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Boy (Johnny Sheffield), Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) and Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) trying out their Tarzan yells in Tarzan’s Secret Treasure, 1941. A new Tarzan movie is planned for release in 2016, starring Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane. @SPN Cut credit:(Photo courtesy of Bill Hillman, erbzine.com )
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Are you out of touch with your inner Tarzan? That would be too bad. There’s a lot to like about the Edgar Rice Burroughs creation, a fictional feral child raised by apes and then introduced to civilization only to reject it, in favor of returning to and defending the wild.
Bill Hillman, a former teacher and Edgar Rice Burroughs aficionado who has published thousands and thousands of pages on Burroughs on his website, erbzine.com, says Tarzan has numerous admirable traits.
“He was one of the first interested in preserving nature, preserving the wild. Burroughs was really ahead of his time on that and on women’s rights too,” he says. “And, he’s a hero. We all want heroes to look up to.”
Hillman is one of hundreds of fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, affectionately referred to as ERB, expected to converge on Clinton from Thursday, Aug. 20 to Sunday, Aug. 23 to celebrate the life and works of the man who created not only Tarzan, but also the Mars adventurer and warlord John Carter, along with heroes in other genres. The free, everyone-is-welcome, family-friendly gathering is called a Dum Dum, which means “a great gathering of apes,” and will feature a movie marathon, presentations and demonstrations, lots of stuff for sale, and, most important for those of you who do want to get back in touch with your inner Tarzan, a Tarzan yell competition.
The competition will be at 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 22, and, like the most of the rest of the weekend, (with the exception of one event, a banquet) it is free. For more information about the details of the weekend, visit: www.erbzine.com/dumdum.
So how does one practice for a Tarzan yell competition?
Ten steps to a perfect Tarzan yell
If you have a background in music, a description of the Tarzan yell is useful and readily available, as part of the trademark the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. organization sought for the sound. It is as follows:
“The mark is a yell consisting of a series of approximately ten sounds, alternating between the chest and falsetto registers of the voice, as follow — 1) a semi-long sound in the chest register, 2) a short sound up an interval of one octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound, 3) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 4) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 5) a long sound down one octave plus a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 6) a short sound up one octave from the preceding sound, 7) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 8) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 9) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 10) a long sound down an octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound.”
For those who might not be well versed in the intricacies of falsetto registers and Major 3rds, here is another suggestion from Hillman, who was the emcee for the Tarzan yell competition at the 2012 Tarzan/John Carter Centennial Dum-Dum in Tarzana, CA.
“Learn how to yodel,” Hillman said. Johnny Weissmuller, one of the most famous and popular Tarzan actors, is reported to have said yodeling helped him develop the trademark sound. There are several guides to learning how to yodel on-line, including this guide at WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Yodel.
“Do it like you mean it”
Still too complicated? Start with the most basic Tarzan yell, the Elmo Lincoln version. Lincoln was the first actor to portray Tarzan on the big screen. Hillman demonstrated the Lincoln yell at the centennial celebration. “I put my fists to my chests and pounded,” Hillman said. And when he opened his mouth?
That movie was made in 1918 and so it was a silent film.
The man who is a reigning Tarzan yell champ, Thomas Yeates, will be familiar to readers of the Prince Valiant comic strip. Yeates is the award-winning artist who draws the Sunday strip created by Hal Foster. He also has illustrated Louis L’Amour and a new graphic novel “Groo vs. Conan” (the Barbarian). He is considered one of the great Tarzan artists as well. He came in first in the Tarzan yell competition at the ERB celebration in 2012 in Tarzana, CA.
His advice? “Find a good note, reminiscent of Weissmuller’s familiar yell, and hold it long, strong, and with feeling,” Yeates said. “It helps if you can yodel, but whatever you do, including making up your own yell, do it like you mean it.”
Hillman says the full-fledged Tarzan yell is perfectly appropriate for any man, woman, or child who would like to have a go at it. There also is a specific “Jane” yell out there for ladies who would prefer an alternative. There are plenty of models and versions, most of them easy to find on YouTube. The yell has been appropriated in a wide range of movies including Indiana Jones and Stars Wars, and by actors, including, perhaps most famously, Carol Burnett, along with others.
Plenty of fun for everyone
Whether you’re in the mood to yell or not, the weekend has plenty to offer everyone, says Peggy Adler of Clinton, who was instrumental in bringing the event to the Connecticut shoreline. She’s been attending Dums Dums since 2006 and noticed most Burroughs Bibliophiles are in their 60’s and up. At that rate, she realized, the group would age out and there would be no more Dum Dums.
“So last March I came up with the idea to plan a Dum Dum a year in advance and then coordinate with the municipality, the library, the public school system, and the press,” Adler said.
“I not only live here and have since 1994, but have always felt that our awesome Andrews Memorial Town Hall would be a fabulous venue for this or any other convention,” said Adler, who has worked closely with the local school system on a ERB-related arts and essay contest for high school students, and to have information distributed to all children in the school system about the event. She also has made an effort to use all local stores and vendors, where possible. And, she’ll be distributing information about local eateries and businesses to attendees of the event, in the hopes it will help the local economy.
In addition to Hillman, who will be driving to the Dum Dum with his wife, Sue-On Hillman, who is a reigning female Tarzan yell champ, from their home in Canada, the event also will be attended by Yeates, who lives in California, and Linda Burroughs, the widow of ERB’s grandson Danton, from Tarzana, CA, and her two daughters, Llana Jane Burroughs, and Deiah Burroughs. Linda Burroughs and her daughters will be judging the Tarzan yell competition. Theatrical animal trainer Bill Berloni, who specializes in humane animal training techniques, will be the guest of honor and banquet speaker.
To learn more about the Tarzan yell, visit these links:
Evolution of the Tarzan Yell I:
Evolution of the Tarzan Yell II:
Check out the original Tarzan Yell by Johnny Weismuller on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwHWbsvgQUE
More information about this Dum Dum, a registration form and other information is available at www.ERBzine.com/dumdum; www.tarzan.com/meets; and http://www.pulpcomingattractions.com/, as well as at Dum Dum 2015’s FaceBook page, group & event. For more information about Edgar Rice Burroughs and a Bibliophile membership form go to http://www.burroughsbibliophiles.com/. The deadline for banquet registration is Aug. 12, and a registration form can be found here: http://www.erbzine.com/dumdum/. There is a $35 fee for the banquet. The rest of the weekend is free.