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Issue 0673

The Many Worlds of
Edgar Rice Burroughs Signature
Presents
An ERB Traveller Report

The Summer of '92
by Laurence G. Dunn
This article first appeared in
Frank Westwood's
Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs



Part I
ECOF Gathering '92, Denver Colorado
Beyond the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Conservatives were gaining their fourth consecutive General Election win whilst Manchester United were missing out once again on the League Championship that has eluded them for the past 25 years. But did I care for such insignificant matters...? Of course not... for I had booked my passage across the great pond to attend not only the 10th. annual ECOF gathering in Denver but would also be travelling to Louisville for the 3rd. annual Dum-Dum under George McWhorter's reign as editor for the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

After making a connecting flight at Washington D.C., I eventually arrived in Denver to find John McGuigan and Bill Ross waiting to give me a helping hand with my luggage. At this point I had already clocked up about 22 hours straight and was quite ready to hit the sack - that was until it was suggested that we visit the local gentleman’s club! Believe me, if you ever want to unwind after a long flight, this has no contenders!! There was this blonde...

From the outset I knew that this gathering was not going to be well attended. But that is no longer an issue for my going - meeting those who were going was, and that has now become a fundamental feature of these events... a close binding friendship with other people that share the enjoyment of the works by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The following morning, John and I returned to the airport to await the arrival of first, Danton Burroughs, followed shortly thereafter by Elaine Casella from New York. Back at the hotel, Bill Ross was welcoming more arrivals that had made other travelling arrangements.

Shortly after the huckster room was set-up, I was heading out of the hotel when I was stopped by a couple asking for directions. As I turned to point them in the right direction, the guy turned to his wife and said “I know who he is, but he doesn't know who I am!” Well since I had only just turned up in Denver myself a few short hours beforehand, I figured that he must have me confused with somebody else. But no... he was right for it turned out to be John Martin who has just relinquished editorship of the ERB-APA and who I had apparently shaken hands with way back in 1989 at the Tarzana ECOF convention.

Of course one of the main advantages of arriving early is that you get the opportunity to snap up the good stuff ....hence my acquisition of 23 Big Little Books in superb condition all in one fell swoop from John McGuigan!! Eat your hearts out guys!

By Thursday evening, the majority of people had turned up and were duly invited to John's apartment for a barbecue. The rain held off just long enough for John to do the cooking up on the roof garden whilst everyone else was admiring his full set of signed first editions (apart from Tarzan and the Lost Empire) and only The Return of Tarzan does not have a dust jacket. I am one of the fortunate few who ever saw John's collection at it's height before he decided to specialise and sell everything else off including all of the incredible artwork from the likes of St. John, Boris, and Krenkel. Later on after several people had left, it was suggested that the remainder go to a local theatre and see 'Batman Returns' which had only just opened. The film brought mixed criticism but it made for an enjoyable evening.
 
 

Another sacrifice on La's altar
Elaine Casella trying to get a point across –
with Gordon Scott’s original Tarzan knife

The following day, Roy and Delia White were inviting folk back to their home to view their collection. Those that did not go decided to visit the bookstores around Denver instead. With Mike Conran driving, we hit every book and comic shop on Colfax Avenue (and there are a lot!). While most of us had to be satisfied by picking up the odd missing paperbacks for our collections, we never heard the end of it when Bill Ross somehow managed to pick up a G&D in dust jacket for just $7.50!

Later in the day I heard that Danton could not find several cheques signed by ERB. that were planned to be auctioned off. After hearing where he had last seen them, I recalled seeing a pile of items left on the top of my suitcase in John's apartment. I had needed to get into it and so moved the items over to a slightly precarious spot while I opened the case. It was only later when I heard of the missing cheques that I figured that they may have slipped down behind the cabinet. Sure enough they had and Dan was so delighted to have them back in his possession that he gave me one as a thank you. So that is how I came by my first Burroughs signature. Gratitude pays, and thank you Dan.

After eating our evening meal in a local Chinese restaurant, instead of doing the sensible thing and try to walk off our dinner, we decided to take the free tram ride back to John's place. We discovered that the police also travel this way for the public's protection. During our journey, one officer spotted a guy holding something suspicious in his hand and cautioned Danton to stand back. Just as the bus pulled up at the next stop, three officers suddenly jumped onto him. Quick as a flash, he was pushed off the bus and spread-eagled against a wall to be searched. Whatever became of him we never did discover, as the bus driver didn't hang around along enough for us to find out.

Back at the apartment, I managed to catch the European Football Championship Final between Germany and Denmark while others were wading through the mammoth collection of Burroughs letters that John has accumulated over the years. They give a fascinating insight to the man whom we have come to endear over the years. One such example is a spate of letters between Ed and his son John Coleman. John had been involved in a minor car accident and was being admonished by his father. After being put on the straight and narrow, John addressed his next letter to Ed as 'Dear God'. Ed replied just as humorously by starting the letter 'Dear John, Son of God'. John (McGuigan that is) also has a remarkable collection of signed stills from the various Tarzan movies. One is signed by Kamuela Searle from 'Son of Tarzan' dated just days before his accident that led to him being replaced in the final scenes.

On Saturday a parcel arrived from Mitchell Harrison containing the latest issue of Tarzine with a superb colour cover that John had specially commissioned. Those that were there at the time mucked in to collate each package for distribution. I doubt if there has ever been so many on hand to put together a Burroughs fanzine before.

It was soon time for the now customary evening banquet that was to be held in a restaurant that was once a mining shack at the turn of the century. Unfortunately John Martin and his wife missed the event as they had a long drive back to Washington State, as did George Alonzo and Ken Webber (who did the motif for this years' gathering). After everyone had finished their main course, the group moved outside before dessert was served. With a little more room to manoeuvre, Bill Ross presented the ERB Life Achievement Award to a very surprised Bob Hyde.

Bob Hyde and Danton Burroughs
Bob Hyde is congratulated by
ERB’s grandson, Danton Burroughs

As Sunday morning dawned, we heard the news that an earthquake had rocked southern California. While Danton was busy making phone calls home to check see if everything was okay, the remainder of the group were saying their farewells and ready to head for all points of the compass. This included our host John, who was setting off to France for a 10 week crash course to learn the language. ('Comment le cours s'est-il passé Jean?').

Having come this far, Elaine and I were not quite ready to fly home and so headed North towards the Rocky Mountains and the Tetons. In spite of a minor transmission problem that threatened to leave us stranded atop snow capped hills, we managed to make our way through Wyoming (Yellowstone Park - to see 'Old faithful' and Yogi Bear). Through snowstorms we travelled and on into Montana (where Custer met his demise and also visit the Devils Tower as seen in the film 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'). This was followed by a brief sojourn into South Dakota (to see the four Presidents heads carved into the face of Mount Rushmore). Once more the weather had it in for us as the threat of a tornado passed overhead, the huge cloud vortex swirling high above was an incredible sight to behold. Fortunately however, it never quite formed into a twister (at least not where we were standing!).

Laurence Conquers the Tetons
Enjoying the fresh air beside the Tetons

Upon our return to Denver, I found myself with time to spare before my flight home as Elaine's flight was a day earlier than mine. With John no longer in town, I decided to visit Rich and Joan Dumont who now live in a small town, 3 hours South West of Denver. As I drew ever closer (at least my map and the road signs were telling me that I was close), but still could not see it, I was beginning to wonder just how small this town really was. Suddenly it came into sight just as I turned a bend and passed over the brow of the last remaining hill. Driving down Main Street (there is only one street) people smiled and waved in an almost over friendly fashion... Had I passed into the twilight zone...? Rich was currently running for County Commissioner but took the time off to show me his collection (although most of it was still in boxes from their move a couple of years earlier) and the surrounding countryside. They had their doubts if they could make it to Louisville depending on how the election went, so I wished them luck and made my own farewell.

Six (very short) weeks later......


Part II
Dum-Dum '92, Louisville Kentucky

Arriving in Boston on a Friday afternoon is not a good idea... it would seem that everyone, but everyone wanted to leave town at the same time that I did. It was chaos! It took two hours just to reach the city limits from the airport but at last I made the open road and headed towards Binghamton NY. There I picked up Elaine Casella on the way to see Brian and Judy Bohnett who had hosted last years' successful ECOF gathering in Michigan. The Bohnetts' had apparently bought me a present (for last Christmas) but never quite got around to sending it. So when they heard that I was coming, they arranged Christmas all over again - in August!! It was great fun complete with turkey and crackers, they even decorated the tree!! On route to Louisville the four of us stopped off at Cedar Point (a roller coaster park near Toledo). Unfortunately the heavy rain put paid to any thoughts of ear-piercing screams as they were forced to close most of the rides down.

By mid-Thursday afternoon we had arrived in Louisville amidst some of the worst summer weather the U.S. has ever experienced, most of it caused by Hurricane Andrew pushing torrential rain belts ahead of itself. I was never going to get a tan here!!

Earlier in the year I had heard that Clay Davis was selling off his Burroughs collection in favour of fossils (Is there a difference Clay?). I inquired to find out if he had any of the John Carter of Mars figures brought out by Heritage some 15 or so years ago. He did, but at the time was not planning on selling them. To cut a long story short, Clay changed his mind and they ended up in Bill Hauser's hands. But after hearing that I was also interested them, Bill agreed (after a little haggling) to sell them to me. Clay had done an incredible job in painting a great number of these figures and it is a shame that Heritage went out of business, for the figures really are superb.

In the huckster room, dealers had laid out their wares and eager hands were searching through the merchandise for that something special. Amongst other things, I managed to get a copy of Frank Merrill's 'Tarzan the Tiger'. It is of course on the U.S. NTSC system which means that I shall have to wait until I buy a video recorder that will play both NTSC and PAL (our version of VHS) systems. In the meantime, it will sadly have to gather dust on my bookshelf before I can manage to view it.

Elsewhere, representatives from Malibu Comics in the form of Henning Kure, Mark Wheatley, Neil Vokes and Alan Gross, were on hand to talk about the future of the new Tarzan comic. Original artwork from the forthcoming 'The Beckoning' was on show, although none of it was for sale.

Over at the University, George McWhorter had placed on display the massive ERB collection that is housed within its walls. The local TV news cameras were there to capture the event (although only a few managed to catch it on TV). Over in the University auditorium, the 'Son of Tarzan' was being screened. This was the first time I had ever seen this film and was amazed at how clear a copy it was. I was to later see Mike Conrans' copy due to the fact that I missed the first 20 minutes. His copy is the edited version with a music score and yell added, which although worth having, is just not in the same class - Sorry Mike!

Fred Lukas was finally able to show his home videos of the early gatherings and the Tarzan's that he has met over the years. Originally it was meant to have been screened two years earlier but for the over-running of events, but it was well worth the wait.

On Saturday afternoon, Jim Thompson conducted an auction of donated items, money from which was passed on to George McWhorter to help finance the Burroughs Bibliophiles. The remainder of the ERB cheques which Danton had taken to Denver were also auctioned off and brought on average of $100 per cheque. Burne Hogarth had also donated several drawings for sale, one of which was bought as a special donation for the University collection.

Denny Miller and Laurence Dunn
Denny Miller (Tarzan the Ape Man remake) and myself

The guest speakers at the banquet were Darryl Richardson, Sam Moskowitz, Richard Lupoff and Don Kraar. Last of all came Burne Hogarth who many remembered for his 45 minute speech two years earlier. This time he was to outdo even himself by talking for almost two hours! Although what Burne had to say for the most part was interesting, many began to drift away long before the end. Finally he gave way and George McWhorter was at last able to present the Golden Lion Award, one each to Mitch Harrison and Bob Zeuschner. The ERB Life Achievement Award went to Frank Westwood who, and it must be said a first... was left speechless!

By Sunday morning, the skies were clear and another ERB convention had come to a close. One by one our numbers dwindled away until finally it was my turn to go. I was to take Elaine Casella back home on route to Boston, but first we detoured North to visit the Conran's in Michigan. Mike has two rooms in his basement literally bulging at the seams with Burroughs related material. I could spend a lifetime in here.

Next stop was the Bohnett's once more. The four of us visited Ann Arbor and Detroit to do a little book hunting. Elaine managed to find a laser disc with the re-release of Greystoke that has the extended footage. It would appear that this 'extra footage' has always been a part of the version available here in England.

With the summer of '92 drawing to a close, I reflected upon the years' events and considered that while there are those who follow politics or football, may have had a turbulent year - depending of course on who they were rooting for. I on the other hand, had had a great year. Two conventions, some wonderful additions to my collection, and last but by no means least, seeing old friends once again. You can't beat that.


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