First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life & Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Volume 2188
Danton Burroughs Eulogy
A Family Friend    (May 17, 2008)

Greetings. It is a great privilege to be standing here today in such a crowd of people -- some of whom have known Dan half a century. I, unlike many here today, knew Dan for only six short years.  Within seconds of meeting him, Dan successfully hooked me by showing me the most amazing pocket watch I had ever seen.  I fell in love with his endearing nature, his amazing stories and collections, but most of all I fell completely head over heels for his daughter, Dejah.  Dan, with open arms, allowed me the pleasure of living in his home in order to be closer to Dejah, and be part of his family, and as part of that family, be available at all hours … in all weather … to aid Dan in his quest for the acquisition and procurement of rarities and oddities.

As Dejah's and my relationship grew, it was clear to me that I was becoming closer to Dan as well. I never really minded being woken up in the middle of a night during a rain emergency . . . where we’d run all over the yard trying to cover up anything we could prevent from getting water damage.  Dan always made it an adventure, and inevitably we would end up indulging in some collection or another… sometimes "organizing" late into the night.  It was an unexpected windfall -- aside from a beautiful girlfriend I was making a friend for life.

His generosity went far beyond the trips to Catalina and the gifts he would frequently push into my hands . . . always saying the same thing . . . "Hey Tommy take a look . . . do you like it? . . . IT'S YOURS!"  I never understood why he collected so many rarities and oddities.  Perhaps it was all part of his generous nature … after all, Dan usually gave more gifts in a day than most give in a liftetime.  His home already seemed so full of not only possessions, but love too. I tried not to question it, as I always say -- to each his own. And while Dan’s "own" was like no other I have ever witnessed, he always kept the truly important things in life close.

One example of this was his commitment to his family, the man like a human pocket watch would divide time between protecting his family’s legacy and playing during the week: Santa Barbara on Fridays, Catalina on a nice weekend or holiday, leaving Tarzana traveling wherever to catch up with Linda and the girls, and at times, if it was convenient, he would hit up a swap meet or two.  He loved his wife and kids dearly, often recollecting how he fell in love the summer of 1974 in the magical world of Avalon with the woman of his dreams -- telling me how she gave him the two most precious things of all his collections, Dejah and Llana Jane.  In the same breath he would tell me what a "sucker" I was for not popping the question on Dejah, half jokingly of course.  And in true Danton fashion, after grilling me a while, he would open his heart even more by pledging to adopt me if I wasn’t ready to become a Burroughs by marriage.  I would always scoff, and assure him there was always plenty of time left for him to walk his first born down the aisle. There always seems to be time.  Since the Tuesday of the fire I have been thinking about "time" a lot.

On the night of the fire, after the blaze which almost consumed the entire Tarzana house was extinguished, I caught up with Dan. He was roaming around, helpless and in shock.  Like always, I just asked him plain and simple . . . tell me what you need . . . and for the first time in knowing Dan, he couldn’t answer me.  He always had something to cover up, or organize, or polish, clean, tinker with . . . but he couldn’t muster an answer as all his burnt trophies and treasures were being scooped up and thrown in a rubble pile in the driveway.  We ventured into the blackened pit that once housed Dan’s favorite trophies to see if we could save anything from further damage.  We went into the room, and everyone turned silent.  It was as if every firefighter who so valiantly saved the rest of the house knew what this room meant to its owner.  It was so quiet, all you could hear was the sound of running water flowing out of the room . . . and of course the myriad of pocket watches still ticking away. I turned to Dan, and I said, "See Dan . . . the watches are still ticking . . . time will go on . . . life will go on . . . hear that ticking? It is all just stuff -- you, Dej, Linda, and Jane are fine."

In the past, I had made the mistake of trivializing some of his collections.  I believe I even let the word junk slip once or twice.  When I was living at Dan's home, a little tension grew now and again over the acquisition of new collectibles, as we were barely keeping our heads above everything that already filled the house.  And usually there was no telling him his "own" business.  But the fire seemed to change all that in Danton. He turned to me, rather triumphantly -- as if he were thinking it simultaneously . . . he said to me, "You know Tommy . . . you're right, I’m damn lucky."  Danton refused to be possessed by his possessions.

Dej and I returned to my home in Hollywood, and I sat awake in bed . . . thinking of Dan, his loss, but more than anything, his acknowledgment of all his treasures as just stuff.  I thought more about the watches . . . and about time the most.  I sat there thinking how symbolic the fire was . . . in the room of watches . . . the room of time.  How Dan, like the watches, was suffering more and more from complications from his Parkinson's.  How his time was becoming more and more valuable, more rare. And selfishly I actually thought how I would have to sacrifice my own time with Dejah, so that she could spend the time with Dan to help him through the upcoming final phase of his life.  Lastly, I thought about the actual fire … and how maybe this could be a new beginning for Dan.  A rebirth into a less cluttered lifestyle, with fewer messes created by his passion for collecting, and more messes created by his family, friends, and loved ones. I felt like all those watches were still running . . . they can be repaired . . . they can all be made better than new again . . . and so can Dan.

Dej and I woke early the next day, and began helping Dan sort through the damage.  We joined in with Linda and Llana Jane, and with the help of countless friends we tried to do our best to help.  We labored till late that night, all the while, the watches continued to unwind . . . ticking away.

Totally exhausted, we left again for Hollywood to wash all the ash and soot from our faces.  Dan called Dejah and me around 10:30 Wednesday night, telling Dejah that we were to be commended for doing such a great job helping.  After telling Dejah, what a sucker I was for not asking her to marry me one more time, he again pledged adoption as the next best option.  Then he told us he'd see us bright and early, to help out again the next day.  "Whatever you need Dan -- we’ll see you tomorrow." We hung up, but that night I was kept awake as I thought about the realities of marriage.  I thought how it might be problematic to enter into a marriage with someone who recounts everyday of her childhood as being just like Christmas morning.  Dan's shoes seemed impossible to fill.  Not just because his feet were big, but because the fantastic world he created here in Tarzana for Linda, Dej and Llana Jane was all but a fantasy. It is a real life Disneyland.  I worried that the girl who is a Princess by birthright, may not find a lifetime of happiness with an ordinary person like me.  I was so tired from cleaning up all day, I am not sure when my eyes closed . . . it was as if it all was just a bad dream.

Sunrise came with the sobering realization that it was no dream. And as the tragic events of the next morning unfolded, I again was struck by the timing of it all.  Amidst all the chaos of the fire we found Dan alone that morning, but in peace.  We found Dan the most peaceful I have ever seen him.  A serene contentment seemed to flow freely from him, filling the house.  In that moment it felt like when Dan would play one of his old records that hasn’t been heard in seventy years, the kind that if he hadn’t played it … it would probably go another seventy without being heard by a single soul. You know that the moment is precious, rare and fleeting.  In a weird way, I was happy to be there, to be with him . . . he was so beautiful to me lying there . . . and I didn’t realize till later why.   It wasn’t till Auntie Dian arrived and pointed out that this was the first time I had ever seen him without any medication, without any shakes, without any pain. He was free of that all now.

In the blur of days that followed, I was in awe of the great number of people calling and writing to express their regrets. This is the true measure of a man.  I answered the phone till I couldn’t bare the thought of repeating the news one more time.   I spent a lot of the time looking at the treasures that Dan spent a lifetime accumulating.  Everywhere I turn in his home, I am reminded of him and the quest for the rare and odd, and like him it is all so amazingly beautiful.  I can't help but think how great it would be to have some more time … just a few ticks of those watches he loved so much, to tell him everything I wished I could have told him in life.  But something tells me he knew it all.  In a house full of priceless things Dan truly was the biggest treasure of all.  As rare as they come, as generous as a human soul can be, a true one of a kind.  The Burroughses, ERB Inc., Tarzana, The Valley, and the entire world, have lost one of the best, one of the greatest.

Just a few days ago, I decided to redouble my original efforts at dealing with the fire damage.  Now without Dan to guide me I felt lost, and found myself standing … clipboard in hand, ready to catalog all the items … but unable to start.  All I could do was stare at the charred watches that Dan labored for hours to wind, repair, and maintain.  It was strange, how just a week before, I was standing in there with him.  Something was wrong, beyond the burnt items, beyond his absence.  For the first time the room was entirely dead silent.  Not a single watch remained ticking. I pulled one of Dan's favorites from the wall and wiped some of the soot revealing all the gems, precise inner workings and masterfully painted numbers.  I thought how Dan's legacy, like the watch, will endure . . . not just through the magic of John Carter and Tarzan … but the legacy of his collections … the legacy of his generosity.  I wound up the watch, and like clockwork, it started ticking right away.  Again, father time stared me dead in the face.  The watches now were saying something totally different to me than they were just a few days prior.  They were telling me that, although Dan is no longer physically part of this world, his spirit will live on in everything he did, from his movie deals, to the watches, to the streetlamps he was so fond of.  All it takes is a little winding or a quick change of a mercury vapor bulb and Dan is there lighting up the darkest of nights.  I think that is what our collective purpose is here today… to wind up Dan's legacy for the next decades … to pass on the stories and the knowledge of the charismatic, charming, loving husband, father, friend, and pillar of our community.

In closing, on behalf of the Burroughs Family, Linda, Dejah, Llana Jane, Dian, and John, I just want to thank you all for every concerned phone call, every letter, every prayer, and every gesture.  The kindness that has poured from the neighborhood, and the entirety of Dan’s fans, friends, and family, is a true testament to the greatness of the man we celebrate here today.  We would like to thank the Firefighters of the City of Tarzana for your efforts and professionalism in successfully containing the fire before it spread to the rest of the house.  We would also like to thank Dan's other family at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.: Willie, Cathy, Janet, and Jim -- your support has been unequaled -- thank you for taking every opportunity to make all this as easy as possible. The family would also like to thank Bill Hillman, not only for your lifetime of commitment to protecting, preserving, and documenting all facets of ERB, but for your support for the family through your letters and articles. Your contributions are invaluable. And lastly, most of all we would like thank Alex Cornelius. It is obvious why Dan trusted you so completely.  Your ability to offer sound unbiased guidance is only eclipsed by the size of your heart.  You have truly been our rock, our confidant, our shoulder to cry on, and our legs to stand on.  We are forever indebted to you, and could spend a lifetime repaying the care and empathy you have so willingly and lovingly given. Thank you Alex, and thank you everyone for coming here today to help wind the collective watch up, please let all of our memories of Danton tick on for lifetimes to come. Thank you.

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