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Volume 2183

Danton Burroughs
A Memorial
By Scott Tracy Griffin

My introduction to Danton Burroughs was via a phone call that he initiated, one of the most surprising and flattering events of my participation in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fandom. Thus began a friendship that I never would have dreamed of during a youth spent voraciously devouring adventure novels penned by Danton’s grandfather, American novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, 80 years previous.

A little backstory is in order.

I arrived in Hollywood in the summer of 1989, ready to take the town by storm. I had a screenplay trilogy in hand that I hoped to produce and direct, a Rocky-type tale of underdog victory in the realm of high school and college basketball by the working title of "Johnny B". I spent three years entertaining nibbles from various investors, who inevitably passed on the gamble of yet another kid with a semi-autobiographical script and big dreams.

Though the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs were a seminal influence in my creative development, I had no time for them during college and my early years in Hollywood. My ultimate goal, however, was to see Burroughs’ creations, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, on the big screen as Burroughs wrote them, and it was with this in mind that I pitched my original projects around town in hopes of building a professional reputation.

In 1992, frustrated at the inability to get my own projects green-lighted, I decided to investigate the possibilities with the Burroughs franchise. A query letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated, requesting the option status of several lesser-known properties went unanswered (the franchise was not actively marketing much product at the time).

Doing a bit of sleuthing, I discovered that organized Burroughs fandom, as represented by the Burroughs Bibliophiles literary society, had been resurrected after a period of dormancy. George T. McWhorter, curator of the peerless Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville Library, was responsible for the revival.

Joining the club to research Burroughs’ work further, I was immediately taken into the fold by many of the veterans, which inspired me to begin writing articles for the Burroughs Bulletin and other fanzines. I soon joined the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association, a group of the hardest-core fans who submitted quarterly articles to their own limited-press publication, the ERBAPA.

It was one of these articles, “Racism and the Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs,” that inspired Danton to call me. The article, though a crude effort by my later standards, sought to provide a balanced context to Burroughs’ racial attitudes, which are often demonized by those who don’t know the scope of the Burroughs’ sometimes surprisingly progressive attitudes, and suggested how objections to such could be addressed while introducing Tarzan and Burroughs’ other works to a new generation of fans.

Danton raved over my writing (hearing that my favorite author’s grandson was a fan of my writing made my head swim!) and issued an invitation to tour the offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated, which I quickly accepted and stumbled through, star-struck.

Inspired by how Danton and the veteran fans at the 1994 Dum Dum Convention (so named for the ceremonial gatherings of Tarzan’s apes in the novels) so quickly accepted a young devotee, I began contributing heavily to fan endeavors, organizing a Southern California chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles and hosting the annual Dum Dum conventions in 1996 and 1999 — the latter in conjunction with Walt Disney’s Studio’s release of Tarzan.

My fan writings soon led to professional assignments, often covering Tarzan films or interviewing actors and actresses for publications, among them Cinefantastique, Femme Fatales, FilmFax, Mississippi Magazine, and others. I also consulted and did on-camera interviews on numerous news programs and documentaries on Burroughs, often on Danton’s referral, and befriended a number of A-list authors and artists who also owed a creative debt to Burroughs, and who would provide role models for me during my creative maturation.

During this time, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated was experiencing a renaissance, and was enjoying its greatest success in decades. Disney’s Tarzan and other big budget, A-list projects introduced the Apeman to new generations, and, thanks to the efforts of Danton, five unpublished, near-forgotten works by Burroughs went to press. Though these were not commercially lucrative projects, Danton recognized their historic value in fleshing out his grandfather’s legacy, of which he was a tireless advocate.

All the while, the mutual respect and friendship Danton and I felt was growing. My early interactions with Danton were both enjoyable and frustrating, since he was sometimes stretched so thin by his professional and social commitments that it was hard to get quality time with him. However, my estimation of Danton rose to even greater heights following the Tarzana Convention in 1996, when he threw open his lavish home, filled with priceless antiques and collectibles, to dozens of friends and strangers who came to pay tribute to his grandfather. Danton’s generosity and good humor seemed boundless at these times, and he enriched countless lives with his actions.

Although I shared many great times with Danton in group settings, my fondest memories are dinners with Danton, when he led of a band of merry makers at a sort of Algonquin Round Table West, usually headquartered at Charlie G’s, his favorite steakhouse. After tours of the office for visiting fans and professionals, we would repair to dinner, where he presided over lively conversations that often included high-ranking Hollywood players, visiting dignitaries from fandom, artists, authors, San Fernando Valley eccentrics, and various other eclectic hangers-on, the category in which I counted myself. Fortunately, I wrote detailed accounts of these entertaining dinner parties in my personal journal, recording the history of the Burroughs franchise in which I was a participant, and I can go back and relive those times for years to come.

It’s hard to believe those days have ended, as there were never enough of them. If there is some small consolation in Danton’s passing, it is in the hope that he went peacefully, and the knowledge that he did not suffer the final ravages from the progression of the Parkinson’s disease, which afflicted him as it had his father and grandfather. Rest easy, Danton; to paraphrase your grandfather’s immortal creation, John Carter of Mars, “You still live!” in our hearts and memories.

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Read the Danton Burroughs Obituary in the LA Times: HERE

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1. Hillman

2. Friends

3. Yeates

4. Griffin

5. School Chums
Photos 1

Photos 2

Photos 3

Photos 4

Photos 5


6. Bibliophiles

7. Phil Burger
Celebration of Life

1. Memorial Card
Celebration of Life

2. Friend's Eulogy
Celebration of Life

3. Hillman Eulogy Notes
Celebration of Life

4. Mertes ~ Photos I
Celebration of Life

5. Photos II

Photos III

Photos IV

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Hillman Eulogy

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Later Years

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