The 40th anniversary of an historical celebration for ERB and Tarzan fans is upon us. On Thursday, August 28, 1975, four former Tarzan film actors got together in Los Angeles to help kick off the festivities surrounding the inaugural North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). The event was the first “continental convention,” instituted as a gathering for those years in which Worldcon was to be held outside North America. The 1975 NASFiC convention officially honored the centennial of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ birth.
The Tarzan reunion was equally significant for Burroughs fans as the warm-up for the climax of their Labor Day weekend: the 1975 Dum-Dum, held on September 1. The Dum-Dum, which continues to this day, is an annual gathering of ERB fans and takes its name from the wild celebrations of the Mangani, the ape tribe in which the young Tarzan grew to adulthood.
“Tarzan at the Dum-Dum” by Frank Frazetta
The New York Times covered the August 28 reunion of the four Tarzans: James Pierce, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, and Jock Mahoney. Reporter Robert Lindsey noted that the actors “did a jungle scream in unison for the press at a pre-luncheon cocktail party.” He also mentioned that another former, Denny Miller, had joined the other men in the evening. All five were guests of honor at the Dum-Dum the following Monday. Three actresses who had played Jane attended the weekend and were also Dum-Dum guests of honor: Louise Lorraine, Joyce Mackenzie, and Eve Brent.
The photo below was taken on September 1, 1975, the date of the Dum-Dum gathering and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 100th birthday.
Lindsey’s New York Times piece was titled “Wily Tarzan Lives On, Dollarwise” and used the reunion as a springboard to review the significant financial success of the Tarzan brand. His source was Robert H. Hodes, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., who had been hired in 1967 and was focused on growing the company’s revenues. One of his early efforts had been to get the Tarzan novels translated into French, which Lindsey noted had “touched off a cult-like interest in Mr. Burroughs abroad.” Hodes said that about 70% of the company’s income was from overseas and that “next to Coca-Cola, Tarzan is the best-known name in the world.”
Among the more intriguing schemes Lindsey reported was Hodes’ plan for “a Tarzan bikini bathing suit that will be introduced first in Europe by distributing hundreds of free samples – but only the bottom part.”
The Times article concluded with the following:
Tarzan’s popularity, Mr. Hodes hopes, will be enhanced even more by the publication, coinciding with the centennial of Mr. Burroughs’ birth, of a biography titled Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan. Published by the Brigham Young University Press, the book was written by Irwin Porges.
“All of this is going to snowball,” Mr. Hodes said. “I’m building snowballs.”
With David Yates’ new TARZAN film on the way, after 40 years those snowballs just keep coming.