Monday, April 24, 2006

Dojo War: 36 years ago Jim Konsevic died...


On a warm Thursday evening, Count Dante, hairdresser, martial artist, used car salesman, classical singer and ladies’ man, led five other men to the Green
Dragon Society's Black Cobra Hall of Kung Fu on West Fullerton in Chicago.

What took them there for this fateful event is still unclear. I have been told many things. It was over a woman, most likely a Playboy Bunny known as the Dragon Lady of Rush Street. It was over money. Dante was said by a few to be running a shakedown on the Green Dragons. The Green Dragons were said to be "stealing his students." A new contact has told me that Dante wouldn’t teach weapons and many of the young students wanted to learn the Chinese style in that regard, so they naturally gravitated to the Green Dragons.

Dante had his version, a friend who went along with him has a version, and Jim Konsevic’s students who went along thought they were just going for a meeting. They had no idea of the tragedy about to unfold.

No one knows what happened to set the fight into motion. I am told the door was not kicked in or ripped off the hinges to get in. They all entered through the front door and three went in further to talk and two stayed behind. The fight started soon after they came through the door. About 10-15 people poured out of a back room with weapons and the melee began.

It did not last very long. I am told that it was probably not a minute or two before Jim Konsevic had fought his way to the door that one of his students kicked off the hinges. No one knew where Dante was. It was on the way to the door that Konsevic was either stabbed, speared or slashed with a saber in the area of his carotid artery. His blood sprayed over his students. He collapsed in the street in front of 3561 W Fullerton. One of the Green Dragons was partially blinded. The police accused Dante of doing this with a pair of nunchakus. Part of the evidence against Dante was a Sheriff's badge, nunchakus and a bayonet if I remember correctly.

One person who was there tells me Keehan had a policeman's badge and was up against a wall and was declaring he was a sheriff. In Chicago back in those days you could buy county credentials pretty easily. I asked the witness if he saw Dante with the badge or heard Dante say it and he said that he didn’t. He was in the background and someone told him that was what happened.

In another version I’ve heard, the door was slammed shut and Dante and Konsevic were isolated from the others. I have been told that Dante hid in an office and held the door shut. I was told he hid under a desk, I was also told he fought like a lion and there is a leather jacket in Fall River, MA to prove it.

There is only on truth to this event. One final reality. Jim Konsevic died that night.

Jim was only 26 years old. He was a brawler, according to Ken Knudson, he was a real good guy in spite of that fatal flaw. Knudson stopped blaming Dante it seemed, when I spoke to him almost a year ago. Knudson admitted that Jim should have known better, but he was loyal to his sensei.

Dante was extremely distraught over the death of Jim Konsevic. He had already pushed his closest friend, Doug Dwyer, away with his recklessness. Now he wasadrift. The Count needed that foil, that companion, that buddy to share adventures with. He found a new friend in mob lawyer Bob Cooley, who became his cut-buddy in the Rush Street disco scene. Later he would find it in Bill Aguiar, Jr. and work with him in
Fall River, MA.

The John Keehan/Count Dante story is like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashoman” with its wildly different perspectives of one tragic event, or like ChicagoBlues: gritty yet elegant, fictitious yet real. It is deceptive like the malicia of capoeira -- "volta au mundo" -- around the world. The song last long after it ends and will get airplay every generation.

Still, no man should die and have no record of his passing, a simple marker on the ground. The fact that Dante/Keehan’s memory still lives makes him alive and maybe it is okay there is nothing there to mark his grave. But then again, I have not been out there lately. I think I will visit his grave again tomorrow.

Here we are 36 years later and still no real story of what happened the day of the dojo war. Why would John Keehan have led a group of young men into a dojo filled with weapons and people anxious to use them?

Real life is a bitch. The mythologies eventually implode and collapse into themselves. Whatever John's motivations that day, I remember him for the good that
he did, the lives he touched and effected in a positive manner, including mine. In one way he taught us the greatest of lessons, how to live and how not to live. And in that I would say better him than me.

Was John Keehan my hero? Yeah, John Keehan was my hero in 1964 when he befriended a few ragamuffin smart-mouthed project kidz. He was a righteous guy. He was a white guy who was a bad ass and wasn’t mean to us. He treated us like human beings. In 1964 when you were growing up black in Chicago at the rise of America's conflict with civil rights, you remember stuff like this.

Is Count Dante my hero? Well, as a person who got his ass kicked in the street many, many, many times...I knew he was right. I admired The Count’s nerve, and smiled at his bravado. As Jimmy Jones, Ken Knudson, Robert Brown and Doug Dwyer have said, that was just John. He had his way and I did as my sensei at the time said and steered clear of the Black and Green Dragons. April 24 had proved my sensei right. I had a fleeting fascination with Dante before I followed the Oyama way and then had my own adventures with mystical Chinese martial arts and Taoism. Did I answer the
question?

Rest in Peace, John Keehan and Jim Konsevic. You still live in our memories.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Talking to Cooley...


One undisclosed day in an undisclosed location I met Attorney Robert Cooley, formerly of Chicago. I interviewed Cooley after reading his account of his friendship with Count Dante in the book he authored, When Corruption was King. Cooley is the man who took down Pat Marcy and the rest of the 1st Ward Oufit guys. He wore a wire and now has a price on his head.

People that I have talked to who knew Cooley really have made him for a "rat." Even other lawyers. Well he did squeal, but how do you judge that. I have no mob affiliations or connections except avoiding fights with their kids when I was living in the western suburbs going to high school. I even had a disbarred attorney who knew him tell me "...you don't take other people down with you." I guess that plays differently depending on the crime and whats at stake, like 50 years of your natural life.

Having never been in that situation....opps...almost lied...I did have to testify before a grand jury once upon a time, my memory did fail due to an inordinate amount of stress. I still can't remember anything. It had something to do with getting a Black Studies program for some college, somebody took over a building I was in(or something like that). Personally I ain't about taking nothing you can't move nor fits in your pocket if I was to want to do something to get some attention. I carefully explained this to the gathered party.

People who participated were rolling left and right. They told it all. State's Attorney Eddy Hanrahan(of the assassination of Fred Hampton debacle) even handed down indictments on some of the so-called "ring-leaders". Association with otuside agitators and known communists was being touted. That was a lie, none of them knew Bob Avakian. Those split level living members of the CPA did not count. They had not yet recovered from Uncle Joe's denounciation by Nikita. Black Panthers had been known to visit the campus. I could hear the sweatbeads apopppin'.

I have recently contacted Cooley's co-counsel on the case as well. The case is 30 years old, there were no convictions. So there are very few records, no transcripts of the case. No evidence photos, nothing really to speak of. I cannot even get mugshots of Keehan.

Cooley hung out with Keehan back in the heyday of Rush Street. It was a colorful time with colorful characters in a colorful area of classless sleaze and haute coutre fashion. It was where we walked on the way to Oak Street Beach. Cooley walked with John and the lion, a babe-magnet if there ever was one. I guess women like the lion tamer routine. We talked for about an hour with an understanding that I may have to call upon him again. He is a very personable guy. He has a beef with this Chicago politico, Edward Burke, regarding a statement attributed to his being a vehement racist. Burke was known to roll pretty tough with the 1st ward. I better stay out of these waters...ya think?

I don't know. I do know this. The late Harold Washington, Chicago's first and only elected black mayor, said of his council war apponents, of which Burke and Edward Vrodolyk were two, "...Edward Vrodolyk is a politician but Edward Burke is a racist." I will put my money on Washington's assessment so as not to get tied up in the he said she said thingy. Do I know the man personally to cast such a net over his character? First of all I am quoting the greatest mayor of all times, second of all, who cares what I think? If they do they have to disprove my quotes. Hell, we have been to war over third party characterizations. No one has to wear a shoe that don't fit. Get over it. This is Chicago, a city that scares some of my South African friends, black and white.

Anyway, Cooley has some cool stories about Dante. They hung out in Rush Street bars, hung out at the Playboy mansion, he watched Dante in street fights. They were two Irish Kids ruling their worlds. Cooley being a bad boy bfor the mob and Dante setting the martial arts world on fire with his comica ads, running porn shops and a used car dealership on top of his hair dressing business.

He was the first person Crista Dante called when the Count died. Cooley says he saw some money at Dante's house earlier. It was coincendental that there had been a armored car vault robbery and Dante was called to the Grand jury , took a lie detector test and passed, so I hear.

I am leaping back and forth here. But as I go over interviews I have done I am relistening and reassessing info as I conpare it to new information I stumble upon.

Now back to work. Gotta do books, write correspondence. Meet Dan Kelly at 12:30 pm.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

John Keehan at large....still looking



I guess I have come to the conclusion that I should not try to figure John Keehan out. I have been relistening to interviews. He is forgiven much by many of his friends of 40 years ago. They do not forgive him for his recklessness, they celebrate him for his contributions. I cannot get that unmarked grave out of my mind.

April 24, 1970, 36 years ago. The anniversary, if you wanna call it that, is coming up in a few weeks. The night of the Dojo War in which young Jim Konsevic lost his life.

I have spoken with someone local who was with Keehan and Konsevic at the Black Cobra Hall. I will not use his name as I am not sure if I will get to interview him on video. He did not know why he was there. He thought it was just a meeting and then out to dinner. He had no idea what was coming. Now, I cannot imagine such a thing.

To walk into a place, to be there 2 minutes, then have all hell break lose and your sensei dead with another 90 secs.

That is it. John Keehan was said to have torn the door off the hinges to get in. My source, a student of Jim Konsevics says a student of his kicked the door off to get out. In John's version from Official Karate Magazine he says alot of things that just are not true, based on testimony I have from people who were there. But those accounts vary also. This is a real Rashomon story.

John's old friends, Doug Dwyer, Bob Brown, Jimmy Jones, were not around for this adventure. They had long parted company with John. Konsevic was his running buddy, his partner in crime. Konsevic was down for whatever. No one knows what sparked the weapons attack. They just suddenly started coming out of the back room, in street clothes, armed to the teeth with classic Chinese weapons. I still have not managed to locate anyone from the Green Dragon Society outside of one person. I will not mention the name of anyone related to this incident unless I have already interviewed them. They deserve their privacy.

It was all fantastically wrong. What drives a person to this kind of action. I ask knowing I have been part of this kind of thing. What gets into our young minds. Consequences, remorse, regret all for the aftermath, all avoidable.

I was relistening to an old interview with Doug Dwyer, his best friend until they parted company. Doug is a really sweet person. A very sharp guy and a fondly remembered Sensei by many of his students. He had to let John continue on his life's journey alone. John needed someone in his life to keep him reined in, apparently, no one could

The true nature of fighting must be to never have to fight. That is what I am thinking about this evening.

I have been told there is a leather jacket that John wore to the Dojo war. It is supposed to have knife cuts all over it. That would prove he did not hide under a desk, or duck into a back office. Yet, how do I establish if it was really his. Do I pursue this artifact and include it? Is it worth whatever monetary value is put on it in order to add substance to the film? Or do I pass it by and let the rashomonia take it's course.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fair Use and the attempt to copyright bodily movement...

Fair Use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law. In fact, it is what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright." Center for Social Media

I just got an email from one of my online research assistants regarding a Kata Dante video placed online at Youtube.com by a guy in Norway. It was online from last week until the Fall River, Grandmaster, William Aguiar III, 10th dan in the Black Dragon Fighting Society, claimed copyright infringement and Youtube chose to remove it. Now this is getting ridiculous and borders on censorship due to what is really unnecessary harassment.

I was warned by one of Aguiar’s supporters to stay away from Ashida Kim. Ashida Kim is vilified and hated by The Fall River crew. Ashida Kim is a martial arts hustler in the classic sense. He is good at what he does from what I have observed in the DVD I received from one of my online research assistants in Florida. I have never seen anything from Mr. Aguiar, not a picture, not a QuickTime video. In over a year of my research I have heard nothing but claims of hatred of Ashida Kim, when I look closely at him. I rather like the guy. He has found his way. His way is not my way, but I admire what he has accomplished as a marketing person. He remains, “The most well known and hated martial artist on the internet.” This appeals greatly to my twisted sense of humour.

I did contact Ashida Kim because he became part of the story as soon as they warned me against him. I had to see why. Kim made no exaggerated claims and did not want to be interviewed as he says he spent very little time with Count Dante. He met him at seminars. Kim never mentioned the Fall River guys and I did not ask. I was interested in knowing if he had ever met or worked out with Dante and he answered honestly it appears.

All this pisses me off because the study of Kata Dante by some kid in Norway actually pays tribute to the memory and legacy of John Keehan/Count Dante. This is like Dexter King having his father Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech removed for various elementary school websites and charging thousands of dollars for licensing for them to keep it. At least Dexter is a legal heir with very clear rights to those materials however misguided his actions are.

On the other hand, Mr. Aguiar is neither related nor heir of John Keehan also known as “Count Dante.” Nor have I seen evidence of any legal rights to his estate or image granted in order to copyright and trademark the Dante Style, book, image, etc.

When I started my research and visited their bulletin board one of the participants, a Gabriel Mambe, questioned their claim to copyright and trademark by referring to an article from Official Karate, 1976. This was an article he found on their site. He quoted Crista Dante.

'You see,' Crista interrupted, 'the reason he did that was because he wanted to make sure that if anything happened to him, everything would be turned over to me. As a matter of fact, his will, I think , was made out two months before (his death). The only will. Everything now is in my name. We changed the whole corporate structure. He was the president, I was the vice president, but he owned all the corporate stock. About two months before his death, we changed all the papers; I was the president and he changed all the stock to my name.'

Nowhere have I ever read nor have they claimed that Crista Dante transferred or granted them her right and ownership by will or license.

I want to deal with facts. Soon after Mr. Mambe’s message that article was removed. I was quite puzzled by that.

I have John Keehan’s Book. The Aguiar World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets is not the book written by John Keehan, It is altered and edited to make a Fall River version of an item that had most likely fallen into Public domain.

World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets by John T. Keehan, alias Count Dante was published in 1967 and would have fallen into public domain after 25 years in my understanding. That would be why they could not extend the copyright of the original Dante book. They would have had to altered it into something else. They removed pictures of Doug Dwyer and replaced them with pictures of someone else. The book retains none of the style and presentation of the original.

I have asked several times for copies of the images they claim ownership of and have been in touch with their lawyer. To date I have seen nothing.

All of the research I have done has been in Chicago and people have been glad to share with me their memories in thought and images. They will be compensated for anything that is used in the film. It will not be much, but I am obligated to compensate them for the courtesy of allowing me to use those materials. I am extremely grateful to the martial arts community in Chicago for opening up and telling me the stories of those early days of martial arts. I was lucky enough to start with Ken Knudson(peace be upon him) and he reopened those doors I exited for a career in photography 30 years before.

I am no mighty black belt, I am no tough guy. I am not looking for a fight. I am a filmmaker trying to reconcile memory of a time past, experiences and mysteries concerning a man I barely knew. I am looking for as much unbridled truth as I can handle.

This is all good background for the film. It is giving me direction and approach, helping me to establish some dramatic arcs for the documentary.

I would like to be everyone’s friend. But after 50 years living you face the harsh cold realities that a lot of people really don’t want friendship.

I just want to make the best film I can. Make a film that the martial artists I knew then and have met from those days will be proud to have participated in.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Karate is not for the squemish or the weak of heart....

Thus begins the introduction of Ashida Kim to his demonstration of the Dante originated, Kata Dante, Dance of Death. I actually recieved a copy of the Ashida Kim piece in the mail. He has become sort of my marketing hero. There is no more infamous a name on the internet. The name of Ashida Kim has inspired Wikipedia wars to have his history deleted, $10,000 challenges, membership in the Bullshido hall of fame. Looking at his performance on this video left me a little bit unimpressed, I think he needed another take. Be forewarned, these movements are trademarked and copyrighted, I will post some still of his performance.

Ashida's breakdown of the movements step by step shows he has an intimate understanding of the movements and he is at least a competent martial artist. Ashida Kim, unlike a lot of martial artists of his generation is at least in shape. Hate the Ninja if if you want, just spell his name correctly and if not Google will do it for you. I would not want to tangle with him.

I am definitely going to interview the guy. He has the only version on Dance of Death I have discovered on video. Is he credible? Anybody who inspires Wikipedia Wars is a candidate for interview to me quite frankly. His adventures with intellectual copyright and Coount Dante become part of the whole story.

I have not seen the Dance of Death since a friend of mine, Robert, whose last name I do not remember, showed me, whe I asked him about it. There was a rush of wind on my face and I was on my back still being tapped when I realized I had become his crash test dummy. Whatever kind of a nut Robert might have been he was not evil. It was too fast for me to even get scared. The fact is, he could do it. I was working out with Gregory Jaco and Clarence Jordan about that time. Jaco was like a Black Mas Oyama in Chicago. He had that solid look Oyama had. Jaco has this very gentle, quiet voice. He was a hard instructor. The first time I met him he had run the elite members of his class out to Maywood from the southside of Chicago, in the snow. Yeah I worked out in the snow with them...for like a hot minute. When you are moving and focused it is not so cold. Am I kidding myself???

We had an Explorer Post back then. Yeah. I know some of you may be asking, what the hell is an Explorer, it is senior Boy Scouts, 14-18.

I was a Boy Scout. I joined up when I was living in Ft Benning, GA. I got my Tote 'n Chip, a few other merit badges and even dreamed of Eagle Scout at one time. I saw one of the older scouts going for Eagle do an amazing native American fire-hoop dance one camp-out. It was like he had come out of his being and let an old spirit enter him, a young warrior was living again. I gotta be honest, I had NEVER seen a white person move like that. I get chills thinking about it. If there is spirit possesion, we witnessed it that night. It was an eerie night in the Georgia woods. I had great respect for this guy after I saw this. I remember him crying after it was over. I think I even just might have cried with him...just a little. There was something in those woods that night. That fire dance was magical.

I remember that more than the 'good Ole boys" we almost had to throw down with during that trip. They seemed to not like the fact we were black scouts with a white troop. Well it was Georgia, Stone Mountain, 1967 and our fathers were going off to Viet Nam together, and so would we, for better or worse. A lot my Scout troop did just that. Wow...the places we go in memory.

Exploring was a vocational program, each post had specialities, law enforcement, electronics, rocketry. I got hooked up with Jaco in the Robert Taylor Homes. Their Explorer post speciality was martial arts. We had a party one night in Maywood to raise money. The party was held in what remains a problematic spot in that suburb, 17th Ave near St Charles Rd. The uniform was not at all awe-inspiring to some of the attendees of our party. There were wisecracks and jokes about it constantly. The martial arts idea was constantly being challenged.

Somehow a fight broke out, I do not know how it started, I was in one part of the room and I saw the sister of one of out Explorers bleeding, a bottle had been thrown. Next thing i knew, chairs were flying and we were fighting about 25 crazy guys outs to take down the Karate dudes. In this din, I saw Jaco standing there and he would walk up to people and they would turn around and walk away like he had a protective shield around him.

This fight lasted 5 min. We cleared the place out. The young woman needed an ambulance. None of us was hurt, amazingly. Crazy stuff. I was shy of large groups of people after this happened. I was in awe of Jaco for a long time after this event. Jaco did not like to fight. It was in a situation like this that Mas Oyama killed a man with one punch so the legend goes. A night out and tensions filled the air. Jaco's warrior heart shined. That was what I wanted, more than ther Dance of Death.

Jaco was a master of tameshiwara(breaking stuff). He was also a weapons master who did some incredible demonstrations. I think all of his class at that time had to stand for one of his shuriken demonstrations back then. You know the drill. Against the plywoood board and hewould trace the outline of your body with these little sharp stars. Was he good? I have all my digits(typing with two fingers), four limbs and both eyes. I survied the martial arts , weapons demonstrations AND crash test dummy moments for wild-eyed Dante students.

Background materials continue to pour in as a result of the website and blog. I am greateful to all the people who have provided with me with concrete materials to work from. I have recieved video materials from London, One bad quality 3 sec video in windows media format of the man, Count Dante himself, performing the dance of death, source unknown. I have to identify the source of this file make a deal for it's use and I am home free.

The trail goes hot and cold, sometimes it enters zones I don't know if I should enter. I have been told by many that John Keehan was always known for having a voracious sexual appetite. In my first few weeks of research a woman who does not want to be interviewed unless I pay her; help with her biography of her Life With Count Dante; give her half the profits of the film etc, etc. , claimed that Dante kept her captive and used her as a sex slave for over a year.

Then I got a lead that leans toward Alistair Crowley, Satanism and Haitian VouDoun Sex Cults in a private clubs in Chicago. What duh Hell???? The problen with this is...I know people who were part of this cult from my dealings with members of the Psychic Institute back around then. All I was looking for was some help with meditation practices.

I hope to meet up with my new buddy Jim Quattroki this weekend to do some more work on my ten minute trailer.

Time management, a fine art.