Monday, February 26, 2007

My first sensei, Gregory Jaco Transitioned today.

I was trying to call my old sensei, Gregory Jaco the past three weeks, I called his ex-wife and found out he was in the hospital again. He was in a coma last week. This morning I got a call and she told me he passed early this morning.

Jaco is a good part of my youth. I met him through Clarence and Marshall Jordan who had moved to Maywood from Henry Horner projects. Jaco was not always present but he was an impactful presence at every meeting. We went to war together in Maywood one night against some guys who thought being Explorer. Scouts was funny. Nobody touched Jaco, he was a compact muscular dude, soft spoken, he looked dangerous when he wanted to. I would say we turned the place out if my ego would let me. Unfortunately, a young woman was badly injured by one of the bottles thrown by the Maywood ruffians. They all ran. we emptied the joint. These days we would have been shot most likely. I am kind of surprised we did not that night.

Jaco went into the military and came out to embrace Islam and to reclaim his heritage. I was surprised to learn that he had formed his children into an African percussion group. His son, Wasalu has gone on to become Lupe Fiasco.

Last time Jaco and I talked, he was complaining that he was not speaking to Wasalu. Signature Jaco. Wasalu was obviously trying to get Jaco to do something Jaco did not want to do. Wasalu is an observant Muslim and tries to reflect the influence of his father from what I have observed in his music. Jaco has two beautiful daughters as well, late additions to the family. Really smart young women. He wanted to raise them, even as sick as he knew he was. Illness did not make him any less bullheaded.

My son Djibril got to meet Jaco when I went out to interview him in Kankakee about Count Dante. We talked about Robert Tobias also. Robert was with us the night of our "Explorer War." Robert was studying with Dante as well. Jaco did not mind, Robert was always bringing something back new to pass on.

Gregory Jaco will have an Islamic Funeral. It will be held at the Mosque Foundation of Chicago, 7260 W 93rd St - (708) 430-3832. Viewing is at 9:00 am to 12:00 am. The Prayer will be from 12 to 1:00pm and from there the congregation will go to the cemetary.

You get to thinking about those times. Impermanence. How quickly it all happens. How quickly it comes to pass. As is usual with iconoclastic guys like Jaco, he continued to be controversial, bold and audacious, he was married again twice in the last 6 months. Don't ask me to explain. It is just signature Jaco.

I am still in shock. I was hoping he would pull through. Last year the doctors gave him until May of 2006 or something. He was a warrior. This last time he gave orders not be resuscitated. Jaco was one of my life's teachers. He gave me good and bad advice at times. Oh well. We loved him in all his bullheadedness, kindness and madness. I got stories about him and his federal gun license as well. My life has been full of wonderful characters.

My generation is transitioning, as is the natural order of things. There is loss nonetheless. I don't know how to talk about this yet. I will put up some of his video interview this week.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New York and The Trip to Fall River

I got here to New York on Saturday with the intention of meeting with Master Ronald Duncan and possibly Richard "Legend" Lenchus. Lenchus was at the 1962 Mas Oyama tournament at Madison Square Garden. Dante fought there and I was looking for film footage and information.

Things did not work out and I cannot see Lenchus as he is tending to his wife and Duncan and I will meet on Monday. Duncan did not know Dante, but I want to talk to him about the early days of martial arts. He has 50 years experience and I want to have a picture of how he started his career in the racially charged years of the 1950s. Master Duncan has been a consistent, persistent presence on the martial arts scene. His knowledge of weapons and ninja practices are legend and he remains active as an instructor.

Master Tayari Casel is another person I will try to get to before I leave the East Coast. He gave me a number to reach Aaron Banks. I spoke with Aaron Banks, a long time promoter, the New York PT Barnum of martial arts, by telephone about getting him to say a few words about John Keehan as a promoter. He had nothing to say on the subject. He was very pleasant but adamant that he was the key person on the scene that brought martial arts into a global arena with his Oriental World of Self Defense among many other programs. I was very shocked to find that Banks did not realize that John Keehan had trained Jimmy Jones and Tola-naa(Ray Cooper), two of Keehan's first students. Jimmy Jones and Tola-naa were teachers of Tayari Casel. Casel was a featured performer in many of Bank's big touring shows.

Keehan/Dante gets discounted as a martial artist by his contemporaries and they have passed this false information on as fact. He was a bad man but better than average, if not great martial artists depending on who you talk to. I always look at Dante through the words of Lao Tzu
What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

Lao Tzu

Back from Fall River
I have just arrived back in NY with head spinning. I tend not to oversell the project. I had my suspicions. Now that I have been to Fall River, MA and spoke to a surviving member of the Fall River Black Dragon Fighting Society who was there when Dante was around I can say what I always suspected. I have the people who were there who have given me some testimony on video. This new information has led me to a shift in focus as I knew it always would because Fall River is the beginning of the end for Dante.

I met with John Creeden. Jr and John Creeden, III in Fall River on Sunday. John, Jr was there and he was in Chicago. He had information about Count Dante's businesses few people knew. He also makes a direct connection between the Count and Sam Giancana. There is a lot to talk about. I will outline what I have told briefly in a new synopsis I am seeing now in my head. I am omitting a lot of details because they are not necessary at this time.

Count Dante's life is in two-parts: the Chicago Years, where a wealthy 1st generation, Irish Catholic John Timothy Keehan. son of a doctor becomes a serious martial artists, iconoclast and major promoter of martial arts events dragging bulls down State Street threatening to fight the to the death; he becomes a hairdresser for Playboy Bunnies; carries on a relationship with the mob; is arrested for the attempted bombing of a dojo where he is owed money; published the world's deadliest comic book ad; pisses off the existing martial arts community by teaching black and Hispanic students openly; opens porn shops and two porn theaters; then robs his own tournament 8 years before the Purolator vault robbery; engages in the "dojo war" with the strange and mystical Green Dragon Society, bringing about the death of his beast friend Jim Konsevic. and is black balled in the Martial Arts in 1970.

The Fall River Years: Dante, pretty much washed up in Chicago martial arts after the Death of Jim Konsevic takes up with some guys he met through his comic book ad. William Aguiar, Jr orders the book and begins personal correspondence with Count Dante. Dante invites him and some of his students to Chicago to train. They come to Chicago and live in the dojo,training three times a day, partying at night. They live at the dojo.

He eventually moves part of his operation to Fall River to a large house on the bank of a river. The new Black Dragon Fighting Society(BDFS) opens and proceeds to challenge every school in the area in the March 1975 Taunton Death Matches. This event can pretty much be billed at the first Ultimate Fighting Championships. They packed 4000+ people into the Roseland Stadium, turned 4000 away and had the streets blocked up with people trying to get there. Blood spattered the front row audience members during the no-holds-barred mixed martial art matches.

While the BDFS was a serious cross-training mixed martial arts academy it was also the front for a criminal operation. Many of the members were ex-military, special forces. The dragons of war unleashed, were never put back in the box. They craved action and went after it.

Dante himself was a veteran of two branches of the military and has claimed to have been a member of a black ops team, "Operation Water Buffalo," in Cuba that armed Raul Castro and Che Guevara in the Sierra Maestra in 1959. Other members of the Fall River School participants in the early days of the Vietnam war's "Operation Phoenix." (Can any of this be proved? How does one prove black operations exist?)

In the early hours of the morning trucks would pull into a lower level loading dock of the Karate Dojo delivering stolen and smuggled goods. There are stories of this operation dealing with the Black Panthers and the IRA.

Dante, with his Chicago Outfit, mob associations and William Aguiar, Jr., as much a hustler as Dante but not as "illuminated" developed a strong friendship.

Enter, Michael Luigi DiFionzo, childhood friend of Willam Aguiar. Difonzo has just been run out of Chicago after being shut down by the SEC in a $25 million securities scam. He returns to Fall River and immediately starts another agency and in quickly shut-down over a matter of $1.5 million. His monies are tied up in this scandal.

Needing money to launch yet another scam, Difonzo approaches Aguiar about helping him retrieve $90K owed to him by two people in Las Vegas. Difonzo wants their families kidnapped and tortured. Dante, in Chicago at the time managing his other businesses, advises against this as they are "made men."

In October 1974, the Purolator Vault robbery takes place. The job itself makes headlines around the world. Dante chooses some pretty inept mob guys from the Chicago Outfit to work with and the principals are soon captured, including Luigi DiFonzio in the Cayman Islands with part of the money gone into undisclosed accounts.

Dante is subpoenaed by the Cook County Grand Jury, consents to a lie detector test and passes it. He is absolved of any involvement in the case.

DiFonzo is said by the Fall River Guys to have been in the vault and took additional securities instruments never reported missing. Difonzo is defended by prominent Boston attorney Joseph Oteri and is acquitted of any crime. It is not proven he knew where the money came from.

DiFonzo collects the insurance reward for helping recover part of the money by disclosing the account numbers in the Caymans and retrieving the cash. His reward is greater than his share from the mob would have been for his involvement.

Count Dante dies of bleeding ulcers, May 25, 1975 before the end of the trial. He is buried May 28, 1975 in a still unmarked grave in the suburbs of Chicago.

For the moment this is my story and I am sticking to it. That is until new information comes along discounting any of the above. My disclaimer....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bob Cooley on TV Recently

Bob Cooley was on a cable TV show recently talking about Dante. Watch it here. They talk about the Count for a few minutes then it is all about the mob. Enjoy!?!?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dante's Lion connection dies.

Chicago Tribune,February 3, 2007
"If there was an animal act on a Chicago-made TV show from the 1950s through the 1980s, chances are it came from Clarence "Bernie"
Hoffmann's Animal Kingdom pet shop on Milwaukee Avenue."

I got an email from Dan Kelly this morning informing me that the owner of Animal Kingdom died. Animal Kingdom is where Keehan and Dwyer most likely bought the lion cub. Everyone remembers the lion fondly and notroriusly for
pissing all over the Rush Street Dojo above Mr. Kelly's Jazz club on Rush Street back in the days it was all mobbed up. Is it still????? Nooooooooooo!

Sources are passing away, I need to move fast. I was just toning up my approach to Iva Toguri D'Aquino, aka Tokyo Rose when she passed away. She was the Karate gi supplier for Keehan when she started out. Ms. Toguri is a story of her own I hope gets told one day. Master Mike Felkoff used to rent the space about her shop on Belmont Ave for his Karate School. Writer Bob Calhoun has pinted to me that the Japanese martial arts presence was so strong in Chicago because it was one of the few cities to have a resettlement program for Japanese-Americans who had been interred during WWII. Interesting. I will follow up on this trail of thought.

I met with Dan, author of the Reader article to go over some things he had that I did not and will come in handy in the course of graphics and images for the film. I will show some of that maybe online after I go over it.

More tomorrow, or not. :-)

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Preparing to Travel

Where do I start? I have been really inconsistent about this blog lately. I am at a point where I am a bit overwhelmed.

Lots happening. I got more contacts, new discoveries and lots more controversy. I will be going away weekend, not saying where. Can't say much about what I am doing yet. Not until I do it. I hesitate to reveal too much before I have made my connections. Don't want to get out on front street on stuff until I verify at least that the person is a verifiable source.

Been doing lots of thinking about the structure of the film, playing around with footage, trying to get it into shape for an editor. I am engaging the services of a writer to help me with the narrative.

Been having strange dreams about hiphop fascists, Gangsterism and it's failure to accept resistance to it as a culture. The confrontations are resolved by timing, not conflict. Lots of momentary disarming in the middle of a sentence. No guns, the taking of swords. backward runs from the tip of a knife. Once I do this weeked I will say more about what is going on.

The film is getting done inspite of my lack of money. It just keeps happening. This is a good thing. Got more ground to cover. More destinations to arrive at.

Searching for Dante from a markerless plot in a cemetary in River Grove, IL. It is 4:45 am and I am wondering how I got involved in this again.

The end is in sight? I wonder.

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