Count Dante – Crown Prince of Death (Part 2)

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Chicago tournaments -

    In 1967 the Count promoted an event claiming a live bull would be killed with a single blow during the event. Keehan would not be the one executing the blow; a 19-year-old student of his would do the honors. He stated that if the police threatened to shut him down that they would kill the bull in the truck that he was carting the poor beast around in, right there in the street. The day of the event they paraded the bull throughout the town but never did complete the propaganda, stating they were shut down.

    Many still believe to this day that the intended killing of the bull was never really going to take place; rather, it was just a marketing ploy to draw attention to their tournament.

    Fünny Bull 3.jpg
    Performing the “Flying Dance of Death”

    Keehan was instrumental in helping to popularize Karate in the mid-west and in 1963 Robert Trias and Keehan hosted the first World Karate Tournament at the University of Chicago Fieldhouse. This was the first “national” karate tournament, and the forerunner of many subsequent events.In 1961 he opened his first school in Chicago and was considered to be the driving force to spreading “traditional” martial arts throughout the Midwest region.

    He was seen as charismatic, influential and full of vigor about the martial arts. Keehan was perhaps one of the first martial artists to use mass media to promote his “visions” of the arts. He made sure that all his events were publicized as well as using more of the “flashy” parts of the arts to attract scores of people. In his early days many of his tournaments were attended by big name martial artist such as Ed Parker, Jhoon Rhee and a pre-fame Bruce Lee.

    By 1969 he had opened another three dojos in Chicago. Keehan continued to hold full contact tournaments and began to build a reputation as a “bad boy” within the Chicago scene. Standing at 6’2” tall and being very muscular he was a well-known fighter both in and out of the dojo. Although Keehan constantly requested Black Belt Magazine to cover his events they always refused and in 1969 they published a roundtable discussion on Keehan in which several Chicago area instructors lashed into Keehan’s tactics and his ethics.

    Chicago Dojo Wars -

    In 1965 Keehan and Doug Dwyer, a longtime friend and student, were arrested after a drunken attempt to use dynamite caps to blow out a window on a rival dojo in Chicago.

    In 1970 Ken Knudson, a well-known martial artist of the time, received a call from Jim Koncevic explaining that Keehan wanted to visit a rival dojo to settle a beef with a member there. The dojo was the Green Dragon’s Society Black Cobra Hall of Kung Fu. Knudson, an avid competitor of the time, refused the offer stating that a “kids rumble” was not worth his time. Keehan stated later that he and his students had received death threats from the Black Cobras.

    The Sad Story​

    Keehan, who always felt threatened by rival schools in the Chicago area, responded by calling their dojo and saying they were going to come down there and level their entire instructor staff. Keehan traveled to Koncevic’s dojo and acquired a group of four men, including his long time friend Koncevic, and proceeded to the Black Cobra dojo to settle the dispute.

    According an article published in the newspaper at the time, Keehan smashed down the front door and found six men armed with Chinese weapons inside. Somebody, although it is unclear who, made the first move and the brawl began. In the end two Black Cobra members were seriously injured including one needing to go to the hospital for eye surgery, but the worst injury was to Keehan’s long time friend Koncevic, who was fatally stabbed with a sword. It is stated that Koncevic made it outside of the building, walked three steps and fell to the ground in a pool of blood.

    During the court trial Keehan was found not guilty since he had no way of knowing they would be armed with weapons, but the judge stated that both sides were at fault and accountable for the death of Jim Koncevic. Keehan was only charged with aggravated battery and impersonating a police officer (which charge has never been fully explained). It is wide-spread speculation that neither side is telling the entire truth...even today.

    In an article published in Official Karate about the dojo war with the Black Cobra, Keehan stated “I blame myself to a great extent for being responsible for us going over to the Black Cobra Hall in the first place and have gone through living hell because of it,” he wrote. “My days of fighting at the drop of a hat have come to an end and challenges I will accept no more unless first attacked.”

    Although it sounded like Keehan had learned a valuable lesson this vow was broken very quickly. Soon after the article was published Keehan beat up two men who made fun of the Spanish coat-of-arms on his car and even punched his lawyer on the chin.

    What's so funny, damn it?​

    By 1974 Keehan had a financial interest in a chain of adult bookstores and a car dealership. He
    continued his bad boy ways which finally lead him into a confrontation with a member of Chicago’s mafia, Jimmy “The Bomber” Catuara. It is reported that Keehan paid off The Bomber in the amount of $25,000 to avoid problems but this also led to his reported ties with the mafia at the time.

    Dan -TE!

    Death Matches -

    On Sunday, March 17, 1975, Keehan along with Aguiar presented the Taunton Death Matches at the Roseland Ballroom. The event was highly successful and proved the audience for full-contact matches definitely existed. Taunton, even more than the Chicago matches in 1968, foretold the coming of the UFC.

    During this period there were many attempts at creating a professional full-contact martial art league and business structure. The times were catching up to the ideas of Count Dante, and he now seemed close to making a comeback and cashing in at last.

    According to reports from the Taunton matches, they were way more spirited than professional. It was a slug-out blood-spraying spectacle for certain. There was hair-pulling and groin-snatching, and the crowd was loving it. Hundreds more were stuck outside, angered by being turned away.

    By October 1, 1975, the referee of the Taunton event, Karriem Allah, would fight full contact against Jeff Smith as the under-card to the Ali-Frazier fight, “The Thrilla in Manila”, on closed circuit TV. This first professional martial arts card was seen by an estimated 50 million people. The future was looking good for full-contact events but Keehan would not be around to benefit from it. After the death of Jim Konsevic in 1970 Keehan was marginalized and definitely distraught. The move to full-contact Karate had started in 1970, ironically, while Dante was on trial for the Green Dragon fiasco.

    Chicago Purolator Vault robbery

    On Oct. 20, 1974, firefighters answered an alarm triggered by a fire in the vault at the Purolator Armored Car Company in Chicago. An audit showed $3.8 million of the vault's $25 million was missing.

    … and it was all in pennies …​

    The perps captured and connected to the heist were Chicago Outfit members: Pasquale Charles Marzano, William Marzano, Peter Gushi, crooked commodities broker Luigi DiFonzo, James Maniatis and Ralph Marrera. Rumors that Dante masterminded it and was killed by the Mob because of it remain just that - rumors.

    Bob Cooley – criminal mob lawyer and author of the autobiographical When Corruption Was King – claims Dante was in on it, but he is the only source that I can find that does so. He now lives under an assumed name so checking the facts at this point is pretty much impossible.


    In San Francisco, Bob Calhoun, a musician and pro wrestler, led a band called Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Originally knowing little about Keehan outside of the comic-book ads, he invented an outsize stage persona that’s part punk, part karateka, part motivational speaker, and wears leopard-print kimonos onstage. “What was funny was how much my portrayal turned out to be like the real Keehan in the first place,” he says.

    Bob Calhoun book.jpg
    Breakfast of Champions

    The band's MySpace page hasn't been updated since last year and their website goes to a parked domain. It seems that Bob has become just another blogger.

    Video Documentary -


    Searching for Count Dante” by Floyd Webb - not updated since one year ago, no indications that this film was ever made. He ran into some legal troubles at one point – this could explain things.

    Death of the Prince

    John Keehan, aka Count Dante, died May 25, 1975 at age 36 in Chicago, reportedly of hemorrhaging caused by bleeding ulcers in his stomach. He had recently testified before an Illinois Grand Jury regarding his knowledge of the 1974 Purolator robbery. His death certificate is in some ways puzzling, in other ways not. There was no autopsy.

    Many people speculate that the ulcers were the result of stress caused through his own actions which resulted in the death of his friend Jim Koncevic. John Keehan was buried in an unmarked grave in
    St. Joseph’s township cemetery in River Grove.

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

    Rest in peace, Count.
    Franco likes this.
  2. Dpendleton

    Dpendleton Warrior Monk

    This is kind of sad. I think if this guy legitimately learned from his mistakes and have lived would would have had UFC events back in the 80's and a lot of mysticism about the martial arts would have been debunked(the garbage ones that is). Counte Dante needs a movie.
    SifuPhil likes this.
  3. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    I know, and that's what's so sad about Webb's movie not showing up anywhere. There were hints that he was threatened with lawsuits but I couldn't run down anything solid ...
  4. Dpendleton

    Dpendleton Warrior Monk

    I must say for a guy as outrageous as Count Dante it seems like he could fight and was not a paper master lol.
  5. Floyd Webb

    Floyd Webb Initiate

    Hello This is Floyd Webb. The movie is still in the works. It is coming and it will be glorious. The Count Dante story sits at the ceter of a social history of martials from 1900 to 1978.

    I went quiet after I won the lawsuit (you guys can find this stuff online :) to avoid harassment by people who feel entitled to some part of Count Dante's legacy for whatever invented reason. They harassed contacts, created scenarios for themselves being there based on my research. Someone actually got on a train and showed up to my office from Texas unannounced claiming all kinds of stuff about he and Count Dante. The stories I can tell...

    Financing any film is slow. Unless your daddy owns a bank like John Keehan's dad did. The film will be completed after my trips to Japan and China.

    I will have more news after the Sundance Film Festival regarding what is happening with the film next. JohnTimothy Keehan "marched to the beat of a different drummer," so said one of the champion Baker Brothers, and he was no punk. I have been in touch with only one person who says he defeated Dante, knocked him out in 1962 at Madison Square Garden. He beat him, but not by knockout as he says but by disqualification.

    You can email me at the website if you want to be on our mailing list for the newsletter.

    Good to see the count being taked about. All of my research has not gone to waste.
    Kevin, Dpendleton and SifuPhil like this.
  6. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Thank you, Floyd! Good to hear the film isn't lost - speaking for myself I look forward to its completion.
  7. Dpendleton

    Dpendleton Warrior Monk

    I want to see this also.

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