Saturday, June 30, 2007
Been revisiting my old interviews...
I now have a few moments to sit and relax and just roll with my thoughts. There was quite a few distractions over the first half of this year. I moved into a new house. My mother has finally closed on her house. I tried to give Fall River a chance and discovered why their story may never be told except in garbled bits of rant and rave on YouTube. The twists and turns in the life of a man like John Keehan is more than enough to deal with. Whatever you try to add to this tale, post-Dante ends up being way too much. I guess it is as someone recently said, He is STILL a trouble maker.
But it is also as Woody Edgell said, and Bob Brown, and Doug Dwyer... John was unique, he was charming, he could be a good friend and a worse enemy. He is remembered for who he is before he became Count Dante. Dante is a persona gone out of control. It looks like he used that name, Juan Raphael Dante earlier then 1968, like when was arrested for selling a gun in about 1956. At least that is what the police record says in his FBI file. Too much information. He was a kid into mischief.
It is summer in Chicago and I am gearing up to finish this project this year by hook or crook. I go back to my point regarding the film over and over so I stay focused on what the film is really about.
It is part hoplology, a study of human combative behavior and performance, part social history of sport as a space for the coming together of different peoples, part martial arts history where I unveil the continuity of secret societies in the martial arts that, for better or worse, continue today, and part personal journey.
It is a look at martial arts in Chicago, those before, and a few after Keehan. I am most excited about uncovering the histories of Bruce Tegner and his martial artists parents in Chicago and Donn Draeger from Milwaukee, WI. I get to talk about his boxing teacher, Johnny Coulon and the gym on west 63rd St. I am excited to talk about Mas Tamura and getting Judo Gene Labelle to talk to me about coming here on a freight train for judo lessons from LA, (if he feels like it..hey..this is "Judo Gene") the resettlement of Japanese from the internment camps in Chicago and Tokyo Rose supplying John with karate uniforms. Good stuff. Every character worth films of their own.
It is a tall order, and it is all true, well to a certain extent. How much truth is there in the tale to begin with. I was looking at some old alt.martialarts discussion groups on Google. Discussion about him never ends. Each generation since his death resurrects his legacy and legand, he was an outlaw, good looking, outspoken and made his place in the history of martial arts.
I keep having people tell me there are better people to make films about. Yeah and...??? Why do I need to justify what I am doing. This is a tale that needs telling and I am doing just that. I am in too deep to stop now. One guy I told, you know what, I am going right home and destroy all the interviews I have travelled from Chicago to San Francisco, Fall River(hmmmm), New York, Kankakee, Momence, IL, Brighton England etc etc... and be ashamed of myself for even considering doing such a film on a character like this.
I have had black friends of mine ask me why I am doing a film on this white guy. Funders even express a bit of a surprise when they discover Keehan is Irish American. "I thought you were making a black film." I am like "goddamn, what the hell is up with people."
The wierdest thing to happen is I called the Illinois Humanities Council to pitch it for a grant they have due July 10 and the guy loved it. He saw it for what it was. I was elated. I need a couple of humanitarians involved, academic orPhds or writer/historians like Studs Terkel. I definitely need someone with a sense of humor and who can see past the obvious and put teh actions and times of a man like Keehan into it's proper social and historical context.
The martial arts community is a bit dubious about the project in some ways. I guess the UFC and Pride are some martial artist's worse nightmares come true and maybe they blame it all on Keehan.
It is a nice day out, the sun is shining and the Taste of Chicago has started. I think I will run the other way and do something quiet for a few hours.