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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pizza and Star Wars

I first heard of Star Wars when I was 10 and sick. I don’t remember what it was that I had. Being sick at the age of 10 meant a day off from school, spent lying in my father’s bed reading comic books. On that day, my father had bought for me a comic from the newsstand across the street. It was Issue #1 of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars. It looked like the dumbest story I had ever seen.

I was into Science Fiction by then. I had already moved past Star Trek, which I thought was too "smoochy," and into Space: 1999, with it’s "realistic" depiction of a base on the Earth’s moon, which just happened to be traveling through space at many times the speed of light due to an unfortunate space garbage accident.

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Then there was this Star Wars comic book. It was all wrong. To be fair to the artists, it was pretty clear that at the time they drew this first issue, they had not seen so much as a single frame of movie footage. Witness the green Vader on the cover. They seemed to be working off of the script alone, with maybe a few conceptual drawings for guidance. Of course, I didn’t even know there was a film version coming. This was all I had. And it looked ridiculous. Everybody was shouting, like they did in all comic books at that time. Every sentence was in ALL CAPS, AND ENDED WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! It looked like it was a story about robots fighting robots. White robots fighting gold robots. Explosions everywhere. Characters with names like "Artoo" and "Darth". No reference to Earth, or the Federation, or anything even remotely familiar. The only human I could see was a kid (!) wearing a Karate suit. It seemed a throwback to the old Flash Gordon comics from the 30s. Exactly the wrong direction from the hyper-realism of 2001 or Space: 1999. I put it down and moved quickly to the Spiderman comic.

By the time Star Wars was released to theaters, I had already been fed a steady stream of hype about the movie. I had read enticing articles in Dynomite! Magazine, and had seen amazing looking stills in Starlog. It looked nothing like the Comic. I was dying to see the film. It opened in one or two theaters in Manhattan, and there was nothing to do but wait for it to hit Queens. Several months (it seemed) later, it came to the Austin Theater in Forest Hills.

Being an August baby meant never having a birthday party in school, and my friends were usually in sleep-away camps over the summer. So it was a real treat when my Mom told me that she was inviting over one of my friends for pizza and Star Wars. We went out to eat, and then got to the theater about an hour before it opened to stand in line. We were the first ones.

When the theater opened, we ran all the way down to the front row. This was in the days when there were only one or two screens in the theater, and they were HUGE. Maybe 20-30 feet tall. We craned our necks backwards and waited for the show to begin. The lights dimmed, the Twentieth-Century Fox logo came on and then….BANG! John Williams' bombastic score accompanied the blinding yellow light of the words "Star Wars" as they exploded onto the screen and then quickly receded into space. Then the opening crawl, and then…we were moving. The camera panned down to an enormous planet. The most realistic looking planet I had ever seen on the screen. Tan desert and a blue band of atmosphere. Two moons. So beautiful and serene.

And then something flew over our shoulders very quickly. It looked like a bunch of flashlights shining in our eyes, but laser bolts were shooting out of it. It got very small very quickly. Then something much larger started pouring onto the screen, directly over our heads. It got bigger and bigger. It just kept coming. From that first row, it seemed to go on forever…

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. When the movie finally ended, we tried to convince my Mom to let us go back in and see it again. It was like an incredible roller coaster ride. The genie had been let out of the bottle, and would never go back in again. For the next year, every birthday party my classmates had was "pizza and Star Wars."

I can never be 11 years old again. But thanks to Star Wars, I will never forget what it was like.

1 comment:

PsychoToddler said...

you got dynamite too? The origin of the comic superheroes part was THE BEST. oh oh... nerd alert.
dilbert | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 9:54 am | #


And the Bummers. And the free crap that came with each issue (stickers, cutouts). I never got old enough to switch to Bananas, though.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 10:01 am | #


I just found out that I am the #1 google hit for "General Motti." I really hope he doesn't google himself. It would be real embarassing, and he might make me pay him the $20 I owe him.

So much for improving site traffic with Paris Hilton and free nude celebs.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 12:29 pm | #


I swore I was reading a story I wrote myself until you said "11." You're wrong, I was 7!

And this Saturday night, I get to watch the journey end as we come full circle. Just like "The Wall."
Anonymous ben Kalonymous | 05.19.05 - 3:03 pm | #


It's amazing how that one movie seems to have arrested the development of all male children during the late 70's.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 3:05 pm | #


You just perfectly encapsulated how I felt seeing Star Wars for the first time(also at 11 years old). But imagine, I never saw the hype. I did not know what I was in for. To me, it seemed real. It still does; even when watching it on video on my T.V. screen with all my kids screaming. I just go back in time. I'm sitting next to my Dad (I really don't think my mom went the first time, she doesn't like Sci-fi), seeing the most amazing, life-altering movie I had ever seen. I loved all three movies. I don't have very discriminating tastes. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty of a child's mind.
ball-and-chain | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 3:05 pm | #


I guess females have arrested development too.

My kids first saw the movies on VHS. It was cool, but not quite the awe inspiring experience of first-row megascreens.

When they were re-released in 97, I took the kids to see them, and I think it was their first time in a movie theater. They were blown away.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.19.05 - 3:18 pm | #


I still remember being awed by the gleam of the spaceships from the first time I saw it.
Anonymous ben Kalonymous | 05.20.05 - 9:54 am | #


Everything looked real in Star Wars. I think it was the first time I saw a spaceship on screen and didn't think, "that's a cool model". Probably had something to do with all the movement.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 05.20.05 - 10:00 am | #