violence. Though not indifferent to suffering, he uses martial arts as only a last resort to fight for honor and righteousness in the name of all that’s good. Carradine reprised the role in the 1986 TV sequel Kung Fu: The Movie, with a then-young Brandon Lee as his son. He then went on to with the syndicated Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-97), as the grandson of the original battling crime and corruption in the 20th century.

Carradine’s post-Kung Fu career features notable works such as the cult fave Death Race 2000 (1975) with an pre-Rocky and Rambo Sylvester Stallone; his acclaimed performance as folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1976’s Bound for Glory, and his villainous turn in 1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade, where he takes on Chuck Norris as a kung-fun gun smuggler. Carradine also worked with brothers Keith and Robert in 1980’s The Long Riders, and guest-starred on shows like Airwolf, Charmed, Alias, and recently FOX’s Mental last week.

Not only did Carradine do martial arts onscreen, he practiced and studied it also in real life. He put out several videos on Tai Chi, and it was recently revealed that BayView Entertainment plans to release David Carradine’s Shaolin Cardio Kick Boxing on September 8, followed by David Carradine Presents Shaolin Strength Training the next month.

Both 2003 and 2004 gave Carradine a boost in his career thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga, as the arch-nemesis who is the target of Uma Thurman’s Bride seeking retribution for her coma. He recently appeared on the big screen this year in Crank 2: High Voltage with Jason Statham. The actor has appeared in over 100 movies, and was still in demand with projects such as the indie film Portland and the action film Stretch, in which he was shooting before his death on June 4.

Original findings pointed to suicide and signs of sexual assault. But while it may point to the latter, Carradine’s family were stunned at the former and decided to launch an independent investigation. They enlisted the FBI to assist the Tahi police and hired forensic specialist Dr. Michael Baden to do another autopsy once the body was sent to Los Angeles, and it concludes that it wasn’t a suicide, but Baden won’t receive the autopsy report from the Thai authorities for a few more days; the investigation remains ongoing.

Recent stories from Entertainment Tonight stated another possible theory: that Carradine may have died for revealing martial arts secrets. This was the same theory involving the death of Bruce Lee, who died in 1973 at the age of 32 before the release of Enter The Dragon, the movie that would made into a martial arts icon. The show also said that both the estate and portions from Carradine’s will could be divided by his survivors: fifth wife Annie, his seven children, grandchildren, and one great-grandchild; that also remains ongoing.