I just heard about the death of Jackie Chan’s manager Willie Chan (he died at the end of October), which is really sad news. The first interview that I ever published was with Jackie Chan for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1989, and it was all because Willie paid some attention to me. I think that the reason Jackie was able to come to America so triumphantly in the 90’s with “Rumble in the Bronx” is because Willie worked so hard during the decades before that to cultivate the geeks who loved Jackie’s films, long before the internet made that kind of thing common. Every Chinese New Year I’d receive a card signed by Jackie that must have been Willie’s handiwork; I’d periodically get a personal letter from Willie letting me know what Jackie was planning next, and I made sure to write about it where I could. When Jackie came to America to host Saturday night live, Willie invited my wife and me to come around and say hello to him and Jackie. All of the writing that I managed to publish back when I was a journalist all started with Willie giving me a chance, and after that, one thing led to another till I was getting a lot of work; obviously a LOT of other people gave me a chance too, but it’s possible that this might not have happened without Willie. He was a really nice guy, but also the kind of strategic thinker that anyone would be lucky to have in his corner.
One other thing – he used to manage all the big stars in Hong Kong. He gave all of them up other than Jackie. The story was that the mob threatened to kill him otherwise. There was a terrible story about him on his knees with a gun on his head. It was reported in some paper a long time ago, maybe in the 1980s. I hope it wasn’t true.