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Tarzan fans swing into L.A. for dum-dum (convention)

LOS ANGELES -- A record number of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans were going ape Thursday at the 38th annual Tarzan convention.

With the release of Disney's animated "Tarzan" movie this weekend, about 150 Lord of the Apes fanatics attended the show at the Warner Center Marriott in the Woodland Hills community of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.The convention is officially called a dum-dum, the word for the ceremonial gathering of great apes in the Tarzan books. Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, is the only human being who ever joined in the fierce, mad, intoxicating ape revel.

Trading stories of the jungle and feeding their addiction for Tarzan books and paraphernalia, attendees set a mark for the highest turnout in the 38-year history of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Bibliophiles Literary Society.

"At our 1996 convention, we only had 106 people," said Scott Tracy Griffin, the event's chairman and founder of the Southern California chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles, the L.A. SubERBs. "The lure of Tarzana really brings them in."

Burroughs, sometimes called the "the grandfather of science fiction," published 77 novels and short stories between 1912 and 1965. There have been more than 60 film adaptations of his literary works.

Burroughs lived on the spectacular Tarzana Ranch, located in what is now the San Fernando Valley community of Tarzana, said 73-year-old Bob Hyde, president of the national Burroughs Bibliophiles. Burroughs died March 15, 1950, while reading a Tarzan comic.

The convention, held in various places around the country, has a special draw when it is held near Burroughs' former home.

"It's a spiritual homeland for us," Griffin said. "It's a chance to walk hallowed literary ground."

The convention lasts through Sunday and features a dealers' forum of rare Burroughs items, as well as field trips, artists and writers. The public has access to the books and paraphernalia for free. Full admission, which includes a preview of the movie, a Saturday banquet and dinner at the Tarzana home of Burroughs' grandson, Danton, costs $70.

Burroughs addicts could purchase plastic-wrapped books such as "Tarzan the Untamed" for $75 and "John Carter of Mars" for $125.

Ralph Brown, a teacher from Willows, Calif., talked about the lure of such treasures. "There were times I would wait in bed nervous and sweating because I got a Tarzan catalog in the mail and I couldn't call to order stuff because it was too early in the morning," he said.

Brown said first editions of Burroughs' books can fetch from $5,500 to $55,000. With the release of the movie, the value of Tarzan books and memorabilia is expected to rise even more.