||The Tarzana Ranch party hosted by Danton Burroughs
was an exciting experience for ERB fans and scholars, as well as for many
Tarzana neighbours who had spent their lifetimes peering up at the evolving/devolving
Burroughs estate property and wondering from afar about what was going
on up there at that Tarzan place. For devoted Burroughs fans it was a chance
to explore what remains of the Tarzana mansion grounds, buildings and exotic
trees. Sadly, the original main building is long gone and only photos and
memories remain. What remains is what was once the garage/ballroom building
that had also served as a classroom for ERB's three kids: Joan, Hully and
Jack. Ed also had installed film projection equipment in the main room
of this building and had entertained family and friends with regular showings
of Tarzan films, the latest Hollywood epics, and home movies. Picking up
on this, Danton used the more modern technology of video tape and large
screen television to share highlights of the Burroughs home movies. I believe
that most of those in the audience were struck by the uniqueness of this
experience: Burroughs fans of all ages now gathered in the area that had
once housed Ed's fleet of automobiles while his grandson reflected on the
images preserved by the camera work of one of America's greatest authors.
The backdrop to these images was a wall of windows overlooking the property
of what had once been the main house, while behind that was the panorama
of the sprawling San Fernando Valley -- much of which was quite unrecognizable
when compared to the footage shot 80 years ago. What was evident in the
films, however, was the grandeur of the original Tarzana mansion, the exhuberance
and excitement shown by Burroughs family as they frolicked across the estate
grounds with its fascinating buildings, pool, menagerie, and the many other
touches that showed that Burroughs' imagination and zest for life was not
limited to the printed word.
Danton's sharing session was followed by a lengthy presentation by Ralph Herman who outlined the history of the Tarzana area and the Burroughs holdings. A transcript of this talk is featured in ERBzin-e. He and Danton displayed related documents, as well as a metal plaque that was found in one of the building walls. The lavish spread of food and drinks plus the Burroughs-related art that bedecked the walls proved to be a great catalyst for social interaction. Visitors were allowed the complete run of the premises and pockets of minglers constantly shifted and morphed through a myriad of forms. The arrival of ECOF convention organizers Rob Greer and Bob Zeuschner with the hot-off-the-press convention packets made all of this a little easier as the goodie bags contained name tags.
We were especially glad to have time, however short, to chat with old friends from the ERB world. E-mail messages and telephone chat can never take the place of real hug/clasp/smile/patter get-togethers. It was especially gratifying to see Mary Burroughs (John Coleman Burroughs' second wife) and daughter Stacy make contact with Danton after so many years. Also there to spend some time with Danton was Nanette Mark and her son Cory. Nanette had assisted JCB in his final years, and she had helped him work on projects such as the Library of Illustration. We had corresponded with Nanette for a number of years and finally having the opportunity to meet her was one of the weekend's highlights. Having been a long-time fan of JCB's work it was very gratifying to me to see these three boosters of his work finally reunited and sharing stories of the man's warmth and contributions.
On our last visit to Tarzana, Billy York had graciously driven us around and shown us all the sights. At the time we were impressed with his colourful Hawaiian style shirts. Upon asking where he had found them he replied that his wife Barbara had sewn them all. This year Billy convinced Barbara that ERB fans were really "normal beans" -- sorta -- and so, this time, she bravely came along. Barbara proved that her sewing talents far exceeded just the manufacture of Billy's trademark shirts: she presented Sue-On and myself with two gigantic and beautiful "jungle" quilts. Our second-storey bedroom overlooking Brandon's Assiniboine River valley is very large and since this is the room in which we display most of our ERB collection, these additions were just what we needed to make it truly an ERB world.
A major contributor to the take-away package prepared for the ECOF visitors was renowned artist, Tom Yeates. We have a special fondness for Tom's work as he did a Barsoomian flavoured sketch of Sue-On and myself at Jim Thompson's Clarksville ECOF 2000. Tom designed this year's convention logos that appeared on the "Burroughs Fan" and "Tarzan Fan" T-shirts. Also included in the package of goodies was a limited edition book featuring Yeates art. It wasn't long then before fans had crowded around Tom's table to request that he autograph memorabilia.
Helen Baker and the reps from the Tarzana Community & Cultural Center were in attendance and were very eager to learn more about the Burroughs phenomenon. They are hoping to launch an ERB museum in downtown Tarzana.
A three-hour PBS documentary is in production by Griffen Films who were well represented at the ranch and throughout the convention weekend. Producer Patrice Bonnyrat along with two of the show's hosts, Bruce Boxleitner and Lydie Denier. These personable television and film personalities did much to add to the glamour and excitement of the event. The fact that Lydie is the owner of a Ford Probe almost identical to one of ours reinforced our admiration for this beautiful French actress known to all Tarzan fans as Jane in the Wolf Larsen series.
Ralph Herman, who had renovated the Tarzana Ranch building before selling it to ERB, Inc., led a tour of the building: to the second floor with its incredible view of the valley and surrounding mountains and over to ballroom section with its upper storey projection room overlooking the high ceilinged ballroom. Amazingly, this building has survived a succession of owners, the ravages of time, major earthquakes, developers, vandals, taxes, and decades of bureaucratic hassles to rise up again under the Burroughs name.
This remarkable day was topped off with an unforgettable dinner in an Italian restaurant on Ventura. Our warm and generous host was Mary Burroughs. She and Stacy had chosen this restaurant based upon reviews they had read on the Internet -- and it was a good choice. By chance this was the last night for the eatery under the current ownership and the mood of the staff and patrons seemed to swing from celebration to melancholy to noisy exuberance. Mary had invited Dick and Ginnie Sparger to join us and their company added to the richness of the gathering. The last time we had visited with Mary was at the Clarksville ECOF in 2000 where she had been the convention's guest of honour for which we had collaborated on a booklet showcasing the life and work of John Coleman Burroughs.
My nightly pre-turn in stroll around Woodland Hills and Tarzana was quite uneventful, and after a brief chat with the last of the night owls in the hotel lobby I decided to call it a day... and what a day it was.
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