Saturday, May 31, 2008

Black Dragon Fighting Society Reunion in Nashville

The 9th ANNUAL UNITED STATES MARTIAL ARTS HALL OF FAME will be held on July 31st – August 2nd, 2008 in Nashville, TN "...this year will see a major martial arts reunion of the Black Dragon Fighting Society. The BDFS has been active for decades and is home to some of the worlds greatest martial artists. The 2008 event has been designated as a rendezvous point for all BDFS senior members. Many of these professionals have not been together in one location in over 30 years."

This should be interesting. This will be a great opportunity for me to get to all of these guys at one time. Woody Edgell, Doug Dwyer, Lawrence Day, Mike Felkoff, Samuel Lonewolf, and Victor Moore are people who were associates and trained with John Keehan/Count Dante. The International Black Dragon Society has been gaining a substantial presence this past few years.
I have been told that the film is responsible for some of it. I opened the door to the past to shed a little light and people started finding each other. Dr. Day was keeping the spirit of the Black Dragon Fighting Society alive and it clearly reflects the beliefs in Chinese Internal Arts that Keehan began to express from 1966-1968.

Mike Harkins, who used to live across the street from Gene Wykas's School(the one that people seem to have been blown up, it was not) sent me a page from the 1967 World Karate Championship program booklet. He announced the coming publication of The World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets at this tournament.

I am planning on being there. I look forward to doing a group photo of all of these guys together.






Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trying to Make Online Fundraising Work



I have already recieved donations from about 10 people. They know who they are, I will be doing something very special for them in the next couple of weeks. The support is greatly appreciated.

I am working on developing a good online strategy for fundraising. I have joined indieGoGo to see how social networking in their style works for what I am doing.

There is a bit of hype around the indieGoGo site that I am hoping to take advantage of. It is still about the people I know, my immediate network and how they feel about the project that makes the fundraising viable. Will total strangers be motivated by the idea because of the compelling content? Will people with no knowledge of martial arts "feel" it as well as "Get it?" I have 45 days to find out.

The $8000 is a quarterly goal to get a round of interviews done and to hire a motions graphics person to help with some of the scenes where I am dependent upon stills to help tell the story.
I am trying to perfect the look of the film as I shoot.

There is travel and equipment rental as well as the hiring of a camera person for about 5 days of shooting to be done. That will be covered in the next quarter's budget.

On away I go.

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.

Friday, May 23, 2008

TIME TO FUNDRAISE!!!!


It is now time to pull out all the stops and get busy as I can. I am pushing to get this film finished by December. I need to raise money to continue shooting. On Friday, June 13 I will be having my first local fundraiser at an occult bookstore here in the city to talk about the trials and tribulations of making a documentary film about a man dead 33 years this coming Tuesday.
I will post all the pertinent information next week. We are pulling out all the stops to do this.

There are about 15 people I need to interview and travel expenses to cover. This law suit has not diminished my spirit but it has effected my pocketbook.

You can go to my website and donate through PayPal. Donations of any amount will be accepted. If you donate over $25.00 I will send you an autographed DVD when the film is finished. I am also starting a newsletter. You never know, you may even recieve some occassional goodies by snailmail if I have your address.

Send me those email addresses . I will let people know when the film is playing at festivals and people who donate will get a special party thrown for their pleasure in whatever city we are in.

I am getting into third gear. You will see one of these images once a week on the blog. Sorry for the hard sell, but it has to be done. Thanks to those who donate, and to those who would if they could.

I have really appreciated those emails of support during the court case. They are invaluable. Now it is time for me to put the beg on. Court is not over, but I do want to be done shooting this year.

More news coming this week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

1968 Convention Martial Arts Class

I remember the class went on for several days before the convention started. I never knew who was teaching the class. My friends and I kept in motion the whole day anxious to get out before dark.

Here are some stills from film footage taken at the convention. The guy is the beard is clearly NOT John Keehan. When I first saw the film footage of this from another angle I was not sure. I never knew Keehan to wear a full beard. Seeing it closer in this footage I highly doubt it. But as I said before, the footage has some value for archival purposes. As it was several days, maybe he was there. I heard it from more than Ashida Kim, but then again, where did the rumour start? Was it with Ashida Kim in the first place?

I know Blackstone Rangers he taught, but I also know of a Doctor he taught. It is clear that Keehan liked to teach and was very good at it.
How will I use this in the film? Wheather it is Dante or not is unimportant as there have been rumours he was there teaching and maybe someone will be able to cooraborate his presence theere during this time.

It is all part of the mythology. Was he wasn't he? What is the significance of the claim. I will just kick it around a little and see where it leads. First thing is to identify who is actually teaching the class in this footage.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Still Reading, New facts, and the Same old S--t!


I am still reading Bob Calhoun's Beer, Blood and Cornmeal, his personal memoir of 7 years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling. I have been reading it on the bus, I am always laughing when I read it so I get a lot of people asking me about the book. It keeps a smile on my face due to Bob's absolutely unbridled sense of humor allowing absolutely NOTHING to be sacred.

My interest in the Rock and Roll Count is based on my need to track the overall cultural influences of this man John Keehan, dead 33 years and still a significant underground figure who has affected cultures from the US to the UK and Japan. New facts are being added to Count Dante's Wikipedia page all the time.

Someone recently added an item in the trivia section that says, "Martin Kove, who played the character "Kreese" in the film The Karate Kid, ad-libbed his famous "Pain does not exist in this dojo..." monologue based on his time as a young student and Count Dante was his sensei." They did not cite the origin of this quote, but I am looking at the name of his character, John Kreese and see how John Keehan is not too far a distance to stray from if you are fictionalizing or using an influence. Only Kove himself can tell me this so I have added him to my wish list of final interviews. John Keehan/Count Dante's impact on popular culture is firmly established as far as I am concerned.

As I come to the final quarter of the book the Black Dragon Fighting Society comes up again. This time Bob reprints yet another email he received from someone at the Black Dragon Fighting Society in about 2000. This is from the chapter titled "Hot Man on Man Action," read on:
"I walked out of the Mexican restaurant and found my '63 Catalina wrapped around a Mission Street telephone pole. In the time it took me to down a plate of chorizo enchiladas, some asshat in a Grand Prix had done a hard U-turn into my parked car and pushed it onto the curb and into the pole. Unlike the Starfire, I had a half
decent policy on this baby. The insurance company gave me nearly $4,000 for my totaled four-door sedan with two-tone vinyl seats. It was finally time to put out my record.

The Deadliest Man Alive by Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society was recorded in a couple of days by Bart Thurber at House of Faith Recording Studios in Oakland. Bart is the Mother Theresa of rock bands with no money. His life's mission is to give the Bay Area's oddest bands that big analog sound on shoestring budgets. Craig Martins did the cover art. He made Ed, Andy and me all look like Jonny Quest-era Hanna Barbera cartoons. Suzy Ming posed with me on the back cover to make me look good.

Around this time, the Black Dragon Fighting Society of Fall River, Massachusetts, crawled out of the woodwork again. They had gotten a lawyer this time but they hadn't gone and filed anything in court yet. I had 1,000 discs spread out between my practice space and my mom's garage (which was a lot for me). I couldn't really turn around and change the name now. Fortunately, I had an attorney friend from one of my downtown temp jobs. She took on the case pro bono and sent some letters back and forth with the Massachusetts lawyer. We were locked in a legal game of chicken. It costs about $100,000 to pursue trademark cases in court and none of us had it. In the end, their attorney agreed with my attorney and thought that something could be worked out. I didn't hear from the Fall River Black Dragons for quite a while until I got the following e-mail...
From: Subject: YOU PHONEY BASTARD I challenge you to fight to the death, hand to hand, I was a student of Count D'ante, second generation, You should have respect for the dead, FOR HE DIED IN THE 1970'S Name the place and time winner take all, And the name that doesn't belong to you, I'll prove it with my techniques Sincerely: William E. Maine 3rd

William E. Maine really hated using periods, but he loved commas. I thought of copy-editing his hand-to-hand death match challenge and sending it back to him but I was just happy to be done with these guys."

One day soon, Bob, so will I.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

John Keehan teaching self-defense at the 1968 Democratic Convention???


Photo above: "Manzanar, Calif.--Henry Ushijima, formerly a sound engineer in Hollywood, plays dance records at a dance given by the Girls' Recreation Committee. Henry received permission from the authorities to bring this, his own, public address system to this War Relocation Authority Center. -- Photographer: Stewart, Francis -- Manzanar, California. 5/29/42"

At the end of World War II Chicago was one of the few cities to have a resettlement program for Japanese American. This is cited as one of the reasons that classic Japanese martial arts was so strong in the Midwest from the 1950s to 1970s. Henry Ushijima was one of the people who was moved to Chicago from Manzanar. It was difficult for them to resettle in their old homes after the war due to continued animosity against the Japanese as a group. Ushijima was able to restablish himself in Chicago staring a film production company and doing work for the City of Chicago.

I went to see a film program given by the Chicago Film Archive on Friday titled Out Of The Vault - Year Of Confrontation. The program of old black and white films by The Film Group, headed then by Mike Grey, revisits "the turbulent week in August 1968 when the Democratic National Convention turned Chicago into the frontlines of a larger political and social conflict."

Like now, these were interesting times. We had just lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King, April of 1968 and Robert Kennedy, June of 1968. Something was REALLY wrong in America. The war was escalating war in Viet Nam, there were the May uprisings in Paris, the brutal supression of Prague Spring.

The protests and riots in Chicago shocked the nation and the world. It really should not have. It was in the air for months. I remember the plans, the press, the Seed Newspaper, the call for people to come to Chicago. we were already under seige by the Police and the national Guard had left the Chicago only weeks before the convention having been there to control the riots after the death of King.

This is a few days in history I am throughly familair with. I was there, I was involved. I was 15 , looking for answers and almost down with anything that would bring about some changes in this country. If anybody every told me that 2008 could be almost as problematic as 1968 I would have told them they were crazy. We were on the move and change had to come.

I told my close friends who would not come with me that I would leave before it got dark. I did the first few days, but then another friend and I I got caught got caught downtown the night of the riot. We barely got to Dearborn St to get the train home and it did get violent, but luckily neither of us got hurt.


I was especially interested in seeing a film by Henry Ushijima called "Whats Trees Do They Plant?" Here is the synopsis:
What Trees Do They Plant?
Henry Ushijima Productions for the City of Chicago, 1968, 60 minutes, DVD from original broadcast 2” tape
In response to a perceived imbalance of the media’s coverage, the City of Chicago hired Henry Usijima, an industrial filmmaker in Park Ridge, to make this film for television distribution in a hurried 5 days. Barely two weeks after the end of the convention the program screened on 140 stations across the nation. Appealing to the moderate middle of the road viewer shocked by the images of the convention, it focuses on the violent intentions of the protestors and ties them to international communist forces through interviews with police officers harmed in the disturbances, news footage intended to indict protesters with their own words, and secret police surveillance films.
Included on these surveillance films was a record of a bushy haired and fully bearded man, about 6 ft tall and of a wiry frame teaching martial arts. He was filmed teaching how to throw a kick to the groin.

Now I am not saying it was John Keehan, but the forehead was familiar in the films. I have never seen a picture of him with a full beard, on Monday I will get a copy of the DVD and do a still.

If nothing else, I can use the stock footaage of 1968 to illustrate this point. If it is him, then is is a great find and I have Ashida Kim to thank for the lead.

I will upload that image when I get it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nganga Tolo-naa

Back in the early 70s I did some minor local competing just for the hell of it. I would go with friends to Chicago Heights, IL to the school of Ray "The Chicago Tiger" Cooper. Cooper is a legendary early competitor on the regional scene who was also one of the early students of John Keehan. Like Keehan, Cooper eventually changed his name to Tolo-naa, reflecting his African origins and traditions. Later N'ganga, a Ki-Kongo word, a title that is earned and presented by one's community usually granting leadership and Mfundishi, a Swahili word means masters of arts, were both added to his name as honorific titles.

Tolo-Naa's school would host seminars on tournament competition. He has always had a commitment to teaching and is one of the best. In the 4 hours I was there I felt I left prepared for some serious battle. He was a patient but stern teacher in my memory very soft-spoken and remains so to this day. There has always been a quiet, peaceful aura of power around him.

He was one of my first interviews when I started working on the three two years ago. I was happy to reconnect with him and to see he how he had evolved out of the external martial arts and become one with the internal systems, becoming a devoted student of Prof. Huo Chi-Kwang.

Nganga Mfundishi Tolo-Naa began studying martial arts when he was twelve. He was first taught by his brother, an Army Ranger who had served in Korea. He later met and became a student of John Keehan when he attended a shiai at his school.

Tolo-Naa competed in Karate tournaments in the United States and Canada and in 1964 he took second place in the World Karate Championship in a controversial decision against Mike Stone in a match refereed by Robert Trias.

Tolo-Naa has studied Jiu jitsu, Judo, Karate, Tae kwon do, Akido, Shao lin, Bando, Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing-yi Chuan, Pa-Kua Chang, and many long and short weapon routines.

He is the originator of the Shackle Hand Style of self-defense and is a student of many meditative disciplines including Taoist Yoga; Kundalini Yoga; Tantra Yoga; and Hatha Yoga. He received his initiation in Tibetan Tantra meditation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. For the past 29 years, Nganga has concentrated on the study of Chinese internal systems with Professor Huo Chi-Kwang and the late GrandMaster Lu Hung-Ping.


...
Nganga Tolo-Naa founded the All-African Peoples Art and Cultural Center in the 1960s. In the 1980s he started the Maat Center for martial arts in Chicago Heights (Ill.). He is co-founder of the Kupigana Ngumi Martial Arts Federation and founder of the Martial Arts Research Society/Systems. In 1987, he founded QuieScience Sacred Science Temple (QSST), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting personal development through the martial arts.

Tolona-Naa currently teaches a seminat in Chicago one a month and teaches at the QuieScience Sacred Science Temple in Maryland.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back to Court Today, May 9th...A history of litigation

We go to back to court, today May 9 in Boston. For those of you who don't know, I am being sued for copyright infringement by William V Aguiar Grand Master, of the Black Dragon Fighting society. This case is concerned with the making of the film and my lack of interest in committing $10,000 dollars for access to an archive that may or may not exist. I claimed Fair Use for the materials on my website and in my film and Mr Aguiar decided to take me to Federal Court. After several months of delays and problems with timely filings we asked for a default judgement.

Mr Aguiar, originally filing his case against me Pro Se, on his own behalf, has at the 11th Hour, today obtained counsel through the Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Boston. This is after he filed with the court to continue his case Pro Se, having failed to obtain a lawyer this past 7 months.

How this will fly with the Federal Judge remains to be seen. He told the judge he was proceeding Pro Se, then shows up to court last minute with a lawyer potentially further delaying the case. I will know the outcome by end of the day tomorrow.

2008 is the anniversary of the Aguiar family's attempts at extracting finances and claiming copyright ownership and dominance over the name, image, likeness and movements of Count Dante.

In 1998 they went after the rotund, well-trained Wrestling Rock Musician Bob Calhoun, who called himself Count Dante. Back then he was a well known member of the Incredibly Strange Wrestling League. He writes about Ashida Kim and Willim Aguiar, Jr., the father in his new book, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Strange Wrestling.

With permission I have excerpted it below.
The World Wide Web and the information age, which had beet touted by Al Gore and trumpeted by Wired magazine throughout the 1990s, had finally arrived during the decade's waning years. The Internet and the Clinton-era prosperity that came with it slammed San Francisco's club scene like an 8.5 quake on the Richter scale. It was called the end of history, and for people in the local music scene.. it felt like it.

People used to relocate to San Francisco for the purpose of being eccentric in a way that whatever red state hellhole they hailed from wouldn't allow. They came to come out of the closet. They came to bang on amplified pieces of scrap metal in art noise bands. They came to protest something - anything. They came to shake their bare asses in suspended cages at the Folsom Street Fair. They came to drive as many pieces of metal into their faces and genitalia as they could stand and still be able to get a job serving the public while looking like an H. R. Giger etching. The dot-corn boom changed all of that. In 1998, people came to San Francisco to get rich.

The Count Dante web site had only been up for a short time before we started getting some really strange e-mails. Of course, that sort of thing is to be expected when you claim to be the "deadliest man alive" and take your name from a comic book kung fu master. The web was still a new and unfolding universe in 1998. Its ability to put you in touch with people that you would otherwise never want to talk to was just being discovered. Its capacity for enabling unending harassment was largely unknown.

The first odd e-mail came from somebody calling himself Yoshi. "Master Dante," it opened, "Master Ashida Kim is under attack and needs your assistance!"

I thought that it was just a joke and filed it away in a received messages file without sending a reply.

A little while later, Yoshi wrote me again and better explained himself:

Greetings from the _REAL_ Black Dragon Fighting Society! We are pleased to see you keeping the name of Count Dante alive. Would you like to meet with us and become an officially sanctioned member of the BDFS? Ashida Kim is the current Grandmaster, and he says he would be happy to appear with you on stage (he judges a number of wrestling events himself). Looking forward to your reply. Yoshi - Black Dragon Tong of Retribution

Yoshi included a hypertext link to Ashida Kim's website at the end of the e-mail. Kim's web page was one to envy for its combination of utter lunacy and P. T Barnum self-promotion. Ashida was only pictured in full black ninja regalia with most of his face covered. Like the original Count, he was racially ambiguous. He could have been Asian but may have been just a strange looking white guy underneath all of those hoods and cloaks.

He was the author of several sensationalistic martial arts manuals with lurid covers that recalled the spirit, if not quite the verve, of Count Dante's comic book ads. Most of the books had the word ninja in the title. There was Ninja Death Touch, Ninja Mind Control and Ninja Secrets of Invisibility. Kim also republished the original Dante's World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets. Ashida no doubt used his heightened psychic awareness via ninjitsu to sense the work's public domain status.

While his treatises on mental manipulation were plenty provocative, his most boffo title had to be X-Rated Dragon Lady. The cover photo depicted a naked Asian woman mounted on a white guy. In this indispensable volume, Ashida claimed to show you "how to use having your clothes ripped off into an advantage."

Not to be outdone, however, was Kim's own sexual memoir titled The Amorous Adventures of Ashida Kim. The cover photo looked like it was taken during the same session as the cover for X-Rated Dragon Lady. The web copy boasted that the book was soon to be a major motion picture. If only.

I wrote back to Yoshi and was nice enough. Although having Ashida Kim appear onstage with me was mighty tempting, the guy was just too weird to be entirely harmless.

Barely a week went by before Ashida Kim himself wrote me:

Most Honorable Count: So very good to find your webpage and know that you are alive and well. Gee! We all thought you were dead, Ha! Of course, you are not the original Count Dante, the one I met in 1968 in Chicago, but, since we of the Black Dragon Fighting Society do strive to carry on his tradition, we are honored that you have chosen the paths of professional wrestling and music and wish you the best of luck in both of these endeavors. As Grandmaster, I have some other wrestling contacts in South Africa and Australia I could place at your disposal. We have put on several Kick-Punch-Throw, win by Pin-Submission- or Knockout, bouts here and overseas. Or, perhaps there are some other projects we might find to be mutually agreeable. If I may be of any service, please do not hesitate to ask. I remain, Ashida Kim, the NINJA.

I continued my correspondence with Ashida Kim but remained non-committal. He wrote me back and used the word "HA!" a lot to punctuate his sentences. He claimed that he had fought side-byside with Count Dante against the Chicago police force during the 1968 Democratic Convention. His ability to render himself invisible helped him survive although he was outnumbered and outgunned. He commended me on discovering the "value of rhythm in combat and entertainment." Kim also talked about Dusty Rhodes' epic feud with the ninja Kendo Nagasaki in the Florida wrestling circuit during the 1970s as if the fights were real. Ashida Kim was amazing. He was nuts.

It wasn't long before another faction of the Black Dragon Fighting Society e-mailed me. They weren't nearly as nice as Ashida Kim:

Subject: The Illegal Use Of The Name Count Dante To Who Ever You Are! I am writing this letter to inform you that you are using copywrited [sic] name. You must stop this illegal activity or the Black Dragon Fighting Society will be forced to take legal action against you. If you have any questions about the allegations, you may reach Grand Master Agular of the Dan-Te system at: Bill Aguiar's Self Defense Institute 281 South Main St Fall River, MA 02720 (508) 679-8188 Marcus W. Black Dragon Fighting Society Honorary Member

I wrote back to Black Dragon Fighting Society Honorary Member Marcus W. and politely explained to him that the web page was a parody and that parody was protected speech. Three days later, he wrote back:

Dear Mr. Dante?, As you may know, the real Count Dante died in 1975. After his death, a close friend of mine and his, Bill Aguair, was given the write [sic] to carry on his name. A name in which is copywrited [sic] through his school. Grand Master Aguiar trained with the Count and became the one to carry on and teach the Count's sytle [sic] of fighting, Dan-Te. The Count and Grand Master Aguiar started the Black Dragon Fighting Society. They also puplished [sic] a book called "The Worlds Most Deadliest Fighting Secrets" Something else that is copywrited [sic], which you use. Also might I add that Master Aguiar has been aware of who you are for some time now. When I talked to him on Friday, after I saw your Web Page, he instructed me to inform you of what you are doing. Master Aguiar told me to inform you that you are to stop using the name or he will be forced to seek legal action. Marcus W.

It struck me as odd that this Bill Aguiar, who was reportedly so tough that he could deflect arrows with his bare hands, delegated his dirty work to hapless karate students who were in severe need of a spell-check program. I decided to ignore them, but this only made them more pissed off. They wrote me again. This time they got even nastier:

The Black Dragon Fighting Society located in Fall River MA and headed by Supreme Grand Master William V Aguiar, whom was just nominated to the martial arts hall of fame, is the only official and authorized BDFS. You are a liar and a thief. If you were here now Master Aguiar would rip the skin right off your face. His book Worlds deadliest fighting secrets is copyrighted and any proceeds you are making from it is [sic] illegal. Get a life instead of trying to steal someone else's. Master Aguiar is always accepting challengers for no holds barred death matches. Do you have the guts to accept his challenge? You can use the money you are stealing from him to pay for your plane fare and headstone in advance. TROY CITY Specialties & Gifts Your Gift Super-Store in a Catalog. www.gearworks.net/troycity troycityspecial@webtv.net

Now this was getting seriously stupid. Even dumber than all the lame third-party threats was the fact that it was signed "Troy City Specialties & Gifts: Your Gift Super-Store in a Catalog." I clicked on the link that they so conveniently included at the end of the e-mail and found that Troy Cities Specialties sold gaudy home decor, potpourri collections and Beanie Babies out of somebody's house in Maine. I wasn't all that menaced by any Black Dragon Fighting Society that also doubled as a dealer in crochet toilet paper covers.

I e-mailed them back to tell them just how stupid they were. "The next time that you go and threaten somebody with death and dismemberment," I wrote, "please remember not to include the link to your home mail-order gift store. You still have no idea who I am but I now know where you live and how you make your money." I wasn't going to drunkenly try to affix blasting caps to their front door or anything like that, but the level of sheer idiocy of whoever sent me that e-mail deserved a slap in the face.

I quickly received the following back-pedaling reply:

Look, I do not want to be your enemy. In fact I wish all people including you the best of luck in their lives. I did not threaten you. I only stated what I believe Master Aguiar would do to you himself. I am not associated with the BDFS and really it is none of my business about what goes on as far as the BDFS but it upsets me greatly to see people ripping off someone who put their blood and guts on the line to achieve what Master Aguiar has only to have it stolen. Your page and act may be a parody but you do not state that on your page, and lam sure you are representing yourself as the genuine Count Dante whom has been dead for over 20 years. My words may have been harsh and for that I apologise [sic] but come on, do you not see my point. Master Aguiar has in the past put his life on the line fighting by the real counts [sic] side to achieve what he has. He doesn [sic] deserve to be ripped off. Ashida Kim has especially gone to [sic] far as he even is selling Copies of the worlds deadliest fighting secrets that he is not authorized to. Its [sic] just unjust.
He still included the link to Troy City Specialties and Gifts at the bottom of this e-mail.

The Fall River, Massachusetts, sect of the BDFS soon erected their own website. It was adorned with lame blinking text and twirling skulls. They promised that you could become a member of their BDFS by passing through a "trial by fire" in a "ritual of blood." They had a merchandise page that was decorated with clip art of balloons and clowns from which they sold stun guns, paint guns, swords, knives, $ o copies of World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets and something called the Dead Book. In short, the site looked as if was designed by a severely disturbed thirteen-year-old.

Ashida Kim and Bill Aguiar's crew were locked in a vicious dispute over who was the real heir apparent to the Dante legacy. Unlike in Dante's time, when dojos were stormed, lives were lost and arrests were made, the dojo wars of the postmodern era were fought exclusively in cyberspace. Ashida Kim and Bill Aguiar chose to settle their differences like the true followers of an ancient warrior code that they purported to be: they endlessly flamed each other's message boards.

As a staggering barrage of hypertext insults flew between Kim's and Aguiar's underlings, a letter from the man himself, William V. Aguiar, arrived at my band's post office box. The missive was composed on Black Dragon Fighting Society stationary that I would kill or die for. The original Black Dragon logo from Dante's comic book ads was centered on top of the page. In the upper left corner was Dante's unimaginative coat of arms from one of the opening pages of T[he World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets. Underneath the Dante family crest, small but bold text read: "House of Dante, WILLIAM V. AGUIAR, 2nd Patriarch." Aguiar considered himself to be more than just the inheritor of a forgotten fighting system. If his stationary was any indicator, he thought of himself as a regal heir.

In the letter, Aguiar informed me that he had obtained a federal trademark on the BDFS logo and its clip art dragon as well as the exclusive rights to teach something called "The Count Dante Fighting System." He even gave me the courtesy of supplying me with the registration numbers. The letter was a formal cease and desist order that didn't come from an attorney but from a man calling himself "Supreme Grandmaster of the Black Dragon Fighting Society"

That letter had the potential to deliver a financial death blow to my meager musical operations. I had invested a serious amount of time and energy into perfecting my version of the Count Dante persona. I thought of changing the name to Lord Dante or King Dante but nothing really had the same ring to it. Everything else just sounded incredibly lame. I wished that I had just called myself El Dante, which was what everyone seemed to call me for the first year or two I played around San Francisco. I wished that I had been endowed with the foresight to come up with a name that sounded vaguely like "Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society" when I first started out instead of opting to lift the name wholesale. I wished I had done those things, but I hadn't.

As the information economy advanced, intellectual property became the coin of the realm. Even the dimmest among us were aware of this new reality. During this time, it seemed as if every band in San Francisco was getting hit with cease and desist letters from somebody. This little hard rock band called Mack Truck was served with some especially nasty papers by the attorneys representing the Mack Truck corporation. I guess that this major freight vehicle manufacturer didn't want to risk being confused for a bunch of short guys with Gibson Les Pauls. One band called the Stitches sued another band called the Stitches. Band fliers for Stinky's seemed to be littered with disclaimers underneath the current names explaining what the bands were called before the legal papers came. It was getting out of hand.

Ashida Kim, William V. Aguiar and I were all set to play a legal game of chicken over what was in reality a piece of found art. None of us created the Count Dante name. None of us stormed the dojos or placed the comic book ads. We were all just pretenders to the throne and keepers of the flame at the same time. The hairdresser who transformed himself into Count Dante through sheer marketing genius and martial arts mastery was buried in Chicago in what I would later find out was an unmarked grave.

I kept on wrestling women and playing with the band. I didn't take the bait. I didn't flame anyone's chat room and figured that if I was going to navigate through this mess, then placing myself above the fray was the only way that I was going to do it. No matter what, I wasn't going to cave into some badly spelled c-mails. Aguiar was going to have to drop some money on a lawyer before I changed a thing.

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And this is where it all began. 10 years later they still struggle to claim copyright and intellectual property ownership over the name, trandemarks and movements of a man dead 33 years. More news to come this weekend. Buy Beer, Blood and Cornmeal. It will have you in stiches. I read it on the bus and I am always laughing out loud making people stare at me.