DANTON BURROUGHS CELEBRATION OF LIFE
May 17, 2008
Tarzana Cultural Center ~ Ventura Blvd ~ Tarzana, CA
Good afternoon everyone. It's certainly an honour for me to come down from
Canada to meet with you all and join family and friends in tribute to Danton
I worked with Danton for a lot of years to preserve the Burroughs family
legacy. We spent long hours together on the phone and in person to create
thousands of Webpages. He shared his hopes, dreams and frustrations so
I felt very close to him. Danton's world, despite the many obstacles he
had to overcome, was mostly filled with wonder and joy. Anyone who knows
him well can attest to his excitement, enthusiasm. . . and kindness. He
touched so many people -- just look around you and you will see many of
them who have gathered here today. The times I spent with him really showcased
his multi-faceted personality. I'd like to share some of the things that
stand out in my memory of our friend Dan.
Danton was a lover of family.
He took great pride in his family's achievements - in his immediate
family and in the Burroughs family tradition. Much of his life's work seemed
to be to guarding the family memorabilia and memories. One of his greatest
accomplishments was the work he put into preserving that legacy. He expanded
this passion by constantly amassing treasures and collectibles from all
over. He loved to surround himself with beautiful and unusual things as
anyone who has seen his collection surely knows.
Danton headed the Burroughs company for decades and he took it to great
heights. He was so proud when he took on his new role the day before he
died and he was about to launch so many different projects. I witnessed
examples of his business prowess during the Tarzan Musical premiere in
New York. I saw him at work as a professional where he did countless interviews
with the media, greeted fans and worked with show business people. At the
gala after-show party in the Merriott ballroom our table was surrounded
and bombarded by show business celebrities -- Phil Collins, performers
from the musical, and a host Broadway stars -- and he met them all with
such grace, friendliness and professionalism.
Full of boyish wonder and excitement
Also on that New York visit I remember Dan's boyish wonder and excitement.
You could see the little boy in Danton's eyes and the sense of wonder that
he had about his grandfather's fantasy creations. This was especially evident
when we took a night off to explore Broadway. He led us on a safari in
a quest for ice cream -- Linda, Dejah, (Janie was tied up with exams back
in California), Bill Morse, my wife Sue-On and myself. We found an
ice cream parlour and Danton treated us all to triple scoop ice cream cones.
The five of us carried on down Broadway with our dripping delights where
we were jostled by throngs of tourists who all seemed to be staring up
in amazement at the giant Tarzan banners strung across the towering skyscrapers.
Hovering over Times Square was a giant video screen showing live action
scenes from the Tarzan musical from the Richard Rodgers Theatre. There
were similar neon-surrounded screens all along Broadway and every time
Tarzan appeared on the screens he was met with a chorus of Johnny Weissmuller
jungle cries. All Broadway was alive with Tarzan. We looked at each other
and I saw that little boy excitement in his eyes as he said, "If my grandfather
could see this!"
And Dan was a communicator.
He never mastered the cold complexities of computers. He preferred
to talk to fans, clients and business people by phone. As Willie, Janet
and Cathy know, anyone who did business with Dan in the office or on the
phone was constantly interrupted by incoming calls on the other lines.
You'd be put on hold as he answered calls from around the world. This went
on constantly . . . then of course when he was worn out, where would we
all head . . . wait for it . . . Charlie G's. That was the place to wind
Dan was a collector.
You may not know this but he collected . . . : ) . . . a lot of things.
One special event comes to mind. He was invited to give a talk at a Burroughs
Bibliophiles convention at the University of Louisville. In preparation
for this he spent a lot of time putting some amazing stuff together for
his presentation. He flew from Tarzana with a large suitcase bulging with
slides, videos, memorabilia, Uncle Hully's wartime film footage, and his
grandfather's home movies from the '20s at Tarzana Ranch. He had all this
material ready to go, but when it came time to give his presentation at
the U of L Ekstrom Theatre -- filled with hundreds of expectant Burroughs
fans -- a slight problem arose. His Parkinsons medication hadn't kicked
in or it had an adverse effects and he just didn't feel up to giving the
presentation. So he said to me, "You take it." As I was muddling
through this the rascal sneaked away to some local swap meets and antique
sales! Obviously he flew back to Tarzana with many more suitcases than
he came in with <g>.
Another major collecting obsession centered around music: jukeboxes
and records. He had one of the largest collections of jukeboxes in the
world. He also had stacks of old 78s -- rooms full of old jazz classics,
blues, R&B and doowop. He liked to entertain friends as they
came in by sharing these treasures. The jukes were lined all around the
huge hodgepodge room and he'd turn them all on at once. The lights would
be flashing, music playing, and there would even be the occasional Tarzan
yell, since he had a collection of Tarzan records. It was quite an experience.
On the theme of music, one of my fondest memories was the last evening
I spent with Dan. His old friend John Westervelt came over to the house
with a guitar - we grabbed another guitar and the three of us sat on Dan's
stone driveway wall under Tarzana stars. We swapped guitar licks and sang
the blues into the night. The next day after we visited the home he grew
up in - it was being demolished -- Dan saw me off on a flight back
to Canada. It was to be the last time I saw him in person.
But most of all Danton was a dreamer.
Many of you have been touched by the magic of Edgar Rice Burroughs
and certainly by Dan's enthusiasm and excitement over his grandfather's
legacy of fantasy worlds and larger-than-life heroes. I like to think
that Danton has gone on to some such distant world and is living the adventures
dreamed by Ed Burroughs. I'd like you to join me in closing our eyes --
close your eyes and visualize Danton Burroughs in Martian trappings, sword
in hand and standing shoulder to shoulder with John Carter and Tars Tarkas
-- under the hurtling moons of Barsoom -- and battling against almost overwhelming
hordes of tharks. You hear them cry out in unison: "I STILL LIVE!"
. . . and he does.