Celebrating 100 years of
Edgar Rice Burroughs' legacy
-- and namesake of Tarzana
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer
LA Daily News ~ August 13, 2012
It wasn't the screech of chimpanzees that lured famed researcher Jane
Goodall to dream of the wilds of Tanzania. It was Tarzan of the Apes, Lord
of the Jungle. "The more I read, the more passionately I fell in love with
Tarzan," said Goodall, recalling her preteen crush in an email to the Daily
News. "I took whichever book I was reading at the time up to the top of
my favourite tree in the garden -- a beech tree. There, I imagined myself
living in the forest, living with and helping Tarzan."
As the burly ape-man turns 100, Goodall will join hundreds of fans in
Woodland Hills this week (Aug. 15-18, 2012) for a Tarzan/John Carter Centennial
Celebration. They'll yodel the famous Tarzan yell. They'll go ape during
Tarzan "dum-dum" dancing. And they'll swap every kind of Tarzan book, knife
and loincloth. The four-day junglethon at the Warner Center Marriott will
celebrate the life and work of San Fernando Valley author-cum-marketing
genius Edgar Rice Burroughs, father of the City of Tarzana and a pioneer
of serial fantasy and science fiction.
In a separate ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Friday, the U.S. Postal Service will
unveil a Burroughs-Tarzan stamp at the Tarzana Cultural and Community Center.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, developer and historian Ralph J. Herman will recount
the swinging roots of Tarzana at the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library.
Then at 11 a.m. Sunday a Tarzana Sidewalk Fair, including African drums
and a Tarzan and Jane look-alike contest, will take place along Ventura
Boulevard's Tarzana Safari Walk.
"I feel awestruck by it. I feel humbled," said John Burroughs, 70,
of Malibu, grandson of the late author. "I feel my grandfather would feel
A jack-of-all-trades from Chicago, the young Burroughs had become a
self-described flop at nearly everything -- cowboy, gold miner, shopkeeper,
railroad cop, Sears and Roebuck manager. He'd even joined the U.S. Cavalry
in Arizona to chase Apaches, "but fortunately for me," he once said, "I
never caught up with any of them."
But at 37 Burroughs was broke, with a wife and two children and a third
on the way. So he took a job managing sales of pencil sharpeners. In desperation
between slack sales, he tried his hand at pulp fiction, scribbling on office
scraps. His first story, "Under the Moons of Mars," sold in 1911 and was
serialized to July 1912.
But it was his second,
Tarzan of the Apes: A Romance of the Jungle, published in
the 15-cent "The All-Story" magazine of October 1912, that would launch
the Burroughs' Tarzan business empire. Its lurid cover depicted the ape-man
about to plunge his dagger into a roaring lion. And its 131 pages told
of an Africa still wild, undiscovered and mysterious. And of Tarzan its
true noble savage -- born of a marooned British lord and lady and raised
by a new tribe of apes.
The brawny ape king falls in love with a castaway, Jane. And over the
next 26 Tarzan books, he leaps across the jungle canopy, and battles natives,
jungle crocodiles and even center-of-the-Earth dinosaurs. All the while,
Tarzan manages to perform his heroic exploits while managing to speak Mangani
ape, grammatically perfect English, and a host of other languages from
French to Dutch, German, Swahili, Arabic, ancient Greek, ancient Latin,
Mayan and more.
The buff polymath returns to jolly England, becomes disenchanted with
civilization, then whisks Jane back to his beloved jungle. And he would
became protector -- over the next 100 years -- of everything that was good.
"We need heroes," said Bill Hillman, founder of ERBzine.com,
an official fanzine with more than 10,000 Burroughs and Tarzan pages. Hillman
fell in love with Tarzan as a farm kid on the prairie of Manitoba, Canada,
where he became hooked on actor Lex Barker's movie screen ape-man. Then
he discovered color Tarzan comics and Tarzan radio adventures. And became
an expert on everything Tarzan.
"He was one of the first greenies," said Hillman, 69, a musician and
retired professor. "The bad guys were mostly white guys trying to destroy
the jungle. My god, he was ahead of his time -- with environmentalists,
women's rights and being a hero with high morals."
In 1918, "Tarzan the Apes" starring Elmo Lincoln became the first
film to gross $1 million. Five years later, Burroughs became one of the
first authors to incorporate and be a pioneer for marketing books, films,
radio segments, comics and merchandise. Since then, 50 Tarzan movies have
captivated the big screen, and 65 Tarzan episodes and 32 cartoons have
regaled TV watchers. Tarzan has been featured in 450 comic books, with
comics syndicated in 250 newspapers. Tarzan books have sold 100 million
copies around the world -- reaching an estimated 1 billion fans.
A hundred years after his birth, the Tarzan brand is worth "millions,"
according to his estate. Three Tarzan books are in the works, including
a new novel by Robin Maxwell as told by Jane. A Tarzan video slot machine
released two years ago with $5 million payouts is one of the most popular
in Las Vegas. And a new 3-D Tarzan animation movie by the German Constantin
Films is in the works for possible release next year.
"Tarzan lives," said Jim Sullos, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs,
Inc., now controlled by his heirs at his original 1927 office-studio in
Tarzana. "Why? Because he represents someone who couldn't be corrupted.
He learned self-preservation as a baby. He learned not to be dependent
on anyone except his ape family. All he needed was his knife."
This is a vintage aerial photo of the estate in Tarzana
that once belonged to Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the "Tarzan" books.
All Burroughs needed was his pen. In 1919, he bought the San Fernando
Valley estate of Gen. Harrison Gray Otis and renamed it Tarzana Ranch.
An advocate for wildlife, he became a game warden to ward off hunters.
Then rode his horse down to his Ventura Boulevard office to spin tales
of adventure. He penned 70 novels and 40 short stories.
In 1927, his partially developed estate was renamed the community of
Tarzana, where residents remained thrilled by the Tarzan centennial. "I
think it's really exciting," said Jon Tsuchiyama, owner of West Valley
Nursery in Tarzana. who sits on the cultural center board. "It was years
in the making. It puts (us) on the map."
During World War II, Burroughs witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, and became the world's oldest war correspondent. When the war ended
he moved to Encino, where he developed Parkinson's Disease and became a
curmudgeon like Andy Rooney, according to his grandson John. Shortly before
his grandfather died on March 19, 1950, John remembers the writer lying
in bed as rain pattered against the window. "He put his finger on a drop
of rain, as it hit the mullion," Burroughs recalled. "And he said, `I shall
not pass this way again."' Burroughs' ashes now lie beneath a giant mulberry
tree outside his former Ventura Boulevard office, family members say.
And Tarzan will forever be the heartthrob who changed her life, said
Goodall, one of the keynote speakers at the Tarzan conference hosted by
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Bibliophiles Literary
Society. "I was really jealous when he married that other Jane," she said,
saying she herself would have been a far better mate. "I would not have
been afraid to go anywhere with Tarzan. I would not have been afraid of
any wild animals," she said. "I would have willingly risked my life to
help him when he was in any kind of danger. The more I read, the more jealous
Edgar Rice Burroughs, left, author of the Tarzan stories,
is seen with Glenn Morris, the 1936 Olympic decathlon
champion who played Tarzan in a 1937 movie.