Count Danté promised what every 11 year old boy desired, physical transformation and bully smashing POWER with poison hand and the dim mak death touch!!!
Count Juan Raphael Danté is a forgotten pioneer—and oft considered father of mixed martial arts. He masterminded one of the largest cash heists in history, styled hair at the Playboy Club, and sold used cars in mob-run Chicago, on the side. I met the man behind the urban legend in 1964, at the 2nd World Karate Tournament, when I was a bullied 11 year old child living in a Chicago housing project. Now I'm telling his all-true but still unbelievable story, with a feature-length documentary film, entitled "The Search for Count Dante."
I began my search for Count Dante with the start of this documentary film project. Financing was slow in coming, so I pursued the project on my own with friends and the camera I had. This subject covers over 50 years and many of my subjects are older people, some died during my research phase and during the time I have been in production. Now, I’m reaching out for your help to complete The Search for Count Dante.
“What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.” – Lao Tzu - Tao de Ching
In the 1960s and 70s, Count Dante’s scowl was unmistakable and his Kung Fu pose conveyed a menace that went beyond martial arts mastery. While Bruce Lee was doing finger push-ups, Count Dante claimed to have fought and won 1000 death matches in Asia. It appears Playboy was Count Dante’s last legitimate hairdressing job before he allegedly got involved with the mob. He was known for his street challenges and taught people of every color from all walks of life at a time when there was a silent ban on teaching people of color such deadly skills.
While Count Dante’s name and title may have been more show business than lineage, his drive to live up to his fearsome reputation left one man dead and a promising career in ruins.
Count Dante sits at the center of the story as we also examine the social history of martial arts; taking a look at how martial arts enters American popular culture in the 20th Century. It’s not enough to simply chronicle the Count's nefarious adventures. There are historical precedents for the man he became, as he came to personifying every macho male myth of the 20th century.
What we need. How we will spend it: The money will go to costs associated with production, crew salaries, travel, insurance location permits, historical re-enactment, post-production, visual effects and motion graphics and archival footage.
We’ve shot in two countries, done interviews in over 10 cities and have over 30 on-camera video interviews with people associated with Count Dante and his legend including:
Bob Wall, "Bruce Lee's favorite white boy" and co-star of "Enter the Dragon"
Douglas Dwyer, Count Dante's right-hand man until 1967
Robert Cooley, former mob lawyer (now in the government witness protection program), close friend of Count Dante and author of "When Corruption Was King"
"Judo" Gene LeBell, martial arts and Hollywood stunt legend
Jimmy Jones, champion student of Count Dante from 1964-1968
- The late Ken Knudson, champion fighter and founder of the Sybaris Love Hotels
Mfundishi Tolo-Naa (Ray Cooper), reknowned Tai-Chi master and first of Dante's champion students 1961-1968
Robert Rankin, UK based author of Farfetched Fiction
Bob Calhoun, San Francisco based pop culture writer and co-author of "The Godfather of Grappling." Bob fought as Count Dante in the Incredibly Strange Wrestling League heads the rock band Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society.
Among the interviews we still need that are crucial to the film
Dragon Ball Z founder Akira Toriyama. There is a character in the series call Mr. Satan (Hercules) who bears more than a slight resemblance to Count Dante
Maas Ayoob, former Black Belt Magazine writer and arms expert who did the last interview with Dante in Spring, 1975
- Various associates and key figures from the 1960s martial arts scene
- Childhood friends and fellow boxing students of Dante from St Mary of Scotland parrish in Chicago
- Surviving participants in the 1974 Purolator Vault Robbery where $4 million was alledgedly stolen
- Some of the few relatives willing to talk about him.
Producer/Art director/Graphic designer Simmie Williams has a Fan boy PhD in popular culture. His love for visual storytelling began in the 1970’s growing up in Gary, Indiana collecting Marvel and DC comics. It was during that period he encountered the now infamous “Worlds Deadliest Man” comic book advertisement. Simmie is a veteran of the advertising and package design industry and a former long time employee of Playboy Enterprises Inc, in Chicago, site of Count Dante's last legitimate employment.
Co-Producer Aaron Petersen, an early supporter of the project based in the UK is a Mixed Martial Arts event promoter. Over the passed 12 months, through Aaron, the project has been exposed with sponsorships on large MMA events such as UWC in UK , ADFC in UAE and Cage Wars in Ireland. Many top European Fighters have entered the cage sporting the Search For Count Dante logo and website address including Simeon Thorenson and Stav “Crazy bear” Economou.”
Associate Producer Kia Coleman trained with the Green Dragon Society and has a passion for martial arts films. Her love affair with literature (reading and writing it) and all things media (film, television, digital) probably predates her existence...if that’s possible. She first learned of Count Dante while taking martial arts as a teenager. Intrigued by his legend, she’s thrilled to now be a part of the team that’s working to uncover the real Count Dante. Kia is a 2009 graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School Business, where she earned her MBA with concentrations in Finance and Economics.