1977 was a big year. Oh, wait. You’re not supposed to start a sentance with a number. A big year 1977 was. The first space shuttle made its flight, sort of (it was attached to a 747). Two great entertainers, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley died, along with a few not so great entertainers, like Freddie Prinz and the least known Marx brother, Gummo. Mr. October Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one World Series game to lead the New York Yankees to victory over the L.A. Dodgers, Jimmy Carter signed away the Panama Canal, and the Son of Sam serial killer wreaked terror on New York City. But none of these reasons make 1977 worth noting as extra special over any other year. No, two other very special events are what make ’77 so very…special. The most important to me is what took place on November 5th of that blessed year; my birth. The second was the release of arguably the most influential motion picture of all time, Star Wars.
The first time I saw Star Wars I was about minus three months old. Ok, technically I didn’t see it, as I was yet unborn, but as a six month old fetus, I certainly felt and heard it. I don’t actually remember the first time I saw Star Wars, I just always remember it being there. Kind of like my parents. It was just part of life and is forever intertwined with my childhood. My first memories of the opening act of that great saga probably begin around age four. In the early part of the 1980’s, not everyone had a VCR (we didn’t), much less a significant catalog of movies, especially in Middletown, CA. But my best friend Adam Parks’ family had both. For about a seven year period Adam and I developed and perfected the same routine whenever I would spend the night at his house.
Friday 6 PM: Watch Star Wars while eating dinner
Friday 8 PM: Play Star Wars w/action figures
Friday 10 PM: Watch Star Wars
Saturday 12 AM – 6 AM: Some combination of watching and playing Star Wars, possible Lego activity and/or sleep
Saturday 6 AM: Cartoons (probably Droids and/or Ewoks cartoons, and a few Looney Tunes) while making and eating half-cooked pancakes we called sushi
Saturday 9 AM: Forced outside by parents, played Star Wars with us as characters
Saturday Noon: Lunch (while watching Star Wars)
Saturday 2 PM: Played Star Wars w/action figures
Saturday 4 PM: Andy goes home
There may have been a few alterations here and there, but that is pretty close to accurate.
By the time I was six I could say the dialog along with the characters with nary a flub, and by seven I could quote the movie verbatim whether it was on or not. I would say things to my mom like, “Remember that part in Star Wars when Han is in the detention area and he says into the microphone, ‘Everything’s ok now, we’re all fine here now…how are you?'” And then I’d start cracking up while my mom played along. Those were good days.
I do remember the first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back. It was a terrible pirated copy a friend of my dad’s had and I didn’t like it. Even after seeing a legitimate copy I still wasn’t too impressed, though now its my favorite of all installments. Return of the Jedi came out when I was about six, more than old enough to be aware that it was playing in a theater near me and that I wouldn’t be able to see it. In those days, good Christians didn’t go to the moving picture show. I had to rely on TV trailers, turn-the-page-when-you-hear-the-chimes-ring books, and my friend Adam Shilts’ second hand play-by-play to get the low down.
So why all the Star Wars talk? This past Memorial Day marked the film’s 30th anniversary. Think about that for a second. That’s why I say Star Wars is the most influential of all time. It’s 30 years later and it still matters. It changed the way movies are made, how they are marketed, even how they are watched. Despite the evident senility George Lucas has recently been battling, he created something that has managed to endear itelf several generations, no small feat, and given kids like me a world of fun and excitement to enjoy. For that I thank him. And his jowl.