Oak Park / Chicago ~ Illinois
Ken Manson (Freelance Writer for Pioneer Press)
After months of nervous anticipation, like a bridegroom before his wedding, I no longer am a Burroughs BibliophilesDum-Dum virgin.
More than 30 years since I started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, I lost my innocence, so to speak, at the 2005 convention in Oak Park, Illinois, my first Dum-Dum.
Oh, I had my chances.
I attended my first science fiction convention, which happened to be the MidAmericaCon WorldCon in Kansas City, Mo., in 1976. I understand the Dum-Dums were held concurrently with the science fiction world conventions but I am not sure when that stopped; although I’m sure Bill Hillman has that somewhere on his 4,000 Web pages. I never attended any Dum-Dums in 10 years and more that I attended world conventions.
Since the late ‘90s or so, I became aware of these conventions of Burroughs fans but they always were far away from my Chicago-area home (obviously, I didn’t hear about Louisville, Ky. in 2003). I was tempted though to say heck with the distance.
When my friend, Dave Gorecki, told me around November 2004 that the Dum-Dum was coming to Chicago or Oak Park, I was overjoyed. My first thought was what hotel in Oak Park is big enough to host it? I’ve lived near Oak Park for 34 years and there’s no Hilton, Howard Johnson or anything even close.
I confirmed the Oak Park selection, a natural because of the ERB connection, through Bill Hillman’s ERBzine site. I immediately called friends to excitedly tell them what is coming.
Because I am a freelance writer for Pioneer Press, I also told the editor of its Oak Leaves newspaper that the Dum-Dum is coming to Oak Park for the first time. He agreed I should write an article. I interviewed Jerry Spannraft, Frank Lipo of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, and officials of The Write Inn and the Oak Park tourism bureau. That article appeared Dec. 22, 2004. It was illustrated with a photo of Denny Miller as Tarzan, reproduced from the historical society’s archives.
I kept in touch with Jerry and wrote a second article two weeks before the convention.
My editor decided though that he did not want me to cover the convention for the newspaper.
Dave and I arrived in plenty of time for the 9 a.m. Friday opening time for the dealers’ room. We found plenty of quality materials for sale, but also high prices.
Besides the expensive hardcover Burroughs novels, some of the items that caught my attention were checks signed by Burroughs for $100 and up sale price; reproduction and some original movie posters and lobby cards; original, unused dust jackets in the area of $1,200; plenty of fanzines; a 1970s Chamber of Commerce booklet from Tarzana, Calif., for $50; biographies of some of the actors who played Tarzan; and lots of books.
I bought a copy, for $5, of the Burroughs Bulletin New Series 41 about Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion, of which I‘m lucky enough to own two copies in first state, and a signed copy of Herman Brix’s/Bruce Bennett’s biography Please Don’t Call Me Tarzan for $35 ($20 for the unsigned hardcover) It was signed Herman Brix and Bruce Bennett in green ink from a Flare-type pen. But at 99, Herman will not be around many years longer unfortunately to autograph books.
I ran into Jerry Spannraft, whom I recognized from the photo in ERBzine, and many others whose names or faces I recognized: Bill Hillman, taking pictures; Augey, the owner of Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in nearby Forest Park; and Bob Garcia, a friend, publisher, graphic artist, book dealer and former member of the West Suburban Science Fiction Society I started in 1977 and that lasted about 10 years; among others Convention members came from France, England and all over America.
I went home for a while but left around 3 to pick up my friend, Randy Kryn, from his Oak Park home for the plaque dedication at Burroughs’ former office at 1020 W. North Blvd. at 4 o’clock. Randy was involved in the Oak Park Festival in 1978 that opened up Burroughs’ former home at 700 N. Linden Ave. I was lucky enough to go inside that home and write an article for the Forest Park Review newspaper. If only I saved the photos I took that day! They may be in my "archive." Randy also convinced me in 1978 to buy the huge hardcover of Irwin Porges’ biography of ERB.
We arrived early for the plaque dedication to find there is no 1020 North Blvd. We killed time in the nearby Pumpkin Moon store that did not have any ERB or Tarzan items in its knickknacks.
BB Assembly at 1024 W. North Blvd
Site of ERB's former Oak Park office
George McWhorter ~ Joan Bledig ~ Frank Lipo ~
Oak Park trustee ~ Mike Conran
At five minutes to 4, we went back out and found a huge crowd around 1024 W. North Blvd. I wonder what passers-by thought? Frank Lipo talked about ERB’s times in the office and an Oak Park trustee read a proclamation declaring Aug. 7 to 14 as Edgar Rice Burroughs Week in Oak Park. Randy said he wondered if he would see a friend with whom he used to correspond and sure enough he saw Bob O'Malley and they renewed their friendship.
This building, and others along that block of North Boulevard, consists of a store on the first floor and offices on the second. I was privileged for the first time to hear George McWhorter give the war cry of the bull ape.
Randy Kryn ~ Bill Hillman ~ Ken Manson
We went inside of 1024 and walked up to the second floor. Frank talked of the difficulty determining which office was Burroughs’. We took turns looking at and taking photos of the plaque and the drawing above it. The plaque states:Bob, Randy and I ate at a nearby Chinese restaurant and drove to the Pleasant Home for the Friday night reception. Members socialized, drank wine or water, ate cheese or slices of melons. We took turns going up in groups of seven to the second-floor exhibit titled Tarzan, Mars and the Fertile Mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I had seen the exhibit before but wonder what convention members thought of this exhibit and its amazing collection of items. I thought "Oak Park was the right place for this convention."
Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and author of other
fantastic tales of adventure and science fiction,rented an office
in this building in 1918 and 1919. Among his accomplishments
during his Oak Park years from 1914-19, Burroughs wrote 17
stories, saw seven books and 14 magazine stories published,
and had three movies produced.
Marker placed August 2005 by The Historical Society
of Oak Park and River Forest & R.P. Fox and Associates.
Pleasant Home: Laurence Dunn ~ Lee Barrie ~ Jim Hadac
Philip from France ~ Bob Hyde ~ Bill Morse ~ Pete Ogden ~ Bill Wagner
Randy Kryn ~ Bruce Salen ~ Huck Huckenpohler
Wine and Cheese Reception
The exhibit was crammed with panels on the four homes where Burroughs lived in Oak Park and his office; pulp magazines that contained his stories; torn-off magazine covers (aargh!); photos of every movie Tarzan and Jane with many autographed; a copy of every book title written by ERB; knives and a shield used in Tarzan movies; newspaper clippings; and much more.
At the reception, I also saw a Bibliophiles member and friend, Jim Hadac, whom I lost touch with some 20 years ago after he moved to Japan to teach. He now lives in the suburb next to me.
We broke up at 8 and I gave George McWhorter and Bob a ride to the Write Inn and turned in for the night.
I came back to the dealers’ room Saturday morning and purchased four issues of ERB-dom for $5 each. I also brought my copy of The Pearl Harbor Murders for Max Allan Collins to sign. He inscribed it, "Hi, Ken, all the best from one ERB fan to another," with his name and the date.
Shortly before 2 p.m. I came into the church chapel where the auction was being held to find no one else in there. The auction items were lined up in tables on the front, on a front pew and on a piano. I thought if no one else is here to bid, I’m going to pick up some nice items for next to nothing. But a good 30 people came in right at 2.
Some of the items up for auction included reproduction posters; six Dum-Dum 2005 T-shirts in sizes 2XL and 3XL; three ERB signed checks; a Rex Maxon comic strip; a display of 10 Tarzan belt buckles; books and lots more. Highlights to me were a specially produced Tarzan Junior book that is slightly bigger than the one in Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, that sold for $250 in auction; and the original Greg Phillips oil painting used in Dum-Dum 2005 material that I thought was worth more than the $75 auction price. But since I brought only $20, I bought only a Dum-Dum T-shirt for $5, half what it was being sold for in the dealers’ room.
The Phillips painting shows Burroughs sitting at a desk with pen in hand and three pieces of paper with writing in front of him. An ink well also is on the desk. A file cabinet is on his right behind him with what looks like two manila folders on top. A large window is behind him. The wall is green. Rising up above Burroughs’ head is a Tarzan figure with a knife in his right hand and looking like he is ready to give a war cry.
So, when the auction ended, I said goodbye to the fans and convention for the year.
I enjoyed the convention, meeting people I had only heard about and thought the fans were very friendly.
My one disappointment was that the Tarzan Junior book was not ready for distribution at the convention to members.
I also had hoped to meet Mickey Spillane, who I guess I now can say was to be the mystery guest, and Danton Burroughs, but I believe their health prevented them from coming.
I also was happy and surprised that five members of my former West Suburban Science Fiction Society -- myself, Randy, Dave, Bob and Jim -- attended the convention. Since the event was held in Oak Park where meetings had been held, maybe I shouldn’t have been.
Hopefully I’ll attend again when the Dum-Dum returns to the Midwest.
I thought I would list the materials that were in my registration packet:
One badge; 2-by-4-inch metal pin with Dum-Dum logo; four-page booklet from the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest about its Burroughs exhibit; a rubber-banded packet of at least 50 Burroughs Bibliophiles bookmarks with a list of ERB books on one side and information about joining the society on the other; a map compiled by Greg Phillips of Chicago and Oak Park showing sites related to the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs from 1875 to 1919; a ticket for the banquet; a reproduction of the words on the plaque dedicated at Burroughs’ Oak Park office; a copy of the proclamation declaring Burroughs Week in Oak Park and a copy of the Village Board agenda listing the meeting item; a four-page program on slick paper with a four-color Phillips cover listing the events of the Dum-Dum; a piece of paper with my membership number on it to raise for bidding during the auction; a welcome letter from the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; a pink sheet from the bureau listing summer 2005 events in Oak Park; an Oak Park Area Visitors Guide; a booklet on the Oak Park and River Forest Wall of Fame mentioning Burroughs on the first inside page (after Ernest Hemingway but before Frank Lloyd Wright); and a list from the convention bureau of six nearby restaurants.
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