by Pa Rock
David Carradine died yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand. He was found hanging by the neck in his hotel room closet. His death was probably a suicide. Carradine was a highly successful actor, with over two hundred acting credits listed on his page at the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com). And while Mr. Carradine played a wide variety of characters on television and in films, he will forever be Grasshopper to my generation.
I'm not a lover of westerns, at least not to the extent that my father is, but there was one television western that was so much better than the rest that I couldn't keep from being a fan. Kung Fu ran from 1972 to 1975, roughly the same years as the United States was succumbing to the peace movement and extricating itself from Vietnam, and the years that democracy was repairing itself by removing Richard Nixon from the White House.
It was a time that America was sorely in need of some peace and tranquility, and that need was met by the television character of Kwai Chang Caine (aka Grasshopper), the son of a Chinese mother and an American father. Caine was forced to flee his homeland of China as a young man after he killed the Emperor's nephew - an evil cur who had murdered Caine's teacher. Caine traveled to the American old west where he walked from town to town righting wrongs with marshal arts and his peaceful philosophy. He was also looking for his mysterious American half-brother during his travels.
David Carradine, an actor, athlete, and dancer, brought Caine to life as a peaceful warrior. The great Bruce Lee wanted to play Caine, but he was passed over for the non-Asian, yet more serene, Carradine - a move that was instrumental in making both of their careers. Carradine's Caine became an unforgettable inhabitant of television history, and Lee went to Hong Kong where made some great marshal arts films. Today both men are legend.
David Carradine was 72-years-old at the time of his death. He had his demons, but his calm and reassuring presence in the starring role of Kung Fu did much to quell the demons that many of the rest of us had thirty years ago. I hope and trust that his demons are gone now and he has rejoined the peaceful and karmic flow of the universe.
Peaceful trails, Grasshopper!