Thursday, June 04, 2009

Goodbye David Carradine


David Carradine was found dead in his hotel room in Thailand today.

If you are around my age, you probably remember watching him in the great 1972-1975 TV show Kung Fu where he played a Shaolin priest wandering the old west. I loved that in almost every episode the petty bully or bad guy(s) got corrected by Carradine's character, usually in the form of a Shaolin thrashing in Kurasawa/Peckinpah-esque slow motion. These shows were lovely, small morality plays.

The last thing I saw him in were the Tarantino films Kill Bill I and II, where he gave a nice dignified performance, I thought.

It turns out there are Shaolin monasteries in the United States. I know this because I went through US Navy boot camp in the 70's with a guy named Trusty, who had spent a lot of time training in Shaolin martial arts at one of those monasteries. I still could speak Chinese pretty well back then, and he could too. We had fun with that. But the truly amazing thing was Trusty's physical stamina.

Part of boot camp was physical training, called PT. It was always pushups done to the point of muscle failure. Even though we were Navy I guess they wanted us somewhat physically fit. It was just as Gunnery Sargeant Hartman put it to his Marine Corps recruits in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket:

"I will PT you all until you f**king die! I'll PT you until your a**holes are sucking buttermilk!"

But Trusty never died and he never sucked buttermilk like the rest of us did. He just kept doing the pushups long after all the rest of us had collapsed and were flopping on the deck like fish, trying to do another pushup. He never was PT'd to anywhere near his physical limits, and eventually they would stop the whole thing despite not being able to break Trusty down.

I think David Carradine would have been proud of my old shipmate Trusty.
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