Star Wars. Those two words evokes a gambit of emotions and feelings inside of me. A long time ago in a theater quite possibly far far away, a small film titled “Star Wars” from little known director George Lucas made its debut. The movie opened before many of you reading this were even born on May 25th, 1977 in fewer than 32 theaters across the country. At that time no one could fathom what a cultural phenomenon this franchise would become. This story, ultimately about a man’s journey to redemption, captured young and old imaginations like nothing before it. That day effectively changed my life, along with millions of others. Despite being only 6 years old in 1977, I vividly remember the day that I saw Star Wars.
I don’t claim to have seen the movie on opening day, but I do know that it was sometime during the summer. My Uncle William, my cousin Byron, his friend Troy and I all piled into my uncles white Chevy Vega and headed to our local drive-in theater. I can’t say for certain, but I believe Star Wars may have been the first movie that I saw in a drive in theater. It is definitely the first one I remember seeing.
On the way to the drive-in I distinctively recall a sense of excitement, but I don’t remember why. Maybe I heard something about this movie at school. Maybe Byron and Troy, who are both three years older than me, heard how cool the movie was and told me. Whatever the reason was I couldn’t wait to see it. We pulled into our parking stall and my uncle grabbed the mono speaker and hung it on the inside of his window (that’s how it was done in 1977). It was show time.
Being the youngest one in the car had its privileges. I was allowed to sit in the middle of the back seat with a perfect view of the screen despite Byron’s and Troy’s objections. As the movie started I remember reading the opening scroll (Ok, thats not true. I dont remember that!) but I do remember the opening scene very well. A very small ship being followed by a much bigger ship. Growing up together, Bryon and I had a phrase that we used to say when something excited us and Troy had a phrase of his own. Upon seeing the extremely large ship on screen, Byron and I simultaneously stated our excited phrase of “Dang Mug!” Troy then stated his phrase, “Hot dog!” The enormous ship continued to span the screen for what seemed like forever. Daaaaaaaannnnnng muuuuuuug!!! Hottt doggggg, we exclaimed!! I remember this particular moment as if it was yesterday. The phrases dang mug and hot dog were never spoken as much as they were that day.
For the next two hours I was transported to a universe that has left an imprint on me like nothing has before or after. Sure I didn’t understand everything that was going on at that age, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the way this movie made me feel. The sense of wonder and adventure. The cool characters, locations and aliens. The coolest weapon ever created, the light saber. The special effects and space battles. Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3po. Darth freaking Vadar!! All of the characters hold a place near and dear to my heart. I was instantly hooked and drawn into this wonderful world that George Lucas created. I can say without a doubt that no other movie or entertainment experience before or since, has ever made me feel the way Star Wars did and continues to do.
Over the years my love for Star Wars has never waned. In fact it has only gotten stronger as I have been attending various conventions since 1994. I remember attending one of my first San Diego Comic Cons circa 1995. While perusing some comic books a voice came over the PA system and stated that David Prowse (Darth Vader) was signing autographs on a particular aisle. My cousin and I literally ran (yes back then there was room to run in the convention center) to that aisle and surprisingly enough there was only a handful of people there. I was star struck and the six year old in me came out as I was grinning from ear to ear. I could not believe that I was meeting the man behind the greatest villain that has ever graced the big screen.
I have been collecting various fandom items for as long as I can remember, but Star Wars items far out number anything else that I have. I have also had the pleasure to meet and obtain autographs of several of the other stars including Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C3po), Kenny Baker (R2D2), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) just to name a few. I even got to work with Mark Hamill (Luke) at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim a couple years ago. My job was to hand him items as he signed them for fans. I would have to say that this was the highlight of my Star Wars fandom. At that same show I was fortunate to also meet Carrie Fisher. Our interaction was brief but she joked with me as she signed my Star Wars print and comic book. I will cherish that memory and countless others for the rest of my life.
I could go on and on about the way I feel about Star Wars and what it means to me. Some of you out there know exactly what I mean. To those that don’t think of your favorite fandom and multiply it by one hundred. Sure there have been hiccups along the way (Phantom Menace and Jar Jar I’m looking at you!) but nothing is perfect. I was fortunate to be born when I was. I feel it was a perfect age to see Star Wars and to leave a life long impression on me. Since this is the 40th anniversary for Star Wars I won’t discuss the best movie ever made, The Empire Strikes Back. Ill save that for its 40th in three years. For now I will salute George Lucas for starting what I believe is the best best movie franchise ever when he released Star Wars 40 years ago today. Dang mug George, dang mug.