Star Wars Memories By Leon Chase. I think it’s important to remember that, for some crucial years between 1977 and the early ’80s, none of us had seen the actual Star Wars movies very much...
I think it’s important to remember that, for some crucial years between 1977 and the early ’80s, none of us had seen the actual Star Wars movies very much. Think back. VCRs were still an exotic luxury. Cable TV had yet to get a hold of the movies and saturate us with them 24-7. The only times we got to see them was when they were actually out at the theaters. I remember when Star Wars was re-released around 1979 that every kid on the street piled in the neighbor’s van to go see it at the drive-in. Most of us were at the financial and transporational mercy of our parents, who really couldn’t understand why we needed to see a movie more than once. There was always the story of the kid who saw EMPIRE like fifteen times when it came out. But who was he? Who bankrolled that and dropped him off at the theaters all those times? It sure as hell wasn’t me.
The relative infrequency of our actual viewings had a big effect on the whole experience. I really think it made it that much more of an event in our minds, a sacred ritual, just as important as the story itself. (Where were you the first time?) It also led to some pretty hilarious disputes about what exactly happened in the movie. Sure, every kid had seen it, and we all claimed to know the story by heart. But when it got down to details, everyone remembered it a little differently. It was as if it’d formed this collective unconscious that we all shared but couldn’t quite agree on, like scholars obsessing over lines in the Old Testament. Now, you could just pop the tape in and say, "See, asshole, it’s Obi-Wan who kills the monster," end of story. Back then, though, it was your word against his, and among a bunch of seven year-olds, it got ugly quickly.
I remember insisting adamantly (and wrongly) that Darth Vadar does in fact get blown to pieces at the end of Star Wars. Maybe that’s what I wanted to believe, like I couldn’t handle the suggestion that somebody that evil was still out there spinning in space somewhere. My friend and I fought so loudly about it that my Mom came outside. I turned the question to her and, I don’t know how the hell she remembered, but she answered, "No, Darth Vadar’s ship got shot and he was hurled into outer space." Mom! What the hell did she know? The whole world was against me. Even after Return of the Jedi, at which point I was getting older and a little less enthusiastic, I can remember my friend’s little brother in a similar predicament, on the edge of tears, telling me, "No! Yoda didn’t die! He just went to sleep!" As if he, personally, needed to know Yoda was alive just as I’d needed to think Darth Vadar dead. The truth hurts, kid.
One good weapon to have in these confrontations was the book The Story of Star Wars, or even better, the record, which had actual dialogue from the movie. This could be confusing, though, since there were also several knock-off records, small book-and-record deals with pictures from the real movie but different voices and really corny dialogue. (I will give big money, incidentally, for the one like my friend Jason had where a very unmanly Han Solo yells, "Look at the planet it’s been blown to bits!") Even if you had the real thing, it was the condensed version with lots of little bits left out. (The lack of the "walking carpet" line on my record had me convinced for years that I’d imagined the whole thing.) Even more frustrating was the book, which was based on some slightly earlier version of the movie, not the final cut, so you had the infamous "Biggs Photo". Apparently, there was a scene, cut from the final version, where Luke’s friend Biggs says goodbye and leaves for the academy. Not a big deal, right, unless you’re an obsessed six year-old, and there in your trusty, God’s Truth Edition of The Story of Star Wars, is a big photo of some guy in a cape talking to Luke and you swear that you never saw that in the movie. Did I fall asleep? Was I in the bathroom? Oh shit, what else had I missed? The day they wheel me away in a straight jacket, you’ll know it probably had something to do with that picture.
With everybody so hot to dispute each other, It was only followed that a certain cult of "experts" would arise. For a while, any bit of inside information about any aspect of Star Wars, however idiotic, was revered without question. These kind of stories seemed to come from people outside the immediate circle of friendsa cousin who heard it from a kid in another state whose Dad goes out with the woman who works R2-D2’s third leg, who said... I remember hearing from different people that in the third movie, Luke marries Leia, Chewbacca gets killed, Boba Fett fights Darth Vadar (actually, that would’ve made for a better movie). There was a kid from around the block who sat down with my large-sized Darth Vadar and spent half an hour spewing total bullshit about what everything on his suit did. My favorite "facts"the little points at the corners of his mouth screen could shoot lasers, and the box on his chest was actually a tape recorder, complete with the one red "record" button, that made his distinctive breathing sound.
What the hell were we thinking? Why was it all so damn important? I suspect that quite a few of those kids never got out of that rut, and are now the ones cranking out all of those fucking "Eighth Moon of Tatooine Warrior Knights" novels, or printing magazines with "Interview with Scout Walker Pilot Two" and the blueprints of Lando’s bathroom. May the force be with you, jackass.
We used to get those cheap plastic boats from Perry Drugs and make our Star Wars figure go fishing, with those tiny sticks in their hands for poles. There would be intense discussion between them about where the good spots were, what kind of fish they caught, what kind of bait they used. Does that mean I’m white trash? Yoda always did the best because he could use his snake for bait.
One more thing: when I was little, my family was totally broke and could never afford to buy me the one thing I truly lusted afterthe Death Star Space Station. The spoiled brats down the street, however, had two of themone for each of them. In fact, they had two of everything. One day, for fun, they smashed both Death Stars with a hammer before my horrified eyes. Now they’re a couple of alcoholic losers with a crackhead for a father, and I’m a creative, well-adjusted playboy living the good life in California with a strong work ethic and a healthy appreciation for the material possessions life has given me. Go figure.
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