Danton Burroughs, 63; grandson of Tarzan creator protected the legacy
By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Times ~ May 15, 2008
who spent his life marketing and protecting the work of his grandfather,
Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, died May 1 at his home in Tarzana,
the San Fernando Valley community named after his ancestor's most famous
fictional character. He was 63.
Burroughs, who had been battling Parkinson's disease, died of heart
failure a day after a fire at his home destroyed a room filled with family
The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Alex Cornelius, a
Bill Hillman, editor of Edgar Rice
Burroughs-related websites, told The Times that "it was heartbreaking
for Dan to put his life's work into preserving material for the family
and see it go up in flames."
The day he died, Danton Burroughs was to be named chairman of Edgar
Rice Burroughs Inc., the company his grandfather formed in 1923 to merchandise
his abundant fiction, which included dozens of novels and short stories.
"My grandfather was always smart, taking care of trademarks and copyrights
and going after infringers," Burroughs told The Times in 1990.
In 1972, Burroughs became an officer and director of the family business,
overseeing the company from a Mission-style bungalow on Ventura Boulevard
that his grandfather built in 1927. The office is on the northern edge
of 550 acres that Edgar Rice Burroughs named Tarzana Ranch in 1919. The
community began going by the Tarzana name in the 1920s.
Profits from the creation of the fantasy character Tarzan of the
Apes, which first appeared in a novel published in All-Story Magazine
in 1911, allowed Edgar Rice Burroughs to purchase the land from the estate
of Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, the second publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
Decades after the author's death in 1950, revenue from Tarzan-related
products continued to roll in as Danton Burroughs negotiated the sale of
Tarzan rights for feature films, video games, comic books and such disparate
products as stuffed animals, sleepwear, jackknives and multivitamins.
He also carefully protected the source of the family fortune, suing
anyone who used the Tarzan name or likeness without a license, according
to a 1999 Times story.
The business is "a multimillion-dollar corporation," Burroughs said
in 1985 in The Times. "We don't tell anyone exactly how much money is involved.
It's a privately held corporation, and we like to keep a low profile."
Within the business, the gregarious Burroughs was especially valued
as a historical archivist, said Jim Sullos, company president.
"Dan had the most intimate knowledge of literature that his grandpa
wrote," Sullos told The Times this week. "He could pull out of historical
documents things people didn't even know existed."
One of Danton's goals was to market some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other
works, especially the tales of John Carter, who stars in a series of novels
that take place on Mars, Sullos said.
Danton named his daughters Dejah and Llana Jane for two princesses his
grandfather invented for his fictional Mars world; the Jane was for Danton's
mother, Jane Ralston Burroughs.
Burroughs was born June 21, 1944, in Los Angeles and grew up in Tarzana.
In 1972, he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Cal State Northridge.
His father, John Coleman Burroughs, was best known for illustrating
the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
He also was a photographer who documented Los Angeles as early as the
1920s. Many of his negatives burned in the April 30 fire at Danton's home,
said Gerald Fecht, president of the Museum of the San Fernando Valley.
A supporter of the Valley museum, Danton also helped found the Tarzana
Museum and contributed many artifacts to its collection, which is housed
in the Tarzana Community and Cultural Center.
"I don't really expect to meet anyone like Danton again," Fecht said.
"He had a sense of wonder, a sense of joy . . . he was absolutely a splendid
person. When you were with him, it felt like vacation."
An inveterate collector, Danton showcased his flea-market finds and
other collectibles in his hillside home. Outside, his house resembled a
mini-castle but inside it was more like a major antique store, friends
Among his thousands of collectibles were jukeboxes and pinball machines,
sheet music, street lamps and many literary works.
In the fire, Danton lost treasured pocket watches and antique marbles
but he was devastated by the loss of so much memorabilia related to his
father and grandfather, Hillman said.
"He felt, and rightfully so, that the Burroughs legacy was entrusted
to his keeping," Hillman wrote in an online tribute. "And this disaster
seemed to prove how vulnerable and fleeting such a legacy could be."
He is survived by Linda, his wife of 28 years, and his daughters. Burroughs
is also survived by a brother, John Ralston Burroughs, and a sister, Dian
A service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tarzana Community and
Cultural Center, 19130 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to the Danton Burroughs
Memorial Fund at Parkinson's Resource Organization, www.parkinsonsresource.org
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