I didn’t know it at the time, but I fell in love for the first time when I was almost six.
Given the time, the obvious answer to the with whom question would be Jaclyn Smith, but it wasn’t the Charlie’s Angel star. I was so enamoured with the beautiful brunette when I was younger that I ripped out a magazine ad of hers and hid it under my pillow when I had my tonsils out. In this case, the answer isn’t actually a person, but a film franchise that changed my life.
Star Wars debuted 40 years ago today. I didn’t see it on opening day, but I did see it about a week later. It was Dad and I, sitting in a theatre with a bunch of other people who had no idea how badly their minds were about to be blown. I still remember how I reacted to this scene, right at the beginning of the film:
When I saw the nose of that Star Destroyer, followed by the rest of the behemoth filling the screen, my jaw dropped. It’s a little known fact that I was the inspiration for the shocked face emoji. I remember sitting there completely enthralled with the larger than life characters on the screen. The cool robots, the really bad bad guy, the cool guy with the furry sidekick and the awesome ship and, of course, the pretty girl with the cinnamon buns on her head.
I remember giggling the first time I heard the Cantina Band, being stressed out when Luke was dragged underwater in the trash compactor, being so upset when Obi-Wan met his fate, and a huge sense of relief when the good guys blew up the Death Star.
To say Star Wars has had an influence over my life would be a huge understatement. It provided the basis for a grade school nickname (Stewbacca if you’re scoring at home). Whenever I’m in a car when it’s snowing, I imagine the jump to hyperspace. The notification on my phone is the whooshing of a lightsaber. Most awesomely, however, was when Becky and I entered the reception at our wedding with a lightsaber ablaze to the Imperial March…and it was Becky’s idea!
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting three members of the iconic cast and chatted briefly with a fourth. I snapped a quick pic and exchanged pleasantries with Peter Mayhew at a convention, the same con where I met the most notorious bounty hunter in the galaxy. Jeremy Bulloch, the man in the Boba Fett armour, spent close to half an hour chatting with us about everything under the twin suns of Tatooine before signing a photo of he and Darth Vader. I was a little concerned, because in the photo he informed me that I was next. Gulp!
A few years later, I was lucky enough to come face to face with David Prowse, the man who brought Darth Vader himself to life. I had him sign the other half of the photo with Boba Fett, and the picture sits in a place of honour in our living room. That photo is one of two pieces of nerd minutiae that I’d grab in case of fire. The other is also a signed picture, on that is absolutely irreplaceable. A year after meeting the Dark Lord, we met his daughter, the aforementioned pretty girl, the incomparable Carrie Fisher.
I’ve told the story before, so apologies for making you sit through it again. It was a few weeks before our wedding, and my back was a disaster. I had sciatica, and every step around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was more painful than the next. I got a photo signed and before I left, Carrie asked me if I would like a blessing. I had two immediate thoughts: how do I say no to Princess Leia and what the hell am I getting myself into? I agreed. Carrie then dabbed her finger into a small jar of glitter, said “from this day forward, your life will be better!” then dabbed me between the eyes. The next morning, I woke up with what felt like a brand new back. Princess Leia cured my sciatica. Without Star Wars, who knows what shape my back would be in!
I’ve ragged on George Lucas in the past for “ruining my childhood” but without his vision and liberal ripping off of Jack Kirby, we wouldn’t have the greatest series in movie history (don’t @ me, Godfather or Lord of the Rings fans). Thanks to the late great Ralph McQuarrie for his amazing designs, and to John Williams for the iconic theme song.
Happy 40th, Star Wars. Thanks for everything!