Californian Tom Bleecker, who has written numerous books and has had dozens of TV and film writing credits since the late 1960s, has finally tackled a project which long appealed to him.
Bleecker co-authored The Jet (The Benny Urquidez Story) along with Urquidez, Apache, who is a legend in the international martial arts community. Bleecker has previously written books about iconic martial artists, including Bruce Lee. He co-authored his first book, The Bruce Lee Story, with Linda Lee, Bruce’s ex-wife, who Bleecker later married (the couple has since divorced).
ICTMN interviewed Bleecker about The Jet, which was published in March.
Q. Why did you decided to write this book?
I always wanted to write Benny’s book. I think there is only a handful of living legends and icons, and Benny is one of them.
Q. You’ve known Benny for quite a long time. Why now?
We were at a fundraising event in California in 2012. There were a lot of celebrities and hundreds of people there. No one knew that Benny was coming. We were about 15 minutes into the cocktails and everybody was talking rather loudly. Then you could hear the noise level just die down. I thought somebody had fainted. I thought why did everybody stop talking. And I looked and Benny had come in and was standing there. He’s a living legend. It was at that moment I thought his story needs to be told.
Q. Were any topic off-limits?
I don’t think so. The one thing I liked about Benny was that he was open to anything. You could ask him about anything. I’ve done a lot of interviews and some people just want to talk about their glory days.
Q. Was there anything you were surprised to learn about him?
I was really surprised to see that he had been incarcerated. And I was surprised about his suicide attempt.
Q. You wrote a couple of books on Bruce Lee. Do you think you’ll write another one about Benny?
There won’t be another life-story book about Benny. But there could be a self-help book. I honestly think Benny could do a lot for troubled youth. The guy has changed a lot of people’s lives, even a lot of celebrities. He comes from a history of gangs, drugs and a dysfunctional family. I think he can help a lot of people. I honestly think they would listen to him.
Q. What was it like writing the book with Benny?
He was a gem. He always came prepared and he was always honest with me. We wrote the book over a period of about six months. I met with him about ten times. And then we went back and forth with three drafts.
Q. Bruce Lee or Benny – who’s the better actor?
They say the best fight scene in cinema history is between Jackie Chan and Benny in Wheels on Meals.
Q. And who do you think is the better fighter – Bruce or Benny?
That’s a tough one. I sparred with Bruce and he was a good friend. If Bruce Lee hit you it was over. Same thing with Benny. It’s a tough call. I can say Benny has more street fighting and ring experience. But I personally wouldn’t want to fight either one of them.
Q. How well has the book been selling?
We had 5,000 copies for our first run and we’re talking of a second printing. I’ve shipped copies to Australia, Japan, England and Canada. I’ve sent them all over the world. And I’ve sent them out to Africa. I’ve sent them to places I’ve never heard of. We’re also in the early stages of a film deal. I sent it to a producer and he fell in love with it.