Tuesday, May 27, 2008
May 25, the Death of Dante
John Keehan, aka Count Dante died May 25, 1975 in Chicago reportedly of bleeding ulcers. He had recently testified before an Illinois Grand Jury regarding his knowledge of the 1974 Purolator Robbery.
Only 15 years before he had begun a bright career and was one of the key figures in the development of martial arts in the Midwest. He had opened his doors to everyone who wanted to learn and invoked the ire of less progressive thinking martial arts instructors. He was never equaled as a promoter of martial arts in Chicago. There were none so audacious as he in attracting an audience. The threats to kill bulls with bare hands, the pet lions, the show stoppers like "empty hands versus gunslingers." He held some of the the first mixed martial arts events from 1967-1975. He became very unpopular because of these things. He was too much too soon.
His death certificate is in some ways puzzling, maybe it is not. Pictured above is the Death Certificate of Juan R. Dante "aka" Keehan. There was no autopsy. There is a grave but no headstone. There is no official record of a name change for John Keehan. This is how rumors start.
Keehan's father, John Hagar Keehan died at a young age also, apparently of the same ailment. But then, I get rumors of a Keehan cousin, someone who looked very much like John, being run over in strange traffic accident. I am told they may have mistaken him for John. As far as what I believe to be true...almost three years later, I only believe I have a serious mystery on my hands. Now that the
There were questions from the press about his connection to the robbery after he died. Questions about his relationship to the crooked stock broker, Luigi DiFonzo. It seems enough time may have passed and I am getting even more information about these associations. It is looking like some people may be ready to shed some truth, or close to it, about some of these events leading up to John Keehan's death.
There is an interesting bit of information about the robbery. The judge who issued the search warrant that recovered a large amount of the stolen money ordered the identity of the informants is sealed "for the lifetime of all involved."
What does it all mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe this will all lead to nothing in the film itself. It is another lead to pursue, I only have 90 minutes tontell this tale. 58 minutes for some broadcast venues. At least I have the DVD extras to count on for things I cannot use in the actual film.
He died at the height of the martial arts film craze. Cheaply produced Black actions and Hong Kong Kun-fu films were everywhere. Dante could have been part of all that, especially with the cult knowledge of his comic book add. Who would not pay to see the "the real Count Dante' is an action film back then? Something had gone very wrong.
There are people who remember him and will only speak of the good he did. I respect that. He effected the lives of thousands of people, he helped a lot of people. He was a great friend some, indifferent to others and marched to the beat of a seriously different drummer. His spiritual teacher, Micheal Bertiaux explained to me how John was motivated by great literature and schlock films. How he saw himself as a transforming, elusive character. His spiritual life needs some more examination, that's for sure.
Some people write me to say they never bought the book but credit the ad with their getting involved in the martial arts. Others write me periodically to say they remember the add and can' wait to see the film.
Hell, neither can I, folks! So much to do to finish. So much more to the finished product.