TARZANA >> Tarzana may be home of the Ape Man, but it's now dedicated to the Man of Steel.
Superfans and stars of the 1950s TV series “Adventures of Superman” unveiled a curbside plaque in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Tarzana on Saturday celebrating the 100th birthdays of Superman creators Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, and the inimitable Superman actor George Reeves.
“It's wonderful, and astonishing, all these years later,” said movie producer Jack Larson, 86, of Brentwood, who played cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, standing over the granite plaque marking a site where he and all five of the show's main characters had shared an action-packed location shoot 61 years earlier.
“I was a big reader of the comic book Superman, which I had the first editions for 10 cents,” he said of the superhero comics now worth millions, “which my mother threw away.”
An estimated 60 celebrities and fans had come from around the world to the San Fernando Valley to pay tribute to one of Hollywood's earliest and most successful TV series from 1952-58, whose 104 episodes will be reprised by ME-TV on Sept. 6.
They had come to honor Superman, a visitor from the destroyed planet Krypton doubling as Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, who fought a never-ending battle for “Truth, Justice and the American Way!”
They had come to herald Reeves, the bright actor from Pasadena who had played the super man who bloodlessly defeated countless crooks, gangsters and other villains.
They had come to pay tribute to a TV cast that included Kent/Superman, Olsen, reporter Lois Lane (played by Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill), editor Perry White (John Hamilton) and police Inspector Bill Henderson (Robert Shayne). They were always on the side of what's right, and the super might that would triumph over evil.
After nearly six decades of reruns, who could forget the famous “Adventures of Superman” refrain? “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!”
For generations of children, parked before millions of televisions around the world, had wished they could fly just like their superhero.
“It's a special day for us,” said Jim Nolt, 68, who fell in love with Superman as a farm kid outside Lancaster, Pa., whose “The Adventures Continue” website (JimNolt.com) had raised $1,000 in 24 hours for the black plaque at 5400 Wilbur Ave. “For all of us, of course, we watched “Superman” as kids — and it just stays with us.”
It was on the corner of Wilbur Avenue and Linnett Street in June 1953 that the legendary cast had gathered for a police stakeout and fight scene between Olsen and the phantom burglar.
The morning dedication — including Larson; Laura Siegel Larson, daughter of Superman's co-creator; actress Stephanie Shayne Parkin, daughter of actor Robert Shayne; actress Beverly Washburn of the series, and Jacqueline Hamilton, granddaughter of actor John Hamilton — was attended by dozens of fans wearing blue, crimson and gold Superman T-shirts.
The event was followed by lunch at the Beverly Garland Hotel with a possible tour today of Reeve's boyhood and adult haunts, including the Benedict Canyon home where in 1959 he'd committed suicide.
Siegel Larson recalled the day, soon after moving with her family to Los Angeles, her father made a pilgrimage to pay his respects to Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of “Tarzan of the Apes, Lord of the Jungle,” whose ashes lie beneath a giant mulberry tree on Ventura Boulevard.
“Edgar Rice Burroughs was my father's literary idol,” said Siegel Larson, whose dad's Superman first appeared in DC Comics in June 1938, choking back emotion. “My dad became overwhelmed.
“‘The Adventures of Superman' (plaque), this is a tribute to the stories he wrote that brought joy to so many in the world. (In) Tarzana — of all places.”
For fans, it was tribute to the quiet strength of Reeves' unforgettable Superman. And the moral values exemplified by the series' legacy cast.
“As a kid, I just love the fact that Superman could fly,” said Mike Backhouse, 62, who'd flown in from Queensland, Australia, for the event. “As a kid, I always wanted to fly. I used to get a towel and jump off the back fence — but it never worked.”
Though TV's first Superman fired the imaginations of postwar boomers, the super mensch has already won the heart of a new generation.
Five-year-old Cisco Sanz-Agero, on whose family's parkway a block south of Ventura Boulevard hosts the Superman plaque, had donned a Superman shirt to seek autographs for his Superman comic.
“Superman is a hero, I like (him) because he is a good guy,” said Cisco. “I live in the Superman house.”