First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages in Archive
Since the last days of the twentieth century, nothing has been heard from...
Dum-Dum, Louisville 2003What is it that attracts the admirers of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his works to want to attend a convention? The annual convention of the Burroughs Bibliophiles returned this year to its birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky under the reins of George McWhorter. With it came record numbers totalling somewhere in the region of 135 people by the time we had sat down to the banquet on Saturday night.
Was it the mid-location that attracted people from both the east and west coasts? It seemed idyllic as it brought them from the southern states of Texas and Florida to as far north as Canada. It also made a pleasant change to not be the only overseas visitor this time around as Walter and Veronika Taucer from Austria were visiting the U.S. for the first time and they took time out from their travels to attend.
Perhaps it was the renowned collection at the Louisville University that George has amassed during a lifetime fascination for Edgar Rice Burroughs. Or did the attraction of special guests Boris Vallejo and his wife Julie Bell, not forgetting to mention actor Denny Miller and author Max Allen Collins (who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to family illness).
Maybe it was a combination of all these or simply that the widespread use of email these days has attracted many more people to wanting to attend and finally meet their friends on-line. Whatever the reasons, it attracted the largest number of Burroughs fans to a convention to date.
Friday 22nd : My flight out of Gatwick to Detroit where Brian Bohnett planned to meet me took around 7.5 hours. The variety of in-flight entertainment that I have come to expect was sadly missing from this United Airlines plane and I had to settle for What A Girl Wants and The Core - both of which were mediocre films and hardly entertaining. However conversation with the attractive female passenger sat next to me more than made up for it. She was on her way to meet her husband and young family already on holiday in Florida. Apparently she had been left behind because her husband needed the space after he had discovered she had been having an affair for the second time. The plot was far more intriguing than had been in the films that I had just watched.
Sunday 24th : For some time now the board of the Burroughs Bibliophiles have been looking at different ways that the group can promote itself. One of the options came from Jerry Spannraft for a bookmark advertising the BB to be placed in bookstores up and down the country. Brian was going to do a mock-up for discussion at last years' board meeting but unfortunately this project was shelved due to his other commitment in formatting the House of Greystoke / Mad Kings publication, Tarzan of the Funnies written by Bob Barrett. With the convention coming up and another board meeting looming, I asked Brian if we could present something for discussion this time around. A short while later we were at Brian's workplace and put together the bookmark. Brian then showed me the New Members brochure that he had put together almost three years earlier (long before I was ever a board member) but it had been rejected by our former chairman Phil Burger on the grounds of possible copyright infringement. I was so impressed with Brian's work that I asked if I could present it to the board again for their approval. Brian was more than happy to oblige.
Tuesday 26th : The morning rain had eased off as Brian and I headed over to St. Mary's College - the former Michigan Military Academy. I had suggested to Brian that it might be a fun idea to explore the coastline of Cass Lake where a young Ed Burroughs and fellow cadet Charles Campbell had planned a hoax duel. The event never took place as the commandant had got wind of the duel and summoned the two cadets for a dressing down.
We first drove over to the home of Buzz Brown (president of Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society who had given a talk at the 2000 Dum-Dum and later hosted the 2001 MMA Symposium). After a cooked breakfast at a nearby establishment, we then drove over to the college campus. What had been the barracks for the MMA cadets and is now used by members of the college staff has undergone many alterations over the years and that now makes it difficult to determine where Burroughs was roomed. During his spell at the Academy, he had of course risen through the ranks (and often demoted again) that meant his room was not always the same. However, from his notebooks that are now on loan at the University of Louisville we do know a room number on the third floor. But because of the number of changes to its construction, pinpointing that room has now become impossible. To begin with, we know that by comparing original photographs and how the building looks today, the line of the front of the building has moved forward indicating an extension in that direction. There are also two wings that have been added but even here, one can see that they have been done in more than one stage. Furthermore, at the rear of the original building, a corner stone can be clearly seen suggesting that it too had been extended in length. Unfortunately no documents have been uncovered to determine when these alterations took place and whether they had been made before, during or after Burroughs time there. The mystery takes a further turn as it is discovered that the original barracks could not have accommodated all of the cadets. This suggests the possibility that some of the buildings that had once been part of the hotel (its former use before the academy) may have been used to house the cadets. After coming away with no conclusions to our investigation, Buzz drove Brian and I over to Cass Lake. According to Burroughs notes, the duel was supposed to have taken place on the frozen lake. Buzz informed us that a lagoon located on the SW corner often freezes over before the main lake does. With the academy / college less than a mile away, it would seem plausible that this was where the two cadets had hoped to act out their ingenious hoax.
Wednesday 27th : The journey down to Louisville was 378miles which Brian managed to accomplish in a little over 6 hours due mainly to some very creative driving.
The Galt House hotel still stands taller than most of the other nearby buildings but in the 18 years since I first visited Louisville, it is fast becoming hidden by its neighbours. After checking in, we headed over to the University arriving at around 2:00pm to meet George. The main reason for our early arrival was to allow Brian the freedom to take notes for a future project from Burroughs own textbooks that he had used whilst at the MMA; Brown's School (pre-MMA); Phillip's Academy (Andover); and the Illinois Reserve (WW1) without the distraction of others looking through the collection.
George was able to give us a sneak preview of the shirts, buttons and collectible bag that would be a part of our registration pack. The stunning artwork by Boris was specifically commissioned for the convention and is adorned on all 3 items.
Brian and I still had not eaten since that morning so we left the University shortly before 5:00pm to grab a burger on the way back to the hotel. Refuelled, we returned to the Galt House just in time to hear our phone ring. It was Pete Ogden who I had seen just a fortnight earlier when he visited my home with Frank and Doreen Westwood. He had arrived in Louisville just moments after Brian and I had taken off for the University. We decided to wait in the reception area and there we found several more early arrivals. Despite having just eaten, we joined the others as they went off for their evening meal at the nearby Spaghetti Factory. Somehow I managed to find room for some ice cream as the late night conversations took us through to end of the day.
Thursday 28th : After a restful night we headed downstairs for breakfast. More recognisable faces had shown up who we had somehow missed the night before. George McWhorter also joined us so that he could open up the Huckster Room. As we left the dining area, we were astonished to see the long line of people waiting to get in. It turned out that the hotel was also the site for the Lott Carey convention. As I later discovered, Lott Carey was once a slave who earned his freedom and returned to his homeland in Africa as a missionary.
Outside the huckster room George was putting together the convention packages along with Joan Bledig and Tony Menegazzo. I joined in the fun and soon we were able to start taking registrations as the room opened to guests at around 11:00am. Some of the early vendors had already begun to set up their tables as more people arrived.
Brian had been the subject of discussions for the ERB Achievement Award amongst the board members last year but I had no idea if anyone had approached George. So taking it upon myself I wrote to George several weeks before the convention putting together the case for his nomination. George wrote back saying that another person had already been nominated but that was no reason why we could not have two winners at one gathering. So while George and I sat taking the registrations, he told me that he had taken up my suggestion and asked if I would like to present the award to Brian personally.
As the huckster room began to fill out, George made an announcement that our guest of honour Max Allen Collins who had written the fictitious tale The Pearl Harbor Murders (featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs and his son Hully) had been forced to cancel due to family illness. George was also hoping to have Tarzan actor Miles O'Keeffe along but he had been forced to pull out due to a current shooting schedule. However, all was not lost as artist Boris Vallejo would soon be arriving, as too would veteran actor Denny Miller.
John Tyner and Joan Bledig relieved me of my duty on the registration desk at which I immediately took the opportunity to buy Mike Chapman's latest book of Glenn Morris titled The Gold and the Glory. This is a fabulous book of the one time Tarzan actor, filled with photographs and a study of his life that is long overdue.
As the day wore on, several groups of people headed over to the University Ekstrom Library to see for the first time the wonderful Edgar Rice Burroughs collection. Next door to the rare book room is the auditorium where several Tarzan films were being screened including Tarzan the Ape Man (Weissmuller / O'Sullivan); Tarzan and His Mate; Tarzan Escapes; and finally, Tarzan Finds a Son.
That evening we dined at the Grill House that has a bar over to one side and a restaurant on the other. After an enjoyable meal we returned to the Galt House for yet more late night discussions. Sometime after midnight DJ Howell, Elaine Casella, Bill Morse and Mary Parker finally arrived. DJ had been on the road for around 20 hours after leaving her home in Connecticut and picked up her passengers one by one along the way.
Friday 29th : After breakfast we headed down to the huckster room once more. Elsewhere, despite having been in a car all day, DJ, Elaine and Mary took off once more to take a tour of Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Over at the University the auditorium continued to show several Tarzan films including Tarzan of the Apes (Lincoln / Markey) and Tarzan and the Golden Lion (Pierce / Dunbar). However most of the people attending the convention had wanted to see Ed's home movies so the huckster room was shut down at around mid-day and a large group of us decided to take the city bus to get over to the University. Unfortunately none of us knew which bus to take or how frequent the service was. However, we jumped onto the first bus that came along and the lady driver was very helpful and took us to as near our destination as her route would allow. We probably still had about another mile to go and while the majority were willing to wait in the hot sun for the next bus, John Tyner, Lois Ross and myself decided to walk. On our way we passed Masterson's Restaurant that had been the venue of the banquet dinner during the 1985 ECOF event that for me at least was a very nostalgic moment. Just as we reached the University grounds we could see a bus pull up around 100 metres behind us and we saw the remainder of our group alight from it.
The home movies had already begun with Bill Hillman giving us a commentary in absence of Danton who had somehow become lost. The tapes showed everyday life on the Tarzana ranch, the boys diving into the pool and the family riding horses. There was also a comedy skit that included all members of the family including Hully in drag with a lot of chasing around very much in the tradition of the old Mack Sennett shorts. This was followed by a series of slides before returning to the video to see some wartime footage including a bombing run filmed by Hully. Finally we were given a special preview screening of the pilot from the new Tarzan show that begins in October starring Travis Fimmel and Sarah Wayne Callies. I had managed to obtain the pilot on eBay about three weeks earlier and offered George the chance to use it. However, Danton also had a copy of it and had already given it to George for this very purpose. Just about everyone was impressed with the show with just one or two giving some negative comments. If the rest of the series is of this quality, I certainly hope that it succeeds.
As we exited the auditorium, George had laid on a cheese and wine party and everyone was able to congregate and talk about the show. Boris Vallejo and his wife were introduced to everyone as too were several of the library staff that have helped George over the years.
On our return to the Galt House we discovered George had invited a small group of us to dinner in the Flagship revolving restaurant on the 25th floor of the hotel. The view was startling to say the least as good food and service accompanied our dinner conversations. Thanking George for his generosity we again returned to the huckster room that had re-opened and was in full swing.
Saturday 30th : The morning began for me with a business breakfast as the board of the Burroughs Bibliophiles met to discuss various aspects. I was able to present the bookmark and the new member kit that brought all round approval. After almost two hours Mike Chapman and Don Gray who had sat in on the meeting were able to present their respective offers to host the Dum-Dum 2004 in Fort Collins, Colorado - Glenn Morris's hometown and the ECOF event in Sacramento, both of which were unanimously approved. DJ had missed the meeting as she once again took off with several of the other ladies to visit Lexington that is home to the Kentucky Horse Park where several retired racehorses are now stabled.
Bob Zeuschner and J.G."Huck" Huckenpohler then participated in a bibliographer's panel. Their presentations were vastly different from the one I had earlier taken part in at the ECOF event but every bit as interesting. Back in the huckster room Boris Vallejo and wife Julie Bell were ready to sign copies of their artwork. Several years ago I had some friends in a printing dept. make two enlarged copies from the cover of Boris's 1978 Tarzan calendar. One of those is now in a 30"x20" frame in my book room and the other I took along to be signed.
There were two auctions in the afternoon with Bill Ross once again conducting the affair. One was for donated items from which the proceeds would be given to George to help publish the Burroughs Bulletin and Gridley Wave. The second auction was for individuals to sell their items. Denny Miller placed several Gorton Fisherman memorabilia items in this auction and from which the proceeds would be going to the American Cancer Society.
The room was finally cleared so that the hotel staff could make ready the room for the banquet. The evening affair was a delight and after everyone had their fill, George called upon Bob Zeuschner to the stand. We were then given an insight into Bob's introduction to ERB and which he told it wonderfully. Boris Vallejo then stepped up and said a few words in thanks to the reception he had received at the convention. George then presented the first of the Achievement awards to a well-deserved Bill Hillman. After Bill had said a word of thanks, George then asked me to present the second award. I had decided to give a little background to my first meeting Brian back in 1985 for the ECOF event in Louisville. Many of the people I first met at that time were also present at this convention and it felt very nostalgic looking back on those days. For Brian's participation in hosting two ECOF events, co-hosting a Dum-Dum and writing several books least of which was a history of the Michigan Military Academy, I was proud to present the ERB Achievement Award to Brian. However, what no one had realised at the time George called me to the stand, Brian had already left the room to visit the Rest Room. I had been talking for perhaps two or three minutes when I suddenly noticed Brian strolling back into the room giving me a quizzical look. Brian told me afterwards that as he was walking down the hallway he could hear my voice and wondered why I was giving a speech. It was indeed fortunate that he made it back just in the nick of time!
Danton Burroughs then stood up to say a few words about what ERB Inc are currently involved with including the news that besides the current TV show, Warner Bros. are planning on a new Tarzan feature film. As the banquet ended, a photo call was made for the ERB-APA members, the Panthans, and the non-U.S. fans that had attended the gathering.
Sunday 31st : The farewell breakfast was a drawn out affair as people staggered their leaving time and it seemed like a never ending line of shaking hands, hugs, and kisses. It was during this time that I found there is a disadvantage to being the only Englishman at this event. Somehow just about most now knew and recognised me. I had two conversations that morning with different people who came over to talk with me and while they knew my name, they unfortunately did not introduce themselves. Fame has its price. : )
LAURENCE DUNN ERB TRAVELLER
photos from the Dum-Dum 2003 event have been collated at:
ERBzine 0839: Memories of Dum-Dum 2003
WEBJED: BILL HILLMAN
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
All ERB Images© and Tarzan® are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work © 1996-2002/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners