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Edgar Rice Burroughs Fans Meet in Oak Park

80 fans -- including Burroughs' descendants -- gather to pay homage to the 'Tarzan' author.

Though Dejah Burroughs never met her great-grandfather, novelist and "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, she is more than insistent on keeping his name alive.

"Before my dad passed away, he made sure I would take this legacy on," Dejah Burroughs said. "This is part of my life and my heritage and I should be thankful for what I have and what he gave me. It's a very important thing that we need to keep going for our young kids."

Along with older sister Llana, Dejah took the torch she now bears to the Pleasant Home in Oak Park, 217 Home Ave., on Aug. 20. There, she was joined by about 80 Burroughs fans from all over the world – some as near as Burroughs's hometown of Chicago and others as far as Columbia – as part of Dum-Dum 2010, the annual gathering of the Burroughs bibliophiles.

While the "Tarzan" series is by far Burroughs' most popular creation, it is but a blip on the author's creative radar. Considered by many, including his great-grandchildren, to be the "grandfather of science fiction," Burroughs generated mega-hits generations before the likes of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" reaped box-office success.

"He was the inspiration for a lot of those properties, and it shows the impact and the influence of how his work helped so many people," said Cathy Wilbanks, executive assistant at Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. in Tarzana, CA.

"They've learned to read through him, they've changed their lives because of him," she added. "He's such an incredible inspiration and a lot of people can really identify with his characters. It's been fantastic."

Wilbanks, who resides in Santa Clarita Valley, CA., also serves as the archivist at the Burroughs House, where she handles the licenses for many of the creative properties.

Comic book artist Thomas Yeates has dealt with Wilbanks and Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. on numerous occasions to secure licenses for his illustrations. Yeates said he was inspired by the author's views on society, which further translated to a love of his work.

"Being a man who had failed at every business you could imagine, and many you couldn't, before he started writing at 35 or 36, he was very critical of society, as I am," said Yeates of Jenner, CA. "I relate to his brand of escapism because he was so out of sorts with our society."

Devoted fans like Yeates were treated to an opening reception, replete with food and drink, and an extensive display of Burroughs memorabilia to cap off the afternoon.

The faded Depression-era newspaper clippings, movie props and first-edition "Tarzan" magazines making up the collection were more than enough to keep the bibliophiles energized. According to Wilbanks, it was exactly what Dejah's forefathers would have wanted.

"It's exciting," Dejah Burroughs said of the event. "It makes me feel like my dad. He really wanted to [preserve] this legacy, and everyone is helping it come along and put it out there. It feels very comforting to me. He's a great man, Edgar Rice Burroughs."

Looking for more info about Burroughs? Make sure to check out our series "Oak Park Influences."

Henry Franke August 27, 2010 at 12:13 AM
This article gives the reader an excellent summary on how the Edgar Rice Burroughs family, fans, and the corporation that he founded continue to keep his memory alive and ensure that Burroughs' creations are still available for the audience of today. Also see the article on Ray Bradbury noting this world-famous science fiction and fantasy author's view that Burroughs was the most influental writer of all time. and Bradbury means it. Read why.
Ken Manson August 27, 2010 at 08:01 PM
Good article on the convention I attended., but the Plesant Home event was not the opening reception. It was the last event that day that included tours of Edgar Rice Burroughs' four homes and office in Oak Park and a tour of the former firehouse at Lake Street and Lombard Avenue that will be the future home of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest and an expanded Burroughs museum within the building. Other events were held Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at a hotel in Hillside.
Derek Walker August 31, 2010 at 08:15 AM
Thanks for the comments, Henry and Ken. Just to clarify, when I refer to the "opening reception," I refer to the first chunk of the event at the Pleasant Home, including the meet and greet and free snacks. Apologies for any confusion, and again, thank you for the feedback.

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