Margaret Tante Burk was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1918. She attended Northwestern University and Chicago Art Institute before moving to California where she settled in Los Angeles.
Margaret Tante married Harry John Burk, Jr., in 1945. The couple had three children: Harry John III (Tray), Linda, and Jimmy; the family would reside in Wilshire Park. She was vice-president of their Burk Enterprises, which included the one hundred room Lebec Hotel, real estate development, and a restaurant.
In 1964, Burk started working as an assistant at the Huntington Savings and Loan Association. She was quickly promoted to vice president and manager of the Wilshire-Highland branch and by the end of 1965, she became vice president and director of public relations for the entire association. These promotions were distinctive, for Margret Tante Burk was one of the first female vice-presidents of a financial institution in the Southern California.
While working at the Huntington Savings and Loan, Burk became involved in the Wilshire Center Chamber of Commerce and in 1969, she was elected as the first female president of the chamber. Her work as Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee and of the General Membership Speaker Committee and as a member of the Transportation and Parking Committee had paved the way for this presidency.
Among her other distinctive firsts, Margaret Tante Burk also managed to become the first woman voted in to the Lions Club International.
In 1969, Burk became the public relations director for the Ambassador Hotel and the Cocoanut Grove, where she worked in some capacity until 1990. During her time with the Ambassador Hotel, Burk scheduled and coordinated hundreds of events such as award shows, fashion shows and conventions. Her work as publicist for the hotel earned her national advertising awards and public relations awards. For example, in 1971 she received the Hotel-Motel National Public Relations Gold Key, a signal honor.
In 1974, in an indication of her prominence in the business world and her important connections, Margaret Tante Burk was nominated to be Treasurer of the United States in the Richard Nixon Administration.
After the Ambassador Hotel closed in 1989, Burk continued to book the hotel as a filming location. Numerous movies and television shows were filmed there including "Pretty Woman" and "The Aviator."
Margaret Tante Burk's love for the hotel and appreciation of its history prompted her to write and publish a book entitled "Are the Stars Out Tonight": The Story of the World Famous Ambassador and Cocoanut Grove Hollywood Hotel. This book includes a history, photographs and anecdotes about the hotel and the Cocoanut Grove. Besides writing this book, Margaret Tante Burk also authored two other books, was a columnist for Meredith Publications, and contributed to such publications as "Variety" and the "Hollywood Reporter."
Margaret Tante Burk co-founded her own public relations firm, Burk-Hudson Public Relations, with Marylin Hudson in 1972. Their clients included the Tony Marks Accounting Firm, Iran National Tourist Organization, California Senior Beauty Pageant and Summit Lighthouse. Their public relations firm worked out of the Ambassador Hotel.
Along with Adela Rogers St. Johns and Marylin Hudson, Margaret Tante Burk founded the Round Table West in 1977. A sophisticated book club, the Round Table West hosted famous authors such as Ray Bradbury, Walter Cronkite, Maya Angelou and Michael Crichton and served as a platform for authors to meet their readers and promote and discuss their books. At one point, with three meetings a month respectively in Newport Beach, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, Round Table West was the largest book club in the country.
Margaret Tante Burk's philanthropic and community contributions were numerous; the following is just a sample. She founded the Hancock Park Art Council and the Huntington Organ Society. She served as the fund-raising chair for the Children's Home Society of Bakersfield. She was also a board member of the Professional Women to the Philharmonic and the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society.
The City of Los Angeles (including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the entire city council) honored Margaret Tante Burk in June 2011 with an official proclamation "for her devoted service to the people of Los Angeles as a strong voice within the community, championing city culture and philanthropic issues which has made Los Angeles a leader, nationally." Los Angeles City Councilman Tom La Bonge presented the award to Margaret Tante Burk.
Margaret Tante Burk passed away in 2011.
© 2012 Loyola Marymount University