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.