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Volume 2310

THE HOUSE THAT DANTON BURROUGHS BUILT
by Amy Lyons
Reprinted with permission from
Record Collector News ~ July/August 2008
Serving Record Collectors Worldwide and Beyond

Walking through the Tarzana home of the late Danton Burroughs is a bit like walking through a museum run by a bright-eyed child who bought the entire candy store. Though Burroughs died at the age of 63 on May 1 ó one day after a fire at his home destroyed a swath of prized items ó an astronomical amount of physical evidence points to a life joyfully lived.

Tarzan movie posters cover the upper walls of the foyer and hundreds of antique  furniture pieces create an obstacle course throughout. Colorful marbles, Tiffany lamps, priceless books and kitschy dolls are crammed into every corner of  his Victorian fun house on a hill, and the upstairs kitchen boasts massive, stained glass windows seemingly plucked from a cavernous cathedral. And, ohÖ the records, records, records.

Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes, spent much of his life preserving the estate of his grandfather. In 1919, Edgar Rice Burroughs bought a 550-acre ranch in the San Fernando Valley from General Harrison Gray Otis, founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Burroughs named his ranch Tarzana, thus essentially founding the current neighborhood of the same name.

In 1972, Danton took over the family business, Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) Inc., and became the keeper of all things Tarzan, including rights for feature films and products related to the famous ape-man. In addition to his Tarzan-centric treasure trove of items, there also exists a whole slew of other collectibles Danton began accumulating in childhood, according to his widow, Linda.

"He started collecting when he was a little boy," Linda said. "When I met him in 1976, he already had a ton of stuff. I quit going to the swap meets with him because people would chase him down."

Traces of Dantonís love of music hang in almost every corner of the house. Records line the walls of his living room like decorative crown molding. A baby faced Frank Sinatra casts visitors a suave stare, while a smiling Duke Ellington brightens the mood. It is impossible to nail down a particular musical taste at a glance, as the mounted record sleeves include an eclectic array of images, including Jack Benny, Gene Autry, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Mickey Mouse and Peggy Lee.

"He loved all kinds of music," Linda said. "And he could tell you every label and every running time for any song you could name."

It's not hard to believe that Burroughs could store exceedingly detailed information in his mind. His house refl ects a voracious appetite for information and physical objects. Though he liked to look at his records and keep them some of them in plain sight, he also liked to play them. I counted four turntables on my tour and itís likely there were more hidden away. I also spied six jukeboxes bearing the Wurlitzer name. The machines are shiny, gorgeous things that speak of a bygone era.

But wait. Thereís more.

In the bowels of the house, hides a basement room complete with cobwebs and dust. This room serves a singular purpose; Danton called it The Record Room. This storage space is actually two rooms, one of which overflows with cardboard boxes bursting at the seams. Picture discs are plastered to the walls, showcasing the Beatles in full "Sergeant Pepper" regalia and a bare-breasted Marilyn Monroe posing for her infamous Playboy spread. A narrow door at the back of this room opens to a musty, concrete den brimming with albums. A bit of crouching is required to traverse the passage.

Without sitting down for days on end, itís impossible to know how many items are in this subterranean storage space. Two long  shelving units run the room's narrow length and vinyl fills every inch of shelf space. Dejah Burroughs, Danton's 24-year-old daughter, said her dad used to refer to his "millions of records." Rick Alper, who, with his brother, Steve, owns Atomic Records in Burbank, said the collection is likely not that big, but impressive nonetheless. Danton took Rick and Steve on a tour of his home a few years ago, showcasing his stash of 45s, 78s and LPs.

"He showed us his records and played the jukeboxes for us," Alper said. "He asked us to help him organize his collection and he talked about getting rid of records, but it was clear he couldnít really part with them. He ended up asking us about certain records he wanted to add to the collection."

Both Dejah and Alper noted Dantonís collection of Elvis 78s on the Sun Records label. Alper estimated the value of an Elvis Sun record in good condition at $1,000 - $2,000.

Though he did not go through Dantonís record collection in any detail, he said taking the tour was a pleasure.

"Itís the overall scene at the house that makes it so unique," Alper said. "The records in combination with all the other stuff showed you that this was a guy who just loved collecting and really wanted to have fun. He was really childlike and just a very, very nice guy."

A few weeks after her father died, Dejah had a dream that he was sitting at one of his turntables, playing records.

"I think that dream was important," Dejah said. "I think I need to look after his records."

Though sheís not sure what gems the collection holds, Dejah is the most likely candidate in the family to plunge into an investigation of the endless stacks. According to Linda, she has her father's eye for collecting.

The old adage "you can't take it with you" is true. That's the good news for anyone who still wants a chance to get to know Danton Burroughs.

.
Danton Burroughs

Photos by Bill Hillman and Amy Lyons
For more information about Danton Burroughs, visit
www.dantonburroughs.com

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