Tarzana has a funny name, but it's no coincidence that it sounds like a certain king of the jungle — the town was named for Tarzan. Tarzana's celebrating 100 years of Edgar Rice Burroughs' first Tarzan novel, 1912's "Tarzan of the Apes."
After the success of the Tarzan novel, Burroughs bought a 550-acre piece of land in 1919 from General Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Burroughs set up a ranch that he named after Tarzan, according to Tarzana reference librarian David Hagopian. Local residents started calling the area around the ranch Tarzana, and when Burroughs sold off the ranch and developers moved in, the name stuck and became the official name of the community in 1928.
Tarzana is flying into their Tarzan reverie starting Friday with the U.S. Postal Service holding a ceremony with descendants of Burroughs to celebrate the first day of a brand new Burroughs stamp, based on a 1934 photo of Burroughs and an image of Tarzan clinging onto a signature vine.
That image raises a question though — when you think of Tarzan, which version do you see? The black and white film star? The comic strip hero? The brawny piece of Disney animation? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting us at @KPCC.
Tarzana's also screening the 1932 "Tarzan of the Apes" film Friday. Saturday, a local historian and friend of the Burroughs family is giving a talk about the family and the early days of Tarzana and the Tarzana Ranch. They're also holding a Free Fun Day with events for the whole family.
If you're really feeling the call of the jungle, though, Sunday's your day — they're holding a Tarzana Sidewalk Fair at the Tarzana Safari Walk. If you're in a "Me Tarzan, you Jane" relationship, maybe you can climb into some outfits for the Tarzan & Jane best dressed look-alike contest. They've also got African drumming, exotic animals (perhaps a pet chimpanzee named Cheeta?) and more.
Even if you miss out on this weekend retreat, there's a little piece of Tarzan in Tarzana the rest of the time, too. That Safari Walk stretch of road on Ventura Boulevard between Reseda and Burbank is a regular part of Tarzana, named for their movie hero. Streetlight stands and garbage can holders on this street are decorated with metal cutouts of African animals. There's a Tarzan display at the local post office, a jungle theme at the Tarzana Inn and some African touches at the local library. The library also has a special Edgar Rice Burroughs collection.
Tarzan was the story of a British aristocrat raised by apes in Africa. It inspired movies, a 1999 Disney animated film, comic books, a comic strip, two radio series, a 1966-68 live-action series on NBC and several animated television series.
An important contributor to that Tarzan legacy died on Sunday: Joe Kubert, legendary comic book creator who's considered the definitive Tarzan artist. You can see some of his art in the slideshow above.
Burroughs was born in Chicago on Sept. 1, 1875, working in a variety of fields until 1911, when he became... a pencil sharpener wholesaler. That was just one year before publishing Tarzan.
One day, Burroughs was checking the placement of ads for his pencil sharpeners in a various fiction pulp magazines and got pulled into reading the stories.
He decided, "if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten."
Although his writing experience mainly consisted of fairy tales and poems he created for his children, nieces and nephews, Burroughs said he "knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lots more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines."
Burroughs submitted a manuscript for an exotic novel, "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess," to The All-Story magazine. Editor Thomas Metcalf changed the title to "Under the Moons of Mars," publishing it on a serialized basis from February to July 1912 and paying Burroughs $400, the equivalent of nearly $9,300 today. That series of stories included John Carter, which you may remember from a recent (though less than successful) sci-fi action film.
Burroughs completed two more novels by the time the final installment of "Under the Moons of Mars" was published — "The Outlaw of Torn," which Metcalf rejected, and "Tarzan of the Apes," which Burroughs ended up writing 25 sequels to.
Burroughs' writing career included more than 70 books, including historical fiction and several popular series of science fiction. He was even a journalist, serving as a correspondent in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Wait a second — a journalist, you say? Hey, maybe there's still time left for me to write the great American novel after all.