Friday, August 17, 2012

The Real and the Imagined

It’s a big weekend in Tarzana. Since I live there and the crochet mysteries take place there, it’s of double interest to me. Tarzana is named after the Tarzan and this weekend the community is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the character.

How did that happen, you might ask? Edgar Rice Burroughs bought the estate of Gen Harrison Gray Otis and renamed it Tarzana Ranch. Later on it was developed and the open land was filled with houses and Tarzana Ranch became just Tarzana.

A U.S. postage stamp with Edgar Rice Burroughs likeness is being unveiled on Friday. Saturday there is a lecture on the history of Tarzana and a kids fair at the Tarzana Cultural Center. Sunday there is a street fair.

The Tarzana in my books is almost the real place. I include the area of Ventura Boulevard that has been designated the Safari Walk. What that means is there are metal cutouts of jungle animals hanging from the light posts and the trash cans on the street have a jungle motif. When the Safarai Walk thing first started there were topiary animals along the street. They have disappeared in real life, but still exist in my books. In both the real Tarzana and my books are what I have heard are referred to as mini parks. It amounts to a square of sidewalk replaced with some red stuff and decorated with a couple of boulders. Mini park, really?

I made up all the stores in my version of Tarzana. So there really isn’t a Caitlyn’s Cupcakes, Luxe, Le Grande Fromage or Shedd & Royal Books and More. And though I make passing mention of real stores like Gelson’s or Whole Foods, I leave out the tattoo parlor and the generous sprinkling of stores selling risque lingerie and adult novelties. They don’t exactly belong in a cozy.

But back to the festivities this weekend. The street fair on Sunday is particularly of interest to me. It is kind of life imitating art. My next book, If Hooks Could Kill, takes place in August and one of the plot lines has to do with the Tarzana Hookers and a street fair. As I was writing, I had a mental picture of it in my mind. I can’t wait to see if the real one looks anything like it.

Thanks to the centennial I learned some more quirky things about the area. Edgar Rice Burroughs ashes are buried under a mulberry tree in front of where he once had an office. I noticed the newspaper didn’t mention an exact location, but I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for that mulberry tree. And who knew that Jane Goodall, the ape expert, had a teenage crush on Tarzan? She’s even taking part in the celebration at a conference put on by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc at a Woodland Hills hotel.

I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of jungle calls and men in loin cloths wandering the streets of Tarzana this weekend.


Planner said...

I didn't realize that Tarzana has such an interesting history. Best of all, it began with one writer's imagination (who, by the way, was born in Chicago).

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, I hadn't thought of it that way, but you are right. It did begin with his imagination.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I loved reading about the history of Tarzan and Tarzana, Betty. All the events in celebration of Tarzan's "birthday" sound like lots of fun. Enjoy them!

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, I'm sure I'll get some material for future books.

Michelle said...

We've been on a bit of a Tarzan kick at our house -- started with an AMC documentary my husband was watching. and now we're getting the movies from Netflix and I've downloaded the books onto my Kindle.

Now I'm adding your books to my to-read list!

Betty Hechtman said...

Michelle, thanks for adding my books to your list!