Sunday, December 31, 2006

FBI Files: BOMBING MATTERS: 80 pages on Keehan


I have always had a certain confidence in good bureacrats. After a year I finally got the FBI records I was looking for for John Keehan aka Juan R. Dante. But this is already confusing, or shall I say once again confusing. Something is definitely missing here and the question is do I go back and ask or just leave it alone? John Keehan's record came to me as a file for Juan R. Dante. As far as I have heard, Juan R. Dante was not an alias of his until the late 1960s. It just does not end it seems. Do I want to know how this works? Of course I do!!!

What I got is FBI results of the investigation into Keehan as a terror suspect after the blasting cap prank at Gene Wyka's Judo and Karate Center. There were lots of businesses being bombed by the mob and this prank was taken very seriously. It was the same M.O. as all the bombings were, money.

The FBI fils say John had been employed by Wyka as a Marketing and Sales manager. They then follow up on his presence in Phoenix, never saying anything about him being at Trias's School. They check his credit and police record there, find nothing except a bad phone bill at his former address that was not in his name, either name.

It is about 80 pages which goes into a routine investigation of a person with known military background in posession of explosives. This file is very useful to me. There are things in it I do not want to talk about and things that may turn up in the film. I was shocked (of course) to see that his criminal record begins in the mid-1950s with an arrest for allegedly selling a firearm, assault and battery, something that looks like marijuana possession, the stuff of a normal Chicago childhood in the 1950s.

I got the name of his hairdressing school and have put my associate at Modern Salon magazine onto helping me run down an old-timer or two from those days. There were not that many male hair dressers back in those days. So John Keehan aka Count Dante, hairdresser, will be easy to trace.

But I feel like there is stuff missing. There is nothing about the Purolator Robbery, nothing about the Black Dragons, as the name alone is enough to trigger scrunity as it was a know intelligence threat in World War II and was associated with black militancy. John was bucking traditions and looking like a "fellow traveller" by his associations. There is nothing regarding his tranfer from the Marines to the US Army, except to mention disciplinary actions regarding marijuana possession and his being AWOL with another person.

I also see he went to college for awhile at the University of Miami, and at Northern Illinois University. He is also listed as married at the time of his arrest.

Lots of stuff to re-read here for usuable substance. Next weekend I head to Vegas for what I think will be an incredible interview for the film with an incredible person.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Johnny Coulon: Count Dante's first teacher and Mining MY Memory


Looking back to my early youth in the 1960s, my first years in Chicago living on South State Street in the Harold Ickes Projects, and a block from the Cermak and State Street "L," the Howard/Jackson/Englewood line. It was the lifeline of Chicago's Southside public transportation system. I think of how we used to hop the turnstiles when I hung out with my more adventurous associates.

Usually I was the one always caught. I was never fast enough to get to the doors most times and not brave enough to leap onto the back of the last car, climb over the chains and open the back door of the train as the car pulled out of the station. Well, I did do that once, proud and full of myself on a cold day and my "friends" held the door shut as we headed south for 35th Street.

These were the forbidden and secret "roughneck fieldtrips" I would take with those friends who were smart but prone to activities whose end result was usually a bench at 13 St. Police Lock Up, Prairie Police Station, or if you made the big time Moseley Juvenile Facility or, if you were just old enough Cook County jail. Fortunately, my tenure with them was not that long that I did not wise up in the nick of time. Whew!

Sometimes we would go north. If it was summer we would walk , stopping at Mr. Johnson's on 18th and Michigan(?) to ask about selling Jet magazine for him. On days like this he would not like the company I was keeping most likely and tell us to come back another time. Winter is when we did the L antics.

One of my friends, Marshall, had a bad habit of accosting white kids going to Beach Boy concerts and other events at the old McCormick Place before it burned down. He hated the Beach Boy music as I recall. He called it barbershop quartet music by the ocean. I liked Good Vibrations, even though I was never going to tell him that, good synthesizer work. He called laying low casing Sears and Wards and using us not as look outs ,but distractions while he plied his trade as a thief. No 13th Street Lock Up for the rest of us. We left him on his own. And kept to activities that did not involve the end result being a free ride in a Paddy Wagon or or get disciplined from the end of a nightstick.

My favorite roughneck outing was going to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum. In the summer we would walk from Cermack to Prairie, over to Calumet and over the 18 St Bridge that crossed both the wide swath of Illinois Central railroad tracks and Lakeshore Drive. It was a long wooden spooky bridge that creaked. It was on these trips that a couple of us developed a more socially acceptable way of experiencing these outings. We were learning stuff.

One of my friend's, Mickey, was learning boxing. One day he pops up and asks me to go south to 63rd Street with him. He even had tokens, and we would not need transfers. So I was down for it because I had .25 US for 2 .12 comic books plus a penny for two peppermint sticks to suck on while I read them under a tree, if I found one as I walked around usually around IIinois Institute of Technology or somewhere.

Mickey was a little guy like me who liked to read and his father sent him to boxing at the Duncan YMCA and he had to go to this gym on east 63rd St. on the "B" Jackson Park train. 63rd Street was a black business Mecca back then, on the edge of the University of Chicago Campus. I had been up there shopping with my mom in the past and I had some older guys I knew who had jobs at Shine King around 63rd and King Dr.

Shine King for those of you who don't know was a shoeshine joint. Back in the days before Run DMC made "My Adidas", young black men wore the finest of leather shoes that they would keep immaculately shined along with being impeccably dressed, to get clean and to be cool. This was a ritual when I was growing up watching the older guys, and is still to this day for more than a few. The barbershop, the clothing store, and the shoeshine shop in lesser forms remain as image workshops in the hood. I am sounding like an old fart now, right? Hell, I am slowly getting there. :-)

To be "clean," in African American terminology, is to be beautifully dressed. The concept of "Clean" and "cool" are surviving African spiritual concepts in America. It is from the Yoruba, related to "Awa" or character, an aspect of being cool, or "itutu" all coming out of the creative force "Axé ." Being close to the "L" was like being on a river, a good part of the city was mine to explore and learn from and about, simply and efficiently.

If you want to reference the "clean" stuff check out Robert Farris Thompson's Flash of the Spirit and his essay , An Aesthetic of the Cool, African Arts, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Autumn, 1973). It must be scared or dangerous knowledge. You have to have an affiliation with an academic institution, university or pay for it. I found it online here, but could not access it. But you can see RFT online in an interview I did with him for a DVD extra for one of the films I worked on, Daughters of the Dust.

Anyway, enough digression.

This gym we ended up going to was Johnny Coulons, the train went right past the windows of the place, just as it did the old Jiu Jitsu Institute in the Loop. I don't think you could see anything but the office with all the boxing photos on the wall.

I did not remember any of this until I started doing research on John Keehan's boxing background. It was a lot of years back and memories were vague. John says in his last interview with Mas Ayoob in Jan. 1976, that he studied boxing at Johnny Coulon's Gym on 63rd St. Johnny, born in Canada in 1889, was a real character, a showman and a very warm welcoming tough guy, pretty much like John turned out to be. This is where the Irish kid from Beverly got hooked up to the South Side and why he was so comfortable around people of other races, because that was the man Johnny Coulon was and we tend to follow the teachers we admire.

Coulons Gym was a place where all the greats of boxing trained. Muhammad Ali trained at Coulons to stay in shape when he was banned from boxing. Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano had all trained at Coulons Gym. Talk about good beginnings.

LeRoy Neiman sketched boxers there; Ernest Hemingway sparred with boxers there; Haskell Wexler shot parts of the film Medium Cool there in 1968. Coulon has a walk-on in the film (I'll be licensing that if it is not too expensive).

Coulon was a good friend of Jack Johnson's and frequented his "Cafe du Champion." Coulon was also a pallbearer at Jack Johnson's funeral. As performer in vaudville shows and holding exhibition , he would do a trick where he would dare any man to lift his 110 lb frame.

Johnny Coulon was a man who did not belive in racism and taught that to his boxers. When the riots came in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Coulon's Gym was among those buildings not burned or looted. He was loved and respected by his community. I am betting Johnny Coulon was a role model for the kind of person John Keehan would ahve to to have been and remained. We definite know in a verifiable way he had a good base to work from.

The stories inside the story I am telling are fascinating in themselves. Makes it hard to make choices. But I will work it out. I am ending the year happy with the progress of the film and with my research. A little cash will not hurt at all about now. On to fundraising for completition in Jan and Feb 2007.

Well I got more to tell, like a months worth of stuff. More after I have my holiday meal.....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Still Going Strong, full speed ahead in 2007!

It has been over a month since my last post. Lots of end of the year stuff to deal with regarding work, company partnerships, family, health etc., etc. I am going out on another interview first week of January 2007. Luckily it will be part of a work assignment.

I am working this week on solidifying my production and postproduction budgets and the final packages for presentation at some broadcasting concerns. Yes I am being vague. What is really important is having a sound alternative in the event that the broadcast concerns are not concerned at. With a good hustle I can finish the film this year.

I have received some really good contacts this past two months. There are some interviews that will really help bring some substance to the film. One of the things I found out is that Ashida Kim did not lie about John Keehan working with the Blackstone Rangers (Black P Stone Nation). The BDFS got involved with the YMCA and a community outreach program that was trying to turn the gangs away from violence and petty crime. I will come clean on the details as I verify things.

Today I did a new Count Dante Bulletin Board on the website. I want to foster a community that gathers and posts information about Count Dante for us all to share. These are the discussion topics:

World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets
Discuss Count Dante's 1968 publication, World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets. Crap or useful? Was it worth the $5.00 plus .50 postage?

Mixed Martial Arts and the Legacy of Count Dante
Do you think Count Dante had any influence on the spread of full contact and mixed martial arts competitions?

Black Dragon Fighting Society Alumni
Were you a member of the Black Dragon Fighting Society in Chicago during or immediately after the time of Count Dante? We want to locate as many of Count Dante's old student's as possible for a group photo during the course of making the film. Let's talk about that here.

Count Dante Stories
Do you or any of your sensei or sifu have any stories about Count Dante from back in the day? You can share them here.

If you want to participate please got to Count Dante Bulletin Board. Just click on the link and, boom, you are there.

Meanwhile I am trying to run down pictures of Lt. Commander Robert Cramer, the man who was responsible for a lot of the early aikido training in in Chicago back in the 50s. He was yet another teacher of John Keehan's I am told. He also instructed Sensei Robert Brown. The one thing I really want to do is to get the history right.




Friday, November 24, 2006

Structure and Content

I have began to structure the film in a general way. Who am I to tell this story? How is a chance meeting with a guy so significant in the life of an 11 year old?

For me it starts with film, an awareness of the popular culture of the time. Being of the 60s television generation I watched a lot of late night and after-school films. These were classic films from the 1930s to 1950s. These were scratchy sound tracked films with dramatic lighting and wonderful writing. There is a warmth of style in many of these American films of this period. Full of slang and dialect, it is easy to see how American bravado garners so much attention abroad from these cultural artifacts.

I feel in love with cinema after watching a documentary on the making of some Alfred Hitchcock film. This love was enforced by watching the WTTW(local PBS) Foreign Cinema series on Friday nights. When I saw Melvin Van Peebles' La Permission(Story of a Three Day Pass) I was thoroughly moved and astounded. It was about this time I went to my high school counselor, told him what I wanted to do and asked him what schools I should apply to to study filmmaking.

Well, it was the 60s, and America's baggage of race was wayyyyyy heavier that it was now. This clown told me there were no schools for studying film and why didn't I consider taking up a trade. He told me I should have a more realistic goal????

40 years later the baggage is still there, it's emphasis shifted to become inclusive of agendas that are not wholly in the American ideals.

Among the films I would watch were old war films, spy thrillers, pulp sci-fi. I had moved from a small town in Mississippi to Chicago and one of the features of being a new kid was having to fight. Now, I was told not to fight, practice my Christian values and turn the other cheek. Of course that worked wonders in the street. I fought and lost, a lot. I watched Mr. Moto got from mild mannered Asian to jiu-jitsu maniace in his films. Years before Bruce Lee took on his Japanese opponents after they killed his teacher, James Cagney took on the Japanese(Not Japanese, but caucasian with slanty eye make up and a bad accent)intelligence agency in Blood on The Sun devasting them with judo. Cagney was great...take a look to the right. There were no Japanese in the film becaause they were like in the Manzanar Camps, maybe

More in line with my thinking was Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock. The one armed man kicked some butt and I needed to know this stuff. In certain neighborhoods reading a lot of books, not trying to fit in, and having a speech impediment is hard on a kid.

It starts with where I live, the environment, This is where the story begins for me. I had a problem I needed solving. I was getting my ass kicked on a schedule. I turned to Bruce Tegner and his book on self-defense and had a little success practicing with friends. We would try Mr. Moto moves after Sunday matinees on TV when we got home from church.

I worked in Chinatown at Restaurants on Saturdays when I could get the work for awhile. I would catch glimpses of things. Sometimes young menwho worked in the kitchen with as much english as I had Chinese would be playing arm wrestling games in the alley that ended with someone being slapped. Later I would know this as Chi-Sao(Sticking Hands).

As a male child in an agressive environment there is a great concern about honor, face, the need to be "cool." Cool is the face we show to the world, to walk with a confidence that is apart from the everday reality but ever present inside of it. The Yoruba consider cool an aspect of creation a part of character.

I am just rambling now, trying to think it out in the blog while probably need food more than anything else about now.

To sum it up. It has always been popular culture that pushed the idea of martial arts at the public, first for Judo, then Karate, with the coming of Bruce Lee everybody was Kung Fu fighting and with his death came the rise of the Ninja and Ashida Kim's move into mail order infamy.

Time for Yogurt and toast....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

John Keehan and Ed Parker


I was doing some research tonight and came across a site about Ed Parker, Kenpo Karate Setting History Right 1960-1962.

I am really trying to get these origins and exposures right. I think understanding the basis of his martial arts education may give me some insight into how I will structure this part of the film. John Keehan was in the Marines from 1958-1961 and spent part of that time in San Diego. In an interview in Black Belt magazine with Mas Ayoob, Jan 1976, he talks about this.

The site explains a lot about the background of Edmund Kealoha Parker, considered the father of American Kenpo, and his association with Chinese martial artists. Opening his first school in the mid 1950s, he worked closely with experience Kung Fu and Tai Chi practioners and was friends with T.Y.(Tim Yuen) Wong, who introduced him to James Yimm Lee, who would become a close associate of Bruce Lee and have a great influence upon him.

When John Keehan talks about being in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 60s with James Yimm Lee it has a ring of truth to it. It explains why Keehan was so different as a martial artist. In the late 50s, early 60s he would have been exposed to a lot of Chinese martial arts as well as Kempo. It always seemed to be his core training.

John McSweeney, one of Ed Parkers first black belts, mentions John Keehan as being one of his classmates along with Dan Inosanto.

It seems to me from my brief readings this evening that Parker had an open mind, coming from Hawaii. His Kenpo seemed to easily blend into and accept the Chinese martial arts and maybe this could have only happened in San Francisco. It calls some history into question though. Non-Orientals were said not to be taught back before the coming of Bruce Lee. James Yimm Lee appears to be the bridge between the two communities.

According to some history Kenpo was not Karate, nor was it Okinawan. It seems to always have been on the move. Without going deep into it let me just speculate that the Kenpo/Kosho that came to Edmund Parker was already a blending, a fluid tradition.
More on this history can be found at Al Tracy's website.

As I mentioned before, John exposure to poison hand and even the "Dance of Death" are Chinese in origin. James Yim Lee published a book on Iron Palm and Poison Hand back in 1959. This is where John may have learned about Dim Mak and developed his incredible breaking skills.

John also talks about Spending some time in the Far East when he was out of boot camp. With his dad's support he could afford it, but boot camp is what, 12 weeks? Can''t investigate everything...gotta pick and choose. I only have 90 mins to tell this story. 5:33 am here now, I am going to sleep. I have lost my focus.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Victor Moore

I spoke with Victor Moore some months back about his association with John Keehan. He was a contemporary and was at Robert Trias's school along with Keehan and they worked out together in Arizona. I am hoping that Mr. Moore will be able to give us some insight into the realtionship between Keehan and Trais and what the relationship dynamics were like.

Mr. Moore is the man who went up against Bruce Lee in a speed contest and came to a draw against Bruce's "unblockable punch." This took place at Ed Parker's Long Beach International Tournament in 1967. Don Warrener has this on film. This lost and found production, “The New Gladiators,” was financed by Elvis Presley but never released.

Mr. Moore was a well-known competitor in sport, full contact and kickboxing in the early days of professional martial arts. He speaks highly of John Keehan as a fighter. I am including him in todays blog because of a match between he and Joe Lewis that is online at Youtube.com. His is an interview I am very excited to pursue.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Black Dragons in Oak Park

Looks like it has almost been a month since my last post. I got lots to tell but not all of it today. I met these two guys in the photo whose names I will reveal later in my own back yard of Oak Park, IL. They are students of one of Doug Dwyer's students. More on then over the holiday.

They are good, clean cut guys in real estate who grew up in the shadow of Dante's legacy. They have a lot of stories. They spent their Sunday 's working out with Black Dragon Students who
studied under Dwyer and Keehan.

I got good news and bad news. The good news will wait. The bad news is the Chicago Police Department will not release any files to me on John Keehan or Jim Konsevic. I was looking for arrest records and mugshots. So I got a two-fer here regarding law enforcement. Department of Justice has still not replied to my request for FBI records regarding Keehan either.
Meanwhile I got a pretty interesting take on Dante in Cuba with Raul Castro that I had not heard before and is so deep in "craft" I have to think twice about messing around with it.

By now you probably know me....I'll mess with it.

I got clues about Christa Dante, found out who she married, what he was like, where she used to drink even on the North Side.

I have heard from a clinical psychologist who was a student of Dante Students and he tells a story of Mr. T coming into a Black Dragon School "Bruce Lee style" and challenging everyone. Apparently he remained standing in a doorway at the top of the stairs while issuing his "I Pity the Fool..." challenge. Needless to say someone went rolling down the stairs and he had a Mohawk hair-do. Of course I have to see if I can T to talk about this. Responsible journalism is paramount you know.

I am working on my presentations, got press kits being printed, got a fancy DVD preview...things are moving forward.

I got turned down for an interview with a radio personality who was greatly influenced by Count Dante. Secretive aren't. I will make it all clear in my future posts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"...he had hands like a woman..."

I recieved a videotape of fight footage from England. It contained old black and white footage of fights with legendary point fighter Joe Lewis offering commentary with an unidentified interviewer. During his fight with Victor Moore he starts talking about Count Dante.

Victor Moore was a student of Master Robert Trias as well. I have spoken with Mr. Moore and he tells me he used to train with Count Dante when they were both with Master Trias.

This is a transcript of that commentary below.

"...there was actually one up in chicago in 1966. That "Count Dante" thing? Robert Trias made him a third degree black belt, I guess, in that Kempo style that they were in?

Interviewer: That was Okinawan style...

Joe Lewis: Yeah, Trias was Shorin-ji, but Dante used to call that stuff Kempo and that's what he was doin'. And the next thing I know he was a "master"....Count Dante, you know.

Interviewer: John Keenan was his real name..

Joe Lewis: John KEE-han..

Interviewer: He was a hairdresser...

Joe Lewis: Yeah, a hairdresser. I remember watching him break bricks, he would lay two bricks flat against the ground, he wouldn't raise them up and he would hit the top and break both of them. He had hands like a woman, I used to talk about his hands, how could this guy hurt anybody with hands like that? But he sure could slap through those bricks.

I just wish people wouldn't hokey up karate with all this nonsense carnival act stuff."

I am working on gathering together a few of these fighters from those days to talk about Dante and get a real assessment of who he was and what they think, really happened.

More interest on the film for distribution is coming in. That is a great thing. But what I need is some production monies. I will be off to Las Vegas and London in November this month to interview some people related to the Dojo wars and the popular cultural legacy of Count Dante.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New discoveries about the Green Dragons Society and Internet Dojo Copyright Wars?


Got an email asking me if I knew that the lineage of the Green Dragon school may have been descended from Ku Yu Cheung. If this is true that is some serious background. Ku Yu Cheung was one of the legendary Iron Palm practitioners. Yu-Cheung was said to have the most devastating iron palm in the history, matched by, no one. He could break more than ten brick blocks with one strike.

Ku Yu Cheung is like the REAL "fist of legend." I am going to add this to my other little wrap up leads to follow. I also got the right spelling for Ta Shia, or "Shen Ta Shia" and found out the correct spelling of the Ta Shia's name. It is Douglas Nowokunski.

Here is an image from harmoniousfist.com showing Master Cheung breaking 10 bricks with his iron palm. Now I know some of you UFC and JKD types are going to give me the "...boards(or bricks) don't hit back" line. I am just reporting on who's who for the time being. We can get into our little stylistic arguements AFTER the film comes out. Anyway, wanna sit under a masters iron palm just for kicks. You can tell me if it hurts.

I do appreciate the email I get from people. I have been contacted by people from all over the world and recieved info from alll over the country and England. This continues to be a great supplement to my research.

BDFS Fall River threatens me with a Cease and Desist Order
Meanwhile I got an email this morning telling me the Internet Dojo Copyright Wars are heating up again at CountDante.com. I am supposed to be receiving a cease and desist order due to some footage of Dante I got from England and used in my promotional trailer (bomb it while you are there) to help me raise awareness about the project. It comes from some 8mm film footage. Bill Aguiar III says it belongs to him. Fair enough, if that is true. I asked his lawyer exactly a year ago for an inventory of images and film footage available in the archive of the BDFS. I never got a reply. So what am I ceasing and desisting from?

Mr. Aguiar wants me to sign a Trademark agreement, as I understand it, promising him $10,000 when the film is finished. I am willing to negotiate, when I get to that point, for licensing images and film footage that he alone has in his possession and rights too.

As he said in his post, he knows I "don't have squat." I do have a working email and phone that is freely available to anyone who wants to call, including bill collectors(they too know I "don't have squat"). Doesn't take much effort to call a brother up and explain the situation.

Heretofore. I have heard nothing from Mr. Aguiar or his lawyers since my email over 8 months ago outlining my willingness to pay for archival materials and the conditions under which I would do so.

98% of all materials on Dante I have came from Chicago people, old magazines and newspapers. I can easily complete the film without any imagery from the BDFS. That is not what I want to do. But I am not going to be stuck up over vaporous archival material. There is enough information in Massachusetts newspapers to allow me to tell the Fall River story. All archives offer at least watermarked copies so you can see what you are buying. Even the Newspaper will pull paper copies for me.

What a way to start my morning.


As I keep saying over and over and over again, I want to make the best film I can about the man John Keehan and the times he lived in, and chronicle the social history of American Midwestern martial arts in the course of it all.

Simple enough...





Sunday, October 15, 2006

Origins of Larceny and Ironic Aftermaths or Say it Ain't So, John

I found a report from the Chicago Tribune Sept. 9, 1968. There was a truck robbery after one of Dante's tournaments. and many think he engineered this theft himself. Is this where his definitive fall into the dark side begins?

Witnessess are still alive. I have already interviewed Art Rapkin. I have extra questions for him next time around.

Was this Dante or a real outside robbery by culprits unknown?
Knowing this, why did the investigators not query Dante more throughly. But then again, maybe they did. I am feeling like John is starting to go to crime school about this time. This was the same year World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets was published.

Say it ain't so John....

The next article is evidence that Dante was called to the Grand Jury as they sounght the whereabouts of the $4.3 million. John was now included among the "disoganized" crime crew who took down the Purolator score. Nothing ever came of his purported involvement per the grand jury. He passed a lie detector test and walked. Bob Cooley's testimony on film and in his book is the first to clearly associate Dante with the heist and possesion of some of the money.

The oddest thing about all of this is 2 years later Luigi DiFonzo was collecting reward money for telling the Insurance company where he hid the 1.2 million in the Cayman's as well as bond money and other cash taken from him when he was arrested.

DiFonzo managed to earn more from the reward money than from his original commission for handling the stolen Purolator cash. This Fall River guy was definitely a slick customer.

What do I think about all this? Nothing yet...or rather, nothing that I want to discuss. All of the evidence is not in. DiFonzo was aquitted, Dante passed the lie detector test. Maybe that is all there is to it. Maybe not. After a year I know where the film ends, sort of.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who did Crime Pay and a path to the Thrilla in Manila


I have spent the last few weeks studying details of the 1974 Purolator Vault Robbery for clues of Dante's involvement. I blogged briefly about this back in March. I know a lot more now.

None of the books about the robbery every mention a John Keehan or Count Dante. I have read Chicago Heist, and many other accounts of the crime. No Dante. I do have two newspaper articles regarding his "possible involvement" including a small item regarding his Grand Jury appearence. Bob Cooley's When Corruption was King is the only place I have seen where Dante's involvement is absolutely confirmed. I have Cooley on film confirming the same.

There is newspaper documentation, a sealed Grand Jury testimony and a captured participant, Luigi DiFonzo, whose trail does lead to Fall River, MA. DiFonzo is known to have been an acquaintance of Keehan.

I am also reading a fictional novel titles BUCKS, a horrible read by Luigi DiFonzo ghost written by a Peter Chandler. He seems to over exaggerate his role in the planning of the heist based on other reports I have read. But we never know, do we?

Almost exactly 32 years ago on Oct. 20, 1974, firefighters answered an alarm triggered by a fire in the vault at the Purolator Armored Car Company. An audit showed $4.3 million of the vault's $25 million was missing. The perps captured and connected to the heist were Chicago Outfit members, Pasquale Charles Marzano, William Marzano, Peter Gushi, crooked commodites broker Luigi DiFonzo, James Maniatis and Ralph Marrera.

What is it? $4.3 million dollars U.S stolen from under the nose of the Purolator Armored Car depot with the help of an inside man. Said inside man goes mentally incompetent during the course of his detainment due to the administering of multiple sedatives and cannot testify. Oddly, Joe Woods, the brother of Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon's secretary during the Watergate Scandal was one of the heads of the company at the time. $1.1 million was recovered from banks in the Cayman Islands, supposedly, 1.4 was found in the now mentally incompetent Marrera's Grandmothers basement. This robbery was throughly bungled and a prime example of what DiFonzo Lawyer Joe Oteri calls "disorganized crime."

The basement discovery is really odd I am finding. More about that and how it may or may not relate to Keehan and DiFonzo another time.

$1.2 mil was never recovered.

Between the time of the robbery, the case being solved going to trial and concluding, Dante was back and forth to Fall River quite a bit. There were lots of Dante sightings all along the East Coast during that time. Quite a few people have a Dante story in New York.

On Sunday, March 17, 1975, Dante, along with William Aguiar, presented the Taunton Death Matches at the Roseland Ballroom. The event was highly successful and proved the audience for full contact matches was definitely there. Taunton, even more than the Chicago matches in 1968, foretell the the coming of UFC.

During this period there were lots of attempts at creating a professional full contact martial art league and business. The times were catching up to the ideas of Count Dante and he now seemed close to making a comeback and cashing in at last.

According to reports from the Taunton matches, they were way more spirited, than professional. It was a slug-out blood-spraying spectacle for sure. There was hairpulling and groin snatching, the crowd was loving it. Hundreds more were stuck ouside angered by being turned away.

By October 1, 1975, the referee of the Taunton event, Karriem Allah, would fight full contact against Jeff Smith as the undercard to the Ali-Frazier fight, The Thrilla in Manila, on closed circuit TV. This first professional martial arts card was seem by an estimated 50 million people. The future was looking good for full contact events but Dante would not be around to benefit from it. After the death of Jim Konsevic in 1970 Dante was marginalized and definitelty, distraught. The move to full contact Karate has started in 1970, ironically, while Dante was on trial for the Green Dragon fiasco.

Something was definitely in the wind. But what lead Dante back to Chicago. What caused him to shut himself up in his apartment reported holding a shotgun during the trail of the Purolator Vault robbers? He had already been summoned to the Illinois Grand Jury and got a pass after a lie detector test. Shortly before the trial was ended and all involved either convicted, except for Luigi DiFonzo, who was acquitted, Dante was dead on May 25, 1975.

DiFonzo was found not guilty and walked. He gave his lawyer, Oteri, a Rolls Royce as a gift and even stayed around Chicago for several years, still scamming. Later he move out west and was head of something called DFJ Italia, and claimed to be "Count Luigi DiFonzo" . He died, reportedly, of a prescription drug overdose while fighting a securites fraud indictment in 2001.

My research is wrapping up in one sense. Now I am structuring and planning for more interviews and archival footage. I just may be able to stay on schedule and finish up by Spring, 2007 as planned.

Gotta stay away from bad company for sure kids....

Friday, October 06, 2006

Missing Cleo...


Back in college days(part 1) one of my movie fantasies was Cleopatra Jones. Tamara Dobson was her real name. Tall, statuesque, beautiful. A movie goddess, black female James Bond kind of woman. Classy, sort of North Shore Hyde Parkish and kicked a little ass when she needed to. She did not have that earthy rough quality Pam Grier had as Coffy. Coffy would bust into a room with a sawed off shotgun and it was on. Everybody in the room is shot. Cleo was a good shot in the Deer Hunter mode. She picked her targets.

Like a preying mantis, Coffy would make love to you all night long and devour you for breakfast. You'd be lucky to get near Cleopatra's bedroom, you would be left in the vapors of her expensive perfume, eternally fantasizing. Coffy patrolled the community rolling on the end results of the international drug trade. Cleopartra Jone was working with international law enforcement taking out opium field in Asia and kicking big time rich drug supplier asses. They both had their places. I liked them both, but I figured I would not be taking Pam home, with that sawed off. Plus Cleo had a good job with benefits.

Tamara Dobson died last week. She was part ofthe intersection of Black action and martial arts films. Her character, Cleopatra Jones played right along with 5 fingers of Death and Master of the Flying Guillotine back in the days of all-day triple feature kung-fu films in the 1970s. She was one of the Top Ten characters in what was and still is considered Blaxploitation cinema. Her films were a but campy, not taken themselves too seriously and everybody seemed to be having a lot of fun.

I have a friend who gets very upsets when one of these old icons passes. She sees it as a sign of our own mortality. Well we all know mortality ain't forver so time to get over it and on with it. We are still here.

It was around this time, during the heyday of Kung-Fu and Black action films that John Keehan must have been getting very frustrated. Here he was on the cusp of it all and he got no rhythm. Maybe it was staying in Chicago, maybe he was trying to do it his way. John came along too early, Irish Catholic warring against his own typecasting only to consider the priesthood at near the end, so we have read.

Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Bob Wall, even Aaron Banks got to be in films, John Keehan got the comic books, The end result, same difference. He is more of a mysterious underground pop icon, the heretofore eternal mystery. Still an icon of popular culture nonetheless. I wonder if Cleo ever bought World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets.

R.I.P. Tamara.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Green Dragons: History and Discoveries

(This is the one year anniversary of my blog. Am I all Keehaned out yet? Almost. Long as I stick to the real research and avoid the bullshit I think I will be okay. I have another trip for an interview coming up real soon. fw)

I was made aware of a book on hand conditioning and there was a picture in it of a a heavyset caucasian with a Chinese name, Wu Shih T'ien Lung. In this picture he is breaking 5 bricks with an open palm or knife hand. This is purportedly the Grandmaster or "Shen Ta Shia(?)" of the Green Dragon Society in Chicago in 1970. His name may be Robert Nowokunski. My spellings are phonetic. I have heard him mentioned as Ta Shia, but never by name. He was not at the Black Cobra Hall on the night of April 25, 1970. I do not know anything about him, not even sure if he is still alive. I want to know more. That is why I am placing the picture here on my blog. Did he know Keehan? What was his reaction to the news of the war between his school and Keehan?

The information comes to me in bits and pieces. There is not a lot of information on the Green Dragons online. I have finally met a Green Dragon from the Chi Tao Chuan School on Fullerton, a student who was not there that night. I needed someone disconnected from the Dojo War to tell me about the school and system itself. That person came to me after the Reader article and I will not use his name yet. He feels a bit of stress over talking to me and there are, admittedly some fanatical elements that may violently oppose his granting me an interview. He was 14 when he began study at Black Cobra Hall. He gave me some clues that has allowed me to piece together a brief report of their origins, which like that of the Black Dragon Society is embedded deep in Asian culture and thought amd may bear some or absolutely no relationship to the present societies making use of the name.

I need this information to help me understand what conflicts and contradictions may have existed between the Black Dragon and Green Dragon schools.

I have only been able to turn up a brief history of the Green Dragons. Here we go. I start with the name itself:

The Green Dragon Society & Brotherhood is engaged in the teaching and practice of Chi Tao Ch'uan Gung Fu.

In 1692 the Jesuit Christian Missionaries who have trained and influenced Emperor Kang Hsi and bring about the "Sacred Edict" and the creation of the Green Dragon Society as a secret and sacred brotherhood. This was part of the master design of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552 -1610). Ricci found Confucianism consistent with Christianity and became the first to translate the Confucian classics into a western language, Latin.

Ricci befriended and debated a number of Buddhist and Taoist scholars, while consistently arguing against the acceptance of the syncretic "Three Religions" dogma. He concluded that if the Chinese would reject Buddhism and Daoism, and also reject polygamy and a few other relatively minor rites, they "could certainly become Christians, since the essence of their doctrine contains nothing contrary to the essence of the Catholic faith.

Ricci made his life's goal the conversion of the whole kingdom. When he died in 1610 his ideas lived on. The church he built remains the largest Catholic Church to survive the Cultural Revolution. Life magazine named Ricci one of the 100 most important people of the last millennium.

After the death of Ricci, his successors established themselves as official court astronomers and headed government and engineering bureaus in China. These positions were unaffected by the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the founding of the Qing Dynasty under the Manchu in 1644. The first Manchu emperor placed his son under the tutelage of the Jesuit fathers for training in both the physical and moral sciences. This son was to become the Emperor Kang Hsi, whom Europe's greatest philosopher, scientist, and statesman, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz referred to as a monarch "who almost exceeds human heights of greatness, being a god-like mortal, ruling by a nod of his head, who, however, is educated to virtue and wisdom ... thereby earning the right to rule."

In 1692, with Kang Hsi was established as "sage ruler", the Jesuits held all leading positions in the astronomy and engineering, the Emperor issued an edict granting all Christians the right to teach, preach, and convert throughout the empire, subject only to the Ricci policy that scholars—i.e., civil servants—must maintain moral allegiance to the Confucian principles and continue to perform the rites and ceremonies connected to their offices. [ref.]

Kang Hsi ordered drastic measures to be taken against the Buddhists and Taoists. Especially Taoist Societies, which he ordered to be treated as criminals. Specifically mentioned were the "White Lotus" and "Hung," two allied Mystic Networks.

These societies were transformed from a purely quasi-religious organization or Pure Thought Mystical School of Tao, into underground Secret Societies. Political and revolutionary ideas entered the Brotherhood, whose purpose became the overthrow of the Manchus while continuing to remain dedicated to the practice of Taoist Alchemy and Immortalist Techniques.

From 1692 onward the Society adopted numerous aliases or name changes. This was the beginning of the modern era of the Green Dragon Society.

Many of the Masters, Adepts and Disciples of the Chi Tao Ch'uan Gung-Fu Temple and Monastery System are generally not interested in self-glorification and personal promotion. The Art is what is important. The Art dates to antiquity and has continued to exist through the self-less efforts of a long chain of Teachers to Disciples

Now the question is how did Green Dragon Chi Tao come to Chicago. More mystery. I have heard tales of a Chinese master who came here from Canada and opened the schools. At one point there were at least 6 Green Dragon Schools in the Chicago area. This seems to have come about at a time when Chinese martial arts was a weekly television phenomenae. The exotic temple experience became the desire and popular rage among adolescent youth and young men seeking meaning in their lives.

Kids, for a moment, would be less interested in karate and more attracted to the Kung-fu of the Shaolin Temple. This is where John Keehan comes in. Keehan says his early exposure to martial arts included contact with James Yim Lee and T.Y. Wong in San Francisco, yet he did a large part of his study with Trias and helped advance the idea of karate over Chinese systems.

By 1968 Chinese internal systems are attracting attention and Bruce Lee has become a household name. John's star is on the wane, yet still bright enough to attract enough attention to get a Black Belt Magazine cover.

Students begin to leave karate schools to seek the temple experience. The Green Dragon Black Cobra Hall could dish it out with all the theatricality of prime time television. I have heard that John Keehan may have qualified and been granted the right to open a dragon school in Chicago. How and why is a mystery I may not be able to solve with so many mysteries in place.

It is 3:48 am and I need to get some sleep. I will continue this later this week. Am I getting somewhere with this???

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Haines School 1963


1963. This is the year before my first meeting with Dante. Unbeknowst to me, the John Keehan and Bob Trias's World Karate Tournament took place at the University of Chicago Fieldhouse that summer. I would hear about it. I would see pictures in the paper about it. My exposure to martial arts at this time was Dick Tracy's fellow detective, the absolutely politically incorrect Joe Jitsu. There were the old Mr. Moto films; James Bond cold war era films like Dr. No and From Russia with Love; the tv series Secret Agent Man; various episodes of Ozzie and Harriet even.

The other night, as I was checking email and forcing myself away from the on-going intellectual property drama at countdante.com. I got an email from a Pat Hirschauer. She had been looking for an old teacher of hers by the name of Dorothy Luckett and came across the blog. This was one of my teachers at Haines School in Chinatown. Turns out that Pat Hirschauer is Patty Mah, a 5th grade classmate of mine. Amazing. I sent her an email and asked her to get onto AIM and we started chatting. I had been looking for a class photo from 1963 and 1964. I asked her if she had one. She did. She had her husband shoot a picture of it and she email it to me. Patty told me two things that really floored me. She said she remembered me because I was realy nice to her and she used to come over to the projects just to ride up and down on the elevators. She did what????? I never knew this. I got to talk to her more about this.

This picture is taken in October, 1963, two months after Martin Luther Kings March on Washington and 1 month before the asassination of John Kennedy. I remember most the death of those little girls in September when the American Christian Racist Extremist terrorist Ku Klux Klan bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama. Medgar Evers was also killed that year by other Christian Racist extremist all in the name of the Lord and keeping America "White". Talk about a losing battle.

I remember this because at Haines our teacher Ms Luckett would talk about these things with us. W.E.B. DuBois died this year also. Kenya became independent. The OAU was formed, Mr. Melvin Gaynor told us about this.

In this year CLR James wrote Beyond a Boundary, a most amazing book on the the game of Cricket in the West Indies. A book which would influence my decision to do this film in some ways because of all the offbeat and colorful characters who inhabited James World as he grew into this game, a social history of sport that I hope I can equal in the making of my film.

I think I saw Lawrence of Arabia at the Michael Todd theater that year, where the Goodman Theater sits today. Chess Record was up the street and around the corner from me on 21 and Michigan. I lived at 2310 S. State St. I sold the Chicago Defender, Jet Magazine, tried to help load papers at Muhammad Speaks Newspaper on 25 and Federal Street.
I went to church at Quinn Chapel and a little jackleg Pentacostal Church run by an Elder Turner who wore a kufe in his ministry. It was where I look back to years later and would realize African religion still lived in our community.

In this picture we stand on the threshold of a changing world. The Beatles are all the rage in popular music. My father went to Viet Nam in this year. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on TV after he killed Kennedy. Here are we all, Patty Mah, me, Francis Bing, Susan Dee, Garrick Anders, Micheal Cheung, David Lee, Mary Ann Jackson and others whose names I cannot remember. I will get Patty to help me fill in the blanks.

Out of this decade I emerged a bit weary at 17 but ready to take on the world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

1964 film footage...

My old buddy in Oak Park, Tom Palazzolo, filmmaker and artist gave me about 100 feet offootage he shot at the 1964 World Karate Championship at the Chicago Coliseum. that was organized by John Keehan. This is the tournament I attended after a hard says work in Chinatown at Guey Sams. As I look at the footage I am kind of confused. I do not remember the fights being in a ring in 1964.

I do remember Tigi Matali, the guy trying to break the 1000 lbs of ice. We will get these dates and tournaments correct in the end I hope. It is 40+ years ago what can I expect?? Confusion! Gotta get it all right. You get fleeced, tarred and feathered for bad history.

Tom used to shot anything interesting going on in Chicago. He would be anywhere and everywhere recording images he would then incorporate into his person works. He is retired now, spending his time painting and playing basketball with friends. He is cleaning out his basement and looking for footage I may bbe able to use

The ambiance was interesting at tournaments in those days. The audiences was diverse and varied in class. Note the Blonde seated upfront, rigside surrounded by her admirers. This could well be a normal fight card night. This was the kind of woman Dante would often be seen with.

I am fortunate to have talked to Tom about the project. I see him very rarely these days.

I am intrigued by the style of fighting and demonstrations. Some of the footage is a bit dark. I may be able to salvage a few things. I hope to identify some of the people in the footage as well.

I see a lot of kung fu grip hands in stances. Was this a Chicago thing or what. Look at this guy's hands. Where does it all come from in Chicago. At first glance we could say Keehan. I hope to discover a lot more about Dante's influences as I ask the questions and as I get more footage. Someplace out there is a wealth of 8mm film footage. I know Jimmy Jones has hours of footage.

Demonstrations were at the heart of every tournament. It gave various schools and styles the opportunity to show off thier best techniques for self defence, breaking, weapons use, seemingly magical powers to a 11 year old.

My pals and I loved the breaking and fancy flying kicks.

This kind of footage is important to this kind of film. I need something to illustrate points in my interviews and break up the talking heads.

I need to put out a call for midwestern images of martials arts in the newspapers all over Illinois. Keehan's story is best served by having a clear historical perspective of the times he lived in.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Struggling to make sense...

And now we come to the chapter in which I describe the internet wars over the legacy of Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society(BDFS). What's it all about? The conversation is going hot and heavy at their site right now

After the blackballing of Dante in Chicago, primarily because the death of Jim Konsevic in the 1970 Dojo/Dragon War, he was befriended by Bill Aguiar, a karate instructor from Fall River, MA. They became very close, with Dante going to Fall River to help Aguiar open another school to teach the Black Dragon concepts. In several articles in Black Belt Magazine it was reported that the leadership of the Black Dragon Fighting Society was passed on to Aguiar as well as development of it's concepts. Aguiar claims not only leadership of the school but ownership of all intellectual property and copyrights as well. Yet I have an interview with Crista Dante that was emailed to me in which she states all business interest were signed over to her. She is nowhere to be found presently but I have a feeling she is going to turn up at some point. Then the truth with come out.

This ownership of copyright and ownership has led to conflicts with "Ninja" Ashida Kim and rock singer, Count Dante of San Francisco. Ashida Kim was forced to remove all references of Dante from his site. The Count of San Franciso continues his tribute band to this day. And he continues his study of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for the day he may have to defend his right to do so it seems. :-)

The present head of the BDFS wants to be paid for an interview. He has an archive of materials that may or may not be invaluable. I have not seen an inventory list so I cannot say. I suspect so, but the proof is ALWAYS in the pudding.

Paying him for the interview is not something I am going to agree to. Paying for the use of archival materials is another story. I am not going to go deep into this at the moment.

There seems to be some fear that I am going to disrort the role of Fall River in the documentary. Why? I have no idea. Fall River is not my primary concern for the moment as I am struggling to get the story here in the midwest and on the west coast locked first.

How and why Dante went to Fall River will be covered throughly. I know where everyone is and how to reach them. Whether they want to talk is up to them. Was Dante making a come back. Was he preparing to disappear? Did he really want to become a priest or was it more theatrics and smoke screen? Is there a connection between Fall River and the Puralotor Vault Robbery? Questions abound and it is overwhelming to think I can answer them all.

There seem to be possibilities of connnections between the Amur River Black Dragon Society and the BDFS through an Indiana sensei Dante was associated with. One of the old Instructors out there seems to have been associated with the Amur River Black Dragons at some point before World War II.

Then there is the information about Dante and Anton LeVey, chief San Francisco Satanist, both pet lion owners. What next?

There is a still a lot of passion in this tale of Dante that reverberates 30 years after his death.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Frisco, Peace, T.Y. Wong and Dante's Orphaned Son???

Still on the hunt...

Of late I have had a few more connections between Count Dante and Satanism.
All I can do is gather the information and evaluate it after I cross-reference and look for evidence. How we got there....please do not ask.
I guess it is all part of the legend.

I visited San Francisco two weeks ago to look for evidence of associations Dante claimed with Ed Parker, T.Y. Wong and Jame Yimm Lee. I also hooked up with and interviewed the California Count Dante who gave me a great interview.

I was told that the old TY Wong School was at 880 Sacramento St. in San Francisco. John Keehan says he was introduced to Sifu Wong by James Yimm Lee, so this would have to have been before the argument over the $10, Lee and Wong had. This meeting makes sense because of James Yimm Lee"writings about poison hand and dim mak might have attracted Keehan to SF.

Oddly enough I passed a Y.C. Wong School of Kung Fu at 819a Sacremento on the way to finding 880. I will let you know what I find out about any connections between the two. At first investigation there seems to be none that was admitted to me. I have not spoken to Master Y.C. Wong as of yet. I never assume anyone is going to just tell me what I want to know. The first step is always starting a conversation. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes...

I also got to chill for an afternoon and saw Michael Franti and Spearhead at Power to the Peaceful. 50,000 21st Century California activists partying all afternoon in Golden Gate Park. It was a great concert that included Blackalicious and Sila and the AfroFunk Experience. Gotta have some Yin in the middle of all this yang I am immersed in.

A quick call to the the great Bob Wall at World Black Belt got me a few people to call in the San Francisco area, specifically Sid Campbell. I went looking for Ralph Castro, but he was in Hawaii. I did end up speaking with Sid Campbell who cleared up a few unsolved questions about another Killer Kung Fu ad that came out of Chicago same time as Keehan was running the Count Dante Ads. The Killer Kung Fu guy was called "EL Shaitan." Shaitan is an Islamic term for Satan. His name is definitely popping up a lot in my research. Well just so you know, I have not been feeling any more evil than usual. I am not about to run out and start living that Dante life so stop worrying.

Dan Kelly sent me this ad while he was researching the Reader Article. Sid is a wealth of information. I am adding him to my interview list.

It has been a whirlwind month. Had the Jazz Festival, Jazz Club Tour, shot a PSA with 3to1, did a panel at UC Irvine and a new trailer for the film. I still have my day jobs(gotta keep that when ya got kids).

Had a break in my office, someone took my laptop. Disastrous. Good thing the most important stuff is backed up and kept under lock and key. Please no conspiracy theories...I got enough issues to deal with reagrding this project. LOL

I have been looking at some scholarly types to talk to about the martial arts period and was introduced to the work of Vijay Prashad by Irene Chien in San Francisco. Vijay wrote a book called Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting and Irene Chien is a PhD candidate at Berkeley doing some similar works. I am interested in discussing the impact of martial arts on American culture and cross influences from Muhammad Ali to Wu-Tang Clan.

A buddy of mine is working as a the Rza's stand-in in American Gangster so I am trying to get to the Rza as well. I need this kind of input in telling the tale seeking social meaning regarding these intersecting cultures.

This weekend I am due in Dallas Texas to a martial arts Roast hosted by Gary Lee. I will be in Dallas this weekend. Should be a lot of people there for me to talk to.

I compiled a list of my completed interviews for a producer and they are as follows:

**Sensei Bob Brown - Chicago*
Former Chicago Policeman, Brown studied with John Keehan from 1962-1967. Bob was with John from South Ashland and the School on Rush Street until he opened his own school, the "Tang Soo Do Academy." He tells of life in the Rush Street dojo above Mr. Kelly’s Jazz Club, the lion either jumping or being thrown out the window and landing on the back of a horse pulling a surrey and John’s womanizing.

**Nganga Tola-Na(Raymond Cooper) - Baltimore*
One of the greatest fighters of the 1960s, Tolo-na fought as Ray Cooper and was a prized student of Dante. Tolo-na was involved in a controversial fight with Mike Stone at the 2nd World Karate Tournament in which Master Robert Trias, head of the Unites States Karate Association blatantly robbed Ray Cooper of the Championship. Mike Feldkoff, martial artist and Dante confidant accused Trias of blatant racism in his officiating at the tournament. This event leads to Keehan resigning from the United States Karate Association and starting the World Karate Federation.

**Sensei Ken Knudson - Chicago*
Professional Karate competitor in 1970s, trained by Jimmy Jones and best friend Jim Konsevic, who dies in the 1970 Chicago "dojo/dragon war" between the Black Dragon Society and Green Dragon Society. Founder of Sybaris "Love Hotel" chain, Died Feb, 2006 in a plane crash.

Knudson speaks of John Keehan’s legitimacy as a martial artist and tells the story of the night of the dojo war when his sensei Jim Konsevic called him to join them in their visit to the Green Dragon society and describes the bloody aftermath and death of Jim Konsevic.

**Sensei Doug Dwyer - Chicago*
Best Friend of John Keehan. Pipe fitter and Coast Guard officer, he traveled with Dante by car to train with Bob Trias in Phoenix, Arizona, to Canada, New York and was with him through the mid-sixties. He helped with the pet lion, acquired the bull John was going to fight and was arrested with John the night of planting the dynamite caps on Gene Wyka's dojo window.

**Sensei Jimmy Jones - Chicago*
First generation student of John Keehan, Leader in training and tournament promotion in 1970s-1990. Tells the story of first meeting Keehan the day he breaks his hand breaking a brick and then joining his school. Parted ways with John over his unscrupulous business practices.


**Art Rapkin - Madison, Wis*
Studied with John Keehan when he was 17 and inspired by the example of Count Dante went on to become a hair dresser and to adventures in the jungles of South America ending up in the in the narcotics trade in the 1970s. After spending 3 years in a Mexican jail, from where he challenged Bill Aguiar to a death match over his claim to the inheritance of the Count Dante legacy he returned to the US and became a healer.

**Sensei John Sharkey - Chicago area*
Knew John Keehan as a child. Was with John when he got the bull for the tournament promotion in 1963. Talks about the prevalence of dojo rivalries in the 1960s.

**Sensei Ben Peacock - Chicago*
Student of Jimmy Jones. Kate Champion with numerous run-ins with Sensei Trias is race related situations. Meet Dante numerous times with Sensei Jimmy Jones.

**Bob Cooley - Federal Witness Protection Program*
Former Chicago Policeman and mob lawyer who turned state's evidence and worked as a mole for the FBI. He is the man who literally took down the Chicago Outfit and the 1st Ward rackets. He is presently in the witness protection program with a Million dollar price on his head. Cooley defended Dante in the Dojo War court case and hung out on Rush Street with him and shared girlfriends in the early 70s. Cooley confirms Dante's involvement in the 1974 Purolator vault robbery.

**Sensei Gregory Jaco - Kankakee*
My personal sensei. Gregory Jaco was famous for his elaborate breaking and weapon's demonstrations. Jaco is the father of rapper Lupe Fiasco. One of my fellow students under Jaco, Robert Tobias, used to periodically study with Dante. Robert is presently doing 60 years to life in an Illinois Penitentiary. Jaco gives a history of Martial Arts in Chicago, tells of Mas Tumura secretly teaching black students after hours and of his experience trying to join the Black Dragon Society and the ritual involved.

Bob "Count Dante" Calhoun - San Francisco*
Head of the Tribute Band, "Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society"
Bob Calhoun could possibly be Count Dante's orphaned son sent west after his death. Calhoun created the persona not knowing if Dante was real, alive or dead, until he put up his website in 1998. Then all hell broke loose. He was contacted and threatened by people claiming to "own the legacy" of Count and wanted him to cease and desist

Anonymous Green Dragon - Chicago*
Audio Interview with an Anonymous member of the Green Dragon Society.
He is fully vetted and documented as having been there in court documents He was present the night of the "Dragon War" when Dante paid a visit to the Green Dragon Society. He tells a very dubious story of his encounter with Dante in what was essentially a 30-45 sec fight, which resulted in the death of Jim Konsevic. He refused to be interviewed on camera but agreed to a audio interview in which he says he dislocated both of John Keehan's arms.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Return of The Dragon and Kung Fu Grip


My buddy, "Irish Bob", went to Seattle last week and visited Bruce Lee's grave site. He shared with me a rare bit of info about Jimmy Hendrix and Bruce Lee living in the same neighborhood for awhile. Interesting idea for a comic book. "The Kid" from Sam Delaney's novel, Nova, with his laser shooting Kora-like Syrinx and a new immigrant martial artist ridding the streets of Seattle of all kinds of evil.

Seriously though...before Dante, no Dante, after Dante, no Dante. Same can be said of Bruce Lee. Where did Dante go so wrong that after 31 years there is still no marker on his grave??? Not even a veterans marker. I have the papers saying he was honorably discharged from the Marines, nothing about the Army yet except I know he was in.

What you don't see in this picture is that Brandon Lee is buried right next to him. As a father of 2 sons I find that one a bit hard to take. Our children should live way past us. But who knows ones destiny?

I got a crank phone call last night from someone claiming to be John Keehan. It was not. I checked out the number before I called. It was an old pal, a Russian painter I know, Michael Wasserman.

Got a copy of >Kung Fu Grip Zine #0 in the mail. The publisher, St. Paco sent it to me. Paco is a former Chicagoan. He does htis little zine that is absolutly wonderful to be hold. Minimal, small, the one-inch punch of zines. Maximun impact with stickers and excellent writing and ideas. There also a Count Dante button inside the package.

It is a nostalgic graphic masterpiece to me the way it invokes the Kung Fu film/Blackploitation period. "Just Jeet Kune Do It."

Paco wrote this great poem. Awesome. I am a fan of good poetry. Poetry, not spoken word. I like that minimal shit that does not try too hard to impress. Check out Paco:

RETURN OF THE DRAGON
Lips Pursed in thought
a trail of smoke
writhes from my lungs
with the menace of a
chimera's tail
The oriental scent of
Hugo Boss No. 6
rises from my flesh in a
a romance afterthought as
a candle flickers
in a shallow glass
to cast this shadow
of contemplation
upon the wall.

A red origami dragon,
one that I
did not craft
stands majestically
beside the bed:
the delicate token
she left to symbolize
the fire of a love
returned.

That is by St. Paco, bad M.F.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Department of Justice and Writer Robert Rankin

The last 24 hours I have had communication form Washington and London. Washington was the Department of Justice letting me know that my appeal for information on John Keehan/Count Dante was pending appesl per requerst of the FBI. I feel like this should have been easier than that. They got info on him but it has been misplaced it seems. The FBI shuffled me off to the DOJ when the information did not turn up quick enough....or something. I went to the FBI to find out what they may have had on Dante due to his use of the Black Dragon name and his dubious activities with mob characters. I need to get DiFonzo's stuff too while I am at it.

On a lighter side I spoke with Robert Rankin, British sci-fi and fantasy writer who makes use of the Count Dante character in his books. Count Dante is one of the many eccentric characters referred to in Robert Rankin's Brentford stories. I was put in touch with him by another character he frequenmtly kills off in his books, Count Otto Black. Thanks Otto.

Ottowants to have a fan party where they act out Dante scenes from the Brentford stories, Dim Mak, or "dimak," and all. So I will take a trip to London to talk with Robert, Count Otto and Graham Noble. I hope to schedule this for early October. Fares will be cheap and this will give Cout Otto time to help me with the fan Dante party.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Chicago Gung-Fu: More Info from Yet Another Green Dragon

I heard from yet another Green Dragon member. This member filled in a few blanks about the school itself. Martial arts at this level are akin to a fraternity or secret society, a place of secrets and initiations. He hinted at some of the elaborate ritual that was present in joining and gaining promotions in the dragon systems. He experienced this as a 14-year-old boy. My old sensei Jaco, told me of his attempt to join the Black Dragons and the ritual even Dante employed.

Transformation and empowerment is definitely the central theme of my documentary.

I am not mentioning his name at this point as he asked me for an informal chat. He was anxious that the real history of the Green Dragons and other Chinese Instructors in Chicago not be lost. While my doc centers on Keehan/Dante, I remain committed to developing as full a history as I can within the documentary itself and in extras on the DVD and in my enhanced website.

This Green Dragon member may come on Camera to give me some basic information as to what it was like to enter the martial arts at 14 and experience entry into the Green Dragons Society. I hope so.

This was a very easy meeting for me. This subject was very relaxed, but passionate about the martial arts. The power of the transformative experience is still alive within him. He was careful as to what he told me, but he felt it was important to talk to make a few things clear as a member who was a post-1970 member. The informants keep coming. It is important to me to have a good picture of the Green Dragon Society in relation to the "Dojo" or "Dragon" Wars.

I am planning a fundraiser for the film in September. September to December is the big push to finish shooting. Have to break away and organize this after my trip to "technoSpheres: FutureS of Thinking" at the University of California Humanities Research Institute in Irvine, CA. I got lots to do for my talk and presentation next week. I am in conversation with Lisa Cartwright, a Harvard PhD who has a very impressive background. I expect I will at least learn a lot from her. She is a practitioner also. The subject is The Cultural Work of Technological Representation.

I am still deciphering this topic. I am asking myself how the Count Dante project might fit into this. Technology has empowered me to do things with this project with a minimum of resources I could never have done 15 or 20 years ago. There is a level of self reliance that I have managed to achieve by learning and understanding the potential of the technology for publishing and distribution of information, image processing and basic communication softwares (email).

Well, back to editing podcasts....

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blog Reactions continue

I have been getting reactions to the blog from all over the place. There is discussion at http://countdante.com about the Green Dragon Society member's claim to have dislocated both Count Dante's arms. Until I present all the evidence from both sides I have no opinion on any of this. I still have Mike Felkoff to interview and one other person I want to try to get on camera who was there with Konsevic.

The argument over the stewardship of the Black Dragon Fighting Society is not in question in my mind. It just has no place in the Chicago part of the story at this particular moment. I have said before that I am interested in seeing the Fall River BDFS archives for possible inclusion of materials in the film. Fall River is in the latter part of the story.

I got one letter that was really interesting that speaks specifically to the times we were all living in and what it was like to studying martial arts in a racially senstive America of the 1960s.

Dear Mr. Webb:

I came across your project while mindlessly trolling the net. As a martial artist I often monitor some of the sites. I was immediately struck by how creative and together your project appears. I like your trailer... the music, the approach to the subject is sympathetic, yet you are not a Dante apologist. Your interviews were also nicely done.

I don't know what response this project has had with respect to the entertainment field and the martial arts community. I also don't know how you are faring.... if you are encouraged, if you have had some success. This project of yours has tremendous value I say this as someone who used to write a bit for the Martial Arts Mags, but I digress.... I want to share some information with you. This
information is not directly relevant to Dante but might well give you some historical context. Let me explain:

Firstly, I am a Caucasian forty two year old man with a family (two sons and a wife, a dog, etc). I moved to Baltimore Maryland when I was thirteen years old in 1974. As a New Yorker I knew I might have to fight a bit ha-ha, so naturally when a friend told me of a Karate class in the local rec center I wanted to give it a try.

I met Willie Ben a student of Riley Hawkins. Hawkins was a local legend. His skills were extraordinary in every regard. My teacher was a kumite and breaking champion. My first experience with Sensei Ben changed my life forever. The first thing Sensei did was cordially and genuinely welcome me into the Dojo. I was the only Caucasian student and the rec center was in the middle of the Greenmount avenue section of Baltimore... a very dangerous area at the time. After welcoming me he beat me from pillar to post. When I came back the next class, same thing. The man was so gentle yet ruthless!

I stuck with it for the next 10 years and this is what I have to say to you.

Baltimore Karate in the African American community was known as Ghetto Ryu. The clubs were organized like Tongs (Sensei's words) often going over to other dojos and fighting each other. Shootings were also common. The practitioners of Ghetto Ryu were incredibly skilled...you had to be to survive as a club. Luminaries included people like Arnold Mitchell (later to go to prison) Frank Hargraves (became a traditionalist), Sensei Ben (less well known but everybody was afraid of him-valuable currency in those days). You had some distinct dojo personalities: security guys, a lot of prison guards, criminals, thugs, martial arts gypsies looking to try a few things, etc.

What had happened was Riley had changed traditional Okinawan Sho Ran Ryu into a lethal street art. Prior to Riley people had fought out of a modified horse stance with the front hand in low block position and the other hand cocked at the hip. Riley changed the stance to a side position where one was low and used fast hand techniques with low kicks in rapid succession. Riley's club was the Avengers, Sensei only graduated a few of us to the mark of the Assassin (his club) and you had the champions... everybody was a showman! We did breaking and fighting demos. Sensei carried a bed of nails and let people break blocks over him.

What is relevant to your project is that Karate in Baltimore at the same time as in the Midwest seems to have developed in similar fashion. And just as with Dante everybody mischaracterized the ability to adapt an art to the environment as somehow being antithetical to martial arts. Just as with Dante virtually all of the students that sprung from the fertile loins of Riley were minorities who often used the art to survive and.... used the art to great criminal effect at times. I love my teachers but I won't revise the facts ha-ha.

The criminal element in some ways was the most loyal. My dojo brothers treated me like a young incompetent who constantly needed a father or elder brother. Incidentally I got this same treatment from Duncan's student's group. It bothers me to no end when people try to portray the violent elements in the African American community as beneath human dignity... I know differently. Whether at Greenmount avenue or the bus station in Philly my safety was often guaranteed
because of "thugs and criminals" who made it their responsibility to make sure I got home safely.

Now a days when the Gracies take an art and adapt it (Jujitsu from Japan to Brazil) people sing it's praises. We were fighting what were then called death matches years ago! A death match was a match where the match was only stopped when someone could no longer continue fighting, hence they would have been killed cause they could not fight anymore. Frankly it is a double standard, if not outright rascism that the Gracies, who are ethnically of Scottish descent, came to
Brazil and adapted their art to survive and are called heroes....while African Americans who did the same thing had their credibility challenged by traditionalists. I make this statement unbiased as I am, as stated, a white boy and, ironically I study a traditional Japanese art (the Bujinkan, Ninpo TaiJutsu). I also studied under one of Ronald Duncan's students and noticed the same double standard...Duncan's legitimacy and credibility is constantly under attack.

Dante plugged into a whole sub cultural martial arts tradition. Ghettos were empowered all over this country by the contribution of African American Martial Artists.... Ghettos because only in the most dangerous places do martial artists have to have skills that pay the bills. I believe that what happened with the count happened in many communities. To call people like Dante a fraud is to miss the point.

People in Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Philly, etc needed the skills and approach of someone like the Count.

Hope this parallel development angle is helpful. Hope you see your project through.

sincerely

Darrell Simon
San Francisco
I shared this with my good friend Simmie Williams and he encouraged me to post it. He says he had pretty much a similar experience in Gary, Indiana.

Focusing on the Legend:: CutThroat Ring Report:: Fearless Radio

The Chicago Reader article's effects continue. Mike Davis, of Cut Throat Ring Report, a weekly program on Internet radio, Fearless Radio, contacted me. Mike has a very interesting full time job in law enforcement but does this program as a sideline with a pal of his from Indiana.

They are absolutely fascinated with the urban legend. They have introduced 6'9 fighter Wes Sims to the Count's legend. The obsessed Sims now announces from the ring he is "searching for Count Dante." I could translate this into some GREAT marketing for the film. I figured that there would be some interest in the Count from the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community. They are a huge demographic and I am sure there are aspects of the Dante's persona that are sure to please the rough and ready contemporary fight crew and fans of MMA matches. This was one of Count Dante's deferred dreams, to hold matches of this kind.

I was on-air with Bob Shirmer, an old school martial artist who has made the transition from traditional martial arts to the world of MMA. He runs the Combat Do Fighting Challenge in Cicero out of his All AMERICAN ACADEMY OF MARTIAL ARTS. I need to get by his school and film some classes soon. Shirmer opened his first school is a really rough neighborhood in on Roosevelt in a predominantly black community.

Shirmer is a slight wiry white guy less then six feet tall and, I am sure, seemingly easy prey for an uninformed and inattentive tough guy. The Rock and Roll Count Dante in San Francisco joined us on the show by telephone. You can read his report of the program here. The show was really a raukus kind of send up of the Count's exploits but when Fred Degerberg came on he brought it down to earth with a really well grounded assessment of Keehan/Dante's contribution to the martial arts. You can hear the podcast of the show at http://fearlessradio.com.

As a result of the show I have located another informant and maybe a link to someone very close to Dante. We shall see what this new contact yeild in new data. I am glad Mike Davis got in touch with me, after my meeting with the Green Dragon Society it was good to have something a bit lighter to deal with.