"Congratulations! Great story! Now dammit, go out there and tell the world about it!" Ray Bradbury on an award-winning short story version of "The Imperial Dancer" at the 2006 Santa Barbara Writer's Conference.
From the dimness inside the barbed wire fences of a WWII Japanese-American internment camp, one child learned to shine amidst over 110,000 others who were put into the same hopeless situation for no other reason than their nationality, skin color and eye shape. As the child grew into a graceful dancer, Keigo Takeuchi uplifted audiences all over the world for decades through his performances and his magnetic personality.
Stemming from a chance meeting on the movie set of “The King and I” with what turned out to be the impetus of his troupe Takeuchi Keigo and His Imperial Dancers, the group performed for audiences in the exotic locales of Baghdad, Teheran, Cairo, Rome and Hong Kong, under the glitzy lights of Las Vegas and New York, and in front of cameras of television programs like “The Today Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
Along the way, they performed for dignitaries that included Middle Eastern royalty, international business tycoons and world leaders like a very enthusiastic and appreciative then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon. He and the group got drunk with Steve McQueen, hung out with the great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong (pictured below with troupe) and even taught Sammy Davis Jr. that one should never order Chinese food from the menu.
Via its travels, the group intersected historical events and were in relevant locations during the Kennedy assassination, the Israeli/Egyptian peace talks and the Iran/Iraq War-often times getting near enough where escape from danger was a necessary means of survival.
Through all of this, his personality radiated and people were able to forget their own personal prejudices whether it was racial bigotry or homophobia. Keigo’s personality was such that he even convinced his high school football team to perform a ballet in tutus!
One can call him a real-life version of Forrest Gump, the main difference is that he wowed others with his brilliant performances and continues to touch people deeply enough for them to enthusiastically exclaim “I loved Keigo!” when recounting their experiences with him.
The life of my uncle, Keigo Takeuchi, “The Imperial Dancer” is an uplifting story that needs to be told and something that many people will enjoy.
(For a more detailed encapsulation of Keigo Takeuch’s life, please click on this link of a story I wrote for the Rafu Shimpo Newspaper published on October 16.)http://www.rafu.com/2014/10/uncle-the-imperial-dancer/
This non-fiction book project of my uncle’s story is immensely relevant to not only the Japanese-American and LGBT experiences, but it is far more wide-reaching and will inspire any reader to embrace who they are and what they want to do.
Eight years ago, I had promised my Uncle Keigo that I would tell his story. He passed away two years later, but not before I collected several hours of interviews with him. Since his passing in January of 2008, I have been experimenting with telling the story through documentary filmmaking, screenwriting and even a novel.
After a long conversation with a literary agent (who is one of three that I am considering representing me for the project), I discovered that the best way to tell this story is to make the project a non-fiction book.
A funny thing happened when I started contacting people that he performed with, and his old friends-- their great stories invariably begat another person to contact, or another number to call until the book began cascading, turning this story into a force that continues progressing forward with no signs of abatement.
I'm knee deep in notes, recordings and the beginnings of a rough draft and there’s no way in heck I’m going to stop now.
Risks and challenges
The two main obstacles I need to overcome are time and resources. Time is of the essence to get at least the research part of the project completed because most of those being interviewed are between the ages of 70 and 95. I can’t let them get away.
The other is where you come in.
Being an unknown writer, I know that no advance is forthcoming. I also know that expenses are considerably more for non-fiction than works of fiction. After mapping it out, my expenses will be higher than the original $13,000 and closer to a STRETCH GOAL of $20,000 to $30,000.
Because this is my first project, and I have no idea what kind of response I'll get, I am erring on the side of caution to at least get the bare bones amount to keep the project alive.
The breakdown of expenses include monies for securing official documents, including one FBI file on the subject's father (my grandfather), a wrongly accused spy against the government. Funds will also be used to convert hundreds of still photographs into high-resolution digital files and securing one-time rights of photos. A portion of the amount will be used to rent a desk in a shared workspace and to hire a professional editor who has worked in a publishing house. Part of it will be set aside for the cost of the non-book premiums.
While several interviews are in progress or are nearing completion, many others located around the country are popping up. Also, I will use the funds for one trip to Topaz Utah and Crystal City Texas to visit the internment campsites that my uncle lived in.
Approximately 10% of the monies taken in will go towards paying the accompanying Amazon and Kickstarter fees.
If the basic goal is reached, I think I can get the essential research done within a calendar year and then write part time while working. Making it to the stretch goal will allow me to take a hiatus from most of my journalism assignments for a more expedient completion. It will also alleviate some of the $5000 in expenses already incurred.
I have been blessed with the advice from several writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss. I am not sure where I would be without their generosity. Nevertheless, material costs that I was completely unaware of when taking this vow exist, which is why I am reaching out to the Kickstarter community.
WHY I CAN OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES WITH YOUR ASSISTANCE
Not only do I feel capable due to my professional experience, I possess the one quality that a writer or any artist needs to have, tenaciousness. While writing a weekly outdoor sports column, I have not missed one week in over 15 years-that’s 795 Fridays in a row. While the number is not exactly Ripkenesque, it’s something that I am very proud of.
Another example of my dedication and tenacity occurred in 1994 when I entered the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Due to swallowing a large amount of seawater in the initial phase of the event, I suffered from severe gastrointestinal distress over the next 13 hours while on the bike and the run.
During this competition I visited seemingly every outhouse on the Queen K Highway. Imagine trying to sit in a porta-john in 90-degree heat with 40 mph gusts blowing, at least seven times. It lent a whole new meaning to the term “blown away”. But I did end up finishing with the belief that I could emerge from the crap and grit through just about anything until I cross that damn finish line.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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