Time For Him to Leave: David Carradine Found Dead in Thai Hotel Room

Actor David Carradine, 72, was found hanged in a Thai hotel room. Suicide is suspected but disputed by Carradine's spokesperson.

The title character in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies and a standout in such B-level treats as Death Race 2000, Carradine is probably still best known for his role in the early '70s TV show, Kung Fu, which followed the travails of a wandering Chinese martial arts expert in the Old West and helped funkify and freakify American culture in all sorts of kitschy yet meaningful ways.

Having the Caucasian scion of a great American acting family playing a dispossessed Chinaman was weird enough, but the show itself was a relentless rotoscope of mystic Orient cliches that never stinted on displaying the (historically accurate) odious racism of prior generations of Americans. Somehow those lessons emanating from the backlots of the San Fernando Valley in the late 20th century seemed way too cheaply learned (especially from a Hollywood that continued to be leery of casting actual Asians in any but supporting roles), but the show absolutely helped broaden our cultural palate in all sorts of ways.

Here's Kung Fu's memorable pebble-snatching, cauldron-lifting opening sequence, which will doubtless take many readers way, way back to a very different time and place—and one that in its own small way helped make today's vastly more globalized and cosmopolitan America possible. Rest in peace, Kwai Chang Caine, rest in peace.

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  • EJM||

    Of course, there are those of us who remember him more from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.

  • anon||

    watching this as a kid, I could never figure out - he's white, right? is he supposed to be oriental? How did this white guy get involved with these monks? They never explained it.

    I'm still not sure I understand - were we supposed to think he was asian? Cuz that would be retarded.

  • anarch||

    It would?

  • Sam Grove||

    Supposedly, his father was caucasian.

  • anon||

    Yes, it would. Watch the horrible remake "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and you'll know why.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Who mourns for Khigh Dheigh? He was the real Iron Eyes Cody of yellowface roles.

  • ||

    I used to watch Kung Fu without fail, every week during its original run on ABC, along with about a jillion other fans of high-school age. While the casting of Carradine raised eyebrows then, and elicits eye-rolling from the likes of Gillespie now, it was important to the series that Caine be neither American nor Chinese, but a half-breed, a man between worlds. Carradine expressed the dualism well.

    If, during one of those old episodes, one of my buddies would have offhandedly said, "y'know, when that guy is in his seventies, they'll probably find him swinging from a rope in a Bangkok hotel room," I would have demanded that he share his stash with the rest of us and quit holding out.

    "Caine" seemed too centered to commit suicide; "Bill" seemed just too damned mean and selfish. And in real life, Carradine's manager expressed great shock at this news, as being inconsistent with the actor's true character and current attitude.

    So I wonder what we will learn about this event in the days ahead. Regardless, I echo Gillespie, here: Rest in peace, grasshopper.

  • ||

    He didn't commit suicide. The same people who killed Bruce Lee and who put the live ammo in the prop gun that killed Brandon Lee killed Carradine. Isn't it obvious?

  • ||

    It doesn't seem like anyone here's mentioned the elephant in the room yet so I guess I will... auto-erotic asphyxiation?

  • </||

    Greg'

    Keith Richards could afford to hire servants to watch him and revive him when he ODed.You'd think
    Kwai Chang Caine could hire some ladyboy hooker to help him jerk off safely.

  • ||

    But...he looked so happy and fulfilled in those YellowBook.com commercials...

    ...and yes, I am kidding. Having to sit in the lotus position and chant "yellow book dot coooommmmmmmmmmmmm" to pay the rent would drive anyone to this.

  • ||

    Any word on Stephen King's whereabouts the past couple of days?

  • ||

    While searching for the Carradine Yellow Book commercial, some strange coincidence led me to this hilarious Thai yellow pages commercial.

  • ||

    Count me as a Kung Fu fan.

  • JB||

    I had a friend who told me a story about Thailand.

    He was in a whorehouse and the girls cost $5 each. Then he says, "I can get 20 for $100!!"

    Hell of a way to go, Carradine.

  • IceTrey||

    Hanging naked in a closet, hmm. Can you say "auto erotic asphyxiation"?

  • Herman the German||

    Interestingly, he attempted suicide (or more accurately, murder-suicide) while naked at the end of DR2K as well.

  • ||

    Then he says, "I can get 20 for $100!!"

    What, they don't believe in bulk discounts in Thailand?

  • The (Real) Expatriate||

    What, they don't believe in bulk discounts in Thailand?

    Having lived there for 4 years, I can tell you, no, they don't.

  • Kris||

    Autoerotic asphyxiation? At 72?

    That's hot (or not)

  • ||

    I suspect at that age you have to pull out all the stops to get the little kung fu fighter to salute.

  • jester||

    Does anyone have a copy of Mad Magazine's 'Young Fool'? I need to reread it. I am guessing Mort Drucker did the illustrations.

  • ||

    So which H&R commentator is most likely to be found "dead in a Bankok hotel room, naked and hanging in his closet"?

    It doesn't seem like anyone here's mentioned the elephant in the room yet so I guess I will... auto-erotic asphyxiation?

    With an elephant? Any of the usual suspects want to chime in on that?

  • ||

    So which H&R commentator is most likely to be found "dead in a Bankok hotel room, naked and hanging in his closet"?

    Episiarch. Duh. Is there really any other contenders?

  • ||

    Culturally, Nick is right. Kung Fu has had much more influence than say, Cheers, Friends, Frazier, Seinfeld, Everybody Hates Ray and the entirety of reality tv, combined. Yes, that includes Survivor and Idol-really, they are a mere pimple on the penis of a protozoa in the universe of american culture.

  • ||

    And so it goes.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    I'm guessing Caradine probably killed himself, but I wouldn't trust the Thai police to tell the truth. They said my cousin commited suicide after they found his dismembered & decapitated body.

  • the innominate one||

    SugarFree - Donderoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    and

    Lonewackoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    (yes, this is an ad hom)

  • Colin||

    He discovered the truth about Flight 447 and they had to off him.

  • ||

    SugarFree,

    I agree. It's a contest with only one contestant.

    What I liked about Kung Fu were the flashback scenes, where Master Po (or one of the other masters) would screw with Caine. My favorite part was how he'd tell Caine "You can leave this place when you can snatch this pebble from my hand. Oh, and when you can walk on this rice paper without leaving a trace. Did I say you could leave? No, you have to dodge all these spears. No, no, one more thing. Pick up this blazing hot cauldron with your forearms."

    "Just kidding! You could've left through the front door years ago."

  • ||

    the innominate one,

    jsh asked about commentators.

    Now, if the question was: So which shit-stain H&R troll is most likely to be found "dead in a Bankok hotel room, naked and hanging in his closet"? I'd have to go with Lonewacko 'cause we already know he practices autoerotic asphyxiation when he pleasures himself with a silicone burrito while choking back the tears.

  • the innominate one||

    aspartame - thanks, now I'll be too nauseous to eat for days

    I may never eat another burrito.

  • ||

    What is in with Thailand, anyway? Bangkok? Phuket? Poon Trang?


    Well, okay, I added the Poon. But the other parts are real.

  • ||

    Old man, how is it you hear these things?

    Young man, how is it that you do not?



    Be at one with the universe Grasshopper

  • ||

    Pro Libertate,

    It's an interesting chicken and egg problem. Did Thailand become sex tourism hot spot because the cities have dirty names or did the sex tourism drive all the cities to be branded with sexual connotations?

    But the other parts are real.

    That's not what Epi said the last time he "accidentally" wound up with a lady-boy.

  • the innominate one||

    Pro Lib - I hear one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble.

  • Joel||

    My favorite moment from Kung Fu:

    Caine is faced with yet another bunch of racist hillbillies, bent on beating the shit out of him for no apparent reason. He responds, as always, by calmly going into a zenlike flashback.

    My older brother shouts at the television, "Clobber him now, Homer! When he comes out of his nod, he's murder!"

  • ||

    I like the time he used an iron pan to block a whole revolver full of bullets at close range.

  • ||

    I hear one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble.

    I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.

  • Rib O\'Flavin||

    One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster.

  • the innominate one||

    jsh - that's what always confused me about that song

    I figured making a hard man humble was code for experiencing erectile dysfunction upon realizing that you're making it with a thai ladyboy.

    However, if he's getting his kicks above the waistline, wtf? Martial arts? He's getting kicked in the head?

  • ||

    And so it goes.

    Vonnegut had it right.

  • Rice Bingham||

    Apparently his junk was tied up as well.

  • ||

    Yeah it looks like his playtime got a little out of hand. Sad and inspiring. Everyone has to die, but having a creapy, sexulized death has got to win you some points.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31118992/

  • SpongePaul||

    What a way to go! how embarrising to the family, yet how legendary to hollywood!

  • ||

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0605092carradine1.html

    JUNE 5--As investigators try to determine how actor David Carradine wound up hanging naked and dead in a Bangkok hotel closet with a rope tied around his genitals, a review of divorce court filings shows that his most recent ex-wife once accused the actor of "deviant sexual behavior which was potentially deadly." ...

    ... A Bangkok police official told reporters that investigators were examining whether Carradine accidentally suffocated while engaging in an autoerotic sex act.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Having the Caucasian scion of a great American acting family playing a dispossessed Chinaman was weird enough, but the show itself was a relentless rotoscope of mystic Orient cliches that never stinted on displaying the (historically accurate) odious racism of prior generations of Americans.

    Yeah, but it wasn't like Kwai Chang didn't engage in a little trolling. I remember one episode where he walks into a bar, sits down next to two drunken cowpokes, and meekly asks the bartender if he can have a bowl of rice. Surprisingly, a fight ensues.

  • ||

    My mom told me about Carradine this morning, and my when she said he was naked in the closet, my first thought was kink gone wrong.

    I didn't say it out loud though, because... well, she's my mom.

  • ||

    Kerry Howley is half Thai, right?

  • Master Po||

    Apparently his junk was tied up as well.

    So, Grasshopper, what is the sound of jerking off without one's hands?

  • ||

    Sad.
    What a way to go!

    Rest in Peace, Grasshopper!

    He will be missed

  • ||

    Man, I used to love "kung fu".

  • ||

    """... A Bangkok police official told reporters that investigators were examining whether Carradine accidentally suffocated while engaging in an autoerotic sex act."""

    I'd believe that before I'd believe suicide. He was there filming a movie, his career wasn't down the drain. I was leaning towards two possible reasons, murder, or the above, and I was leaning toward the above.

    """watching this as a kid, I could never figure out - he's white, right? is he supposed to be oriental? How did this white guy get involved with these monks? They never explained it."""

    I thought they did. He was orphaned while his parents were in the country and the monks adopted him. No?

    It was one of my favorite shows.

    RIP. And bring on the Kung-fu marathons.

  • ||

    I never saw kung fu, but I remember a slightly older friend who grew up in Boston said he hated it because the day after it was shown he'd have to put his hands over his nuts all day at school.

    Death Race 2000 is as good as B movies get - far more watchable than either of the Kill Bills.

  • ||

    """because the day after it was shown he'd have to put his hands over his nuts all day at school."""

    That's dirty pool mister!

  • ||

    """ I remember one episode where he walks into a bar, sits down next to two drunken cowpokes, and meekly asks the bartender if he can have a bowl of rice. Surprisingly, a fight ensues."""

    Let me guess, it started with the words, We don't like your kind, Chinaman.

  • ||

    """watching this as a kid, I could never figure out - he's white, right? is he supposed to be oriental? How did this white guy get involved with these monks? They never explained it."""

    I thought they did. He was orphaned while his parents were in the country and the monks adopted him. No?




    Something like that. I remember seeing the original tv movie pilot. In it he is the son of an American sea captain and a Chinese woman. I don't remember whether he was illegitimate or not. But his mother died and his father was gone away on a voyage and, I believe, did not know he had a son. So anyway he was living on the streets as an orphan with the other urchins and decided to try joining the order of Shaolin monks. At first they would not have him, but his persistence, patience, and manners eventually convinced them to take him in. The pilot was better than the series.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Let me guess, it started with the words, We don't like your kind, Chinaman.

    Dang, you could have totally been one of the staff writers!

  • Mike Laursen||

    So anyway he was living on the streets as an orphan with the other urchins and decided to try joining the order of Shaolin monks.

    Wait, you missed the whole part where he murdered the prince of China or something like that, which is why he had to flee the country.

  • ||

    Wait, you missed the whole part where he murdered the prince of China or something like that, which is why he had to flee the country.

    No, I didn't miss that - I just didn't mention it. That incident occured later in the storyline after Caine had passed all the rituals of becoming a priest. Caine had accompanied his friend, the old blind monk (Master Po?) on the latter's pilgrimage to the Forbidden City. While there the old one got into an altercation with the prince's body guards over not showing deference to the prince. After the monk defeated the body guards the prince pulled out a pistol and shot the old man. Caine grabbed a spear of some sort and threw it into the prince's chest in a fit of anger and revenge, thereby disgracing himself and the order and greatly disappointing his teachers. With his dying breath the old monk told him his life would be forfeit and that he must flee the country (or words to that effect.)

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