I was born in 1954 and grew up in LA's San Fernando Valley, not far
from the E.R.B. Business offices. I started drawing when I was about 10,
and began painting very soon after that. It was around this same time that
I discovered the Ace paperback editions of Tarzan, Pellucidar, John Carter,
and all the other Burroughs novels that Ace had published, as well as those
amazing covers by Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta.
Those covers served as Style Guides and visual reference for the movies
my mind created as I read the pages that followed.
It was during a visit to the E.R.B. offices in 1975 that I first met
Danton Burroughs. I showed him some of my Burroughs based artwork I'd brought
with me, and he gave me a tour of the place. Once, during another visit,
Danton ducked out of his office briefly and returned with a stack of original
Frazetta paintings from the Ace Editions. Poring over those was a genuine
Over the next two years we would occasionally get together (usually
to go to parties). I would always come up with a house address and Danton
would always drive us. Back then he owned this humungous maroon colored
convertible Panzer Tank from Detroit that he'd named "The Barsoom." Tars
Tarkas would've loved it. It was ugly and it was beautiful. In 1977 I moved
to San Francisco and didn't run into Danton for another 12 years.
I moved back to L.A. for a short time, then back to S.F in 1987 when
I went to work for Bill Graham at his Rock and Roll merchandising company,
Winterland Productions. The salary was nothing spectacular, but some of
the fringe benefits (an evening at Frank Zappa's home, a backstage photo-op
with Peter Gabriel) were priceless. I was there for 14 years, 10 in house
as a contract artist. Through the years I've produced concept art and storyboards
for CGI Animation projects, texture mapping and matte painting on game
projects, promotional art for MCA Universal Studios, and countless other
projects I can't even being to recall.
Back when I was 10 and started painting and drawing, I knew I wanted
to become an illustrator, but I couldn't imagine the amazing places that
path would take me to.
Danton then suggested that I go visit his father John Coleman Burroughs
who lived nearby. After calling his dad he told me to go on over and the
front door would be open. The door was open when I arrived and I took a
step in and said "hello" a couple of times. Getting no reply, I went down
the hall into the living room where JCB sat, surrounded by Burroughs based
paintings done by him and many others. He was shaking from Parkinson's
Disease and could no long speak.
I sat and introduced myself and showed him a couple of my Burroughs
pieces. He smiled and then waved his arm around the room, bidding me to
give myself a tour. I confined myself to the living room and hallway, where
there was still plenty to look at. Before leaving I thanked him for his
hospitality and noticed he had been crying slightly (I think he was when
I first arrived). By the time I left, I think I was too.
Moving back to LA in 1981, I soon found work doing pre-production art
and storyboarding for an independent action film project. the project never
took off, but it DID lead to a meeting with someone with a very interesting
past that I've only recently become fully aware of. His name was Barry
Mahon, and at that time all I knew about him was that he'd been Errol Flynn's
agent late in Flynn's career.
Barry had produced some cold war quickies such as "Rocket Attack, USA"
and "Cuban Rebel Girls" (with Flynn). I worked for Barry off and on for
the next two years doing pre-production art and storyboarding for low-budget
Bible films made for European Distribution. After a time I moved on and
Mr. Mahan faded into memory. A couple of years ago his name came up in
conversation and I mentioned that I had once worked for him, which was
met with an astonished, "You did"?
That made me curious so I looked Barry up on the Internet Movie Data
Base, where I discovered that not only had Barry been Flynn's agent but
his personal pilot as well. He had been a pilot in WWII and had been shot
down over Germany where he was sent to Stalag 18. Barry became a tunnel
rat (digger) for what would become known as "The Great Escape," and apparently
Steve McQueen's character in the film version was based on Barry Mahon!
. . . ya never can tell about folks. . . .