In Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon, Chuck Norris wears an interesting piece of material around his waist that fits snugly just above his trousers, which are nice and baggy. (Just as well, as I don’t think, at that point, he had designed and marketed the special Chuck Norris stretch gusset jeans—for those difficult high kicks—in day-to-day wear. They were to come later with his increase in fame and fortune.) My understanding is that the extra-wide waist band was to hide Chuck’s love handles which were too prominent when he wore the standard white karate trousers.
The reason he came on set with a few extra pounds around his waist, so they say, was that he was a late replacement. He wasn’t the original choice for the role. Joe Lewis, another renowned martial artist of the day was the original man for the film’s finale in Rome’s Colosseum. I read an interview with Lewis, where he expresses regret at his refusal to be in the film, as he realizes that he would have been better known as a result. He just didn’t think it appropriate to be kicked about by a “little Chinese man” on screen. He is right to be wistful as Chuck swiftly discarded the love handles and the extra-wide belt and left Bruce to count the loot from the film.
What Chuck did next was make a series of popular films all with martial arts themes before finally moving onto the small screen with Walker, Texas Ranger . The series debuted in the spring of 1993 and ran for eight full seasons before bidding farewell in 2001. (There was a made-for-tv film named Trial by Fire which had many people thinking there would be a sequel, but nothing as yet.) WGN America has been airing reruns since September 2010.
It is important not to underestimate the success of Walker, Texas Ranger. It sold to over 100 countries and, for me, allowed us to see Chuck Norris mature as a screen presence and storyteller.
I am not going to call him an actor as that is not what I think he is. After all, in Walker, Texas Ranger, he basically portrays himself . . . and what a good job he makes of it!
The central characters, Cordell Walker, played by Norris; James “Jimmy” Trivette; and Walker’s foster father Ray Firewalker, never do drugs and always manage to do some kind of community service. Chuck Norris’s life mirrors this. He has always put a lot back into the community with his charitable work and inspirational contributions to needy parts of society.
I nearly won a trip to New York, once, thanks to Chuck. I designed a cocktail for a competition based on the man himself called the “Ippon.” This is a full point in competitive karate. It was made up of sake, whisky, curacao, ice cream, orange grenadine, and crushed ice. It was terrific. I think I would have won but the first of three judges liked it so much, she drank it all! The outcome of this was that there was none left for the other judges to try so a housewife from Southern England took the honors. It still hurts.
The television series was simple. Walker always got his man and the essential tools of law enforcement were the martial arts. I don’t know if it was the names like Firewalker, or the huge hats, but the series gained quite a camp following, for the day. It was a single camera drama shot on 16mm film and, to many people’s surprise it actually spawned three books by James Reasoner. The first went by the title, not surprisingly, of Walker, Texas Ranger (1998). The next two were Hell’s Half Acre (1999) and Siege in the Belle (1999).
“There are few problems which can’t be solved by a roundhouse kick to the face.” I have it on good authority that this is an actual quote from Chuck Norris. It may not be on par with the musings of Socrates’ words of wisdom, which echo far beyond his death in 399 B.C. but it has some intellectual merit. Come on, Chuck, return to our screens! If Dallas can do it, so can you. I think it would be great. We have all seen you in the television commercials. You’re looking good! I’ll get the cocktails ready while you check for any pesky love handles . . . .
Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.