Monday, February 27, 2006

Three Weeks since last post....

Much has happened and continues...I have been getting losts of offers of aid from people from as far away as Australia, Dallas and the UK. A student of Doug Dwyer's contacted me. His name is Jim Quattrocki. He is a video producer. Great guy, and not because he offered me assistance right away. He is helping me put together the 10 minute trailer I need.

We interviewed Doug Dwyer again in a controlled situation, no more McDonald's with background music rights Issues. One thing about these Dante friends and Students is they are pretty decent folks. How far John walked outside...Doug suggested it was his realtionship to his father that was the problem, that John could never measure up to this start athelete and maternity doctor.

Doug gave me the other side of the New York Madison Square Garden fight in 1962 where Gary Alexander says he beat John Keehan. Doug says John was disqualified, as he said he was. In Doug's opinion, JOhn won that fight. He says there was one other Chicago witness to the match, a guy from Indiana named DeMerse.

Now Gary Alexander emailed me and said he beat Keehan in 5 seconds and there was nothing to talk about. Hmmmmmmmm...

Doug had this great picture of John breaking a brick with his fist,a powerful straight puch that knocks the dust out in a spray on the photograph. Graham Noble in England tells me this photo was published in Black Belt Magazine about 1964. He has a copy of it. Graham is sending me some info from North Tynside. People are really great and forthcoming when they like a project. And one musty alwasy be conscious of those contributions and show appreciation. I have seen too many people blow off people who helped them when they did not have a pot to piss in. Build bridges, don't burn them.

The other thing that is kind of interesting os all of the reference to Count Dante in vehicles of poular cuture. There is Count Macho in Howard the Duck, Mr. Satan in Dragonball Z, and Count Dante as one many eccentric characters referred to in Robert Rankin's Brentford stories. Dante is referred to as wearing a mask and in hiding to avoid being murdered by the martial masters whose secrets he has made public.

Doug also told us baout their bouncer days at South Side bars where John would show up wearing an ascot, beret and silk shirt attracting the worst kind of attention in order to have an excuse to show his skills.

I am wondering how much he was influenced by another Chicagoan who was born 10 years before him in 1929, Bruce Tegner. Tegner is overlooked for being commercial also. Both his parents were martial artists back then, another interesting story. My first self defense book taken from the mobile library on 24th and State St. was a Bruce Tegner book.

New discoveries about this man surface every week. Where to start where to start. It is to much, it is overwhelming. GREAT!!!

In the middle of all this my mom is moving to Texas, my dad got ill this past weekend, and I started a new company and am still hanging on to my part time job at the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Gotta do what cha gotta do. LOL.

That which does not kill you, makes you stronger so they say....

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ken Knudson Memorial

See video of Jimmy Jones, Bob Wall, Doug Dwyer and Fred Degerberg talking about John Keehan here:
Quicktime™ |Windows Media

I arrived at the memorial for Ken Knudson about 6:00 pm at Ridgewood Cemetary in Des Plaines, IL. The place was packed as I expected. There were family, friends, Sybaris staff, and a lot of martial artists. I met Ken's wife, she was as warm and friendly as I knew him to be, very forthcoming and enaging.

Among the many martial artists were a few cops among them talking trade, about shooting, how tough they were, taking down big black guys about my size(sic). Old feelings come back from my teen years in the late 1960s. I am happy to say I never got my ass kicked by a cop, I guess I never met the wrong one. Youth can be hazardous. I did have my encounters. I once got taken into the backroom of the Greyhound Bus Station on Randolph by Chicago cops once upon a time. I thought this was gonna be it. I was handcuffed and jerked around the room. As I was jerked I went with it. I just shadowed his movements until we were almost dancing. I was tempted to accidentally put a okuri ashi harai on him because those cuffs hurt. Then what? There is nothing like the feeling of powerlessness when you feel so powerful. Why was I down there? I said "something smart" so I had to be arrested for disorderly conduct to "teach me my place." Someone there said we always remember ourselves as tougher than we actually were. Especially when there are fewer people around alive to dispute it.

What really bothered me is that this guy, a cop, meets me for the first time and in one minute he is telling me how tough he is and how he shows Black guys like me whats what by punching them out. My height and girth is that intimidating to him? He was shorter than me. Still, I never imagine myself as threatening. It bothers me. This is 35 years later and I have a 15 year old who is 6'2" tall. So this is how short cops will view him, as a threat of some kind? Of course I know the answer to that question. Social engineering is a skill best applied against people with no preconcieved notions of who you are. I am trying to teach him how to casually finesse himself out of sticky situations. Jail is a waste of time, cops are still right even when they are wrong is too many situations. The pressure of the job???? If you can't stand the heat, seek counseling or change professions. Law enforcement is not a job I could or would do, it takes it's toll I am sure, but it should not affect the innocent. Ok, off the damn soapbox. some of my best friends are cops, but they have desk jobs.

Some of the young martial artists were clearly in awe of the older guys, there was bowing all over the room from them. The classic karate environment is still in place in some schools.

Ken Knudson was Jimmy Jones's student. Jimmy showed up after I arrived. Bob Wall flew in from LA just for the memorial. He arrived at 5:00 pm and was back on a a plane at 10:00 pm.

There were a few people there I wanted to talk to. John Nanay, a Serbian guy I had heard a lot about showed. He was a student of John's back in 1961-2. Doug Dwyer was there also. He was looking good. Fred Degerberg showed up. I have called him numerous times. I met this guy, Jim Reiker, who was with Ken the day they won the street race and decided not to fight the "wanna-be mobsters." The picture of Chicago, the richness of the city back then really comes through in stories like this. Ken and Jim raced all over, including on the South Side right behind the Robert Taylor projects next to the Dan Ryan. And this was with the cooperation of the police who would block off the streets.

There were stories and stories and more stories. I was sorry I did not have a cameraperson with me. I basically went to make contacts. I did not want to do anything that might be disrespectful. I took a few notes on my miniDV. Doug is ready to be captured again on HD, as is Jimmy Jones, Ben Peacock showed up also later in the evening. I do not hold my camera in front of my face. It is awkward, it is intimidating with people you do not know. People will talk to me, seem more relaxed when I don't have a camera in front of my face. I need a cameraperson. Soon come.

Doug was really lively, he was less guarded than when I first met him. Our HD interview is guaranteed to be fun. He is full of those stories from the early days of moutfuls of teeth being spit on the Coliseum floor in matches that pit Black Muslims against Marine karate team members that resulted in chases down Wabash Ave. Such were those early days of full contact.

I am really ready to kick into the next phase, the HD interviews with a small crew. I got some problems of style and art direction to solve in the next two weeks, some content issues and structure to think about. I am still asking myself do I belong in this story. Is my voice and story really part of this?

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Morning Weeps for Kenny

Today is the funeral for Ken Knudson. At 7:00 am it is cold, dark and rainy here in Oak Park. I went to the Laundry to pick up some clothes and got into a conversation with the lady there. SHe was telling me I certainly wore a lot of black. It is usual my bland artitst/dramatic look but today it was for a funeral I told her. She said "The morning must be weeping for your friend."

I talked to Jimmy Jones this morning to and gave him directions. He is driving from the south Chicago suburbs. When Kenny decided tobecome a championship fighter, he asked around about who was the toughest Karate competitior around at that time. Everyone said Jimmy Jones, one of the first students of John Keehan. Kenny would make his was from the Northwest side and workout with Jimmy's class. The films of him and Joe Lewis show what kind of exacting technician he was as a fighter. Martial Arts back then was not knockdown drag-out ultimate fighting. It was strategic, athletic and graceful. Jimmy learned form Keehan whom he said taught him to be a great martial artist AND a great teacher.

Bob Wall called me last night and made me laugh. First things he says is "Why is it always good guys like Ken Knudson who have to go so fast and not assholes like "????????" I duly told Bob that is not nice and he said "I am not nice!" I am learning that Bob can be as cold as he can be kind.

Before he got into the movies and became the most evil man in the world for causing the death of Bruce Lee's sister, Bob Wall was a competitor back in the early days of American karate. Bob Wall is sometimes referred to as "Bruce Lee's favorite white Boy." Bob shows a real concern for the martial artists he came up with back in the day. He founded World Black He addesses issues of business, offers insurance and health plans and provides some other interesting services. He is another person who has been very helpful, encouraging and supportive of my film. I have never met him before. We have only talked on the phone.

I went over my interview with Kenny Wednesday night. What a rich interview. You see him, Kenny Knudson, doing what he does best. in his Hawaiiam shirt, relaxed and lucid. If you really knew the guy this would probably be painful to watch. He is so relaxed talking about martial arts, he loved those memories.

It has stopped raining, now a little lighter outside. Outside my window hiss of rubber on ashphalt seems to be diminishing. Maybe it will clear by afternoon, when I make my way out to the cemetary.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Death of Ken Knudson

I was rudely awakened this morning by the news of a plane crash which killed Ken Knudson, founder of the Sybaris Hotels.
Kenny was my first interview for The Search for Count Dante. I was just preparing to call him to arrange a new interview in HD Video. Ken was a regional karate champ back in the day. He competed against all the greats, most especially Joe Lewis. He gave me some dvds with his fights on them.

I was so impressed by him, he was a great human being. You will see in the doc. This interview shows the kind of guy Kenny Knudson is with that exuberant personality and sense of humour.

Ken was a student of Jimmy Jones, who was one of the first students of John Keehan. He was also best friends with Jim Konsevic. He recounts that friendship in the interview. Here is a 2 minute video excerpt of that interview from May 2005. There is a quicktime and a Windows Media file available to view. At the beginning of the clip Bruce Lee mentions Ken from a workshop he attended. At the end of the interview is a quick match point against the great Joe Lewis. Brilliant backfist to Joe's noggin.

Ken is the one who opened the door for me into this documentary, He was there ready with information, phone numbers, and encouragement. I was really looking forward to our next interview. While I was in his office he tolk me about how he started the company and his plans for expansion.

Ken is laughing in the film about Bob Cooley's book, When Corruption is King. He saw pictures of guys he used to streetrace against back in the early 1960s. They were sons of the Chicago Outfit and the reason he became a martial artist, he said. They welched on a bet and then dared him to fight for it. He went home found some place to get instruction and sold all his car stuff and then studied with Jimmy Jones, the only white student in the class. Ken could tell a good story.

I was really looking forward to meeting up with him again.